If you follow gaming news, you’re probably aware that Take Two Interactive and Rockstar Games‘ latest game Manhunt 2 has now been banned for sale in two countries, and slapped with an AO (Adults Only) rating in the US. Seeing as both Sony and Nintendo have long-standing policies of not allowing code license or play of AO rated games on their system, this effectively forces Take Two to either drastically modify the game (which certainly means missing the July 10th launch date) or shelving the game completely (and thereby eating what was probably a 10-20 million dollar development).
This has split the hardcore gaming community into the opposing camps of ‘OMGZ this is teh censorship!!!1’ and those who wonder in fact the rating might actually be justified. Personally I wonder what exactly Rockstar expected would happen over a brutally sadistic game that reportedly includes scenes of rape and necrophilia in addition to it’s beyond gruesome gameplay? At issue (according to most reports) is both the game content and (in the Wii version’s case) the game mechanics itself. By utilizing the Wii’s unique control system, players literally act out the killings with sawing, smashing, cutting, and pounding motions. Fun stuff, huh? And certainly something you could maybe get Grandma to play after a few rounds of Wii Bowling.
I played the first Manhunt for all of 10 minutes before returning it to the friend I’d borrowed it from and then spending the rest of the day feeling like I needed a shower. It was like the gaming equivalent of watching ’Irréversible‘, I’m not exactly in the audience that Manhunt 2 is courting. I certainly wasn’t converted after reading this preview of the game. Indeed, while I really admire the Grand Theft Auto series’ dedication to gameplay immersion and the freedom to simply wander a city, what I deeply resent is the idea that, as a player, I have to make amoral choices to propel the game along. (I had the same problem with the last few Tony Hawk games and Ultimate Spider-Man) I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who feels differently (as they are legion); I just don’t dig it myself.
Of course, Rockstar is now defending Manhunt 2 as ‘art’ by saying “It brings a unique, formerly unheard of cinematic quality to interactive entertainment, and is also a fine piece of art.” Good luck with that defense!
Personally I see this as the logical result of Rockstar’s long-standing policy of pushing the envelope on acceptable content in gaming, but I’d be curious to get reactions from those of you who might have purchased this game.