Manhunt 2 First Look

We get a look at Rockstar's moody action game that continues its crazy franchise.

When the original Manhunt hit, the moody action game offered an atmospheric slice of life that revolved around a deadly game of cat and mouse. The stealth-focused action game cast you as a hapless prisoner that gets pulled into the twisted machinations of a "director" named Starkweather, who's big on snuff films. The game's departure from the Grand Theft Auto style of gameplay, as well as its claustrophobic setting, was a dramatic new experience that resonated with players and found a loyal audience. For its follow-up, Rockstar is taking an equally striking approach that it hopes will offer a fresh variation on the original game's theme. We were given a demo of a work-in-progress version on the PlayStation 2, and it offered a sampling of what to expect from the distinctive game.

No apple a day will keep this doctor away.

One of the first new aspects of the game is its developer, which is not Rockstar North. That studio is currently busy on another little title we'll see later this year. Rockstar London, a newly created studio in the Rockstar stable of developers, is picking up the baton and handling the development of Manhunt 2. However, those worried that Manhunt 2 might suffer from a new developer can rest easy: Rockstar London is working on the game in association with North, who are lending their experience with Manhunt's special brand of crazy.

The game's story casts you in the role of a young doctor named Daniel Lam. The ambitious young doc is well on his way to an ideal future, with two children, a loving wife, and a promising, well-paying job. The catch to the job is that it's a privately funded neurological weapons project, codenamed the Pickman Project after the doctor who's heading it up. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse, and the project has its funding pulled. Doctor Pickman, convinced the project is close to a breakthrough, takes the project underground and keeps on plugging away. Lam follows, and in a not entirely bright move, offers to be a guinea pig. Recipe for disaster? You betcha. A few mishaps later, and Daniel is dispatched to Dixmore Asylum, a mental institution for the criminally insane. The good news is he evidently served quite capably as a guinea pig. The bad is that he's a bit on the crazy side now, hence his swanky new digs and comfortable, yet restraining, white pantsuit with the long sleeves and buckles. It appears the folks at Dixmore are quite well equipped for dealing with folks of Daniel's temperament, as it's essentially a dumping ground for Pickman Project guinea pigs--of which Daniel is hardly the first of.

Fast forward six years to the game's present day, and we find Daniel still kicking it at the old asylum. Years of living there have led him to question if his other life even existed. Cue up a fateful night and an electric storm that knocks the power out at the asylum, letting the inmates have the run of the place, and Daniel escapes with a friend named Leo. Now unsure if his wife and kids were real or the products of his mind, Daniel sets out to find out just what the heck happened to his mind, which is where you come in. Your goal in the game is to try to uncover what happened to you and what is going on with the Pickman Project. Given that an entire asylum housed former guinea pigs, there's certainly more going on than meets the eye.

While the game's story may be all new, the gameplay remains true to the original game and expands on it in some very cool ways, as was evidenced in our demo. The action is still third-person stealth and focuses on smart use of your environment to do your killing. Our demo featured two levels, dubbed The Awakening and The Honey Pot, which showcased the game's wider scope. Whereas the original game had you navigating a confined area filled with people looking to murder you, Manhunt 2 has you traveling to new, exciting locations...filled with people looking to murder you.

The story is all new, but the gameplay will feel somewhat familiar if you're a fan of Manhunt.

The Awakening level opens the game and acts as a tutorial. It's set in the aftermath of the electrical storm and finds you following Leo out of the asylum. Your surprisingly lucid friend offers words of encouragement that serve as a refresher on the game's systems. You'll need to make use of the shadows to sneak around as well as be conscious of the noise you make as you move. As with the previous game, your onscreen radar alerts you to enemies and the amount of noise you're making as you move around. The PS2 game will support a USB headset and microphone, allowing you to make noises to distract enemies and help you line up for a kill.

As far as kills go, Manhunt 2 sticks to the same, easy-to-pick-up-but-difficult-to-master three-tiered kill system. When you sneak up behind enemies, you're able to start a kill when they're targeted by a cursor. The cursor cycles through three separate colors--white, yellow, and red--the longer you stay behind your target. You're rewarded with a different kill animation depending on the color of the cursor. Kills performed when the cursor is white, which can be done immediately, are hasty executions. Kills performed when the cursor turns yellow, after a few seconds of standing behind your victim, are called violent executions. Finally, if you wait for the cursor to turn red after six seconds or so, you're able to perform a gruesome execution. The actual kills are set animations that kick in once they're triggered. One of the new twists to your killing is a whole new kind of kill that revolves around using your environment. Your radar will clue you in to some environmental fun by showing a skull in the area you're in, letting you know that something around you can be used to perform a kill. The Honey Pot level, set in a brothel, showcased the cool new feature and proved it definitely has possibilities.

