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Manhunt 2 - Pogo's Review

The following review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game and I played the game to completion multiple times before writing the review.

I plan on adding to the review at a later date to reflect my opinion on the Nintendo Wii version of the game.

Introduction

Before I get on to offering my opinion of Manhunt 2 I feel as though I should summarise what the original Manhunt meant to me, what I see as being the core experience of Manhunt.

The original Manhunt is seen by many as one of, if not, the most difficult game of the PlayStation 2 era, and even I once thought the game to be unbearable. But after a few hours of playing it you realise the game is not as brutal as the first impression it gives.

Rather is has a few strict rules, if you break them you die, but at no time does the game ever cheat you or create difficulty spikes that are unreasonable. The enemies in the game obey the rules and the level design allows room to breathe for those observant of the game and its rules. The game is, by all accords, a gloried game of chess; you have to think one move ahead as it could very well be checkmate. If you die, it is because you messed up, you moved when you shouldn’t have, your nerves got the best of you and you reacted impulsively, or you simply ignored the rules that were set in place from the beginning and were punished for it.

All of this was accompanied by heart wrenching sound design and a synthesised score that result in an experience that challenges your nerves, patience and psyche; all while you simultaneously attempt to tackle the enemies and objectives that the game has to offer. The very definition of horror based entertainment.

It is an experience that is unmatched in the videogame medium. While some look at Manhunt as nothing more than a series of brutal executions, those are nothing more than ignorant thoughts of people unwilling to experience the game as a whole rather than a series of slideshow images and take the opinion of tabloid scaremongers as gospel.

Now, Manhunt 2…

Story and Characters

One of the best aspects of Manhunt 2 (and unfortunately least spoken off) is its story. Much like any good movie, the story warrants repeated viewing (or in this case, playing) to get the best out of it. The narrative of Manhunt 2 is split into two time categories, one that follows the events from when Daniel and Leo broke out of Dixmor Asylum for the Criminally Insane, and a series of flashback episodes that took place six years prior, leading up to the pair finding themselves locked away in Dixmor.

The game is split up into 15 levels (known as episodes) with an additional 16th episode that is unlocked upon completion of the game. At this point it is pretty pointless going over the event specifics beyond that, as everyone is undoubtedly aware of them and what they entail.

Rockstar have put a far larger emphasis on the narrative of Manhunt 2 than that of the original, what they have done is create a murder mystery, whereby you are driven by your own curiosity to see the story through, to find out the who and why. You constantly have the story elements of the game placed in the back of your mind, trying to work out how one episode matches up with the last, you are constantly focused on the bigger picture, rather than what is present in front of you.

This is in stark contrast to the original game, in the original Manhunt your only motivation was to get from point A to B in a constant cycle. Right until the last few scenes of Manhunt your only focus was on what is present, what is currently on screen and how do I proceed, thus immersing you in the moment.

At times the story (in the original Manhunt) was, seemingly, compromised at the expense of the atmosphere and immersion, so much so that absolutely nothing is known of Cash beyond he is able to perform some really horrific acts without so much as blinking an eye, no questions were asked and no definitive answers were given. But then, it didn’t matter, it was all about the present, the atmosphere and immersion. Rockstar compensated for this by littering the world with nods to the bigger picture, nods to a world outside of the game events, even going as far as referencing Carcer City in Grand Theft Auto III, some two years prior to Manhunt being released.

For the most part, the characters you come across in Manhunt 2 serve as little more than devices to drive the story forward. No one character is fully realised in the way that they were in the original game, instead they all form to piece together the larger story, who they are is not as important as their relation is to the centre-point event of the game, that being one Dr. Daniel Lamb.

Cut Scenes

As has become standard fare for all Rockstar titles, the cut-scenes in Manhunt 2 are excellently realised, everything from the motion captured animation to the dialogue and sound design are produced to exceedingly high standards.

Just as with the original game the cut-scenes in Manhunt 2 are mostly pre-rendered, albeit recorded in-engine. This was presumably done to reduce the load times between episodes, with most of the in-game (engine) cut-scenes taking place after the initial episode has been loaded up.

Rockstar have taken advantage of the fact that the cut-scenes are pre-rendered by altering the lighting in the scenes and adding some post process screen effects to heighten the experience and dramatise the effect. It is strange then that there are some very noticeable issues with the cut-scenes, issues that would otherwise be understandable had they been in game.

