Information on Manhunt 2 


Note to Readers: The Wii version of Manhunt 2 is being produced by Rockstar Toronto as mentioned at this link: http://www.gamespot.com/news/6165459.html.  A question Canadians might like to ask -  is this company receiving government subsidies to help it produce such ultra-violent products?

View Manhunt 2 trailers at this http://media.ps2.ign.com/media/883/883116/vids_1.html

Screen shot from Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 screen shot


Manhunt 2 on the loose

Controversial game banned in U.K., toned down here to earn "mature" rating

October 31, 2007
Toronto Star
By Brett Popplewell

In his private life, Marc Saltzman is a family man from Richmond Hill. But in his day job as a video game reviewer, he takes on many roles.

This week he was a homicidal lunatic running from the Secret Service.

"I've taken a sledgehammer to somebody's head, yes. And I kept hitting him while he was a bloody pulp on the ground," Saltzman says of his experiences playing Manhunt 2, a game that's been lambasted as one of the most violent ever produced.

The gore-driven game has been condemned by child advocate groups in various countries for its graphic depictions of violence and torture.

It's being released today, just in time for Halloween, with a rating of "mature," appropriate for people 17 and up, and sells for $35-$45 here.

In the killer fantasy, the players take on the role of a man escaping from an insane asylum.

Originally meant for release earlier this year for the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 2, the game had to take out its more disturbing scenes to avoid being branded by the Entertainment Software Rating Board in North America as "adult only."

What got cut?

Some of the more gory game options – like mutilating a victim's genitalia with a pair of pliers.

Taking advantage of his Nintendo Wii's interactive game play, Saltzman acted out his character's motions. To stab his onscreen victims he actually had to lunge at the television screen. To pummel other characters to death he enacted the wielding of a sledgehammer.

"You're actually performing the actions with your hands on Wii. You're actually slashing people with a knife," he says.

"It's not my cup of tea. I did feel like this was a little pushing the envelope for me."

In playing the game, Saltzman has, by his own admission, murdered innocent nurses with his bare hands, pummelled bouncers at a strip club and slashed civilians to death.

The level of violence and the realism of the game play led it to be banned in Britain, where much of it was developed by Rockstar's London and Toronto offices.

"The impact of the revisions on the bleakness and callousness of tone, or the essential nature of the game play, is clearly insufficient," the British Board of Film Classifications wrote.

"There has been a reduction in the visual detail in some of the `execution kills,' but in others they retain their original visceral and casually sadistic nature."

In the U.S., the head of Common Sense Media, a group that advises parents about TV, movie and Internet content that may be inappropriate for children, called the game "the most senselessly violent and offensive thing I've ever watched," although James Steyer was in fact talking about a more violent version of the game circulating for free on the Internet.

In Canada, as in the U.S., the commercial version of the game has been branded "mature."

But as Bret Dawson, the Star's video game reviewer, points out, such ratings do little to prevent younger gamers from playing it.

"I'm sure lots of kids will wind up playing. Whether that's the end of civilization, I don't think that's true," Dawson says. "You're still basically manipulating computer graphics; you're not actually cutting somebody's head off. It's not blood. It really isn't. It's red light coming out of a computer screen."

Saltzman agrees and says games like Manhunt, although distasteful and unquestionably violent, are unfairly targeted by advocacy groups. "It's hypocritical that a TV show like The Sopranos wins Emmy after Emmy, and that you can buy a Stephen King book that's filled with violence. But when there's violence in a video game it's a big deal."

It's a matter of perspective, he says.

"People still view video games as child's play, a babysitting toy. But they're not, they're for adults, too."


Screen shots from Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 screen shots


British still unable to stomach bloody Manhunt 2

October 13, 2007
Toronto Star
By Marc Saltzman

Despite efforts to tone down the violence in Manhunt 2, British regulators on Monday said the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and Nintendo Wii game will still be banned in the U.K. when it debuts this Halloween in North America.

In June, Take-Two Interactive Inc., the parent company to Manhunt 2 publisher Rockstar Games, decided to suspend the launch of the controversial game when it faced an "Adults Only" sticker by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The label would have meant a console maker such as Sony or Nintendo likely would not approve the game for manufacturing, although it could still conceivably come out for the PC with an AO rating. Rockstar spent the last couple of months tweaking the content at the request of the ESRB.

Now with a "Mature" rating – not recommended for players under 17 years of age – the game lets players assume the role of an escapee from a mental institution who goes on a killing spree. Allegedly, one of the scenes taken out of the original game had players taking pliers to a victim's genitals. Other execution-style scenes were blurred out.

But, apparently, it wasn't enough for the British Board of Film Classification. "The impact of the revisions on the bleakness and callousness of tone, or the essential nature of the game play, is clearly insufficient," BBFC Director David Cooke said.

The Game Guy contacted a Rockstar Games representative in New York City: "We are continuing to appeal the British Board of Film Classification's decision to deny the edited version of Manhunt 2 an 18+ certificate and thereby ban its release in the United Kingdom."

