Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
06 February 2007
Why Manhunt 2 may not appear on PS3 and Xbox 360
Today Rockstar announced that Manhunt 2, sequel to the sadistic original game from 2003, will be published for the PlayStation 2, Sony PSP, and Nintendo Wii. While I am dismayed that another sadistic piece of garbage will be published, the choice of platforms is very interesting. If Rockstar were to simply port the version from the PlayStation 2 to the more powerful Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, they would be skewered for the lazy effort. They may avoid a full version of Manhunt 2 for those newer platforms, one that takes full advantage of the next generation hardware, because the end result would tread a little too close to real not just for the likes of Jack Thompson or even the ESRB but for the general public.

The passing generation of console hardware can do some amazing things. One has merely to look at Halo 2 and God of War 2 to see what the hardware can accomplish in capable hands. Yet those games fall measurably short of photorealistic. Most average people can still tell that the images on the screen aren't real.

For the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, however, the gap has narrowed. Moreover, this is Rockstar, creators of Table Tennis for the Xbox 360, a game lauded for its realism. On these newer platforms, the expectation of photorealism -- or some close approximation -- will be intense. Were Rockstar to make a photorealistic Manhunt, they'd need to show all the gore that had previously been chunky and blurry in the lower polygon, muddy textured PlayStation 2 game.

Manhunt is the kind of game that celebrates the image of a man's vain attempt to stuff his entrails back into his lacerated gut. No doubt there is a segment of the market that not only wants to see such sights, but in fact to cause them to happen. But the segment that stomached low resolution approximations of that scene on a PlayStation 2 is probably a good bit larger than the segment that wants to see a high resolution version, complete with pulsing, steaming, veiny intestines.

And Rockstar aren't alone in avoiding the bleeding edge of graphics. One of the most savvy moves I saw in the market last year was Valve's re-invention of Team Fortress. Imagine applying today's graphics to this original vision of TF2:
You would not come up with the form of TF2 that Valve has settled on:

So Rockstar has chosen to hit the platforms on which it can get away with this kind of game without crossing a virtual boundary. Beyond that boundary lies a whole new reality, the likes of which we have only begun to understand. I don't begrudge Rockstar's decision to avoid applying the full power of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to the kind of game that would force us to ask some uncomfortable questions. I wish them luck and I'll be watching as always, an interested observer. However, the questions are still there: How real is too real? Which virtual activity will we, as a society, be willing to tolerate?

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--Matt Matthews at 18:53
Comment [ 9 ]

Comments on this post:

So you're suggesting that Rockstar is intentionally pulling their punches when it comes to violence and bloodshed?

It's not that I disagree - it's just that you may have marginalized yourself from the rest of the gaming industry there. I mean, Rockstar kicks puppies and eats babies - I read it on IGN.

By Blogger Josh, at 06 February, 2007 20:20  

Hey, let Rockstar prove me wrong. When they announce a fully upgraded version of the game for Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 with fully-rendered gore, I'll concede I misread them.

And by definition I'm marginal. I write on this blog.

By Blogger jvm, at 06 February, 2007 20:53  

And by definition I'm marginal. I write on this blog.

On behalf of JohnH, michael, Bob, cgm (?), and myself... OUCH.

By Blogger rufbo, at 06 February, 2007 21:21  

Just keeping it real. ;^)

By Blogger jvm, at 06 February, 2007 21:36  

Don't underestimate the controversy factor by putting one of their most gruesome consoles on possibly the most immersive gaming experience today.

Also, I think I should point out that while Table Tennis is very good on the graphics front, most of Rockstar's library is relatively weak on the graphics end (instead they're heavy on the quality gameplay). GTA sold a lot of consoles, but not because of it's graphics.

So, sticking with last-gen consoles (and the lowend graphics Wii) for a little extra time is not a bad idea at all and probably provides a much higher ROI in the short term.

By Anonymous mgroves, at 06 February, 2007 22:39  

We'll see if Rockstar is pulling its punches when we see what kind of control scheme the Wii version uses.

If they have you mime the kills...

Who knows, maybe the decision was driven by the Wii. Action over boosting graphics that much further.

Or perhaps it was driven by simple money concerns. The PS2 has the largest install base. The Wii is the current hot ticket, and closer to the PS2 than the Xbox360 is. The PS3 is possibly currently a non-factor. Manhunt isn't a system seller, so put it on the biggest systems not the cutting edge. (The PSP may just be a side effect of the PS2 version. Or the DS just isn't considered capable.)

By Anonymous Baines, at 07 February, 2007 03:27  

A hint for you guys from the us: the game was originally programmed by Rockstar Vienna, which was closed a half year ago.

And now an other Rockstar Studio will finish the project. Maybe this period of "non-developing" is a reason why its not coming for PS3/X360, cause originally it should come out last year (afaik).

Sorry for the bad english. Cu.

By Anonymous jetsetradio, at 07 February, 2007 16:19  

jetsetradio: Ah, so this is what Jurie and his team were working on before they got shut down so unceremoniously during E3 2006? Very interesting.

I'm assuming, then, that there was originally going to be a GameCube version and the Wii version was ported over from that code (which I presume would be fairly easy)? That would have been amazing for the time, since I can't find a single Rockstar game for the Gamecube except a Smuggler's Run game.

By Blogger jvm, at 07 February, 2007 16:30  

After the whole hot-coffee debacle, I would not be surprised in the least if Rockstar made a next-gen ultra-gore game.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 08 February, 2007 14:45  

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