Issues including items not being in characters hands as they move and playing catch up, or Daniel appearing to be hovering above the ground as he walks in addition to clipping errors such as items sticking into characters.

Some very prominent cut-scenes have such issues, including the intro cut-scene to “Origins” in which Leo informs Daniel who Dr. Pickman is, during this cut-scene Leo points to Pickman and it is very evident that the polygons on his hand have been stretched from their bone alignment resulting in an effect that looks as though someone has taken a bite out of Leo’s finger. This could have easily been sorted, if not when recording the footage then through some photo manipulation, just to sweeten the effect.

An even more prominent, although in engine, issue pops up during the end of episode cut-scene to “Personality Clash” in which the camera is focused entirely on Daniels face and upper body and features Daniel speaking, yet his face doesn’t animate in the slightest. This is a very unfortunate overshadow considering this is the dramatic peak and second from last cut-scene to the game

It would have been nice if Rockstar had decided to up the resolution of the textures during the cut-scenes, many of them feature tight camera work which is focused on singular objects rather than large scale environments, thus showing up the low-res textures that are used in-game. Then there is the added fact that both Daniel and Leo have their pinkie and second from last finger joined, for some very bizarre reason, I am sure they could have allocated 12 more polygons, if not for only to be used during the cut-scenes, after all Rockstar Leeds managed it with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories and that was a PlayStation Portable title.

I suppose an argument against the last two alteration suggestions could be that it would dramatise the difference between game play and storytelling. When it is all said and done these mishaps don’t ruin the presentation, but it would have been nice had they been addressed.

Audio

The audio in Manhunt 2 is fantastic and almost impossible to fault. Some sounds are nothing short of startling when first heard, the firearms for example, carry an enormous weight, when firing the shotgun you can hear the sound reverberate and echo as it moves down the street and I am sure that there will be very few people that fail to wince the very first time they use the hand saw to tear into the skull of a hunter. There are a few sounds that have been carried over from the original game, but that is no bad thing.

Musically the soundtrack score to the game is good, not as great as the soundtrack to the original game, but that may be in part due to the volume level. For whatever reason the music volume is very low, even when turned all the way up, so much so that I have even read people wondering why the game has no music in it at all. The reason for it being so faint is completely unfathomable. The soundtrack doesn’t appear to be theme based like the original either, but again it may just appear like that due to the levels being so low.

As usual the voice actors do a fantastic job at portraying their in-game characters, with no single actor turning out a poor performance. Of particular note is Ptolemy Slocum in the role of Daniel Lamb and Holter Graham as Leo Kasper. However, no one quite reaches the sinister tones of Brian Cox as Lionel Starkweather in the original game.

Graphics and Animation

Graphically Manhunt 2 handles very competently for the systems it appears on. Characters are richly detailed and clothing looks appropriately creased. Strangely enough though Daniel Lamb, the lead character has the least detailed face in the entire game. A lot of the character textures suffer from some weird anomalies such as having white spots on them as well.

Environments are highly detailed and appropriately lit, perhaps to an extent beyond the systems capability, resulting in much of the textures having to be very low resolution and poor looking when viewed from up close. There is a flourish of nice touches added to the various episodes as well, such as the dust particles that fall through the light shining in the windows during “Ghosts” or the swaying palm trees and separating grass patches during “Altered State”.

The motion captured animations are easily on par with the best of Rockstar’s previous work. Similarly most of the in-game animation is fantastic; however there are some that stand out as being noticeably below par in relation to most of the other animations. Such as the single handed wall knock, it seems really sloppy and has no immediacy to it. When performing a quick turn Daniel sticks his arms out as though he is surfing, it looks really out of place by comparison to the standard available elsewhere in the game. The character facial animation is also inconsistent with certain characters mouths failing to move when they are speaking, including Daniel and Leo, while others will. Fortunately instances such as these are few and far between and for the most part the animation is handled well.

HUD and Camera

The heads up display (HUD) in Manhunt 2 has been cleared up quite extensively. Gone are the character action icons on the right hand side of the screen, as is the stamina bar and the currently selected weapon icon screen real estate has been significantly reduced. In addition to the currently selected weapon icon remains the health bar on the lower right hand side of the screen while the radar remains on the lower left.

The health bar now turns dark blue when the player is hidden and displays button prompts (where applicable) above the health bar to denote such things as wall hug and picking up/putting down dead hunter bodies. All while the radar functions the same as it always has, with hunters denoted as arrows and blips which all function based on their status and sound created by both the player and hunters.

