Manhunt 2

Review

posted 11/6/2007 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: PSP
It's early into Rockstar Games' newest ultra-violent action/stealth game, Manhunt 2, when our hero, Daniel Lamb, asks himself a very important question: "Am I going crazy?" Yes, Daniel, you are. You see, Daniel has recently escaped the Dixmor Hospital for the Criminally Insane and is starting to hear voices and see dead people. He's clearly a paranoid schizophrenic, and that isn't being helped by all of the guards, cops and hunters that are out looking for him (not to mention that he's going without his medications).

Although it's being billed as a murder simulator (much like the original 2003 game), Manhunt 2 is actually more of a wake-up call about mental illness. This is the story of a guy who clearly needs a doctor's intervention and some medication ... stat! Unfortunately mental illness is not nearly as scary as the idea of fighting for your life in a dark and seedy city, so in a lot of ways Manhunt 2 is significantly less scary than the original. Thankfully it still tells an interesting story, even if this game is nothing more than a reminder for you to take your medication.

In Manhunt 2 you play Daniel Lamb, a Dixmor patient who manages to escape his confinement thanks to his "friend," Leo. Together the two character set out to not only escape the hospital's personal goons, but also to uncover the secrets of something called "The Project." Throughout this lengthy adventure you will be given hints about the man you used to be, what happened to your family, who Leo is, where the two of you have gone and ultimately why you ended up in the Dixmor Hospital for the Criminally Insane. While none of this is especially scary, it does tell an interesting story full of twists, turns and a ton of ultra-violence.

Even though the game may have a stronger narrative than the original game, in practice this is pretty much the same old game we played four years ago. The game's lack of any real innovation is certainly something the critics can use against the game, but if it wasn't like the first game was the most innovative game on the block. Like your top grossing Hollywood horror movie, Manhunt was more about style and mood more than gameplay and substance. If you are one of those people who didn't like the first game then I can guarantee that you won't like this game, but if did get into the horror aspects of the original then you might enjoy this significantly less scary sequel.

If you didn't play the original Manhunt then here's a quick refresher course. In Manhunt you play a deranged man who is being hounded by that pesky voice in their ear (in this case it's your "friend" Leo). In short the object of the game is to get from one place to another without being detected. But since there are guards, federal agents, evil doctors, and policemen patrolling the area, getting from one place to another unnoticed is easier said than done. In most action games all you need to do is grab your trusty gun and run around killing enemies, but since you just broke out of the insane asylum, you find yourself completely weapon-less. And don't even think about rushing in and taking them all on in a fist fight, this isn't Streets of Rage or Final Fight.

Thankfully there are objects lying all around the level that you can use to kill those guards patrolling the area. All you need to do is hide in the shadows and sneak up behind your enemy and perform a death move. Performing these death moves is actually pretty easy, when your enemy's back is turned you will need to be close to them and hold down the "Square" button. The longer you hold that button the more gruesome the stealth kill will be. For example, you can just walk up and push the button quickly, while that will certainly kill them it won't be as graphic as if you held it down until the marker was either yellow or red. I won't lie to you, it's the stealth kills that get the most attention, I wouldn't be surprised if most of the people who bought this game picked it up exclusively to see Daniel Lamb kill people in gross and sadistic ways.

The good news is that there are tons of weapons and every single one of them (with the possible exception of the fire arms) has three different kill animations. If you played the first game then you'll probably recognize a lot of the weapons, including the crowbar, shovel, handsaw, flashlight, pen, and even a plastic bag. And believe me, that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's no shortage of weapons to use to kill your enemies. Well, actually, there IS a shortage of weapons (the items are placed few and far between), but you know what I mean.

Towards the middle the game switches from the stealth mode to more of a run and gun action game. All of a sudden you aren't relying on using a piece of wire to choke a guy, instead you have a gun and you're shooting the enemy's face off (literally). Unfortunately this play mechanic doesn't work as well as the sneaking gameplay, but it's certainly nice to have a change of pace. At first I was worried that Manhunt 2's gun mechanics would be hard to translate to the PSP, since you don't have a second analog stick to aim. Thankfully Rockstar Games found a comfortable (albeit cheap) way of getting the most out of the system. Instead of aiming your gun around to get headshots, PSP owners have to hold both the left and right shoulder buttons together and the game will automatically aim at the closest enemy's head. It's not perfect, but it's a lot more enjoyable than trying to use the set-up to manually aim.
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