Manhunt 2 banned in UK

[UPDATE] Rockstar's upcoming game denied classification by the BBFC board due to its 'unremitting bleakness' and 'casual sadism;' Irish film board follows suit.

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Rockstar Games' Manhunt 2 has achieved the dubious honour of being only one of two games to be banned in the UK. The highly anticipated upcoming title, which casts gamers in the role of doctor Daniel Lam--who offers himself as a guinea pig for a neurological weapons project--was due to go on sale in the country on the Wii, PlayStation Portable, and PlayStation 2 on July 13. However, both the PS2 and Wii versions have been refused a rating by the British Board of Film Classification, meaning they cannot be legally sold in the UK. The PSP version has not yet been submitted to the BBFC for a rating.

The reasoning behind the decision is that, according to BBFC director David Cooke, "Manhunt 2 is distinguishable from recent high-end video games by its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing. There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game."

Cooke says that the decision is not one that the board has taken lightly, and that where possible, it considers cuts or modifications to the game to remove offensive material. However, in the case of Manhunt 2 "this has not been possible."

The first game in the series, Manhunt, was given an 18 rating by the BBFC when it was released back in 2003. However, Cooke stated that, "Although the difference should not be exaggerated, the fact of the game's unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying and the sheer lack of alternative pleasures on offer to the gamer, together with the different overall narrative context, contribute towards differentiating this submission from the original Manhunt game." He added that the first title was already "at the very top end" of what it considered acceptable for an 18 certificate, and that it came before the results of recent BBFC research were released.

The game has been refused a certificate on both the Wii and PlayStation 2 platforms, as to release it would "involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks, to both adults and minors." The board adds that even if the game was confined to an adult release, it would "still be unacceptable to the public."

The game is the first to be refused a classification since Carmageddon in 1997. The car combat game developed by SCi and published by Interplay allowed racers to destroy opponents and murder pedestrians. However, the decision to refuse classification of Carmageddon was overturned on appeal by the Video Appeals Committee.

UK games industry body ELSPA released a statement from director Paul Jackson, which said, "A decision from the BBFC such as this demonstrates that we have a games ratings system in the UK that is effective. It shows it works and works well. Any decision the BBFC takes, it takes on the basis of its remit to rate onscreen entertainment."

The BBFC statement concluded that the game's distributors would also have the right to appeal the decision. Rockstar Games had not returned calls to comment as of press time.

[UPDATE] The Irish Film Censor's Office has also announced that the game has been banned in the Republic of Ireland. In a statement, the board gave its reasoning as follows, "IFCO recognizes that in certain films, DVDs and video games, strong graphic violence may be a justifiable element within the overall context of the work. However, in the case of Manhunt 2, IFCO believes that there is no such context, and the level of gross, unrelenting and gratuitous violence is unacceptable."

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