Manhunt (series)

Manhunt (series)
Manhunt logo.PNG
Manhunt logo
Genres Action, Psychological horror and stealth
Developers Rockstar Games
Rockstar North
Rockstar Leeds
Rockstar Toronto
Rockstar London
Rockstar Vienna
Creators Christian Cantamessa
Dan Houser
Sam Houser
First release Manhunt
November 2003
Latest release Manhunt 2
October 2007

Manhunt is a stealth style video game series primarily developed by Scottish company Rockstar North, as well as several other Rockstar studios, and published by Rockstar Games.

The gameplay consists of a mixture of action, stealth and psychological horror elements and has gained controversy for its adult nature and extreme violence. The series focuses around two different protagonists who attempt to escape from some particularly dangerous and perverse situation they are left in from the beginning, although their motives for doing so vary in each game. The antagonist in each game is commonly a character who has betrayed them and has a great degree of control over impeding their progress.

The series began in 2003 and is currently composed of two installments. The name of the series and its games are derived from "manhunt," a term referring to a search for a dangerous fugitive conducted by members of law enforcement, though in the games the protagonist's pursuers are not necessarily limited to law enforcers alone. As of 26 March 2008, the Manhunt franchise has sold 1.7 million copies according to Take-Two Interactive.[1]



The stages of each Manhunt installment are typically referred to in a way that relates to the game's plot. In the first game, stages are called "scenes," in relation to the game's plotline being that of a snuff film. In the second game, stages are called "episodes," in relation to the mental state and experiences of the protagonist, and in the vein that it refers to gameplay as "treatment." Players survive the stages by dispatching enemy gangs and "hunters," occasionally with firearms but primarily by stealthily executing them in bloody over-the-top ways.[2]

The first game provides a rating system at the end of each stage which is largely affected by the gruesomeness of the killings and the speed of completion. Executions are preferred in order to gain a higher score, thus encouraging players to play as viscerally as possible.[2] This rating system was cut for its sequel, Manhunt 2, in order to avoid the appearance of rewarding murder in Rockstar's efforts to get the game an M rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The games' locales are full of 'dark spots' and shadows where the player can hide while being chased by the Hunters; hiding in these dark areas make the player effectively invisible.[3]

For each weapon in the game there are three different "executions" to be performed: hasty (characterized by the color white), violent (characterized by the color yellow) and gruesome (characterized by the color red).[4] The execution used is determined by how long the player holds the action button while creeping stealthily upon an unsuspecting enemy. Manhunt 2 added several improvements to the execution system, including the ability to execute using firearms, perform "jump executions" from higher elevations, and environmental executions, such as pushing an enemy face-first into a live fuse box, using telephone cords to strangle an enemy or beating an enemy to death in a toilet.[5]

Certain stages also encourage the player to dispose of the bodies of their unfortunate foes, so as not to allow other Hunters in the area to glimpse the bodies and become suspicious. Suspicious enemies are more likely to discover the player even when hiding in a dark spot.

Over the course of the games, players use a wide variety of weapons, ranging from plastic bags, baseball bats, crowbars and all sorts of bladed items to firearms later on in the game. If the player is running out of health, painkillers can be found which replenish health.[3] The player can strike walls or throw items such as bottles, cans, bricks and severed heads to make noise to distract Hunters.


There are two locations featured in the Manhunt series. There is Carcer City, the setting of Manhunt, which is based on Detroit, and Cottonmouth, the setting for Manhunt 2, which is based on New Orleans. Both cities are in the same fictional universe as the Grand Theft Auto series and Bully. Both games take place in a particularly dangerous area of the city, sometimes to the extent that the area has been wholly abandoned, and subsequently populated only by criminals, while cordoned off from the rest of the city.



Manhunt, the first title in the Manhunt series, was inspired by the 1987 film The Running Man, based on the novel of the same name. Although it was generally well received by critics,[6][7] the game created a media frenzy on release, was banned in several countries and was implicated by media in a UK murder, although the police denied it.[8]

Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2, the second title in the Manhunt series, was released on 29 October 2007. It was originally scheduled for release in July, but it was suspended by Take-Two due to a rating rejection in the United Kingdom and Ireland and an AO rating in the United States for being too violent.[9] On 24 August, it was announced that Rockstar submitted a modified version of the game, which was re-rated with an M by the ESRB and allowed for an 31 October 2007 release date in North America. It was, however, released in stores on 29 October 2007.[10][11] This modified version was again rejected by the BBFC[12] resulting in a series of court appeals by Rockstar and the BBFC, eventually leading to the BBFC granting the game an 18+ certificate in March 2008.[13] The game had a UK release date of 31 October 2008, exactly one year after its US release [14] On 31 October 2009, Rockstar started taking pre-orders for a PC version of the game. The PC version was released on 6 November 2009, with an AO rating by the ESRB.