Your killing weapons will again come in four handy color-coded classes. Throwable items are yellow and one-use items are green, while items you store on your belt are blue and items you store on your back--like baseball bats and shotguns--are red. And yes, there are some funky gun executions added into the mix. Unfortunately, you're only able to carry a limited number of the aforementioned items, which forces you to make some tough choices. Some items will now play into your melee combat--for example, if you're holding a pen or a piece of glass, you'll do a bit more damage for a period of time (before it breaks).

The stealth and exploration components have been tweaked a good amount, too. You'll need to make your own shadows, as we saw in the Honey Pot level, which can be done by breaking light sources. One new wrinkle on hiding is that shadows are no longer a free ride. Whereas you could hide out indefinitely in the shadows in the original game, it's now possible for enemies to see you if you're not quick. A random system is being implemented to ensure that players are always on their toes. Enemies looking into shadowy areas now have a chance to spot you. In the event they do, you'll still have a chance to hide, thanks to a minigame where you have to quickly match onscreen controller prompts. If you do it fast enough, you'll remain hidden. If not, prepare for some melee. The new element in exploration we saw was a sequence where Daniel sneaks through an air duct, which switched to a first-person mode as he worked his way through the airways in the Honey Pot level.

Expect unsettling visuals aplenty.

The game's visuals are a bit jarring if you're used to the shiny polish of the new-generation consoles. That said, the game benefits from Rockstar's experience with the PlayStation 2 hardware. The work-in-progress version we saw moved smoothly and featured a smart use of special effects to once again create an unsettling atmosphere that matches its premise. Character models were angular and featured varying levels of detail, with Daniel having the most. The environments we saw popped, thanks to a vivid color palette that worked well at setting the game's tone. The game's lighting also impressed us, as it looks pretty ambitious coming from the PS2 platform. As with the previous game, Manhunt 2's story will unfold via cinematic flashbacks experienced by Daniel over the course of the game. Though far from done, the one we saw in our demo retained the shaky, documentary-style presentation that had a movie feel to it.

The audio in the game was still being tweaked, but what we heard was sounding good. As with the last game, audio is key to Manhunt 2's atmosphere, and it definitely sounds like Rockstar London is going in the right direction. The ambient sounds in the asylum and the brothel were nicely done, and the character speech was sounding good, too. The end result so far is a nicely unsettling sound mix that fits the action very well.

Based on what we saw, Manhunt 2 looks to be an interesting follow-up to the original game. The core gameplay that was so appealing is intact and expanded on in smart ways. The visuals, though not next gen, are stylish and nicely done for the platform. The story looks cool so far, with a crazy X-Files-esque conspiracy under the surface and some Jacob's Ladder "Am I insane?" touches thrown in for good measure. The game is slated to ship later this year for the PS2, PSP, and Wii. We weren't able to see the other versions, but reps on hand noted that the game content will be the same on all platforms. However, the Wii game will feature a new control scheme better suited to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.

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Discussion

191 comments
Cult_of_Cthulhu
Cult_of_Cthulhu

We all kinow that this is another step closer to digital download content, I really think a countries laws are becoming less and less relevant compared to a global view. Ban it wherever you like, there will always be a website who will ship it to you.

jimmeyrules
jimmeyrules

This game has been banned in Ireland.

Caleb367
Caleb367

Heard it's gonna be banned in the UK and in a similarly moronic move, in Italy too. I wonder what will happen when some idiot politician hears about Bioshock's little sisters.

chuamishael
chuamishael

ah.. man haunt is a stupid game. I prefer Mr. 47 of Hitman.

chrislovespills
chrislovespills

this game sounds good and if its anything like the first one this game shoule be pritty **** up in a sick way

BrUnOdeFeNiX
BrUnOdeFeNiX

And he killed or tried to kill a woman, scientist ... and the numbers of tapes u know?!The sequence 01 34 296785 10 11 .... is good i don't know, it is secret stuff?!!

chrislovespills
chrislovespills

i am starting to think there will be killing of woman in the game and not just in the cut senes. www.rockstargames.com/manhunt/kasper check link and tell me u agree or not.

