The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has announced that it has rejected Rockstar Games’ Manhunt 2 and will not issue it with an age rating. This will make it illegal for the game to be supplied anywhere in the UK.
The game was submitted to the BBFC on both PlayStation 2 and Wii. There was no mention of the PSP version, but that too will presumably suffer the same fate. David Cooke, director of the BBFC made the following comments in a statement:
“Rejecting a work is a very serious action and one which we do not take lightly. Where possible we try to consider cuts or, in the case of games, modifications which remove the material which contravenes the Board’s published Guidelines. In the case of Manhunt 2 this has not been possible. 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.”
“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. That work was classified ‘18’ in 2003, before the BBFC’s recent games research had been undertaken, but was already at the very top end of what the Board judged to be acceptable at that category.”
“Against this background, the Board’s carefully considered view is that to issue a certificate to Manhunt 2, on either platform, would involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks, to both adults and minors, within the terms of the Video Recordings Act, and accordingly that its availability, even if statutorily confined to adults, would be unacceptable to the public.”
This is the first time a video game has been refused classification in the UK since Carmageddon in 1997. In that instance a sanitized version of the game was released with non-human characters and less violence. Publisher SCi (now owners of Eidos Interactive) were able to overturn the ruling however and the original version of the game was later released.
Commenting on Manhunt 2, Paul Jackson, director general of trade organization ELSPA, has appeared to back the BBFC’s stance: “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 on screen entertainment.”
"The games industry is a creative phenomenon that produces all kinds of games across all kinds of genres that appeal to all kinds of people across the country, young and old, male and female. The important thing to know is that all games are rated according to age suitability, with over 70 per cent of games being available to all ages over three years," he added.
Although the censorship and banning of video games in the UK is far rarer than in countries such as Germany and Australia, the original Manhunt has a somewhat unique reputation in the country.
The announcement of Manhunt 2 also drew criticism from Member of Parliament Keith Vaz. Vaz is known for his negative views on the games industry, which have seen him publically back the parents of Stefan Pakeerah and call for the cancellation of Rockstar's Bully (renamed as Canis Canem Edit in the UK).