While Rockstar is known mostly for the mega cultural impact of their staple series, Grand Theft Auto, there was another game series that they created that, for a time, was considered far more controversial, and deemed so shocking, sick and twisted it had to be banned in quite a few countries. This series is Manhunt; a stealthy, psychological horror game featuring serial murdering protagonists, brutal gangs, corrupt officials, hardcore kills and insane graphic violence within the backdrop of derelict cityscapes. These “violent games of perversion” gained a sizable cult following that persists to this day. So why has a film never been made?
For those that have never played the games, here are a couple of quick summaries:
Manhunt 1: Anti-hero James Earl Cash is sentence to death for an unmentioned crime. On the eve of his televised execution, it is revealed that he has been selected to be the the star in a series of gruesome underground snuff films. His execution is faked, and he must now make his way through the seedy underbelly of Carcer City, a rundown metropolis of apocalyptic proportions, filled to the brim with sadistic gangs of madmen and murders, all with the goal of killing Cash in the most grisly manner possible. The player must use stealth to navigate through this world, and is directed by the sinister Mr. Starkweather to perform all manner of brutal, hardcore executions on his foes in order to receive his aid and hope to survive.
Manhunt 2: Players take control of former scientist and the now incarcerated Daniel Lamb as he escapes his confinement at an insane asylum. Suffering from a mild form of amnesia, he is aided by the perverse, ruthless, and enigmatic Leo Kasper (a fellow inmate) to uncover his past and evade capture. As with the first game, Daniel encounters all sorts of evil gangs and must perform hideous executions.
With all the crap game to film series out there (Doom, House of the Dead), this particular series title seems almost custom made to fit the current movie format, particularly riding on the success of The Hunger Games, The Purge, Death Race, and Vacancy. One could go even further to find that this is a well-tested theme, looking back on the previous success of Battle Royale and even The Running Man; Manhunt is a title that seems destined to be a hit. It could be tailored as a suspenseful, psychological thriller, or an in your-face-splatterfest; the point is that the script is a ready made (personally, I’d like to see a hybrid). So why isn’t Rockstar/Hollywood jumping on this? Even the more obscure Forbidden Siren series received a decent film treatment.
Perhaps it’s been too long since the last game out (2007), and though both games received critical acclaim both encountered problems with release and promotion due to its graphic content and themes. Moreso, the second chapter of the series supposidly suffered from censor pressure and the game was heavily watered down. Which would cause one to point to the intense controversy that surrounds it, with at least one death having been linked to the game series. Many stores refused to carry it’s titles (in fact some countries, such as New Zealand, have out right banned it), and notable figures like Hillary Rodham Clinton has campaigned against it’s violent themes and it’s “assessibility” to children. But is the controversy really any different from GTA? The answer is a resounding “NO,” as Grand Theft Auto is a series steeped in controversy, yet the same stores that once refused to carry Manhunt (such as Wal-mart), now carry Grand Theft Auto V with no protest.
Or maybe it’s simply because the big money maker for Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto, has all but taken over the full efforts of the company. Why should a “forgotten” game series like Manhunt (which only boasts a whopping two titles) get a film when GTA, a series that has sold over 150 MILLION COPIES worldwide (the latest title cashing in a very sexy $800 million dollars in the United States on it’s first day alone), has yet to cross that glittering Hollywood line?
Whatever the case may be, it seems like such a waste of a good title. It was a series that had such promise, and still manages to excite (if no longer deemed shocking) new players. At the very least this series deserves one more gaming title to give it a fitting send off.
Are you listening, Rockstar?