The Manhunt series has been a source of considerable controversy since even before the release of the first title.

Aside from the sensitive subject matter of Manhunt, the controversy surrounding the game stems from the extremely graphic manner in which the player executes enemies, who are known as Hunters in the game. The game has three 'levels' of executions, and the executions usually get considerably more violent as the levels of execution progress. Level 1 executions are quick and the least bloody of the three, while Level 2 executions are considerably more gory, and gruesome kills are over-the-top fatalities. An example of a Level 1 execution would be suffocating a Hunter to death with a plastic bag. A Level 2 execution might feature severing a Hunter's testicles by pulling a sickle between his legs. A Level 3 execution can involve stabbing a Hunter in the back with a crowbar, following it up by jamming it into the Hunter's head and wiggling it in the skull. The game encourages players to execute enemies as brutally as possible, and awards players who do so with higher health rewards.[15][16]

The murder of Stefan Pakeerah

In the UK, Manhunt was linked to the murder of Stefan Pakeerah, 14, by his friend Warren Leblanc, 17, on 27 February 2004. Giselle Pakeerah, the victim's mother, claimed[17] that Leblanc had been 'obsessed' with the game after he pleaded guilty in court. During the subsequent media frenzy, the game was removed from sale by some vendors, such as the UK and international branches of GAME and Dixons, leading to "significantly increased" demand[18] both from retailers and on Internet auction sites. The police denied any such link between the game and the murder, citing drug-related robbery as the motive. The presiding judge also placed sole responsibility with Leblanc in his summing up after sentencing him to life. It was later discovered that Leblanc didn't actually own the game, but Pakeerah did. It was later found out that the game was not at fault, since Leblanc had previously seen a Child's Play film at the cinema and it went unnoticed that the murder was identical to one seen in the film. When this became known, Manhunt was returned to retail shelves.

Jack Thompson lawsuits

Following Manhunt 2's announcement, attorney Jack Thompson promised to file suit to block the sale of Manhunt 2 and Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV. Take-Two petitioned U.S. District Court, SD FL to block Thompson's pending lawsuit.[19] Thompson immediately filed a counter-suit, accusing Take-Two and various other prominent game media outlets of racketeering.[20] The dispute was later settled: Thompson agreed to not sue or threaten to sue to block sale or distribution of any game published by Take-Two. In turn, Take-Two agreed to drop a prior suit accusing Thompson of contempt-of-court in a previous suit over Take-Two's Bully.[21]

In a letter to Wendy's CEO Kerrii Anderson, Thompson demanded that the restaurant drop an upcoming promotion featuring children's toys designed after the Wii games Excite Truck, Wii Sports and Super Mario Galaxy because Manhunt 2 was scheduled for release on the console. An excerpt from Thompson's letter states: "Dave Thomas never would have tolerated the use of Wendy’s good name to promote Nintendo’s Wii, not with this game available on the Wii platform."[22] Particular controversy was repeatedly heaped upon the Wii version of the game due to the console's highly immersive nature, with certain gaming sites that had a hands-on preview of the game reporting that Manhunt 2 used the Wii Remote in an interactive manner; for instance, in order to stab someone in the game the player would have to flick the Wii Remote forward, in much the same fashion one would do when actually stabbing with a knife.[23][24]

Legal status


Manhunt was refused classification (and effectively banned) on 28 September 2004 by the Classification Review Board after having earlier received a classification allowing it to be purchased by those aged 15 years or older.[25]

In January 2008, major gaming website, reported that Manhunt 2 was never submitted into the OFLC for classification, following its pre-release controversies.


Following a meeting in Toronto on 22 December 2003 between Bill Hastings, the Chief Censor of New Zealand, and officials from the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services, Manhunt became the first computer game in Ontario to be classified as a film and was restricted to adults on 3 February 2004.


