Money Matters - Simplified

"Adults Only" rating forces 'Manhunt 2' suspension

In the wake of an ongoing ratings controversy in the United States and a ban in Britain and Ireland, the game publisher Take Two Interactive Software Inc. has decided to temporarily suspend the release of the violent video game Manhunt 2, a sequel to its 2003 title Manhunt.

The company has suspended the game distribution plans after the title faced bans by Britain and Ireland, as well as a ratings predicament in the United States due to its extremely violent content, which would have made it nearly impossible to buy in the country, the New York-based game publisher said Thursday in a statement.

Made by Rockstar Games, the premium content development division of game publisher Take Two, Manhunt 2 was originally due for a July 10 release in the United States on both Nintendo Co.'s Wii and the PlayStation 2 (PS2) by Sony Corp.

"Take-Two Interactive Software has temporarily suspended plans to distribute Manhunt 2 for the Wii or PlayStation platforms while it reviews its options with regard to the recent decisions made by the British Board of Film Classification and Entertainment Software Rating Board," the company said in a short statement yesterday.

"We continue to stand behind this extraordinary game. We believe in freedom of creative expression, as well as responsible marketing, both of which are essential to our business of making great entertainment," it added.

Troubles for the new Manhunt 2 game title began earlier this week when Britain banned the game because of the violent content. A day later, Ireland decided to ban the same, and then Italian Communications Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Thursday that he would seek to have the sale of the game canceled there as well.

Calling the Manhunt 2 "cruel and sadistic, Gentiloni said the game contains "a squalid environment and a continuous, insistent encouragement to violence and murder."

In the United States, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the video game industry's self-regulated ratings board, gave a preliminary version of "Manhunt 2" an "adults only" rating, the most stringent rating that would likely ruin its sales in the country. Most major retailers like Best Buy Co., Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. do not stock AO-rated games.

Manhunt 2, the sequel to one of their darkest games, Manhunt, depicts the escape of an amnesiac scientist and a psychotic killer from an asylum and their subsequent killing spree. Players of the video game 'Manhunt 2' would assume the role of a psychotic man who escapes a mental institution and then indulges in a bloody killing spree, using variety of weapons and objects, as he tries to find out what happened to his family.

Take Two’s plan to suspend the release of Manhunt 2 is a major setback for creator Rockstar Games, company most renowned for the controversial titles such as the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series of urban crime games.

Manhunt 2 is facing the same problems as its original version faced. The graphically violent original Manhunt was banned in many countries, including New Zealand, Australia, and Germany due to the game's violent content.

This ultra-violent action game that revolved around a man on death row named James Earl Cash featured creative kills such as bashing faces with a crowbar and wire stranglings.

Though the game was fairly well-received by consumers and the press, but at the same time it was surrounded by the controversy in many countries. The controversy stemmed from the extremely graphic manner in which the player kills enemies.

Manhunt became the first computer game in Ontario to be classified as a film. The game has been declared illegal for players of all ages in Germany. Apart from this, the game was linked to the murder of Stefan Pakeerah, 14, by his friend Warren LeBlanc, 17 in United Kingdom.

A copy of Manhunt was recovered from the murder site. However, later it was transpired that the murderer did not own or play the game instead it was the victim who owned the copy of the game, even though he was under 18.