The Manhunt is back on

by Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

In its second kick at the can, Take Two Interactive has won a "Mature" rating for its Manhunt 2 video game. The game previously received an "Adults Only" tag from the U.S. Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which is essentially a kiss of death given that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo don't allow such titles on their respective consoles. Take Two went back to the drawing board and toned the game down enough to get the Mature rating, which means it will officially see the light of day on Halloween, when it is launched.

The game itself is garnering more attention for the stir it is creating than for its actual gameplay merits. In the first Manhunt, players were put in the shoes of a death row inmate forced to run a violent gauntlet of murder and mayhem under the orders of a sadistic snuff film director. Players were encouraged to come up with new and grisly ways of murdering people, including strangulation with a plastic bag and stabbing with shards of glass. It was, arguably, the most violent and dark game produced yet.

When the sequel received its Adults Only rating, the debate about whether video games should be considered art on a par with movies or other forms of entertainment kicked into high gear. Some advance reviews argued that while Manhunt 2 was grisly, it was no more violent than, say, the movie Hostel, and it should be judged on the same level. The flip side argued that video games are still a medium primarily directed at kids, so games should be more harshly judged.

So the question is this: Does that argument have some merit, or is it an outdated view of video games?