Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 PSPWhether it’s morally right to enjoy playing a game where you can knock people down to the ground with a spade then use it to remove their head from their neck is questionable, but you can’t deny that Rockstar are the kings of controversy. They must have pretty big balls (or a brilliant marketing whore department) – Manhunt was often a victim of the mainstream press, and as such many didn’t expect a sequel. It hasn’t exactly had an easy ride reaching retailers though and it doesn’t look as if it’s going to be released in the UK any time soon. So, Jeebus bless Sony for the PSP’s region free nature! Hmm, we’re not going to get sent to jail for importing this, are we?

Fortunately there’s a good game under the gore, even though it does feel more like a refinement of the first game than a proper sequel. Bearing in mind that the original was released four years ago it’s not surprising that it feels a little dated. The animation and AI has been tided up, but the biggest new thing is how there are now more vile ways to pop off foes and more weapons to do it with. The underground “snuff movie” plot from the first game -in which you received a better score for grizzlier kills – has been dropped too, in favour of a more traditional storyline involving Daniel Lamb – a four-eyed lanky chap with a mysterious past.

If any Daily Mail types are reading, then now would be a good time to point out that this isn’t a game about killing random innocents. The first fatalities are twisted mental asylum staff that have been using patients for experiments, then later a group of sex fetish freaks, hired hitmen and a rogue private army. Some, if not most, of the executions – triggered by creeping up behind somebody with a weapon equipped – are stupidly over the top though. A quick blow on the head would do in most cases, but Daniel seems to let his mind run wild. Early on in the game after some of the more nasty executions Daniel instinctively pukes up, but as fellow escapee Leo keeps reminding him: “It’s their life or yours”. It’s not long into the game that you start to learn that Daniel isn’t quite as timid and innocent as he appears.

As you’ve doubtlessly heard, Rockstar were forced to censor the violence. Rather than toning down the executions they’ve taken the easier route of making the screen randomly flash black and white and turn fuzzy to obscure the view. It’s not to the extent that you can’t make out what’s going on and the accompanying perverse sound effects have been left intact. Playing the game with a decent set of headphones in a darkened room sent chills down our spine, particularly the sounds of suffocating a thug with a plastic bag.

Back o’ the neckLike before, it’s all about survival. Exchanging fists is a last resort – if you’re up against two hunters then don’t expect to have much health left afterwards – and until guns become available (a couple of hours in) the focus is on staying in the shadows. Enemies on the radar are colour-coded depending on how aware they are of your presence, but as long as you’re hiding in the dark they can’t see you. Even if they’re standing two feet in front. They give up their search after thirty seconds or so, giving you the chance to creep up behind them as they make their way back to their patrol route. Lights need to be broken to conceal yourself and the amount of noise you make also has to be monitored – run around like a loony and soon everyone will be after you. One of the later missions though is a chase sequence, which provides a welcome change of pace.

Once armed with guns the focus is primed on ducking behind boxes and walls for cover and carefully aiming sniper shots. The generous auto-aiming – just push both the trigger buttons to lock onto an enemy – does make things rather mindless, as does the abundance of ammo. With a shotgun in your hand enemies go down like flies at close range, but you still have to keep your wits about you and there’s the occasional puzzle to solve. They aren’t taxing, but the fact that some doors don’t magically unlock themselves until all the enemies are killed is a little obtuse. It’s a needlessly violent game to be sure, but with satisfying stealth, bags of atmosphere and a plot that keeps you guessing there’s enough here to make you want to play it all the way through.

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