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Manhunt 2 is a 2007 stealth game by Rockstar Games. It was developed by Rockstar London for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 2, Rockstar Leeds for the PlayStation Portable, and Rockstar Toronto for the Wii. It is the sequel to 2003’s Manhunt and was released in North America on 29 October 2007, and in the UK on 31 October 2008.[1] Set in the fictional city of Cottonmouth,[b] the game follows Daniel Lamb, a mental patient suffering from amnesia as he tries to uncover his identity, and Leo Kasper, a sociopathic assassin who guides Daniel in his journey.

Originally scheduled for a North American and European release in July 2007, the game was suspended by Rockstar’s parent company Take-Two Interactive when it was refused classification in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and given an Adults Only (AO) rating in the United States.[2] As Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony Computer Entertainment do not allow licensed releases of AO titles on their consoles, this would have severely limited their potential customer base in the US as well.[3] In response to these ratings problems, Rockstar censored the game, blurring the screen during the game’s executions and removing the scoring system, which rewarded players for particularly brutal killings.[4] This edited version was rated M in the US by the ESRB and was released on 29 October.[5] However, the BBFC still refused to classify the edited version for its UK release. Rockstar appealed their decision, and ultimately, the Video Appeals Committee voted that the game could be released with an 18 certificate.[6]

Manhunt 2 received largely polarized reviews from critics and audiences: the improved gameplay, game engine, plot twists, darker storyline, and use of extreme violence was praised, but its voice acting and outdated graphics drew mixed response. The title garnered controversy before and after its release, getting the attention of Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, anti-video game activist Jack Thompson, and various US senators. It was ranked first in Gameranx’ list of the “Top 25 Goriest Games of all Time”,[7] and was nominated for GameSpy’s 2007 Game of the Year Award for the PS2.

Players primarily assume the role of Daniel Lamb in a third-person perspective, with Leo Kasper also playable in certain missions. Although different in appearance and personality, both have similar controls. As with the original game, the primary gameplay mechanic is stealth execution, whereby the player character must approach an enemy from behind, undetected, and kill them.[8] There are three ‘levels’ of execution, with each level progressively more violent and graphic than the last; Level 1 (Hasty) executions are quick and not very bloody, Level 2 (Violent) are considerably more gory, and Level 3 (Gruesome) are over-the-top. The player is entirely in control of which level they use; once the player has locked onto an enemy, the lock-on reticule changes color over time to indicate the level; white (level 1), yellow (level 2), and, finally, red (level 3). When playing on PC or Wii while doing the executions, there is a quick time event which lists down certain moves that either the mouse or Wii Controller must move or by pressing a certain button at a specific time in order to finish the execution. If it does not finish in the specific time, it will stop the execution and skip the execution completely, although the player still kills the person.

Manhunt 2 has updates made to the stealth mechanics of the previous game. For example, players are now given more choices in terms of executing enemies. Aside from the three levels of execution per weapon, players can now use firearms for executions.[8] Two further additions to the execution system are “environmental executions” whereby the player can use elements of the game world (such as manhole covers, telephones, fuse boxes, toilets, etc.) to eliminate opponents, and “jump executions” whereby players can attack enemies from above by leaping off a ledge.[8] A scoring system based on how brutal the executions were excluded from the console versions in order to obtain an M rating from ESRB, while the PC version retained this feature.[4]