The ongoing saga of Rockstar Games’ attempted release of Manhunt 2
in the UK has taken another turn, with a High Court judge overruling a successful appeal by the publisher to have the game released in the UK.
Developed by Rockstar London and Rockstar North (based in Scotland), the controversial game was initially denied an age rating
, in both censored and uncensored form, by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) because of its violence and “unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone”.
This decision was subsequently overturned
by the Video Appeals Committee (VAC), who concluded that the game was unlikely to cause harm to adults or children if given an 18 certificate (the highest age rating available in the UK). On hearing the verdict the BBFC vowed to take the issue to the High Court.
The High Court judge in the case has now ruled in the BBFC’s favor, with London newspaper the Metro reporting Mr Justice Mitting as saying that the VAC’s decision was “a clear error of law” in terms of assessing the question of harm.
At the hearing the BBFC successfully argued that the VAC decision would have serious implications for its role purely as a watchdog, “not only in relation to video games, but generally”. The judge has ordered the VAC, which only approved Rockstar’s appeal by a 4-3 majority, to reconsider the decision.
The entire process is now unique in the British games industry, where bans on games are extremely rare. The only comparable situation was the BBFC’s refusal to grant 1997’s Carmageddon
an 18 certificate. This decision was overturned on appeal and not again contested.