On 19 July 2004, the Amtsgericht Munich confiscated all versions of Manhunt for violation of § 131 StGB (representation of violence). The game, the court said, portrays the killing of humans as fun, and the more fun, the more violent the killing is. They also sensed a glorification of vigilantism, which they considered harmful per se.[26]


The Irish Film Censor's Office announced that Manhunt 2 would not be available for sale in the Republic of Ireland.[27] This is the first time a video game has been refused certification by the IFCO (although games do not normally require certification, if they do require it, they must receive a certificate to be released).[28] A poll of 1000 people undertaken by the IFCO showed that 80% of respondents agreed with the ban.[29]


Italian Communications Minister Paolo Gentiloni described Manhunt 2 as, "cruel and sadistic, with a squalid environment and a continuous, insistent encouragement to violence and murder."[30]


It was announced that Manhunt 2 can be released in uncut form in the Netherlands, despite a request by the Dutch parliament for the Ministry of Justice to intervene, as no legal mechanism is in place to ban its sale.[31] This does not mean that the game will in fact see an unedited release in the Netherlands or any other territory with similarly open legal policies, however.

New Zealand

Manhunt was declared objectionable on 11 December 2003.[32][33] Possession is an offence.[34]


Manhunt 2 would have been released uncut in Portugal[citation needed] with an 18+ PEGI certificate if not for Take-Two's suspension.


Manhunt 2 would have also been released uncut in Scandinavia[35][36] with an 18+ PEGI certificate if not for Take-Two's suspension.

United Kingdom

Manhunt received a BBFC 18 certificate, legally prohibiting its sale to anyone under that age. On 19 June 2007, the BBFC refused to certify Manhunt 2, meaning that it would be illegal to sell the game in the United Kingdom[37] in its current state.[38] On 1 August 2007, Rockstar confirmed that they had filed an appeal with the Video Appeals Committee (VAC) in the UK to contest the BBFC decision.[39]

On 14 March 2008 the Video Appeals Committee upheld an appeal by Rockstar games and advised the BBFC that they have no alternative but to issue an 18+ Certificate for the game, with Rockstar arguing successfully that there is no difference between the graphic violence in Manhunt 2 and that seen on other formats.[13] The same day, the BBFC issued the 18 certificate.[40]

United States

Manhunt 2 initially received an Adults Only rating from the ESRB. AO is the most restrictive rating given by the ratings body; many American retailers will not carry AO rated titles[41] and Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have policies prohibiting third-party AO rated titles from appearing on their consoles.[42][43]

In response to the BBFC and ESRB's decisions, Take-Two has said that they would stand by the game and release it.[44]

On 24 August 2007, Rockstar announced that a reworked version of the game had received an M rating from the ESRB, and would be released on 31 October in the United States.[45] On 11 September 2007, IGN released a comparison between the Adults Only-rated version of Manhunt 2 and the censored, Mature-rated version on the Wii.[46] Although most content has remained unchanged, a murder sequence in which the player castrates an enemy with pliers had been removed, and major executions have had blur effects, hue filters and darkening applied to obscure the animation.[47] The post-stage scoring screen carried over from the original Manhunt was also removed. Players were graded on speed of stage completion and number of "Gruesome" level kills, but the scoring system was cut in the final version.

In late 2009, Rockstar released an AO version of Manhunt 2 on the PC. The release is available only via download and features most of the cut content, no censors and a stereoscopic mode for Nvidia graphic cards. The PC version was only released for people who live in the United States and has not been officially made available to other countries.


