ESRB Clears Rockstar/T2 in Manhunt 2 Hack Investigation

November 2, 2007 -
The following statement was read by ESRB president Patricia Vance (left) during a conference call which wrapped up moments ago:
Earlier this week we learned about a hack into the code of the PSP and PS2 versions of the game that removes special effects filters that were put in place to obscure certain violent depictions.  We have investigated the matter and concluded that unauthorized versions of the game have been released on the Internet along with instructions on how to modify the code to remove the special effects. 

Once numerous changes to the game's code have been made and other unauthorized software programs have been downloaded to the hardware device which circumvent security controls that prevent unauthorized games from being played on that hardware, a player can view unobscured versions of certain violent acts in the game.  Contrary to some reports, however, we do not believe these modifications fully restore the product to the version that originally received an AO rating, nor is this a matter of unlocking content. 

Our investigation indicates that the game's publisher disclosed to the ESRB all pertinent content in the authorized Mature-rated version of Manhunt 2 now available in stores, and complied with our guidelines on full disclosure of content. 

What parents, and indeed all consumers, need to be aware of is that computer software and hardware devices are susceptible to unauthorized modification.  Parents should be cognizant of whether or not their children are engaging in unauthorized modification of their games, consoles or handhelds, as those modifications can change game content in ways that may be inconsistent with the assigned ESRB rating. That being said, the vast majority of consumers have not made the unauthorized modifications to their hardware necessary to view the content at issue. 

A follow-up press release contains these quotes, attributed to Vance:
Manhunt 2's rating makes it unmistakable that the game is intended for an older audience.  The unauthorized hacking into the code of this game doesn't change that basic fact.

Parents need to be vigilant about monitoring what their children are downloading on the Internet and ensure that they are not making unauthorized and oftentimes illegal modifications to software and hardware that remove the controls the industry has so diligently put in place for their own protection.

There is also an ESRB-authored Q&A attached to the press release:
Q. How is this situation different from the “Hot Coffee” incident?

A. The Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas “Hot Coffee” situation involved a scene that was a) fully rendered in an unmodified form on the disc (the Hot Coffee mod did not alter the content that was there, it merely unlocked it), b) not previously disclosed to the ESRB during the rating process, and c) easily accessible to all owners of the PC version of the game.  Conversely, in the case of Manhunt 2, a) content that was programmed to be part of the game (i.e., visual blurring effects of certain violent depictions) is being modified, b) the content was previously disclosed to the ESRB, and c) unauthorized versions of software and/or hardware are required to play the modified content.  

Q. How is this situation different from the one with “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion?”

A. After the release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the ESRB discovered extensive amounts of fully rendered and previously undisclosed blood and gore in the game that warranted a Mature rating.  In addition, there was a fully rendered anatomically detailed art file of a topless female character present on the disc that had not been previously disclosed to the ESRB during the rating process.  The blood and gore was accessible to all owners of the PC and Xbox 360 versions of the game.  The partial nudity was accessible to all owners of the PC version of the game if they downloaded a modification available on the Internet that replaced one version of character artwork for another, both of which existed in a fully rendered form on the disc.  Conversely, with Manhunt 2, a) the content in question was previously disclosed to the ESRB, b) the content is being modified by removing the obscuring blur effect that was programmed as part of the game, and c) unauthorized versions of software and/or hardware are required to play the modified content.   

Q. Why does this instance not fall under the ESRB’s disclosure rule clarification requiring that locked-out content contained in the code on a game disc be considered in the assignment of a rating?

A. Our rule clarification following Hot Coffee required that pertinent content that is programmed to be locked out but which exists in an unmodified, fully rendered form on game discs must either be removed or disclosed to ESRB during the rating process.  In the case of Manhunt 2, the scenes in question were playable (not locked-out), programmed to include the blur effect, and fully disclosed to the ESRB. 


@ Brokenscope

I noticed that too. As much as many of us would like to deny it, we are just as easily moved to support anything that supports us, no matter how contridictory it is to our current opinions.

@ CrazyBerto!

Let JBT search for his lost city of Truth and Proof. Would be an interesting jouney, all uphills. I wish him well on this search.. well as long as said search takes him far away from polite society.

Good on the ESRB, but I can't help but feel this is going to give unnecessary momentum to the Alarmist Party in upcoming elections. NOT something we needed.