While the screen was never cluttered to begin with (in Manhunt 1) the achieved effect from clearing up the on screen display is a far more immersed and cinematic display than before. Such meticulous re-evaluation of the on screen display carries over to character presentation, when hidden in the shadows Daniel and Leo now turn grey with a graphic novel like rim shading effect applied to the edges of the character to display that they are hidden, in addition to being physically hunched over similarly to how Cash was in the previous game.

Much like the original Manhunt, Rockstar have included the option of applying a post processing filter to the screen to further the visual immersion in the experience. In this case it is a series of scratches that produce a slightly overexposed and surreal visual quality that go hand in hand with the themes of the game and Daniels sanity and is further realised in the effect applied to items and objects in the game world, instead of being static, the objects shake and shimmer on the screen inducing notions of questioning what exactly you are looking at, or in relation to Daniels sanity, are they really there.

The camera work in Manhunt 2 is, in my opinion, absolutely fantastic. It has a well realised hand held camera feel to it. The effect has been attempted numerous times in other games but is no better realised than in Manhunt 2. It is an apparent hard thing to nail, but vital to the experience. The use of camera within the horror medium is absolutely pinnacle to atmosphere, immersion and story telling as such if the camera isn’t right then the experience isn’t going to be.

Thanks to the extra work put in by Rockstar the camera is never really an issue, it is out of the players control and you never really have to think about it, allowing for you to focus entirely on the experience.

The camera is constantly strapped to Daniels back, with the only player controlled movement coming from the ability to peak left and right, as with the original game and of course the ability to enter first person mode to look around the environment. The locked off camera gives a sense of the confined environment which extends to crawling through air ducts, in these cases the camera goes into first person mode, narrowing the perspective of vision even more, giving a sense of being trapped without restricting the player. When aiming with a gun the camera pulls up to the back of Daniels shoulders, similarly as to how it did in the original Manhunt, allowing for a more accurate aim.

When leaning left or right or peaking around a corner, the camera shakes considerably more with the camera making short jolts around the four corners of the screen. Likewise when sprinting, the camera wobbles left and right as though the camera man is struggling to keep up with the movement, with all that said there is never a sense of feeling motion sick of unable to read what is being displayed on the screen due to vast blurs.

The only time the camera lets you down is when caught in tight in door areas, where the camera has no room to adjust itself. Thankfully these areas are few and far between and are not frequent enough to cause concern.

Level Design and Scripted Events

The levels in Manhunt 2 are basically staged like a series of single path mazes with very little room for getting lost and are a great deal more vertical and complex in shape by comparison to the original game. They are also considerably smaller than the original game; as a result there is a lot less room to breathe which can result in a lot more trial and error.

As all horror games do, Manhunt 2 has its fair share of scripted events that are triggered at specific times and just as all horror games, some are easy to miss, be it running past the cells in “Awakening” and missing the inmate kicking his chair away or there being errors where the event doesn’t actually happen.

On my first play through the game there was a scripted occurrence that failed to trigger during “Ritual Cleansing”, as a result was even more surprising on my second play through. There are also several events which are easy to miss because they are out of the way, such as failing to align correctly with the TV screen during “Red Light” means that you miss a short cut-scene, similarly during “Ghosts” there are a few flashes of Daniels past that are easy to miss due to them not necessarily being placed in your direction of travel.

Throughout Manhunt 2 Daniel experiences brief flashes from his past, unfortunately they are forgotten about later in the game, which is a shame since they really helped differentiate the tone of Manhunt 2 compared to the original and had a far more psychological edge to them, giving Manhunt 2 more of an identity.

Hand to Hand Combat

Hand to hand combat in Manhunt 2 is far from ideal. Daniel is restricted to issuing up to a three hit chain attack, with the added ability to perform a powerful attack by holding the attack button down, in addition to being on the offence there is also the ability to block enemy attacks.

As with the original game taking on anymore than one enemy at a time is almost certain death, if not more so thanks to Rockstar (unfortunately) opting to remove the grapple ability and putting nothing in its place, as such hand to hand combat is even less recommended than it was with Manhunt 1.

In addition to having a scaled down combat system Manhunt 2 also suffers from the player suffering from prolonged stun times after being hit by a hunter, in some instances one blow can knock you down for 2 or 3 seconds, allowing for the hunter to stomp you to death with no ability to retaliate.

