The saga of Left 4 Dead 2 has been a long and disappointing one for Australian gamers. Initially banned for its "realistic, frenetic and unrelenting violence" in September, Valve and publisher EA resubmitted a toned-down, less-violent version which received the maximum MA15+ rating down under. But there was still a sliver of hope that the full version would make it as EA appealed the original banning. Hopes were soon crushed, however, when the Classification Review Board denied EA's appeal, meaning Aussie gamers will be left with blood-spray and dismemberment-less versions when the game officially ships to stores tomorrow.
While we all knew the Review Board's final decision, little was known about exactly why the appeal failed. Until now, that is. GameSpot AU has obtained a copy of the Review Board's report, and it seems that despite EA's attempts to clearly delineate the differences between humans, zombies, and infected in Left 4 Dead 2 (as well as justify the violence as being suitable for minors to see), the Board held steadfast to its view that the blood and gore displayed in unedited versions of Left 4 Dead 2 did not fit under Australia's games classification system.
According to the report, EA argued that Left 4 Dead 2 should be allowed as an MA15+ game due to the "unrealistic nature of the violence." Specifically, the EA rep called out the facts that: the game includes zombies who were not and never had been human; that zombies were fictional characters and that zombie killing was an ancillary component to the central objective of the game being played online and in multiplayer format; that 15-year-olds would know that the zombies were fictional characters and could distinguish them from humans, which therefore lessened the impact (but in any event it was not unlawful to kill zombies which meant that no crime had been committed); and that there was no moral issue involved in killing fictional characters.
But the Review Board didn't take those arguments to heart, saying that there was "insufficient delineation between the depiction of the general zombie figures and the human figures as opposed to the clearly fictional 'infected' characters." Even so, it was still the violence issue that sunk the appeal, with the Board report stating that "whether the objects of the violence were fictional or real, and whether a 15 year old could discern the difference, is largely irrelevant where the game displays the level of realism this one does."
The Board listed specific examples of violent content within the game, including:
• in the early stages, a body on the ground was shot at repeatedly, a body disintegrated leaving a head on the ground with copious amounts of blood;
• a fire left a visibly charred body;
• a body was lying face down on a bathroom floor with a trail of blood--screaming and moaning accentuated the impact;
• copious blood including repeated instances of blood splatter on camera lens;
• in a store with buses and trucks, blood splatters, a body on the ground having been dragged leaving a trail of blood;
• a person hanging by fingertips from a beam with fingers being stamped on, another person with arm shot off;
• swords used to behead and dismember with blood everywhere;
• in a swamp, with an aircraft crashed, persons being attacked, as they run towards camera some are shot with blood everywhere and fleeting glimpses of stomach entrails spilling out;
• a group between several buses shot at, copious blood including on camera lens, and several heads blown off;
• chainsaws used on attackers, heads cut off and lots of blood; and
• exclamations and coarse language from time to time accentuating the impact of acts of violence.
The Board Report also revealed some interesting background to the actual appeals process, unveiling that the Board members were shown gameplay videos and had an EA representative play a demo of the game. It's not clear, however, whether the Board had hands-on time with the game itself during the appeals meeting.
The violence-lite version of Left 4 Dead 2 goes on sale in Australia for the PC and Xbox 360 on November 19.