Again, we need someone COMPETENT and ELOQUENT to be put on ABC news, or some other prime time program, and explain all the (illegal) crap that would be required to access the AO content.

Also, Yee, Thompson, the PTC, and everyone else claiming how the illegal mod of the illegal copy of the game, giving access to AO content in an otherwise M game, has ANY impact on the game becoming accessible to children, should all be charged with slander, being a public nuisance, and/or whatever the appropriate "inciting ____" charge would be (not a lawyer, can't for the life of me think of the proper phrase).

@Pandralisk -- seriously, did you really feel the need to cross-post your "manifesto" to at least three separate GP posts about Manhunt 2?

Jack just like looking for a fight. He doesn't have much of a platform here. I think he is arguing just to argue.

Sorry Jack, on this issue you lose. Next topic.

[...] ????? ????, ??? ?????? ????? ??????????? ???????? ??????? ? PSP-?????? Manhunt 2, ??????????? ??????????? ESRB ?? ?????????? ????????????? ??????? ?????????. ??? ? ? ???????????, ???????? ESRB ???????? ???? ???????, ??? ?????? ??????? ? Manhunt 2 ?????? ???????? ?? ??????????? ????? Hot Coffee ?? ???? ??????, ?? ??????? ?? ??? - ? ?????? Manhunt 2 ????? ????????? ?????????? ???????? ? ??????? ?????. ??, ??? ??? ?? ???????? ??????? ???????? ???? Target ?????? ??? ????? Manhunt 2 ? ?????????. ???? ? ??????, ?? ? ??????. PSP  Manhunt2, rate var blogTool = "WordPress"; var blogURL = ""; var blogTitle = ""; var postURL = ""; var postTitle = "Manhunt 2: ???????????"; var commentAuthorFieldName = "author"; var commentAuthorLoggedIn = false; var commentFormID = "commentform"; var commentTextFieldName = "comment"; var commentButtonName = "submit"; [...]

For yes! They did their job - good on them!

Well, that seems to be that. No smoking gun, no grassy knoll. Let's move on, shall we?

Long live Rockstar! Beat you to the comments Thompson!

Doh! Right as soon as I posted in the other thread, that it will be nice to know R* disclosed everything... :)

Well now, I have my answer.

So Jack, YOU are the liar. Not Rockstar. I won my bet. Pay up, sucker.

I'm glad the ESRB is emphasizing that they knew about the material, and knew how it was disabled, and how that was enough to satisfy them, since you'd have to be a pretty knowledgeable teen to hack the game to disable this stuff.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Jack Thompson is officially on suicide watch....

FINALLY!!!!!!! It's about time that they came out and said that this is a third party modification and that the damn game was for adults anyways, so it doesn't change anything. Thank you ESRB for finally saying something.

This is a good day for RockStar.
Jack will mostly be unhappy with the out come. He will some how raise hell.


Oh...that makes me hard. Looks like he's got nothing!

Er, got nothing *still*.

Good to see they did the right thing. Of course, none of this matters to the watchdog groups. Oh well.


"So Jack, YOU are the liar. Not Rockstar. I won my bet. Pay up, sucker."

Pssh, you know he's going to say that the ESRB is funded by the video game industry and that everything Patricia Vance said is a lie/coverup. He'll never admit defeat.


Jack Thompson is officially on suicide watch….

Nah, he'll just turn this around and claim victory, as it now proves that the ESRB is in cahoots with Take Two and Rockstar, who are also in cahoots with the stores, and clearly also the parents of said kids who end up with the games.

See, it's all just one big conspiracy.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

There is no doubt he will turn this into a failure on the part of the esrb and will declare that THIS will be their downfall. :)

Nicely done ESRB.

The critics, of course, will completely ignore all of that.

And that, lads and lasses, is how you do it.

"Manhunt 2’s rating makes it unmistakable that the game is intended for an older audience. The unauthorized hacking into the code of this game doesn’t change that basic fact."

Thank you. Can someone get this out to the national media please?

Better watch the Gamestops, Targets and Best Buys for Jack walking around with a backpack.

Anyway, this was a big "DUH" though they missed the cheat device codes for PS2... Not like it matters since just like they said, this wasn't the same as the Hot Coffee fiasco. This was the Punisher game level issue that of course groups and a certain "lawyer" pissed and moaned blew up over.

Of course this won't stop the call that there's a conspiracy afoot.

I am glad to see that this has been cleared up by the ESRB.

@ all those doubting the ESRB

See nothing to worry about.