There is also some sort of animation slow down that can occur while swinging a weapon, this results in is a single blow swung by Daniel taking several seconds to go through only for Daniel to stop mid swing.

Executions and Weapons

Rockstar have added considerable more weapons to Manhunt 2 at the expense of them being underused thanks to Manhunt 2 having considerably less levels of play than the original game and a substantial change in the shootouts to stalking segments ratio.

As a result of the change of pace, the balance between execution based kills and firearm shootouts seems a little out of synch. Too many levels focus too heavily on shootouts for my liking. Rockstar have attempted to counterbalance this by including the addition of gun executions, environmental executions, and there usually being a multi use melee weapon lying around the place at the cost of dropping your firearm.

But all the same, weapon placement is a big let down; too many weapons are used for prolonged periods of time, while at other times, such as during “Domestic Disturbance”, the level is covered with a bevy of weapons for executing enemies yet the level has a high emphasis on firearms during the later half. It is frustrating to see weapons appearing in only one (or two) episode(s), while others are used far too frequently throughout.

During “Assassination” the player is regularly engaged in intervals of sniper fire, this can be particularly frustrating due to the aiming being horrible. So much so that at times it is far easier to take two body shots than it is lining up a single head shot. Sniper aim is carried over to the crossbow, which is very prominent during “Altered State”, thankfully lining up the bow scope is slightly easier than the sniper rifle.

The gun sequences aren’t helped by the fact that little has been done to the hunter AI to make these sequences more rewarding, in most instances your best strategy of attack is to simply charge at them and get close enough to perform a head shot for an instant kill.

Hunters and Enemy AI

During the build up to release Rockstar described the hunters of Manhunt 2 as having
‘Brutal AI’, suggesting that encounters with the hunters would be more unpredictable and nerve clenching. While there may be truth to some of that, it is hard to believe that it was wholly intentional as the hunters seem indecisive in their actions.

On numerous occasions hunters will go into a marching state whereby they take one step forward and one step back, and continually do so until you are forced to show yourself in order to break them from their everlasting marching cycle. This becomes problematic in situations where you have to lure a hunter into place, such as setting them up for environmental executions.

Their incoherent behaviour doesn’t end there though; from time to time they will notice you in shadows, despite you not moving while at other times they will fail to spot you when you are standing directly in front of them or as you run past them. There are also annoying instances of them making bizarre U turns and walking right into you when you are hidden in a shadow despite the fact that there is nowhere for them to go but to walk into a wall.

Their odd choice of decisions carries over onto the armed hunter’s; they will inexplicitly shoot at walls and into shadows for no apparent reason, on occasion causing for the player to die and them still to be unaware that anyone was even in there in the first place. On some episodes bullets even travelling through walls and are able to kill the player, it is as though the bullets don’t recognise the wall boundaries.

During the shootout sequences the hunters don’t appear to exhibit any sort of real enhancements over the first Manhunt, with their entire focus directed on shooting in your general direction while making no attempt to take cover, not even when reloading. There are a few in-game cut-scenes that show them doing smart things, such as putting an object between you and them to create some sort of cover protection, but these are few and far between and are all pre-scripted events which create no sense of spontaneity on their behalf.

The hunters were said to no longer follow set paths, while they do now have the ability to act more unpredictable, they are almost certainly still linked to a series of path suggested movements. This was made very evident to me during the episode “Best Friends”, I was able to perform four consecutive gun executions without having to move a single step, all due to the fact that the hunters all followed the same path, entering the shadows in which I was standing and stepping no more than several inches from me as they made their way back to their designated starting placement on the map.

However, they aren’t entirely without new abilities, thanks to Daniel being able to scale objects and crawl into ventilation ducts the hunters are able to retaliate. If they notice Daniel climb an object or spot him above them, they will attempt to make their way up after him and should they catch Daniel entering a ventilation duct they will drag him out and begin to pound on him.

In addition, if they are chasing after Daniel and he manages to evade them they will randomly inspect shadows, causing a quick time button prompt to appear on screen, should the player fail to match the button commands, or push the wrong buttons, then the hunters will pull Daniel out of the safe zone.

In terms of design the hunters are well realised and easy to differentiate from one another. Much like the original Manhunt most have their face obscured to remove any sort of connection between you and them. Unfortunately the amount of dialogue that they have is immediately noticeably less than the original game and repeats itself more frequently than before. What is there works very well, be it the Project Militia bitching about their “second chance” or the Red Kings letting the player know where their ex-wife can stick her alimony – only it gets tiring hearing the same lines of dialogue spouted out their mouth mere seconds after originally hearing it.

