Australia is becoming well known for its strict stance on video game classification, with three games banned so far in 2008: Dark Sector, Shellshock 2: Blood Trails, and Fallout 3. The banning of the latter has caused much anger in the local gaming community. Bethesda's anticipated postapocalyptic action RPG was initially refused classification due to in-game drug use, and consequently the game would have been illegal to sell down under. But it looks as if there's finally some good news for Australian fans of the revered series.
Australia's ratings body, the Classification Board, has now reclassified Fallout 3 as MA 15+, with consumer advice that the game has strong violence, drug references, and coarse language. This means that the game will definitely be on sale in Australia, and several local retailers are pegging mid-October 2008 as the release window.
Unlike films or DVDs, the highest rating allowable for a game in Australia is MA 15+, which means that any game that has content deemed unsuitable for a 15-year-old is illegal to sell or promote in this country. In the past, for a game to be reclassified after initially being refused classification, publishers or distributors have had to resubmit an amended version of the game to the Classification Board with the original offending material taken out. This was the case with shooter Dark Sector. After being refused classification at the start of 2008, the game's local distributors resubmitted a version with toned-down violence for the Australian market. This version passed, and Dark Sector is now set for release in September.
Red Ant, the local distributors of Fallout 3, responded with a terse "no comment" when contacted by GameSpot AU about what changes the Australian version of the game would have. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more updates on this story as it develops.
UPDATE: GameSpot AU has contacted the Classification Board, with a spokeswoman saying Fallout 3's resubmitted version was passed by the board because "the reward and incentive" for in-game drug use had been significantly toned down. No further detail was available, however, on what exactly had been changed in the game.
In the Classification Board's original ruling on Fallout 3, the board stated that "the game contains the option to take a variety of drugs known as chems using a device which is connected to the character's arm. These chems have postive and some negative effects (lowering of intelligence, or the character may become addicted to the chem). The positive effects include increase in strength, stamina, resistance to damage, agility, and hit points. Corresponding with the list of various chems are small visual representations of the drugs; these include syringes, tablets, pill bottles, a crack-type pipe, and blister packs. In the Board's view, these realistic visual representation of drugs and their delivery method bring the 'science-fiction' drugs in line with 'real-world' drugs. The player can also select and use Morphine (a proscribed drug) which has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain when the character's extremities are targeted by the enemy."