Brutal "Manhunt 2" game approved for sale

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - “Manhunt 2”, a brutally violent video game that was effectively banned in the United States, has risen from the grave in a modified form and will go on sale for Halloween, its publisher said on Friday.

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc said a new version of the game, which features an insane asylum escapee killing enemies in gruesome ways, had won a “Mature” rating from the U.S. Entertainment Software Ratings Board, meaning it is meant for players aged 17 and over.

The ratings board had previously slapped an “Adults Only” rating on the game. While its decisions carry no legal weight, Microsoft Corp, Sony Corp and Nintendo Co Ltd do not allow such titles on their game consoles.

It was the second bit of good news this week for Take-Two after the strong debut of its spooky underwater shooting game “BioShock,” and the company’s shares rose as much as 3.3 percent.

“Manhunt 2 is important to us, and we’re glad it can finally be appreciated as a gaming experience,” said Sam Houser, founder of Rockstar Games, the development team within Take-Two that created “Manhunt” and is behind other popular but controversial titles like “Grand Theft Auto” and “Bully”.

“Manhunt 2 is a powerful piece of interactive story telling that is a unique video game experience. We think horror fans will love it,” Houser said in a statement.

Censors in Britain and Ireland have also banned the game from being sold, but Take-Two did not say whether it had submitted the reworked game for review in those countries.

The restrictions on “Manhunt 2” sparked a debate in the video game industry about whether the rating system needed an overhaul. Several game critics who played review versions of the game said it was similar to extremely violent but popular horror movies such as “Saw.”

Take-Two shares have been hammered in recent weeks after it delayed its most important game, the criminal adventure “Grand Theft Auto IV”, from its original October launch date.

The stock was up 43 cents, or 3 percent, at $14.78 on Nasdaq at mid-afternoon. Over the past six months, the shares have shed more than 25 percent of their value.

“Manhunt 2” is far less important to Take-Two’s bottom line than “GTA IV”. Wedbush Morgan Securities had originally estimated that the game would account for about $40 million (19.9 million pounds) in revenue this year.

The game will be released on Sony’s PlayStation 2 console and PSP handheld device as well as Nintendo’s Wii.