So Manhunt 2 has become the first game since Carmageddon to be refused a BBFC rating, effectively banning it from sale in the UK. Unless they turn all the victims to zombies and make the blood green, it’s unlikely to see the light of day here at all. This is the part where I wave my import Wii and chipped PS2 around, grinning like a loon. I had no interest in this game until now.
The kneejerk reaction from many gamers will inevitably be the freedom of speech card, just as predictable as the tabloid headlines tomorrow (expect lavish use of the words “sick” and “outrage”). And as much as I dislike censorship, I’m not sure this is a bad thing. Manhunt, for all its excessive gore, depicted a man forced to kill or be killed without a say in the matter, and in that respect had some moral justification, however tenuous, for the act of murder. The sequel, on the other hand:
“…Lamb is battling with his own psyche. A reluctant but able killer, he’s guided by the rather unpleasant Leo, a fellow inmate with a penchant for bloodlust. And it’s this Leo who acts as Manhunt 2’s interior monologue, audibly urging Lamb to commit grisly acts of murder a provoking him to let go of his remaining threads of sanity.” (GamesTM 56)
Is it any surprise that the BBFC criticised a game like this for its “unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing”? I have no problem with virtual depictions of killing but when the only justification is that you’re a psychopath you run out of moral high ground to take very quickly. Even the most visceral horror films are told from the perspective of the victims.
I remember all the furore around the first Manhunt (ignoring the fact that the inaccuracies went unreported – like how it was the victim who loved the game), and being incensed at how under-researched the tabloid articles claiming that the objective was to sate your bloodlust were. Do we really want to make them right when they get wind of this one? For this same reason I think this game does nothing but harm to our hobby. We don’t need it. Every sale that this game made on pure controversy is another spot of credibility to the Mary Whitehouses of the world.
It’s unfortunate that it got banned through legislation, but when the developers won’t exercise self-control and a bit of responsibility it might be for the best.