Manhunt 2: Extensive First-Hand Preview
Rockstar treats us to an advanced look at Manhunt 2 for this detailed preview.
By Adam Doree
We all know the story about Manhunt. The controversy. The fuss. It's a shame all the negative press and shocking headlines stole the thunder from what was actually a pretty good game three years back. So we're pleased to see Rockstar sticking to its guns for the sequel, and just recently the image-conscious publisher invited us to a sneaky first look at Manhunt 2.
The version we're previewing is still pretty early code, but it's stable, demo-worthy code - things like the voice acting are "completely placeholder" according to Rockstar, and even elements of the story or the order in which things happen may change slightly. The protagonist's voice is apparently a researcher at Rockstar New York at the moment, for example. Some of the current voices actually sound pretty cool though.
"When we went for a final preview look at San Andreas in 2004, this secretive floor was just empty concrete, but now it's Rockstar's latest hi-tech studio."
The new London studio consists of new recruits and a sprinkling of imported talent from the developer's other studios around the world. But despite the involvement of North, it's stressed that Manhunt 2 is not a sequel - the story is completely separate to that of the original, set in a different time and place, with new characters. But, explains PJ, "we're now mixing themes of psychosis, mistrust, institutionalisation, paranoia and once again, pure unadulterated terror, and we're adding new gameplay features like environmental executions."
The main character you play is Dr Daniel Lamb (Danny), one of a number of scientists working at the top-secret 'Pickman Project'. One of the project's top-secret experiments focussing on weapons research comes under fire, and the powers that be decide to close down the experiment. Project lead Dr Pickman is none too pleased about the closure, and convinces Lamb that they can complete the experiment under the radar. Being the ambitious type, Danny agrees, and even volunteers himself for the treatment, knowing that personal fame and glory could be just around the corner.
Unfortunately, disaster strikes when there's a defect in the treatment, causing unforeseen side effects. He's apprehended and sent to a hospital for the criminally insane, where the key is effectively thrown away. The Dixmore Asylum is effectively "a cover to hide the victims of the numerous... experiments... that have gone wrong", reveals PJ. "They've been swept under the carpet."
"Players can now create their own shadows by moving things around, and they're also a great way to lure people towards you."
At the beginning of the game, Danny is making his escape and running to survive in a place where he can trust nobody, and being guided out of the hospital by a fellow inmate named Leo. The first stage of the game is your initial escape.
We have to bear in mind that this is, after all, a maximum-security facility for the criminally insane, so Danny can't quite be sure what's lurking in the shadows. Leo advises us to also stick to the shadows where we can't be detected, and proceed with caution - the energy bar turns blue, indicating we can't be seen. Shadows were important in the original game, and they're vital now - players can now create their own shadows by moving things around, and they're also a great way to lure people towards you - skills that will strategically come into play later in the game.
We did note that at some points of this demonstration however, shadows were often a little too useful, to the point of showing up enemy AI and breaking the believability of the scene for a while; a couple of times a guy literally brushed past without sensing Danny's presence, just because of the shadowed positioning. Other times an enemy was oblivious to our presence despite that we could hear our own footsteps - these aspects could do with some tuning in order to keep the overall sense of stealth moments tense and believable.