It looks like PC gamers will be getting their very own version of Rockstar’s controversial Manhunt 2 and this one could be the real deal: The ESRB has rated it AO.
The notoriously violent Manhunt 2 had a rough time getting past the censors prior to its release in October 2007. The ESRB originally tagged it with an Adults Only rating, leading Rockstar to edit a few of the more extreme aspects of the game that ultimately resulted in a far more viable Mature rating. Things didn’t go so well in the U.K., however, where the game was banned by the BBFC, leading to a back-and-forth legal battle that Rockstar eventually won, but not before the game’s release had been delayed by a full year.
Now, if the ESRB web site is to be trusted, the game is on its way to the PC, nearly two years after its console debut. That’s an awfully long wait but it might turn out to be worthwhile: The ESRB has rated it Adults Only and unlike the console versions, there’s a good chance this rating will hold.
For one thing, there’s no licensing or approval requirements required for PC games, so Rockstar is free to include any content it wants. And while most major retailers won’t go near AO-rated games, the prevalence of digital distribution for the PC largely negates that concern. There’s also the option of taking the Indigo Prophecy route, releasing an M-rated version through conventional retail channels and making the AO version available elsewhere.
It’s possible that Rockstar will cut the PC version in the same way it edited the console releases and put it out the door with an M rating, but if that’s the plan then why not just submit the edited version in the first place? That dance has been done and unless Rockstar believes that societal mores and ESRB standards have changed dramatically over the past two years and that the original cut of the game will somehow magically earn an M rating as a result, there seems to be absolutely no point in going through all that trouble a second time just to end up in the same place.
Rockstar hasn’t yet commented on the matter so it’s all conjecture at this point but the hope that we might yet see Manhunt 2 in its original, depraved glory suddenly seems very real.