'Manhunt 2' On Hold — Company Chairman Calls It 'Fine Piece Of Art'

Publisher Take-Two Interactive voices support for controversial Rockstar game but suspended plans to distribute it next month.

The release of controversial video game "Manhunt 2" is being put on hold just days after ratings boards in the U.K. and U.S. classified the game in ways that would make it unable to be sold at game retailers.

"Take-Two Interactive Software has temporarily suspended plans to distribute 'Manhunt 2' for the Wii or PlayStation platforms while it reviews its options with regard to the recent decisions made by the [British Board of Film Classification] and [Entertainment Software Ratings Board]," the game's publisher revealed in a statement released late Thursday. "Manhunt 2" had been slated for release on PS2, PSP and Wii in the second week of July. The game is developed by Rockstar, the studio behind the "Grand Theft Auto" series. Take-Two Interactive, which owns Rockstar, is the publisher.

Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick voiced support for the current edition of the game in yesterday's statement: "We firmly believe that parents and consumers, once informed as to the nature of any entertainment product, should be able to make their own choices. I have reviewed 'Manhunt 2' myself. It fits squarely within the horror genre and was intended to do so. It brings a unique, formerly unheard-of cinematic quality to interactive entertainment.  It is also a fine piece of art. I stand behind it fully."

"Manhunt 2" is an action game that charges players to brutally fight their way through an insane asylum. The game has not been shown extensively to the press, and few reports have emerged from people who have actually played the game. Nevertheless, the game has been troubled since news of the ratings decisions broke earlier this week (see "Rockstar Games' 'Manhunt 2' Slapped With 'Adults Only' Rating").

On Tuesday, BBFC director David Cooke said that his group rejected the game because of "its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing. There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game." He said that his group deemed that they did not think cutting or editing the game could redeem its rating status.

In the U.S., ESRB president Patricia Vance acknowledged in a statement that the game was rated for Adults Only because of its violent content but that "Manhunt 2" 's creators had the option of appealing the rating or editing the game in the hope of being reclassified.

The game's creators haven't revealed whether they will try for a new rating.

Nintendo and Sony have both issued statements to the press indicating they will not permit AO games on their platforms.