Rockstar Games said the suggested changes in order to publish the game in the U.K. are "unacceptable," and this decision to ban it should be perceived as a "setback" for the industry.

The company also feels the decision is hypocritical: "The BBFC allows adults the freedom to decide for themselves when it comes to horror in movies and we think adults should be similarly allowed to decide for themselves when it comes to horror in video games, such as Manhunt 2."

Rockstar Games said it's appealing the decision.


Take-Two Tones Down 'Manhunt 2'

By Priya Ganapati 
TheStreet.com
August 24, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO -- Video-game publisher Take-Two (TTWO) said it has modified its controversial game, Manhunt 2, and bagged an M rating, in preparation for the game's Halloween release in North America.

In June, Take-Two suspended the release of Manhunt 2 after the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the U.S. certification authority for video games, issued an AO or Adults Only rating for the game.

The board rating, which limits game sales to users 18 years and older, prompted announcements from console makers Sony (SNE) and Nintendo saying their policies would not allow the title on their systems.

Take-Two said Friday that it has changed portions of Manhunt 2 that now make the game suitable for ages 17 and older and the Mature rating from the board.

The issues around the game, which has been billed as a horror title, stem from its violent nature. It allows the protagonist to perform "executions" in modes such as "hasty," "violent" and "gruesome."

Manhunt 2 is now set for launch on Sony's PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and Nintendo's Wii game systems.

Shares of Take-Two were up 28 cents, or 1.9%, to $14.63 in recent trading. The stock has climbed nearly 18% since the beginning of the week on anticipation of strong sales of the company's latest game, BioShock.

Manhunt 2 has also been denied a rating by British certification authorities because of the violent content. That decision does not allow the game to be legally sold in the U.K, the third-largest market for video games worldwide.

Take-Two did not say if the modified version of Manhunt 2 has been submitted to the British certification authorities. But the latest news from the company indicates the likeliness of that move and the subsequent good chance of the game hitting retail shelves in the U.K. shortly thereafter.

"Manhunt 2 is important to us, and we're glad it can finally be appreciated as a gaming experience," Sam Houser, founder and executive producer of Rockstar Games, said in a statement. Rockstar is the publishing label of Take-Two.

"Manhunt 2 is a powerful piece of interactive story telling, and we think horror fans will love it," he said.

Take-Two's financials have taken a hit from the Manhunt 2 ado and from the company's decision to delay the release of its much-anticipated blockbuster game Grand Theft Auto IV from October to next year.

The company cut its outlook for the October quarter and its fiscal year, warning of quarterly revenue in the range of $275 million to $300 million and a net loss in the range of 5 cents to 10 cents a share. Analysts were expecting revenue of $535.2 million.

For the fiscal year ending Oct. 31, the company said it expects revenue in the range of $950 million to $1 billion with a net loss in the range of $1.25 to $1.35 a share. Analysts were expecting revenue of $1.22 billion and EPS loss of 30 cents.


CCFC statement on ESRB decision to downgrade Manhunt 2’s rating from Adults Only to Mature

News Release
August 24, 2007
Contact: Josh Golin (617.278.4172; jgolin@jbcc.harvard.edu)
For Immediate Release

In June, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board gave Manhunt 2 an Adults Only rating. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood had urged the ESRB to give the game an AO rating because of concerns that harmful effects of ultra-violent video games on children would be magnified by playing them on the interactive Nintendo Wii system.

CCFC’s concerns about Manhunt 2 were based, in part, on reviews of the game which described players sawing their enemies’ skulls in half; mutilating them with an axe; castrating them with a pair of pliers; or killing them by bashing their head “into an electrical box, where raw power surges through it and eventually blows his head apart.” CCFC noted that on Wii, players will not merely punch buttons or wield a joy stick, but will actually act out this violence. A reviewer for the gaming website IGN described using a saw blade to “cut upward into a foe's groin and buttocks, motioning forward and backward with the Wii remote as you go.”

The ESRB revised its rating after Rockstar Games submitted a modified version of Manhunt 2. On a phone call with CCFC’s Dr. Susan Linn, ESRB President Patricia Vance refused to comment on what changes Rockstar made or whether any of the content described above was still in the game.

Below is the statement of CCFC Director Dr. Susan Linn on the ESRB’s decision to reverse their earlier ruling:

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is extremely concerned that the ESRB has downgraded its rating for Manhunt 2 from Adults Only (AO) to Mature (M). Despite industry claims to the contrary, M-rated games continue to be marketed and sold to children under seventeen. The ESRB’s reversal of its earlier decision dramatically increases the likelihood that Manhunt 2 – the most violent game to date produced for the interactive Nintendo Wii platform – will be marketed and sold to children.

Just three months ago, the ESRB felt that Manhunt 2 was so violent that it took the extraordinary step of giving a game an AO rating for violent content for only the second time in its history. We urge the ESRB to make public their rationale for changing Manhunt 2’s rating, including detailing any content that was removed from the game.

We call upon Rockstar Games to allow the content of Manhunt 2 to be reviewed by an independent review board with no ties to the video game industry.

We ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the process by which Manhunt 2’s rating was downgraded from AO to M.

CCFC’s initial press release and letter to the ESRB are available at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/pressreleases/manhunt2.htm.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals who care about children. CCFC supports the rights of children to grow up – and the rights of parents to raise them – without being undermined by rampant commercialism. For more information, please visit: http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org.


Release of Manhunt 2 suspended

June 21, 2007
Globe and Mail (Associated Press)

Video game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. said Thursday it was temporarily suspending the release of the violent title Manhunt 2 because of an ongoing ratings controversy in the United States and a ban in Britain and Ireland.

The New York-based company said in a statement that it needed time to "reviews its options" but would "continue to stand behind this extraordinary game."

"We believe in freedom of creative expression, as well as responsible marketing, both of which are essential to our business of making great entertainment," the company said.

Manhunt 2, had been scheduled for a July 10 release in the United States on both Nintendo Co.'s Wii and the PlayStation 2 from Sony Corp.

Take Two calls Manhunt 2 'fine piece of art'

But critics said they were concerned with the game's content, which depicts the escape of an amnesiac scientist and a psychotic killer from an asylum and their subsequent killing spree. In the Wii version, the console's motion-sensitive remote is waved around to control a virtual murder weapon.

The suspension was a setback for creator Rockstar Games, which has come under fire for its popular Grand Theft Auto series of urban crime games, and Take-Two, which earlier this year underwent a shareholder coup that ousted its chief executive and nearly all of its board.

A spokesman for Rockstar said he was unable to comment on the suspension. Earlier Thursday, Take-Two had issued a statement saying it was determined to bring the title to market regardless of criticism.

In the United States, the video game industry's self-regulated ratings board gave a preliminary version of Manhunt 2 an "adults only" rating instead of the more lenient, and far more popular, "mature" rating for ages 17 and up.

Slapping Manhunt 2 with the Entertainment Software Rating Board's most stringent rating would likely doom sales. Large retailers including Best Buy Co., Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. won't stock AO-rated games.

At the same time, Nintendo and Sony said their policies bar any AO-rated content on their systems. Microsoft Corp. has a similar policy, but "Manhunt 2" wasn't planned for its Xbox 360. There are no such restrictions on games for personal computers.

Rockstar was given 30 days after receiving the ESRB's suggested rating to present an appeal or make changes to the game. On Thursday evening, the official Web site for Manhunt 2 still said "coming July 2007."

After Britain and Ireland banned the game Tuesday, Italian Communications Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Thursday that he would seek to have the sale of the game cancelled there as well. In a statement he called the game "cruel and sadistic, with a squalid environment and a continuous, insistent encouragement to violence and murder."

Rockstar and Take-Two have long been a focal point for debate over the effect of video-game violence on children.

Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series features characters who develop underworld careers through bank robberies, assassinations, drug-dealing, pimping and other crime. Two years ago, Rockstar was forced to replace its first edition of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas after a hacker discovered a password-protected game inside it that involved a sexual encounter.


Manhunt 2 gets the axe

June 22, 2007
Globe and Mail
By Scott Colbourne

It was shaping up to be the grossest, sickest video game yet, but Manhunt 2 was impounded by ratings boards and then abandoned by hardware makers Sony and Nintendo this week.

Created by the always controversial Rockstar Games, makers of the Grand Theft Auto series and Bully, Manhunt 2 was supposed to tell the story of a mental patient being subjected to sinister experiments before escaping and then exacting revenge in ever-more grisly ways. Versions for Sony's PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable were due to be released July 10, as was a Nintendo Wii iteration, developed by Rockstar Toronto, that allowed players to physically act out the murders using that system's motion-sensing controllers.

But early this week the British Board of Film Classification banned the game outright, as did the Irish Film Censor's Office, because of its "gratuitous violence" and for being "gross."

Rockstar subsequently revealed the game had been designated Adults Only by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which offers consumer advice and warnings for the North American market. This would have restricted its availability -- large chains such as Wal-Mart, which account for 25 per cent of game sales, will not stock Adults Only titles -- but Sony and Nintendo quickly made it clear that AO games were also not welcome on their systems.

The moves would effectively kill off Manhunt 2 in its current form. Rockstar and parent company Take-Two Interactive are now deciding whether to appeal the rulings -- Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick told Reuters the game "fits squarely within the horror genre" and is "a fine piece of art" -- or alter it to secure a Mature rating.

Manhunt 2 is the latest in a string of entertainment products, including film franchises Saw and Hostel, that have been dubbed gorn, for gore meets pornography. The interactive nature of the game, especially the Wii version, which allows players to perform sawing and stabbing motions with horrific results, is being cited as the cause of its likely demise.

Many video-game and free-speech advocates decried the apparent double standard, including Wedbush Morgan financial analyst Michael Pachter. He told Gamespot.com, "Killing is killing, and it's either acceptable or not. "If it is restricted to adults, so be it, but a ban is inappropriate," he added.

Readers who want to make up their own minds -- and have digested their breakfasts -- can head to IGN.com to read a long preview of Manhunt 2 on the Wii.