Jack in his own words:

# jack thompson, attorney Says:
November 1st, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Ok, let’s get over the hatred of me. This is a huge news item, whether you agree with me or not. The ESRB made it REALLY clear that if a developer left code in a game that could be unlocked, then that would be a huge violation of ESRB rules.

If the ESRB allowed any code to be left in which could be unlocked, then the ESRB is a goner. That is not an exaggeration. Dennis, you know how serious this is.

The ESRB did the right thing here. They called it as it is, and it's a good thing. If Rockstar was held responsible for hardware hacks, then any developer could be nailed for user-created content. Someone could hack Madden so that the players are all topless cheerleaders, and the precedent would have pinned the fault on EA.

Any thoughts on just what asinine, paranoid rant that Jack is going to come up with in response? Of course he will mention something about our frontal lobes being fried out due to games, or something relating to an illicit substance that prohibits us from understanding the evidence. But it is quite evident that the only person who isn't responding to evidence is darling Jack himself.

No Jack yet?
I wonder why.

As I guessed, full disclosure from Rockstar and that lil DMCA thing protecting them...


Who in God's name cares? He's lost. *Again*. You don't need to hear the ramblings of a sore loser. Just stand back and he'll rub the loss into his own face.

I can already hear Jack's nasally cries and whining.


Huh. Why am I being moderated?

I would feel a little better if an INDEPENDENT investigation was done. Not just to satisfy the critics (who made up their minds years ago), but to shed some light on the elusive ESRB standards.

BTW- the game is crap.

Don't you love to read Jack's own words:

# jack thompson, attorney Says:
November 1st, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Dear Moron Jabrwock:

Since you think I’m dense, try this out, Ace:

I said if they didn’t tell the ESRB then that’s bad. Why should we believe T2 on any of this, as to whom they told, etc. The ESRB has yet to talk.

As I earlier noted, if the ESRB did know about the leaving in of this stuff, then that’s even worse for the industry, because they’re the clowns that are supposed to make sure this can’t happen!

Don’t you get it? The watchdog may be complicit in this! The bottom line is that these games are going to have to be recalled. Just watch."

I still think Dennis is in cahoots with ol' JT

Okay, that LOOKS airtight. Very well worded, and it FIRMLY says that the content was disclosed.

Now, counting down to when Jack's spin on it is posted. I'd put up money that he says he'll be going after the ESRB for lying... but I'm not a betting man.

I submitted the news and a short summary to slashdot. Hopefully they'll put some version up shortly.


That would be like betting with someone that the sky is blue.

Nicely done ESRB.
But how sad is it, that Jack can't say he was wrong.
On the flip side, who will he go after now?


I'm still looking for all those revenue generating ads Dennis benefits from.

@ CrazyBero!

The ESRB. To him, this means they're in cahoots with Rockstar to corrupt our youths!

Jack, you just keep on trying until you run out of cake. At least GlaDos will still give you a weighted companion cube. but . . . the cake is a lie . . . just like everything you say ;-)

Now come on... you KNOW he will post about this. He has to has his spin on things... he'll point out one obscure thing and harp on it for the rest of the day, or he'll copypasta more quotes from other agencies, calling them "proof"...

Too bad there isn't any proof. *cue the wah-wah-wah sound effect*

ahhh vindication now would someone please quiet the naysayers thier whining is starting to get on my nerves

O.o more Manhunt least its positive i guess.

lol Portal is genius, we need a sequel NOW!

Somehow I figure this will be deemed a victory for Jack.
. . Wisdom begins in wonder. - Socrates . .


Takes one to know one, I guess... (But then again he was wrong on calling Jabrwock as such in addition to the T2/R* thing, so I dunno what to say to that.)

sadly, a child could have told you what the conclusion to this would have been.

I had the cake. It was delicious and moist.

Thank you, Ms. Vance. :)

Now...with that out of the way, can we move on to other, more lighthearted discussions? For example, can we now start making jokes about how the Danny character looks like the lead singer of Linkin Park?

Ahhh, common sense. Such a nice thing to savor.

QUOTE FROM PATRICIA VANCE: "...people reporting on this issue who are unsophistocated and not familiar enough, technically, with what is going on here..."

This explains, I think, about 95% of the stink about TT, R*, GTA, Manhunt, etc. Most everyone with a voice is not qualified to give it.
. . Wisdom begins in wonder. - Socrates . .
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