Manhunt 2 and the future of violent videogames

Quotes on this page are taken from BBFC statements regarding its refusal to give Manhunt 2 a rating, and the BBFC website

The Club

This Sega-published high-speed killing fest from Bizarre Creations is unlikely to feature the sort of 'realistic injury detail' that can worry the BBFC, given the focus on speed, accuracy and progression over gratuitous violence. But the overarching theme - killing for cash and thrills, both for your own pleasure and gain and that of others - could throw up problems. Whether Bizarre find themselves scrutinised by the ratings boards will depend on how brutal or uncompromising The Club's depiction of its snuff movie-esque themes actually are.

Age of Conan

The impact of Conan's gleefully gory combat will probably be diluted by "alternative pleasures" - from levelling up to the simple act of chatting with other players. But the newest trailer illustrates how developer Funcom is using violence to draw attention, as well as heightening the game world's atmosphere of sadistic oppression with violent visual features such as hanging corpses - a technique that the BBFC recognised when rating the original Manhunt, which might echo Manhunt 2's "casual sadism" that so troubled censors . However, we've played a bloodless version of Age of Conan, which suggests that Funcom is able to tailor the game for each market, especially the notoriously conservative German ratings board, the FSK.

Grand Theft Auto IV

Manhunt 2 is "unremittingly bleak" say the BBFC, but Rockstar's other controversial series has always had a reputation for enabling players to indulge in ultraviolence. With GTA IV's delay already causing Take-Two (which owns Rockstar) financial stress, we can't imagine anyone would be too happy if Rockstar's first next-gen crimeathon was made to go through the same drawn-out re-editing process that Manhunt 2 suffered. Which could mean Rockstar self-censoring GTA IV during development, perhaps even cutting out missions, weapons or options, especially given the more realistic visuals.

Above: Could Grand Theft Auto IV's more realistic visuals force Rockstar to tone down the game's violent excesses?

Viking: Battle for Asgard

Viking could sidestep ratings problems thanks to its psuedo fantasy-slash-historical setting. But Creative Assembly's actioner will present the player with 'bloody violence', to use a BBFC ratings term, on a huge scale while also enabling gruesome up-close kills. If Viking is deemed to glorifythe killing while focusing largely on the protagonist causing brutal harm to others, the BBFC could have issues. But Viking's narrative is less likely to create the same air of "callousness" or "unremitting bleakness" as Manhunt 2.

Postal III

If any game on this list will cause the BBFC to step in, it will be Postal III, thanks to its similarities to Manhunt's central theme of encouraging "visceral killing". It will also be the first Postal game to reach consoles, bringing the series' traditional "unrelenting focus"on casual violence, again like Manhunt 2, to a far more mainstream and younger audience. The BBFC has voiced concerns that even giving Manhunt 2 an 18 rating wouldn't stop it being played by children. So what will it make of the "sustained sadism" so celebrated by the ultraviolent Postal, which isn't shy about allowing players to direct their cruelty toward passive in-game characters.


While less likely to suffer a BBFC backlash, due to a general concentration on attacking long-extinct creatures, Turok does feature a particularly vicious stealth kill system. The knife-into-the-top-of-the-head attack is especially reminiscent of Manhunt. Crucially though, Turok's stealthly stabbings aren't daubed with as much gore, and there's less impact to each kill - largely because Turok doesn't dwell or appear to relish the hurt he is causing, unlike Manhunt's protagonists.

Ben Richardson is a former Staff Writer for Official PlayStation 2 magazine and a former Content Editor of GamesRadar+. In the years since Ben left GR, he has worked as a columnist, communications officer, charity coach, and podcast host – but we still look back to his news stories from time to time, they are a window into a different era of video games.