November 09, 2007

Manhunt 2 -- last-generation degeneracy! GRUELING game industry embarassment! Shameful free publicity! Decapitations! Mutilations! All coming after YOUR BABIES!

It's honestly difficult to cut through my current level of apathy about the game to comment -- I don't really play my PS2 that much, these days, and I'm betting the same goes for the mass of gaming enthusiasts, so it's kind of like trying to get excited over somebody releasing  "Uncle Murder's Deathtime Mutilation Park" on the Game Boy Advance. It'd have to be REALLY heinous to get me to double back to the closet to take a look, and from everything I've seen, "Manhunt 2" is pretty much "Manhunt 1" with a storyline.

Burn on "Manhunt 1!" Woo!

But there is an issue here, and it's not whether or not the game's going to turn your five-year-old into a cold-blooded killer (I'm betting not a GOOD one, at the very least) -- it's that the ESRB has pretty much just ADMITTED that their ratings process is arbitrary. "The criteria varies from game to game," they say. I can buy that. There are numerous instances where you'd want to hold similar objectionable content to different standards depending on context; violent death in the Bible versus violent death in "The Terminator," for instance. But the system should ALSO, if there's ANY rhyme or reason to it, be building on precedent -- and that brings us to the simple fact that for all the hoopla, the original, AO-rated version of "Manhunt 2" just isn't substantially more gruesome, gory, or immersive (Wii version excluded, since they both got the same AO rating) than "Manhunt 1."

You saw off heads in the first "Manhunt," you saw off heads in the second "Manhunt." Ice pick to brain, skull stomp, shopping bag suffocation, check, check, check. But Manhunt one, without any goofy video filters, was rated M, while Manhunt two gets a heapin' helpin' of Adults-Only. I can't stress this enough -- the only substantial difference between the two isn't graphics -- same blocky crap as last time -- it's not the amount of gore -- you SAWED OFF PEOPLE'S HEADS in the first one, how much worse can you get without doing a Maypole dance using your enemy's intestines? -- it's that number two has a STORYLINE that somewhat JUSTIFIES the violent acts you have to perform.

The first "Manhunt" was a kind of "Running Man" ripoff -- you killed people for entertainment, that's what it boiled down to. The second, you're a patient in a mind-control project, trying to escape and have a normal life. It's not a GREAT story, but it's a real one, and the kills you make are, at the least, more justifiable than those that occur in the first. So why did "Manhunt 2" get a harsher rating? Basically, the ESRB doesn't know what it's doing.

Not that they're in an enviable position -- any move they make, it's gonna be the wrong one. The "AO" rating isn't a 'rating' so much as it is a sales ban, so even if the game DID warrant it (it didn't), you antagonize both the gamers and the developers who want to see the game come to market. On the other hand, if you rate a violent game that has significant bad press about it an 'M' or lower, parents' groups get all twitchy and try to start threatening legislation. So, the ESRB wimped out.

Here's the thing, though -- if they're under criticism, logic dictates MORE reliance on standardized ratings processes, not this horrible freeform system they've got going on. If they've got a rule on the books that says, "Saw off a guy's head and you get an M rating," then, voila -- people complain, you can point to the book. It told me to. Go one, sue the book.

Anyways, "Manhunt 2." Mediocre game, rightfully M-rated, stupid video filters not necessary.


copyright 2007 Spookingtons


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