May 25, 2007 - You can't say that there are no "mature" games on Wii. Since the console's release six months ago, we've already seen two M-rated titles in The Godfather: Blackhand Edition and Far Cry Vengeance. And in the next few months alone, several more are on the way, including Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition and Scarface: The World is Yours. However, none of them can compare to the blood-soaked effort that is Manhunt 2 from publishing powerhouse Rockstar. In fact, no game we have ever played or seen is as over-the-top violent or downright gross as this action-stealth splatter fest. Grasshopper Manufacture's Suda 51 recently promised to make his upcoming Wii exclusive No More Heroes "… as violent or more violent than Manhunt 2." Suda, we've experienced Manhunt 2 in action on Wii and we can write without a second's hesitation that you really have your work cut out for you.
Consider for one moment that in Manhunt 2 you can, Wii remote and nunchuk in hands, use a pair of pliers to clamp onto an enemy's testicles and literally tear them from his body in a bloody display; and if that weren't enough, you'll take one of the poor victim's vertebrae along with his manhood. Or, if you'd prefer, you can use a saw blade and cut upward into a foe's groin and buttocks, motioning forward and backward with the Wii remote as you go. But believe it or not, there is much more to Manhunt 2 than mutilation and mayhem. This is a game that begins with the subject of psychosis.
Manhunt 2 is a completely separate affair from the first title, which incited lawsuits and outraged parents when it debuted on PlayStation 2. Wii owners will enter the surreal and unpredictable world of Daniel Lamb, a doctor and scientist who goes to work for "The Project," or organization that develops weapons and conducts questionable experiments on human test subjects. The government eventually catches wind of the shady operation and ceases all funding. The story picks up six years after The Project's chief scientist, Dr. Pricket, convinces Lamb to become a guinea pig; he promises that the mysterious treatments will be a success and that they'll all walk away with more funding, if not Nobel Prizes. That, of course, is not at all what happens.
Lamb awakens inside The Project, which is a giant asylum that houses some of the world's most deranged and psychotic individuals. He opens his eyes and sees a dead scientist before him; he pulls a bloody syringe from his arm; he doesn't have any idea who he is or how he got there. Thankfully, he's not completely alone in the nightmare. He remembers Leo Kasper as someone he befriended in the asylum over the course of the last six years, and Leo is still alive. With his friend's help, Danny travels deeper into The Project and soon discovers that not only is he a capable murderer, but on some level he actually enjoys killing the hunters who frequent the underworld, their only mission to destroy him and his friend.
There's a lightning storm outside the asylum. Guards watch as their security monitors blink on and off. One inmate appears to have his mouth sewn shut. "We did it," says Leo, impressed by the body at your feet. "Come on. You want to get out of here? Follow me." You open a doorway into a larger clearing that houses several different cells. Rockstar has not given you control of the camera in any version of the game because it wanted to maintain the cinematic quality of the experience and build suspense. The auto-camera is smart and shoots the action from behind Danny's back, although you can twist the nunchuk left or right to lean the view in either direction. As you near a cell, you can lean up against the wall and look in or you can keep to the shadows and sneak past it. If you walk into a lighted zone, an on-screen meter lets you know enemy's can see you.
The inmates spot us and one of them leans forward and urinates through the bars. Another inmate throws his feces at us. As Danny walks farther on, a chair skids out of an open cell and when we get to it and look in, we notice that an inmate has just hung himself. We sight a guard with his back to us. "Go ahead. Try it," Leo says. "See how it feels to own a life."
Manhunt 2 in Wii could be described as Splatter Cell because it is quite obviously filled to the brim with gore, but as you use the nunchuk's analog stick to control Danny through the levels you will also be doing your share of sneaking, Sam Fisher style. You will hide in the shadows and creep up behind enemies and the game rewards you for your stealthy ambitions with greater levels of violence. For example, it is entirely possible to run directly up to an enemy and throw punches his way, or even use one of your many weapons to dispose of him in some bloody fashion. However, these face-to-face kills will rarely be as dramatic or as entertaining - whether you gauge entertainment by the satisfaction of using stealth or by the level of blood and chunks that result - as a sneak attack. There's a whole mechanic built around it, in fact, and this is one of the areas that the Wii version of the title is much improved over the PS2 one.
