Valve's Left 4 Dead 2 has become the latest in a string of mature-themed titles to hit a snag with Australia's ratings board, which has refused to classify the multiplayer zombie gorefest due to "strong violence".
Australian gamers continue to suffer for the lack of a category for mature content equivalent to the ESRB's M rating; titles that fall into this category are refused classification by the government's Classification Board, which effectively bans them from an as-is release in the region.
Although it noted that a "minority" of the board had judged the game's violence too strong, the Board said Left 4 Dead 2's "realistic, frenetic and unrelenting violence" is "high in impact... and therefore unsuitable for persons under the age of 18 to play."
It particularly noted the up-close use of melee weapons like the chainsaw and Samurai sword, which cause blood spatter and limb dismemberment, as a major point of contention.
"The interactive nature of the game increases the overall impact of the frequent and intense depictions of violence," wrote the Board in its full report (link will launch .pdf file). "This, coupled with the graphic depictions of blood and gore, combine to create a playing impact which is high."
In 2008, Australia's classification board refused to rate numerous titles including Shellshock 2: Blood Trails, Dark Sector, Fallout 3 and Silent Hill: Homecoming. All of these games received edits so that they could fall under the MA15+ rating.
Given that the core of Left 4 Dead 2's gameplay hinges on the B movie-style zombie combat, the title would require significant, perhaps even insurmountable editing challenges to alter the factors to which the Board is objecting.
Last month Tom Crago, president of the region's Game Developers Association of Australia, spoke out, calling the classfication system "antiquated" and a "joke," stating that "we are embarrassed at how backward our government is."