By 2003, Rockstar Games had made quite the name for themselves after releasing the smash hit Grand Theft Auto III and its follow-up GTA: Vice City. It’s needless to say that the games brought in millions of dollars in profits, but that didn’t come without controversy. The violent content of the games put Rockstar under a lot of scrutiny at the time, but they hadn’t seen nothin’ yet…
Turning up the level of brutality even higher, 2005’s Manhunt was Rockstar’s darkest project yet. The psychological horror game lets players take on the role of James Earl Cash, a condemned murderer exploring abandoned locations filled with masked psychopaths. It’s “kill or be killed” as these lunatics have been hired to murder you on sight, so to survive, players are encouraged to sneak up behind them to snuff them out one by one. All the while, a snuff film producer watches what’s happening through surveillance cameras, providing instructions to Cash along the way.
Manhunt is freaky as hell and an amazing gaming experience. But as you could expect, the violent content made a lot of people unhappy. Calls were made to get the game banned, and in some places such as New Zealand, it was. Regardless, it earned high praises from critics and the game would achieve a cult classic status, resulting in the greenlight for the 2007 sequel, Manhunt 2.
Unfortunately, despite the success of the original, Manhunt 2 was plagued with problems from the very start. Prior to its release, it was given an Adults Only (AO) rating in the United States. As most video game retailers refuse to carry AO-rated titles, this meant the project was dead in the water unless major changes were made. To please the ESRB, the game had to be heavily edited and toned down, with the game’s executions now obscured with a blur filter.
Even with the controversy and subsequent censorship, Manhunt 2 is an enjoyable game. Like its predecessor, it has its fans who’ve since been calling for a third entry in the series. But there hasn’t been so much as a tease for another sequel on the part of Rockstar, who has been rather silent on the concept – barring a 2012 denial that any new games were in the works.
But Rockstar hasn’t forgotten about their Manhunt series completely. The original title was re-released for both the PS3 and PS4 in recent years, letting gamers revisit the controversial classic. And in 2016, the company renewed the trademark for the franchise, which could mean that a new title is on the board. No official announcements have been made one way or the other, but our fingers are staying crossed.
In 2018, many things that were considered shocking in 2003 and 2007 are just a bit more tame. What’s “normal” to see in a lot of M-rated games these days isn’t too far removed from what we used to see in Manhunt. A new entry in the series shouldn’t get the level of hassle the first two games in the series did simply because of times have changed.
There’s still plenty to look forward to from Rockstar, such as this fall’s Red Dead Redemption 2. But let’s hope some day soon the company will officially announce Manhunt 3!
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