HVPinc
HVPinc

Hmm, sounds like a happy game.

Andonio
Andonio

I so wanna rip people's spines off with the Wii Remote, and I wanna stick syringes in their eyes. Its gonna be cool... PS. Yes, I'm getting psychoctic for this game.

Judah6
Judah6

I never played this game but I can't wait to play this because I hear a lot of Comment 's saying this is the game to play plus it's coming out on the wii Wihich they always saying it a kiddie system so with this game they can't say there isn't no M rated games for the wii!!!

TheKindVillain
TheKindVillain

Everyone imitating murder in their living rooms with a wii-mote. Sounds like fun to me.

7arek
7arek

I'm actually pretty excited about this game. If this game turns out to be successful, Nintendo should get more developers like Rockstar on the wii-boat, to gear some of their games to the gamer that isn't 6 or 60. I originally supported the idea to bringing gaming to the masses, and i still do don't get me wrong. But why can't Nintendo make everyone happy. Wii needs more M games!@$!

doubledareus
doubledareus

Rockstar North or Rockstar South? It doesn't matter!! We all know to expect a PS2 emulated version of this game on the WII , with Wii-mote controls Elmer's Glued on and SUB-PAR PS2 graphics!! What a crock!! Programmers have to stop wanting to get the money and start EARNING IT!!! What the Hell!! Are there NO great programmers out there anymore??

Sinars
Sinars

Using the Wii-mote and nunchuku to asphyxiate people in-game would be totally gnarly.

Alaskan_Ninja
Alaskan_Ninja

i killed at the first one,,,,,,,now i get to enjoy pull the wire myself with the wii-mote.......oh joy

slayersdeath200
slayersdeath200

hopefully they use the wii remote right so it seems more disturbing

Terri_Terri
Terri_Terri

I think its pretty sick gonna get it for PSP n' PS2 :D but Wii LOL! :P

victor_gxultra
victor_gxultra

I really can`t waite for manhunt2 to come out. I hope its more disturbing then the last one

victor_gxultra
victor_gxultra

I really can`t weight for manhunt 2 to come out on the ps2. I hope it more disturbing than the last.

stavros69s
stavros69s

hope they use the wii controller realistically! and hope they get it to the UK market at a decent rate - why is the flow of games to the UK soooooo slow! Pangya Golf was out how long ago and we still have another month to wait for it over here! nintendo should keep up the games momentum while they have such a slice of the market!

samjcb
samjcb

I agree man bully was bad and very poor but i loved the first manhunt this is guna rule....

negativenetwork
negativenetwork

man i can't wait for this.. the first one was sick. this is the best news i've heard in awhile, bully was a real disappointment

StonerDemon
StonerDemon

The first one was an excellent game, and it was released the way it was meant to be: gory and violent. We know that the PS2 version will follow the same path, but a totally uncensored Manhunt for the Wii... I´ll have to see it with my own eyes.

oumir
oumir

djpk, i like your user pic, nirvana ROCKS! any way, this game looks cool i love the first one, so i have high hopes.

JamesL007
JamesL007

PS2 lives on for a least another a year, This game is going to be great. Peace

theKSMM
theKSMM

The PlayStation 2 isn't dead yet. PS2 owners still have some fresh content to look forward to. And once again, the Wii fits into the console power scale right next to the PS2 and the PSP. Hopefully it will be the best version of the three (motion controls notwithstanding).

djppk
djppk

i've only played manhunt for PC but know i will definitly buy this one for my PS2!

billybob7897
billybob7897

Imagine how Manhunt 2 on Wii will be. Even if the content is the same, actually doing the motions to kill someone will be more disturbing than just pressing buttons. I'm all for M rated games coming to Wii. If this game does well, it will show developers that teenagers and adults do own Nintendo consoles. (They do, I swear!)

boobush
boobush

Hey smithmik, watcha doing with a picture of Ron Jeremy.

konradak
konradak

Sounds interesting... I wana buy the 1st one 'n play it.

Stabby
Stabby

Violence is some game's sense of style and artistic value... just like Mario's is cartoon like.

