Rockstar North, a developing unit of video game maker Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO), is used to stirring up a bountiful riot. First, there was Grand Theft Auto III. Then last year came Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. And now there's Manhunt -- the Scotland-based developer's latest wildcard, which was just released exclusively for the Sony (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 2.

Manhunt is what Take-Two describes as a "psychological thriller...designed to get under your skin." Beyond that, it's probably the darkest, most violent, horrifyingly creepy, and obscenity-riddled game ever created.

Imagine this. When playing Manhunt, you're James Earl Cash, a death-row inmate sentenced to death by lethal injection. But instead of meeting your fate in prison, you awaken and are released onto the streets of fictional Carcer City to be the object of "an organized brutal blood sport where you are the prey." Your weapons include glass shards and plastic bags (use your wildest, most blood-thirsty imagination -- Rockstar North certainly has).

Sounds like a game with mass appeal, no?

Capcom's Resident Evil wrote the book on horror. Konami's (NYSE:KNM) Silent Hill defined creepy. But Manhunt is also psychopathically demented -- in a Rockstar-North sort of way that should have the game selling like hotcakes.

But there are a couple of complications. For one, there's only so much money the average American gamer will budget for video games this season, which is already shaping up to be weaker than expected. For another, the holiday season is already fully loaded with must-have games. And quite frankly, Manhunt just might not be priority this time around.

Anybody looking for another Grand Theft Auto probably already has it in Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection Activision's (NASDAQ:ATVI) True Crime. Both True Crime and Tony Hawk Underground (THUG) are already topping charts. Stock Advisor pick Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ:ERTS) Need For Speed: Underground and SSX 3 are out on the market. Plus, Sony's Gran Turismo 4 is on the way, with SOCOM II having been on the shelves for several weeks now.

And then there's this other small problem: No mother in her right mind is picking up Manhunt for little Johnny this Christmas.

A hit is a hit. And Manhunt most is certainly a hit, placing Take-Two's Rockstar North among the hottest development brands around. But Manhunt might be a little too over-the-top to have Grand Theft Auto-like mass appeal -- especially for marginal Grand Theft Auto fans. That said, investors interested in Take-Two might be better off taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to Manhunt sales.

What Now?
Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner always zeroes in on stocks he knows -- and uses. He picked both Electronic Arts and Activision in Motley Fool Stock Advisor. So far, Electronic Arts has been the better performer, up 60% since May of 2002. Is Activision ready to rebound? Take it to our Activision discussion board and tell us what you think. You can also try Stock Advisor for six months at no risk. Find out what the Gardner brothers are picking every month.

Are you the subject of a manhunt? Visit the Take-Two Interactive Software discussion board -- only at Jeff Hwang can be reached at