Manhunt 2: The Return

Back before the ESRB rating system we had this simple solution called "common sense" in which we looked at what we were buying and decided if it was suitable to our tastes. If the game was called Toon Racing 7 and depicted cartoon rabbits and wolves driving go karts down a track, it was safe to assume little Timmy would enjoy it. Never once did it occur to me that a ratings system was required or should be implemented to even suggest what age group a game was targeted at. Ok, maybe once, when I made my first kill in Manhunt...

I'm not a squeamish individual, fictional blood and guts don't bother me, but something about the visceral brutality in this game made me pause for thought. Offering various levels of violence depending on how long you stalked your opponent was offering a reward via gratuity. I felt "dirty" playing this game, regardless of the fact that my imaginary victims would do the same to me given the chance. While I ultimately came to acclimatize and enjoy gameplay over gruesome, I was left thinking "should this game really be on the market?"

To give some perspective, the savage kills on display were nowhere to be found in media. They were on a whole new level of depravity that we wouldn't see in the mainstream until the first Saw movie and more directly, Hostel. While these things most likely went on in the world's seedy underbelly, the media kept it detail-free and certainly didn't put in on public display. Video game or not, it bothered me that the torture and suffering of another was a carrot, meant to be an enjoyable experience.

So in steps the ESRB system, touting games like Manhunt as a primary motivator and, not surprisingly, finds a foothold for it's placement within entertainment. Manhunt seemingly becomes Rockstar's red-headed stepchild and is quietly placed in the background. The developers of Manhunt 2 are shut down and M2's future is up in the air for a year before being announced for the PSP, PS2 and the Wii.

While I had been hesitant on the original, time and Saw sequels inspired want of a PC version. Surely Rockstar had expanded the concept from Torture Porn to something with substance. Well... no, the submitted version of M2 to the ESRB returned an Adults Only rating. This is death to any game as no retail chain will carry it. To pacify the ratings board after some legal shenanigans, the brutality scenes were given a heavy filter that obscured the violence to mere silhouettes, thus castrating the the whole draw of the game.

A year later a PC version is announced; uncut, uncensored and ultimately, nowhere to be found. Rockstar takes pre-orders but other than a few rumored press giveaways, you will be hard-pressed to find one. Direct2Drive takes up the challenge and releases it digitally to very little fanfare, digital distribution is still a tiny piece of the market and D2D is but a sliver of that. I pass on it and two years later D2D drops M2 after the Gamefly acquisition and it's stance on AO games. Manhunt 2 can no longer be purchased anywhere on PC.

For a brief time, GamersGate had M2 in their catalog for purchase. There and then gone inexplicably and I kicked myself for only adding it to my wishlist. Twenty bucks seemed a little steep and it would come down eventually or at the very least be on sale sometime. An email to GG returned that they apparently did not have the rights securely in place yet so had to remove it until further notice. Time passes and it seems M2 will have to be acquired illegally if I want to play it at all.

Yesterday brought a new GamersGate with it, the site is completely revamped and looking much cleaner and easier to navigate. On page one is none other than Manhunt 2, still rocking it's $20 price tag but it's available and I immediately purchase it for fear of it's sudden departure. I finally own the damned thing, uncensored and as brutal as concepted.

Sure hope it's a good game...
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