27th Apr 2007 | 11:00
After seeing Rockstar's sequel to one of the most controversial games of all time, we can honestly say it's even nastier, more poo-ridden and all-round mental than the original.
In Manhunt 2 psychosis, mistrust and plain old head-screwing madness is the name of the game, as main character Danny and his mental mate attempt to escape an unpleasant asylum that's actually a cover-up for all kinds of nasty government experiments.
It's striking just how much the sequel has improved in terms of presentation; the intro scene, which opens into thunder-storm-inspired chaos, is incredibly cinematic with screams and cries emanating from the halls and doctors being dragged off and beaten by NPCs.
This new cinematic touch also extends into the main game, with a Ghost Recon-esque gritty camera filter effect spilling atmosphere into every shot.
The sound, again, is fantastic. The first game won a BAFTA for its audio and Manhunt 2 thankfully hasn't dropped the ball; we can hear echoes bouncing from every corner of the building, rain trickling from the windows and the pitter-patter of the guard's feet spindling around the corner.
Stealthily sneaking passed locked-up inmates - including a bloke that decides to take a piss on us and some poor chap who's hung himself - we're subtly introduced back to the Manhunt formula. This, expectedly, means we're soon smashing a bloke in the face with a pencil.
Combat is much more visceral than before, here sporting an over-the-shoulder Resident Evil 4-style camera for sparring against testy nutters. Most of the time you're better off taking the quiet approach; grabbing the nearest, carefully laid-out syringe and poking some poor sod in the neck by sneaking from behind.
As before there are various levels of gore in your executions. The longer you hold down the attack button the more gruesome your kill, ranging from quick and efficient hasty kills to stomach-churning gruesome dispatches.
But despite being able to fill people's faces in with a needle Rockstar has poured a level of morality into the story. Danny, the game's protagonist, actually isn't a violent man at all. As the story goes, he refuses to engage in violence and was incarcerated to cover "The Project".
A couple of years in the slammer have obviously mellowed him out though, because he's now pulling a fist-sized chunk of flesh out of the security chief's back with a pair of pliers. "Please stop! I don't want to hurt anyone!" he shouts to the other guards, perhaps an attempt on Rockstar's part to dodge some of the first game's infamous controversy?
Killing affairs are heavily swung towards the style of Sam Fisher. Sneaking in for execution kills and hiding bodies in the shade is essential to avoid alarm, and in Manhunt 2 you can create you own shadows by shooting out lightbulbs spurring all kinds of Fisher-esque strategy.
One stealth section has us sneaking passed a bloodlust-crazed inmate and then inevitably poking him the throat with the nurse's new Parker.
You're not always safe when the good old stealth meter pops up though, as we soon discovered when a guard decided to check out our hiding place and cause a quick-fire QTE sequence to stay hidden. This added even more tactical flair to stealth sections and frankly, we approve the use of QTE sequences in any upcoming title.
IN THE SHADOWS WITH A SHOTGUN
A later level gives further examples of Manhunt 2's expanded and deeper plotline, as Danny tries to piece together his life by following leads. One of these winds us up in a dark and dirty brothel, full of tooled-up goons, the occasional nutcase and ah, there are some prostitutes in there somewhere as well.
As it turns out the brothel is a fine playground to show off Manhunt 2's new environmental executions, which as the name suggests has you using the environment to send badguys towards a very bloody end.
Not wasting any time the death toll begins with the receptionist, who is easy work thanks to a carefully placed telephone, now smashed through his face with scattered pieces of flesh littered on the floor.
Another great use for these stupidly-gory kills is luring guards to an environmental kills spot - marked on the radar with an X - by smashing a light and waiting for them to foolishly investigate. Our favourite involved twatting the guard's head in with a toilet seat before he dropped limply into the bowl.
The environment is again much more detailed than in the original, with plenty of scenery littered around including the odd blow-up doll. Eventually we have to sneak past a couple of them "conducting business" to get ahold of a shotgun. But smashing the window it's hidden behind is undoubtedly going to spell bad news for us and the tooled-up henchmen standing in the hallway.
The solution? Timing our glass punches with the (Chewbacca-esque) groans of the busy couple. This theme of using the background noise to our advantage cropped up more than once in our demo.
Once you've got your hands on a firearm Manhunt 2 almost turns into a totally different game. Instead of hiding in the shadows and creeping towards your victims, you're legging around the place like a Quake marine who's ate too many sweeties, shotgunning baddies through tables.
Answering the cries of the series' fans Rockstar has also added execution kills for guns, which usually have you doing something like tapping the unfortunate victim on the shoulder and then blasting him in the face. Nice.
Manhunt 2 is looking more ambitious and finely-polished than the first game, and fans hoping for a deeper plot, gameplay twists and oh yes, violence that will make your nan's eyes bleed, will almost certainly be pleased.
Another game to hold on to your PS2 for.