UPDATE 01/08/2007: Rockstar has finally appealed the BBFC's Manhunt 2 ban. With that in mind, here's our opinion from the initial news...
Jack Thompson has won, for now at least. Gamers around the world may never get to play Manhunt 2 and see what all the fuss is about. But has Rockstar pushed the boundaries of taste too far this time? CVG has played the game and takes a look at both sides of the argument.
IS IT REALLY THAT VIOLENT?
The massive number of executions and killing tools alone makes Manhunt 2 one of the most violent games we've ever played. In just one mission we smacked badguys with a sledge hammer, sawed off heads, watched blocky men get tortured and liberally splattered bits of body all over the place. But you know what? We didn't find any of that nearly as visceral or gory as the chainsaw kills and curbstomps seen in Gears of War.
The big difference - and we think one of the most important factors in how the public perceives the game - is how the Wii version lets you batter people to death with your own hands.
In the PS2 game, executing a bad guy is literally a case of pressing the X button; the longer you hold it, the more violent the kill. On the Wii, you perform the actions yourself using the Wii Remote. You do this by sneaking behind an unsuspecting foe, and then following on-screen Wii Remote prompts which command you to thrust the remote forwards, sideways, back and forth and so on.
The crucial part of this is that the Wii Remote movements are tailored to on-screen actions. But not all of them are performed with real-time on-screen actions mimicking your movements with the Remote.
In one situation we were told to thrust forward the remote, and then thrust forward the Nunchuck through on-screen prompts. It wasn't immediately clear why we were doing this but two seconds later we saw our character stabbing a guy with a syringe and then pushing down the plunger to inject him. Ah, we thought. Now we know what we've just done.
Certain on-screen actions are revealed after you've been prompted to perform specific actions with the Remote. Sometimes you'll feel like your just performing a load of random gestures, only to see the results a few seconds later. But with a weapon like the sledge hammer, kills are a lot more immersive, as you're energetically swinging an imaginary bat through the air at your on-screen victim's head.
WHY IS IT SCORING HIGH?
"You'll wince, you'll jump, you may even laugh at times, but we can guarantee you'll never forget [Manhunt 2]," our colleagues on NGamer magazine said in its exclusive review, which awarded the game an impressive 92%.
"We can't help but be slightly taken aback by its appearance on a Nintendo console. Not surprised, and certainly not shocked, but perhaps a little - excited? - to see the bright white Wii menu fade into the darkness of what is indisputably the most gruesome videogame we've ever played on any platform," the review adds.
So is using a Wii Remote to saw someone's head off actually fun? According to journalists who've played through the game, it is. And from our time with the game, we have to agree that Manhunt certainly generates a few laughs. Before kicking off the single-player antics in the Wii version, you're treated to a tutorial on a blank screen and Wii Remote prompts. Practicing your slices and swings causes blood to splatter on the screen and painful moans to shoot from the speakers.