When it is all said and done the hunters in Manhunt 2 seemingly only break down into two categories, those being the Bloodhounds and everyone else.

The difference with the Bloodhounds is that they will more often than not inspect the shadows, causing quick time event prompts to appear on screen. While the other packs of hunter are able to trigger such an event, it is far more frequent with the Bloodhounds. In addition to being more thorough in their investigation, they also move far quicker than the other packs of hunters, narrowing the window of opportunity available to execute them.

New Gameplay Elements

In addition to bringing back most of the gameplay mechanics from the original game, Rockstar have also gone and added a substantial amount of new elements to Manhunt 2. Rather than clumping them altogether I will instead give my take on each of them individually.

Ability to Climb and Crawl – The ability to climb and crawl has allowed for otherwise inaccessible areas to be made available, in turn resulting in a more complex level structure. The original Manhunt dealt primarily with large horizontal areas of different scale rectangular boundaries whereas Manhunt 2 has more verticality to it and also more singular and narrow passage ways to be accessed which then lead on to additional areas.

However, there is an inconsistency to what can be climbed. Some objects look scaleable, yet they aren’t, some areas (Domestic Disturbance) even show the enemies in the game climbing areas that can’t be climbed by the player.

There are only a few instances where the ability to crawl comes into play, as such it is hard to define it as an actual gameplay element as the player doesn’t necessarily dictate when they want to crawl, more so have it dictated to them by necessity to get to the next area. There are no instances where the player can really use this ability to their advantage and it serves as little more than to move the player from area to area.

Accessible Cabinets and Lockers – Throughout the game world you will come across cabinets, lockers, wardrobes and trinkets than can be opened using the action button. Inside these storage units you will gain access to anything from painkillers to killing utensils.

The inclusion of such a functionality goes a way to making the gaming environment more interactive and takes otherwise inanimate background fodder and turns them into practical gameplay elements, making searching for weapons and health a little more rewarding as you are forced to actively search for it rather than it being fully on display for you to just walk over.

As with climbable objects there is a strange inconsistency to what can be opened and what can’t. There are only a few variation models of the accessible storage units in the entire game, presumably to help define what can be accessed and what can’t, despite this there remains a few objects which can’t be opened, despite being the exact same model as used in other episodes. Thankfully these instances are few and far between.

Quicktime (Heart Rate Regulation) Button Events – Unlike the original Manhunt, you can no longer take safety in hiding in shadows. If a hunter spots they will inspect the area, including the shadows, resulting in button prompts to display on the screen randomly. If the player is not quick enough to follow the command then the hunter will pull the player out of the shadows and give chase. It is entirely impossible to predict when a quick time event might appear (although if it’s the Bloodhounds there is a strong chance it will) or which buttons might display. As such you are forced to continually keep your whits about you and the controller in hand, making the experience tenser and more unpredictable than before.

Unfortunately this isn’t without issue; speaking as a colour-blind person I am unable to separate the foreground button prompt icons from the background when the game static filter is on. Playing with the filter off I am able to easily follow the on-screen commands and seeing a (non colour-blind) friend play it with the filter on they are able to follow the on-screen prompts.

This is unfortunate for me as I feel that the post process filter adds to the atmosphere and the issue could have been easily resolved with a 2 or 3 pixel border around the button prompt to help define what is being displayed on screen. While this may or may not be an issue for the majority, it is a most unfortunate let down for me personally.

Safety Shadows and Lighting Manipulation – Having the ability to create safety zones is excellent in theory, unfortunately it is not nearly as well realised in Manhunt 2 as it was first assumed. Instead it is reduced to five or six instances on only a few episodes in the entire game where you have the ability to break specifically placed light fixtures and create shadows to hide in. The ability is forgotten about for several game hours at a time and is, in most cases, positioned in areas where they are not required to be used in order to advance.

In addition to breaking lights there are also a few cases where you come across spot lights which are set off with any sudden movement, removing safe zones, there are also some in door lighting fixtures that switch on and off which also remove shadows, making you visible to hunters, these are again used very sparingly.

The hunters in the game also have the ability to use light to spot the player; these include cops carrying flashlights, shotguns with attached torches and helicopter spotlights that follow the player and are able to spot dead hunters, in the process alerting all nearby hunters to your whereabouts. Again this element is only used in a few episodes in the game, but where it is used is very effective and keeps the player on their toes.

