Today, in the end of one of the longest legal dramas that the video game world has ever seen, Manhunt 2 has finally been granted a classification certificate in the UK.
The game was originally slated for launch in the country on July 13, 2007, but was refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Classification--the UK's ratings body--because of "unremitting bleakness" and "sustained and cumulative casual sadism." The move made it illegal to sell the game in the UK, which effectively banned the title.
Developers Rockstar responded by resubmitting an edited version of the game, which was granted release in the US and many European countries, but was refused classification again in the UK. The Grand Theft Auto-maker then decided to appeal the decision by taking it to the BBFC's Video Appeals Committee, a panel of seven independent judges, who reversed the decision and recommended the game be granted an 18 certificate.
Soon after, the BBFC took the unprecedented move of taking the case to the High Court, given that it believed that there had been a misinterpretation of the law. The judge agreed, and then sent the decision back to the VAC to reconsider in light of the newly set guidelines.
Today, seven weeks after the last events in the case, and some nine months after the game was first banned, Manhunt 2 has finally been granted a release in the UK.
According to a statement from the BBFC, "In the light of legal advice, the Board does not believe the VAC's judgement provides a realistic basis for further challenge to its decision and has accordingly issued an 18 certificate."
BBFC director David Cooke explained, "As I have said previously, we never take rejection decisions lightly, and they always involve a complex balance of considerations. We twice rejected Manhunt 2, and then pursued a judicial review challenge, because we considered, after exceptionally thorough examination, that it posed a real potential harm risk. However, the Video Appeals Committee has again exercised its independent scrutiny. It is now clear, in the light of this decision, and our legal advice, that we have no alternative but to issue an 18 certificate to the game."
[UPDATE] Rockstar released an official statement this afternoon declaring that it was "pleased that the VAC has reaffirmed its decision recognizing that Manhunt 2 is well within the bounds established by other 18-rated entertainment. Rockstar Games is committed to making great interactive entertainment, while also marketing our products responsibly and supporting an effective rating system." The spokesperson added that the company had not yet decided on a release date for the game.