When Manhunt 2 was first announced, you could have pretty much worked out what was going to happen. The first title courted controversy by the bucketload, and even though this sequel is absolutely nothing to do with that original in terms of storyline, there was always going to be a backlash. So, the subsequent banning wasnít a surprise. Finally given a release (with suitable cuts of the more graphic content), it turns out that we werenít being denied much in the first place.
At first glance, Manhunt 2 is a massively atmospheric title, despite the standard definition graphics occasional bouts of slowdown presented in this PAL version. The voiceovers are done well, and frequent cutaways give a dynamic feel to the whole thing from the outset. Your story begins at the Dixmore Asylum, where patients (including main characters Danny and Leo) are being mistreated rather than treated for their illnesses. Revenge is a dish best served without lights though it seems, as a power outage allows the lunatics to actually take over the asylum, dishing out what are some cold and brutal paybacks to their abusers. Its during this first level that youíre taken through the gameís control system and tasked with escaping using stealth, a simple puzzle or two, and pure brute strength. Its also during this first level that you work out that one important control - the one that allows you to block attacks - doesnít work so well, and that this is more than enough to spoil a promising start to proceedings.
Staying in the shadows is an important part of Manhunt 2, and the opposition certainly knows how to seek you out, even when youíre apparently well hidden. If they approach you in the dark, youíll need to play a short game of steady hand with your Wii remote to stop them from finding you. If you fail, they pull you out into the light, whilst success sees them wandering off to try to find you elsewhere - if they get that far before you pull off an execution move, that is. This does work well, it has to be said - and is an innovation that could potentially used in other stealth titles.
And so, we get on to those execution manoeuvres - the bane of the ratings board. As before, you can pull off various execution types based on how long you wait to inflict the attack. Hasty kills are just that, whilst the shortest of pauses allows you to inflict a Violent or Gruesome kill. If a usable weapon such as an iron maiden or manhole cover is around, these will be used in your attack for added effect. And for the bloodthirsty gun-lovers who missed them when they didnít make it into the first title, gun executions now play a part too. Each type of execution plays out on screen as a cutaway and whilst some have obviously been edited or are blurred out, you can still tell exactly whatís happening. At times, it genuinely does feel gratuitous. For example, why would you cave someoneís skull in with repeated blows when youíre holding a loaded gun?
Unfortunately, Manhunt 2 is let down by some tremendously shoddy AI and the hit-and-miss controls that seem to plague every title ported to the Wii of late. At the best of times, the AI opposition is easy to plan around and relatively easy to dispatch of, but at the worst of times, they may as well not even be there. Frequently, enemies will randomly turn around and become confused by the simplest of hiding tactics, and this totally strips any of the atmosphere from the game. The hunted becomes the hunter far too easily to be convincing, and that may well be for the better given the fact that nine times out of ten your character will steadfastedly refuse to block any attacks.
Manhunt 2 just doesnít make you feel like youíre in danger at any time, and for a game that is two parts survival-horror and one part stealth, thatís enough to kill it off once and for all. If youíre hiding from something that is as threatening and as dangerous as a tremendously happy child with a streamer gun, then you arenít really all that inclined to hide and if the only reason any enemy will defeat you is because the controls fail to respond, then thereís just no reason to even try.
And that rounds things off. Manhunt 2 is essentially a last-gen game that has been ported to the Wii and had a bunch of Wii-mote controls thrown at it. The atmosphere is initially loaded on in spades and you get the feeling that you could really get drawn in to the story and become a killing machine, but there are just too many gaping holes in both the plot and the gameplay to ever allow that to happen.