Ambient Noises – The use of ambient noise was one of the first new gameplay elements that publications spoke of after seeing the game in action. Such uses of ambient noise include the noise of helicopter blades, turning on machinery and the moans from a nearby working gal. Any hunter within the noise range is instantly deafened and is used to drain out any such noises you may make such as running or breaking windows.

Unfortunately there simply aren’t many instances where this feature comes into play and while an interesting and welcome addition to the game, it is again subject to drastic under use.

Quick Select Weapons Menu – This was possibly the first of the new additions that was instantly flagged by fans of originally when the game was first announced, thankfully it is an optional aid that may be used should the player wish. The quick select weapons menu is not a replacement to cycling through weapons, the ability to cycle through weapons remains.

When accessed, the menu instantly freezes the onscreen action, allowing for the player to select the appropriate weaponry. This is particularly useful on levels which have stealth and gunplay elements to them as it offers quick access to equipped firearms should they be needed and is a welcome addition.

Breakable (single use) Weapons – Single use weapons such as the glass shard, pen or syringe now break after they have been used to strike a hunter 2 or 3 times. This is particularly useful for newcomers to the franchise, as it quickly demonstrated to them that hand to hand combat is not recommended.

Although it adds a nice level of depth to the single use weapons, its inclusion is ultimately irrelevant as most players are going to try their best to avoid taking a hunter on face to face and are only ever likely to fall victim to the loss of their weapon once or twice during their whole time playing the game.

Jumping Executions – Due to Manhunt 2 being far more vertical than the original Manhunt it only makes sense to introduce the ability to perform jumping executions. Jumping executions are accessible through targeting a hunter from behind when on a higher level than the hunter.

While the inclusion of jumping executions is certainly welcome, more locations throughout the game to perform them would have gone a long ways to justifying them being included. At times it can be impossible to judge where you can and cannot perform a jumping execution from, and it also requires the hunter’s back to be in straight alignment with the front of the player, this is made all the more difficult due to the inconsistent nature of the hunters AI and patrol patterns. In most instances it is far quicker (and easier) just to perform a regular execution than it is to go to the bother of trying to set up a jumping execution, which is unfortunate.

Gun Executions – Of all the new inclusion to Manhunt 2, gun executions are perhaps my most welcome, particularly due to the considerably more firearm heavy nature of the game.

It would have been nice if Rockstar had allowed for more than one execution per firearm, perhaps a silent gun execution such as beating a hunter to death with the gun and a second execution involving the gun being unloaded on the hunter.

Environmental Executions – The last of the new execution types introduced to Manhunt 2 are environmental executions, which are specifically set up areas on the map denoted by small white skulls on the radar. There are basically two approaches leading up to performing an environmental execution.

The first involves an area set up with a hunter nearby, specially placed for execution. In this instance you basically just wait for the hunter to turn his back and then approach him from behind and push the execute button. The second method involves you luring a hunter into place and then stalking him, just like how you would normally execute a hunter.

Both can be hampered by the inconsistent nature of the hunter AI, in situations where the hunter is set up to be executed, the hunter will occasionally refuse to turn around to allow for you to execute him and if he is disturbed (by making visual contact with the player) then he refuses to return to the location, making these a one opportunity only proposition. When luring a hunter into position they will occasionally refuse to align properly for you to sneak up on them, this is prone to happening with the fire extinguisher executions and the manhole cover execution in Domestic Disturbance.

Censored Executions and Misc.

This is probably a good time to bring up the ESRB endorsed camera filters that were applied to Manhunt 2 in order to secure an M rating. While it is unfortunate that they had to be added, I am actually indifferent towards them; I don’t feel as though they detract from the experience or alter the gameplay at all. If anything they make more sense that what was there originally due to them being more inline with Daniels mental psyche and mirroring such effects applied to the in-game filters and weapon pickup objects.

What is unfortunate is that some executions have been lessened, such as the removal of decapitations in most episodes, disembodiment of limbs and other such effects which contradict the execution animations and sound design and of course the wire cutter executions being completely removed and replaced with the flashlight execution animations.

First Experience and Lasting Appeal

For my first two times playing through Manhunt 2 I completed it in single sittings. My first play through took 11 hours, starting at 12pm and finishing at 11pm that same night while the second was 7 hours, starting at 11am and finishing at 6pm. With this in mind, I should point out that I have never finished any other game in the same day of picking it up, little lone played for such an extensive time. I think beyond these two occasions the longest I have ever played a game is a combined 4 hours within a 24 hour period.

