Thursday, June 21, 2007

Manhunt: The Game I've Never Defended

Long time readers know that I have often been an advocate of Rockstar Games and the Grand Theft Auto series in particular, going so far as to celebrate the Fourth of July as Grand Theft Auto Day, but there has always been a title I've had a hard time coming to grips with.

There has always been something about Manhunt that makes me uncomfortable. It is the title that to me is the hardest one to defend on artistic grounds, because to me, while the idea of playing an ultraviolent version of The Most Dangerous Game, the execution (and executions for that matter), is just so unrelentingly brutal and horrific that it totally puts me off the title.

And I know titles like Soldier of Fortune are more gruesome from a technical standpoint, but because the gore accompanies a narrative where you are trying to stop terrorists. And, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies when asked if he had ever killed anyone: "Yeah, but they were all bad," the people you kill are basically the scum of the earth, and on some level, society is better off without them. Your enemies are Skinheads, militia-types and the criminally insane, and if you don't kill them, they will kill you.

Yes, there is some comment on society, the media and what we are willing to pay money to see in the game, but unlike GTA, it is buried a little deeper both in terms of plotting and presentation, so it is harder to pick up on those jabs as you proceed through the macabre disintegrating world that is Carcer City(some have speculated that it is based on Detroit or Newark).

And unlike GTA, it is hard to distance yourself from the brutality of your missions by noticing the subtle and not so subtle homages to classic and contemporary genre movies. There is also the matter of free will, which is severely lacking in Manhunt... by design you have rather limited options when it comes to existing in the dank world you find yourself in. And because the ultimate goal for the people who put you into that situation is to make a snuff film from the footage of your trip through their urban hell, you are directed by the voice of Brian Cox, best known for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter.

The whole thing leaves me feeling more than a little bit dirty.

With a sequel coming out early next month, I know that Rockstar is going to come under attack again from certain segments in the media... and I will likely not be one of the most vocal voices defending it.

Edit: Manhunt 2 has received an AO rating and both Sony and Nintendo have stated that they will not license the game for their respective consoles.


Goon said...

Manhunt, as your probably already know, is in some hot water at the moment. It may never see the light of day. It will probably end up on some seedy torrent website, like Thrill Kill for the PSX.

But why ban it? We all have it in us to kill. Luckily, the majority of us haven't had to, or have managed to keep the urge to away. We're lucky to live in a relatively safe world.

Since the war in Vietnam, the cleanliness of entertainment has been chipped away. Television, movies, music, video games, the internet. One could argue that we have become obsessed with turmoil, violence, gore, and death.

Reality Television has been popular since the introduction of Cops. Big Brother, Survivor, these shows simply carried the torch and made the flame burn that much brighter. Turn on CNN or Fox NEWS and you may witness a video of a US patrol being attacked in Iraq, the burned corpses of Iraqis, or the latest shootout or store robbery on American soil.

Movies like Hostel, The Hills Have Eyes, and Saw, all contain excessive amounts of violence and gore. Both Hostel flicks and the Saw series are essentially fake snuff films. People willingly pay to watch helpless victims get brutally murdered on film.

Gangster rap glorifies the selling and use of hard drugs, treating women like hoes, and killing the local snitch or anyone trying to play you. It seems in every suburb, teenagers from all ethnicities try and emulate the culture.

Postal 2, the Grand Theft Auto series, Mortal Kombat. There’s hundreds of ultra violent video games out there for the Playstation, XBOX, and Nintendo consoles. There’s thousands for the computer. Games that don’t glorify violence against innocent people can usually be exploited anyhow. Half-Life allowed players to kill off scientists, the character’s allies in the game, for no real reason.

One can log onto the internet and watch the beheading of hostages in Iraq. Gore pictures on forums. Free porno pictures and videos. Even kiddie porn. The internet is like the evil holy grail of entertainment, and it’s relatively anonymous.

Let's just go a head and ban one video game. What a difference we're making.

MC said...

At any point, did I suggest censoring or banning the title in question? The answer to that is no, no I did not. I've been a vocal critic of Jack Thompson and other people who aim to censor books, games, music and the like in the past.

As an adult, I can make decisions for myself, and I choose not to watch Hostel or play Manhunt 2... but by doing so, I am not telling anyone that they can't or shouldn't because of my own tastes. That's not how it works, because there is a huge difference between saying I don't like something, so I won't view or play it and saying I don't like something so NO ONE can view. read or play it.

And just because I expressed the opinion that when the discussion comes around, I would be less inclined to defend it than other Rockstar titles, I am simply picking my battles.

If you want to be angry at anyone, be mad at the retailers who won't stock NC-17 movies and AO games, or the console makers who refuse to allow a developer to release such a title for this hardware.

Blt said...

We were actually going to do a promotional partnership with this game and one of our upcoming films. Sure glad that we didn't go through with it. Our big reasons were of course the negative press that Rock Star was getting for Grand Theft Auto. Granted the game seriously does kick ass and is quite fun, I guess if I had kids I wouldn't want them to play it either

MC said...

Well, it depends entirely on the film really. If it was a particular title, that has also had a rather tumultuous marketing life, it may have actually worked out.

I still think the Hot Coffee controversy was a tempest in a teapot given the mechanics necessary to unlock that particular content.

Goon said...

Don't get me wrong MC, I agree with your post, I probably should have made that clear in my reply.

It's a game that is extremely hard to defend. I never even legally bought for the PC.

Banning a single game won't make a difference. And screw Jack Thompson. :p

MC said...

The market dictates a lot and as gamers becomes parents, they will be a lot more savvy than legislators are giving them credit for.