The past nine-odd months have seen Rockstar Games waging a protracted legal battle to unban Manhunt 2 in the UK. Finally, on March 14, the Video Appeals Committee of the British Board of Film Classification--the UK's media ratings board--begrudgingly granted the PlayStation 2 and Wii game permission to be sold to consumers 18 and over.
Given Manhunt 2's troubles, Rockstar's next game, Grand Theft Auto IV, had been expected to get extra scrutiny from the BBFC. Today, though, the government body gave the upcoming crime action game an 18 rating with absolutely zero wrangling over content. "This work was passed with no cuts made," read the BBFC's report, which listed the game as having "strong violence, very strong language, sex and drug references."
The BBFC also listed GTAIV's running time as around seven and three-quarter hours (463 minutes), a figure presumably derived from playing through solely the main section of the game. The final time is bound to be much longer, given the fact its predecessor, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, ran nearly 100 hours. However, according to a recent note from Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey, even a game of that length would likely suck up over 2.68 billion man-hours this year.
"[GTAIV] could ship 5.8 million units in the first week, or $360 million in [US] retail sales," the analyst said in a recent report about American game retailer GameStop's future earnings. Previously, Hickey said that the game would ship 9.5 million copies internationally when it goes on sale April 29 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
[UPDATE] Since this story went live, Rockstar Games contacted GameSpot to say that the running time associated with GTAIV's BBFC rating was for the length of footage given to the ratings board, not the game itself. It did not provide a final running time for the game, but did say that its cutscenes alone approach eight hours in combined length.