Manhunt 2 has been given a M (for Mature) rating for its PS2 and Wii releases, giving it a fighting chance of becoming a massive bestseller and right-wing scapegoat for years to come.
Wal-Mart, the US supermarket chain that wields enormous influence over the video-game market, has a policy of only stocking games rated M and below. Manhunt 2 was initially rated AO (Adults Only) by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), giving it little prospect of financial success, but it has reportedly made sufficient cuts to squeeze into M territory. Fewer face-stabbings, presumably.
Call us cynical, but the developments of the past few months have worked out rather well for Rockstar London, the maker of Manhunt 2. No-one ever went bust playing to the common denominator, and a big bunch of articles indicating that MH2 was being effectively banned for its violence can't have done future sales any harm. And cutting a few particularly censor-baiting scenes can't have been that tough.
The frustrating thing from our point of view is that the first Manhunt game was really good - wilfully cruel and bleak, yes, but quite inventive and atmospheric. And any game that you don't like playing when alone in the house has to be good. We wish Rockstar would concentrate on its products' genuine strengths in its marketing efforts, and rein in the cheap publicity whirlwind that surrounds its every move.