Stabby
Stabby

Violence is some game's sense of style and artistic value... just like Mario's is cartoon like.

smithmik
smithmik

i'm in. The Wii version will be censored...watch.

hiddenplumberbr
hiddenplumberbr

I also think gore is unnecessary but there are some who feel there Masculinity will be threatened if they dont have a game with some blood graphics and what not. Personally, I could care less but I am glad that some games like this are coming to wii. that way, it could help curb kiddy claims. It will never end nintendo's bad rep, but it can help it some.

neyaz
neyaz

I think all these sayings that manhunt 2 is an ultra gory game and that it might have some probs with the publics, especially the parents is wrong. Personally, i think it all depends on how the parents are bringing up their kids. I live in a country where parents don't even care about what games kids play, yes occasionally they give advice but that's it, and yet the crime rate in this country is one of the lowest in the world. I together with many of my friends grew up playing games filled with bloods and gores, hell we even watched movies and programs like FACES OF DEATH, and yet, we are still living and we never did nor tried to imitate any of those acts, because of our parents. It was more like "KIDS, WHETHER YOU LIKE OR NOT, THIS IS LIFE, SOONER OR LATER YOU ARE GONNA HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT, IT IS BETTER TO KNOW ALL THESE STUFFS SOONER AND LEARN TO HOW AVOID THESE THINGS, THAN TO KNOW THEM FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE FUTURE AND BE CONFUSED, BUT, ALTHOUGH WHAT YOU SEE IN MOVIES, OR PLAY IN GAMES MIGHT NOT BE REAL, IF YOU TRY THEM, EVEN THE MOST LITTLE BIT, YOU ARE GOING TO REGRET IT SO MUCH FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES, THAT YOU WILL WISH YOU WERE NEVER BORN...!!!" Different parents had different ways of explaining to there kids. What i am trying to say is that the more one tries to ban a game, the more people wants to play it especially kids. The best way to solve this kind of problem is for parents to explain to their children about what's right and what's wrong and what are the consequences of the wrong things. But yes, too much gore spoils the fun.

Da_Bacon_master
Da_Bacon_master

Im Glad this is coming to the PS2 wish Def Jam Icon had also :( oh well cant win everything

Thaumaturgy
Thaumaturgy

This might just be the game that has me buying a Wii. If it gets good reviews of course.

Phelaidar
Phelaidar

Not the same with films!!!! We had Seven and Saw... than all those rip-offs...

oo6En_A9oo
oo6En_A9oo

Gore is unnecessary if nothing is embedded to it (such as a very good storyline). from the review up there i saw interesting plots to keep the violence relevant. the game industry just developing like the film does, first come with stupid unnecessary gore, then later come the real deal. its just part of the evolution. Jus bear wit it for a while ;D.

cruxe
cruxe

im gonna have to get this. i loved the original. Lets see some Wii specific movies already!

Phelaidar
Phelaidar

Tyler, I agree with you. Anything Ultra is too much and unecessary. But anyway, we are writing on the Manhunt 2 preview... a bit ironic. I think children should play games with blood! YEAH!! Mostly because it's stupid to let children kill people without screams and blood. If they are going to shoot, then they should know what happens. But since I'm not a kid, i could play games that don't have gore, because I would know it's not what happens in real life. I really like bloody games, but they should have some sense and at least be interesting to play it 100%... which manhunt is not!!

TylerDFC
TylerDFC

I'm sure this will be an unpopular comment but is the ultra-violence really necessary? The only way the industry is going to stave off government censorship is to voluntarily limit this kind of stuff. Now the Wii will let you "act out" the killing moves? Yeah, that's a great idea. Thompson must be salivating and is probably already meeting with Presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton to drive an initiative through Congress that will censor these kinds of games. Between this and the Hot Coffee BS, Rockstar just pisses me off with this kind of juvenile crap. Pushing the limits is one thing, but just making a game gory for the sake of gore is pretty dumb with the current political climate. But I'm also well out of college so that kind of salacious material doesn't really sell the game for me. To each his own I guess.

Phelaidar
Phelaidar

Maybe Sony should produce more PS2s than PS3s... Better games are comming for it. AND it's cheaper for costumers.

Chris310
Chris310

The wii kills should be pretty cool if they use motion senses. The PS2 isn't dead yet and it probably won't die either.:)