ESRB upholds Manhunt 2 rating

Industry rating board says Take-Two is not culpable for AO-rated violence accessible through mods to M-rated action adventure.

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The Manhunt 2 saga has officially come to a peaceful resolution. Yesterday, Take-Two confirmed reports that some of the revisions made to secure an M-for-Mature rating for its horror actioner were reversible using a hacked PlayStation Portable. Today, though, the Entertainment Software Rating Board announced that it will stand by the M rating it issued to the revised Manhunt 2.

"We have investigated the matter and concluded that unauthorized versions of the game have been released on the Internet along with instructions on how to modify the code to remove the special effects," read the statement issued by the ESRB. "Once numerous changes to the game's code have been made and other unauthorized software programs have been downloaded to the hardware device which circumvent security controls that prevent unauthorized games from being played on that hardware, a player can view unobscured versions of certain violent acts in the game. Contrary to some reports, however, we do not believe these modifications fully restore the product to the version that originally received an AO rating, nor is this a matter of unlocking content."

As noted by Take-Two in its defense yesterday, the ESRB said that the content was fully disclosed as being present at the time of being granted an M-for-Mature rating. The ESRB also delineated the difference between the unobscured violence mod and the notorious Hot Coffee mod to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which was accessible through similar means.

"Our rule clarification following Hot Coffee required that pertinent content that is programmed to be locked out but which exists in an unmodified, fully rendered form on game discs must either be removed or disclosed to ESRB during the rating process," said the rating board. "In the case of Manhunt 2, the scenes in question were playable (not locked-out), programmed to include the blur effect, and fully disclosed to the ESRB."

The ESRB also noted that whereas the Hot Coffee mod was easily accessible to all PC gamers, unauthorized hardware and software was necessary to view the AO-rated violence in Manhunt 2. Addressing this difference, ESRB president Patricia Vance said, "Parents need to be vigilant about monitoring what their children are downloading on the Internet and ensure that they are not making unauthorized and oftentimes illegal modifications to software and hardware that remove the controls the industry has so diligently put in place for their own protection."

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