  1. ^ "Recommendation of the Board of Directors to Reject Electronic Arts Inc.'s Tender Offer" (PDF). Take-Two Interactive. 2008-03-26. p. 15. Archived from the original on 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  2. ^ a b "Basics". Manhunt guide (PS2). IGN. Retrieved 2008-05-26. 
  3. ^ a b Greg Kasavin. "Manhunt for PS2 Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2007-02-26. 
  4. ^ "Excessive Violence+Unoriginal Gameplay+Average Graphics= Manhunt 2"
  5. ^ "Manhunt 2 by Rockstar Games"
  6. ^ "Manhunt (PS22): Reviews". GameRankings. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  7. ^ Metacritic's aggregation of Manhunt reviews
  8. ^ "Police reject game link to murder". BBC. 5 August 2004. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  9. ^ Brendan Sinclair. "Take Two Shelves Manhunt 2".;title;0. 
  10. ^ "IGN Manhunt 2 game info". 30 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 
  11. ^ "GameFAQs Page". 31 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-31. 
  12. ^ Martin, Matt (8 October 2007). "BBFC rejects latest Manhunt 2". Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  13. ^ a b Waters, Darren (14 March 2008). "Manhunt 2 wins battle for release". BBC. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  14. ^ Manhunt 2 Dated in UK - Wii News at IGN
  15. ^ "Game Chronicles - Review". Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  16. ^ "Man Hunt". Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  17. ^ "Game blamed for hammer murder". BBC News. 29 July 2004. Retrieved 2006-10-12. 
  18. ^ "Manhunt game 'flying off shelves'". BBC News. 4 August 2004. Retrieved 2006-10-12. 
  19. ^ BREAKING: Take Two Sues Jack Thompson over Manhunt 2, GTA4,, 16 March 2007
  20. ^ GTA Publisher, Jack Thompson Settle Lawsuit,, 19 April 2007
  21. ^ Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. v. John B. Thompson
  22. ^ Thompson Demands Wendy's Cut Wii Promotion,, 8 May 2007
  23. ^ IGN reporting on Manhunt 2's Wii version
  24. ^ Gamespot goes hands-on with Manhunt 2's Wii version
  25. ^ Tony Smith. "Australia bans Manhunt". The Register. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  26. ^ Volker Briegleb. "Brutalo-Spiel bundesweit beschlagnahmt". Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  27. ^ "MANHUNT 2 VIDEO GAME PROHIBITED". IFCO. 18 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-19. "A prohibition order has been made by IFCO in relation to the video game Manhunt 2. The Order was made on 18 June 2007 under Sec 7 (1) (b) of the Video Recordings Act 1989 which refers to ‘acts of gross violence or cruelty (including mutilation and torture) ’." 
  28. ^ "RTE News". Retrieved 2007-06-20. 
  29. ^ "RTE News - Poll shows support for game ban". Retrieved 2007-02-04. 
  30. ^ Bellinger, Hassan (22 June 2007). ""Italian official seeking ban of Manhunt 2". The Super Soldiers. Retrieved 2007-06-22. "cruel and sadistic, with a squalid environment and a continuous, insistent encouragement to violence and murder." 
  31. ^ "Dutch Won't Ban Video Game Manhunt II.". Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. 
  32. ^ "Manhunt Banned In New Zealand". Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  33. ^ "Banning of ManHunt". OFLC. Archived from the original on 2006-10-01. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  34. ^ Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, 131[dead link]
  35. ^ Spillforbud uaktuelt i Norge
  36. ^ Utsetter «Manhunt 2» (VG Nett) Etter stormen rundt «Manhunt 2», er nå utgivelsen av spillet utsatt på ubestemt tid, 22 June 2007
  37. ^ British Board of Film Classification FAQ - Can we bring back videos from abroad that are not currently classified?
  38. ^ Richardson, Ben (2007-06-19). ""Unremitting bleakness" means Rockstar's game is rejected. However the BBFC in a statement said that they cannot see any way of censoring or cutting the game to make it less violent, as the very core of the game is violent murders.". Games Radar. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-06-19. "The British Board of Film Classification has rejected Manhunt 2 for its "unremitting bleakness" and "casual sadism"." 
  39. ^ Androvich, Mark (1 August 2007). "Rockstar appeals Manhunt 2 ban". Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  40. ^ MANHUNT 2 rated 18 by the BBFC
  41. ^ "Though not a policy, IEMA members generally do not carry AO-rated games any differently than we do not carry X-rated videos or DVDs". Archived from the original on 2007-02-23. 
  42. ^ "Sony, Nintendo forbid AO-rated Manhunt 2.".;title;0. 
  43. ^ "Manhunt 2 dead and buried in the US". 20 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-20. 
  44. ^ Boyes, Emma (9 July 2007). "Take Two Stands by Manhunt 2 Release". Gamespot. Retrieved 2007-07-16. "The would-be publisher of violent stealth-action game Manhunt 2 has vowed to release the controversial title following its outright banning in the UK and its de facto banning in the US.." 
  45. ^ "Manhunt 2 Gets the Go-Ahead from ESRB.". 
  46. ^ "Manhunt 2 Wii Update.". 
  47. ^ BBFC Watch, UK film censor news

External links

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