As Danny creeps toward and draws ever closer to an enemy, the anti-hero will raise his hand to let you know that you can go into an attack. You trigger executions by holding down the A button as you sneak closer and closer to your foe. There are three levels to every execution, as determined by how long you hold the A button down before you begin an attack. An on-screen execution graphic will change colors from white, which is described as hasty; to yellow, which is violent; and finally to red, which results in gruesome kills. In the PS2 version of the game, you merely hit a button to trigger the whole animation, which is far less engaging. On Wii, you act out the execution with a series of gestures timed to on-screen cues. If you're cutting into a man's skull with a saw, which you sometimes do, you might have to make a forward/backward motion with the Wii remote, hit the B trigger to a visual cue, and then gesture quickly upward with both controllers to put the finishing touches on the attack. It's much more immersive both because motion-based controls are inherently so and also because you're stringing together these attacks in the Wii build, while they are canned animation sequences in the PS2 one.
Now multiply these disgusting special attacks by at least 30, as there are -- bare minimum -- that many more weapons to use in Manhunt 2, all with brand new and completely gross executions. There are knives, swords, saws, hammers, syringes, pens, sledgehammers, pickaxes, and more. You'll be stabbing people in the head, in their neck, slicing into their gut, up their chest, and so on. Jamming a pen into an unsuspecting hunter's neck and watching the brood spray is disturbing, but we'll admit it - this is a videogame and not reality, after all - kind of satisfying, too. Exclusive to the Wii version of Manhunt 2 are three new weapons, including the razor, mace and a broken bottle. There are all sorts of guns, from hand weapons to shotguns, which blow entire holes through the heads of enemies. On Wii, you simply hold the C button to go into aiming mode, where you'll have pixel-perfect accuracy with the Wii remote; then you tap B-trigger to fire. (You can cycle between different gun and melee weapons at any time by press down on the D-pad.) You can even cut off a person's head and wear it - yes, wear it - on your belt buckle; it dangles around as you run through the environments and you can hurl it at foes or toss it into hallways as a distraction device.
On top of everything else, there are environmental-based executions. These are shown on your stealth meter/radar as skulls. If you enter a room with a guard whose back is turned to you and there is a skull on your radar, you can trigger these environmental attacks in the same way you would a regular execution. We saw a couple of these in motion. In one, Danny bashes a hunter's face into an electrical box, where raw power surges through it and eventually blows his head apart. In another, Lamb wraps the cord from a phone around a guy's neck and then smashes his face in with the device itself. In one more still, the anti-hero pulls the level of an electric chair and fries some unlucky guard. There are also jump executions where Danny will hop down from a high ledge or from atop a diesel truck and kill an enemy below with whatever weapon he has handy.
We've focused on the game's killing moves, but you will also be exploring environments and solving some basic puzzles. In our demo with the Wii version, we saw Danny crawling through ventilation shafts, crashing through windows, and unlocking doorways by triggering a series of latches, to name a few. In the level known as The Honey Pot, Lamb explores an S&M club complete with leather-bound sex offenders and torture devices. As he violently kills some of the club's inhabitants, he picks up their bodies and hides them in the shadows so he's not discovered - again, a mechanic clearly inspired by Splinter Cell. And an unpredictable storyline complemented by moody music and well-delivered voice acting brings everything together.
The Wii version of Manhunt 2 looks noticeably better than the PS2 version. Rockstar Toronto has used the extra horsepower that Nintendo's console delivers to "up the gore." This is done in a few key ways. For starters, character models in the Wii version will display realistic blood splatters, bruising, gunshot wounds, gashes, and head wounds. In addition, blood will actually spray the screen during combat and executions in the Wii iteration, just as it will accumulate on Danny as he explores the asylum. Considering how important the gore factor is to Manhunt 2, these are all welcomed additions. The title meanwhile looks very sharp on Wii, moves at a steady 30 frames per second, and runs in both 480p and 16:9 widescreen modes.
Manhunt 2 is set to hit Wii, PlayStation 2 and PSP on July 10. Representatives for Rockstar told us that the company never once considered releasing the Wii version at a later date, as is sometimes the trend with multiplatform games. They added that they don't consider the Wii build a port of any kind, but rather an affair catered specifically for the Wii audience. Call us sick, but we couldn't be more excited because Nintendo's console will be home to the definitive version.
We've posted the first-ever real Wii screenshots in our media section. Check them out below.