Manhunt 2 is the only game that has ever been banned in Ireland, Siobhan Doyle asks the question; never mind shocking, is it even any good?
Video game censorship in Ireland has always been predominantly unenforced. However, between the years 2001 to 2003, the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) operated a national video game rating system prior to the introduction of the now widespread PEGI. During this time only nine games were ever reviewed and rated by the board. Despite retiring four years prior when Manhunt 2 was released in 2007 the IFCO issued a prohibition notice, making it the only game to ever be banned from Ireland. The game in question was developed by the colossal studio, Rockstar Games and sequel to Manhunt; the game about a death row inmate turned CCTV snuff film actor, Cash.
The game was banned for excessive violence under the video recordings Act of 1989 which states ‘The work is unfit for viewing because of it depicts acts of gross violence or cruelty including mutilation and torture towards humans or animals’
The game was banned for excessive violence under the video recordings Act of 1989 which states “The work is unfit for viewing because of it depicts acts of gross violence or cruelty including mutilation and torture towards humans or animals” [Section 7(1)(b)]. Although, after a playthrough of the game, it’s clear that these claims aren’t totally unwarranted. The most controversial game mechanic by far was having the player carry out executions. Executions involve the player motioning their mouse or controller in the direction displayed on the screen with a melee weapon equipped. As they do so, gruesome murder sequences unfold or at least as gruesome as outdated graphically quality can be. According to the game’s community wiki, the game features over one hundred different execution animations depending on the player's equipped melee weapon. It should be noted though, the execution feature can be disabled despite the little indication the game gives you and even so the combat mostly consists of gunfights in the game’s latter half.
The combat is quite simple, there is a block and hit mechanic and as long as you hit an enemy first, you are sure to win the encounter. However, If the enemy happens to hit you first or there is more than one enemy present, you can easily get stunlocked and be killed. Additionally, the enemy AI has a short-lived memory with it taking a humorously short period of time to return to stealth after being spotted. Despite their less than intimidating behaviour, the various enemy types throughout the game have incredibly entertaining dialogue during gameplay. The sound design as a whole is a highlight of the game with quality that far outshines other elements. The stealth mechanics revolve around shadows, projected by buildings, cars and other various objects in the level environment. While the stealth mechanic feels as equally rudimentary as the combat, the level design really does complement the atmosphere of the game world.
Rockstar is known for creating immersive fictional worlds and Manhunt 2 is no exception to that. Unlike other Rockstar titles, the narrative of this game leaves much to be desired. It is based on the real-life events of the CIA human experimentation involving psychological torture and brainwashing through psychoactive drugs known as MKUltra. While on paper, the story is interesting, the dissonance between narrative in gameplay is unshakable. As a result, the narrative fails to have any sort of impact and ultimately feels predictable by the game's final act.
Overall, Manhunt 2 was an entertaining but outdated and at times frustrating experience. Its shock factor is more than transparent and is consistently more humorous than it is disturbing. Particularly playing fifteen years after release, a polygon man from 2007 being set on fire, strangled to death by a plastic bag or beaten to a pulp against a toilet is highly unlikely to disturb or shock you.