Friday, November 2, 2007

Review: Get your slash on with "Manhunt 2"

R* should provide antibacterial soap as visceral as this game is. Not that it's a bad thing ...

The sequel to the controversial Playstation 2 smash, "Manhunt," is published by Rockstar and tries its best to fill its' big brother's shoes. In early October, British film censors banned the title - two times, so far - but the U.S. showed mercy, as well as Holland, and allowed the game to be released in their respective countries.

R* has released the game on 3 consoles, including the Nintendo Wii, the Sony Playstation 2 and the Playstation Portable (PSP), all available before Halloween.

Compared to the original, which took the world by surprise, the sequel seems toned down somewhat. Yes, it's still viseral - yes, you can still do stealth kills, but it's not as violent as the original.

In the Wii version, you start out by doing different moves with the Wii remote and the nunchuk. Oh, this is where the fun begins. You will have to thrust the remote forward, back, side to side and up and down. You do the same for the nunchuk. More on this later ...

This installment of "Manhunt" isn't even based on the original. It's a fresh plot this time around. Your character starts out locked down in a mental hospital. A lightning storm disables the power to the facility and literally, all hell breaks loose. You make your way through the hospital, encountering several *characters* on your way out. You finally escape, but not before leaving a trail of bodies. It's not that you want to pick a fight, but usually, the fight comes to you. Oh boy ...

You receive instructions on how to fight, run and hide in the hospital. You need to listen carefully to what the voice is saying. If you don't, not only will you miss something, but you could end up getting wasted trying to figure out what in the world you need to do.

Despite not being based on the original, the story/plot is pretty good. You know the drill - you have lost your memory and play through the game getting clues about who you were and your involvement in the "Project." It is definitely a slight different game that the original, but the core gameplay remains the same.

During the game, you will find a new feature - thanks, Sam Fisher - that allows your character to hide in the shadows and avoid detection. It's a useful feature and reminds me of "Splinter Cell" and just like "Cell," you have to use stealth. Some areas allow you to sneak right up on an enemy for a stealth kill. The camera pulls away, the screen turned grainy and you do your deed. And just like "Splinter Cell," you have to hide bodies. However, being R*, you aren't penalized for not staying in the shadows. You will have a lot more company, but you won't have to fail your mission either.

The fights are soooo funny - and using the remote and nunchuk in brawls rocks. For tougher enemies, you can get a miniworkout whipping the devil out of them. You can use your fists, knives, gas, plastic bags (a cool carryover) and crowbars early - and progress to pistols, guns and sniper rifles. As far as the hand weapons, you swing the remote, if it's in your right hand, and rock your enemies world. You will let out a devil giggle watching a crowbar splatter your enemy's blood all over the place. And amazingly, some of these guys can take a beating! After you finish and they're on the ground, you can move the remote down quickly and whip them while they are on the floor.

You can also use the remote and nunchuk to thrust your knife/blade/sharp edged object forward and even use the controllers to *shake* a person. The control scheme is one of the coolest uses of the Wii remote since Wii Sports.

Control is good, but can require some steady movement, and quick hands to execute - haha - stealth kills. A few times, the enemies kept thumping me even though I was swinging the remote. Finally, I caught a break, but my character was begging for some first aid.

The sound is classic R* - from the medical packs with the 'oomph' from "Grand Theft Auto III," to the thumps as you slam your opponent to the ground. The sound effects are definitely pluses in the game, especially when you whack somebody.

The graphics are good on the Wii - it's not an Xbox 360 or a PS3, but that's to be expected. The game is dark to start off with, and just a few times, things were so dark that I walked into a wall or two ... well, more than a few times. With the Playstation 2 version, I wish I could see them on the PS2 copy in a PS3 to see how the upscaling will handle the graphics.

Gameplay is rock solid. The Wii remote and nunchuk really make this the version to buy, if you own a Wii. Otherwise, you'll still have a bloodbath with the PS2 and PSP versions. And yes, there are alternate endings, so you may have to play through it again, slashing folks like you're Wolverine.

As far as controversy, it's not as bad as the original and yes, folks will always have a bone to pick with R*, but fact of the matter is - bad parenting, not video games, is to blame for problem children. I definitely couldn't see a nun playing this (Wii Sports, yes!), and it is rated M, but overall, it's not as bad as a lot of other games out there. Yes, it's bloody - yes, it could be tamer, but hay, even the stealth kills are much, much tamer than the original.

If you love R* and loved "Manhunt," you owe it to yourself to at least give this game a try. Just leave your blades (and strait jackets) at home and play nice.

Why should I care:
The sequel to Rockstar's "Manhunt" offers somewhat toned down killing, but still enough action and twists to keep gamers satisfied.

The good: It's a R* game ... excellent use of the Wii remote and nunchuk, fresh plot but still have some pretty good features from the original, stealth kills and several weapons to make killing a work of art.

The bad: Hiding bodies - hiding in the shadows - hiding - Sam Fisher meets "Grand Theft Auto" - oh, how I love to shoot out lights - sometimes, it's so watered down it could be rated T - just kidding.

The ugly: The first 5 minutes of the game. Trust me - you'll see some interesting characters as you search for a way out of the hospital.

Overall: 8 (out of 10): R*'s newest offering isn't perfect, and doing the Sam Fisher, shooting lights, loving the shadows and hiding bodies is about as enjoyable as a video game character eating food or working out ... opps! But it's still a blast, toned down and all.

Stay tuned and I will be adding the PS2 review in a day or so.

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