After my initial play through of the game, I recall my thoughts being ‘is that it?’, after all the trouble surrounding the game and all those years in development, all for an 11 hour game. I was going into Manhunt 2, expecting a longer game than the original, which I estimate in the 25+ hour mark with some 24 levels of play.

This was perhaps a little unreasonable all things considered, but my way of thinking was based purely on the sheer amount of content that Rockstar North managed to create within a three year time span, they made the entirety of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the original Manhunt in the time span it took for Manhunt 2 to be developed.

Or by a more relative timeframe comparison, they solely ported the original Manhunt to the Xbox and PC, developed Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for three formats, got the Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City and San Andreas engines up and running on the PlayStation Portable, aided in the development of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories on two formats, helped create the R.A.G.E. graphics engine alongside Rockstar San Diego, were mere months from finishing Grand Theft Auto IV for two formats and on top of all of that they were also aiding in the development of Manhunt 2, and all in the time gap between Manhunt 2 entering and leaving development.

It wasn’t until I spoke with a friend that I was able to put it into perspective. It was only then that I realised that most games are barely able to scrape the 8 hour mark on a first run through, and that is with a lot of filler, bland characters and a poorly developed story.

I was perhaps putting a little too much emphasis on how long it took to finish the game, but that wasn’t helped by the fact that Rockstar have included no real incentive for someone to go through the game again. The only real replay value that Manhunt 2 has to offer is a better understanding of the games story. Where as the original Manhunt has unlockable art panels, bonus levels, game scoring results, character skins and cheat codes. By comparison Manhunt 2 is a far more condensed game.

What I have experienced through finishing the game multiple times over is a greater appreciation for the title as a whole. I wholeheartedly recommend playing through the game in a few elongated time periods and at least running through the game twice before forming any solid opinion on the game.

Conclusion

By increasing the focus on the story of Manhunt 2 Rockstar has drastically taken away from the atmosphere that made the original Manhunt such a compelling experience. Instead of allowing the player to be absorbed in the atmosphere and tension they are instead focused on the larger picture, the conclusion of the story and not the journey of the adventure. A result of which is that the game is nowhere near as tense, or even as frightening as the original game, which is very unfortunate.

The level design in Manhunt 2 plays it far safer than the original game; instead of the areas being open they are far more confined, giving the player less chance to improvise. The confined game space is compensated for by littering levels with specific sequences, such as setting up a hunter for a jumping execution, or there being an environmental execution nearby.

The more frequent use of guns allows for those without patience to run in blindly, while the game is far more forgiving, even going as far as regenerating the players health after performing executions and allowing the player to soak up far more damage before dying, all of this and painkillers are more frequent throughout the game to replenish health.

Through the limited use of these new gameplay elements Rockstar have created a far more streamlined game that hits the ground running and continues to move at a brisk pace. It feels like a far more accessible game to a far larger audience, and this extends beyond the more palatable storyline and beefed up feature set.

Every single new gameplay element added to Manhunt 2 is a very welcome addition to the already established mechanics. Unfortunately almost all of the new additions suffer from being severely underused and forgotten about later in the game, while other functionality such as climbing and accessible cabinets give inconsistent messages of what can and cannot be accessed.

In many ways Manhunt 2 feels like the best David Fincher movie yet to be printed to film. The original Manhunt was an atmosphere and experience while Manhunt 2 is a story based journey, and a well realised one at that.

While I am certainly able to criticise, I find it difficult and impracticable to give a score to anything, as I don’t believe a number is indicative of an experience, I either like something or I don’t. But if I were to give Manhunt 2 a score and we were to assume that I rated the original Manhunt a 10/10, then I would say Manhunt 2 is somewhere in the region of 8 out of 10 by relation to the original.

Manhunt 2 is not necessarily the Manhunt sequel I have been waiting on, but it is a well realised piece of entertainment in its own right and has an enjoyable narrative to accompany it.

Menu
- Introduction
- Story and Characters
- Cut Scenes
- Audio
- Graphics and Animation
- HUD and Camera
- Level Design and Scripted Events
- Hand to Hand Combat
- Executions and Weapons
- Hunters and Enemy AI
- New Gameplay Elements
- Censored Executions and Misc.
- First Experience and Lasting Appeal
- Conclusion
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