The BBFC refused classification for Manhunt 2 (making it illegal to sell in the UK), a questionable honour it shares with only 1997’s Carmageddon for its ability to kill other drivers and run over pedestrians. I am both a gamer and anti-censorship, yet I find myself strangely defending the BBFC against outraged gaming fans. This was by no means an easy decision and given the 10 year period in which they have rated everything they were faced with, it seems difficult to argue this will be a slippery slope leading to greater censorship. Manhunt, for those unaware of the franchise, is a creation of the ever-controversial Rockstar, best known for creating the Grand Theft Auto series and, well, getting into trouble. Though many are shocked by the result, I actually called this one as soon as the title was announced for the Wii. With its unique controller the player actual enacts the killing and the immediacy this offers was always going to be cause for concern.
I think people need to be aware it is not the gore to which the BBFC object. This is being developed for the Wii and the older PS2 so lacks the visual realism of a PS3 or Xbox 360 title. Rather it is the “casual sadism” and brutality of the style of killing. Now I accept this in films like Saw, a well-written complex thriller which was highly intelligent and very compelling. I accept it far less in bad films which aims to titilate through violence and gore, rather than tell a story or serve some greater purpose. The original game featured a character who had been kidnapped and awakes with a disembodied voice speaking to him through an earpiece telling him he must kill his way to freedom, as those in the vicinity have all been paid to kill him. The voyeuristic villain watches through cameras, offering advice in return for brutal killings. The result undoubtedly violent, but tense and visceral with decent stealth gameplay. This time it sounds as though the player’s character may be more free in how he acts, making it far more dubious.
Of course, should the decision be overturned, the massive publicity received could not be better for Rockstar. I certainly would not have bothered mentioning it otherwise. Now I remain strongly of the view that adults ought to be free to do and see what they please insofar as it causes no harm to others. Yet I do object to those who argue the BBFC has gone completely off the rails here. The result seems to be that the BBFC are saying violence is okay in videogames so long as it is a means to an end and not an end in itself. While I take censorship of anything very seriously, I’m not sure I disagree with that sentiment.
22 June 2007 at 6:56 am
Carmageddon was allowed with various cuts made, like making pedestrians zombies, I would presume.
I would imagine that it’s also the user involvement in the game, especially the Wii. In order to perform better you have to perform certain movements with the Wii controller at a certain point in a “kill sequence” in order to perform the kill. This may range from a backwards and forwards in order to saw someone’s stomach open, or moving the controllers together in a pincer like manoeuvre in order to remove someone’s testicles.
Clearly censorship is wrong, and whilst I agree that the sentiment (as you stated) is possibly in the right direction, this game is clearly not a game for children. The fact that this “scandal” came at the same time as another, that being Law and Order Double or Nothing shows that the BBFC really have no clue what they’re doing. It’s clear that they have never played any of these games from start to finish and therefore can’t see the full picture, otherwise how could a game like Manhunt 2 be refused a rating here (and in the US an AO rating meaning that no major chain will stock it and forcing Take 2 to delay the release… hopefully Rockstar will live through it!), but a game clearly showing footage from the abduction of Jamie Bulgar is allowed through with a mere 12+ rating (and this was 4 years ago!)
The BBFC needs to modernise and actually start playing these games from start to finish in order to fully appreciate them as they clearly are not currently doing so.
22 June 2007 at 12:21 pm
It’s also worth noting that although the American AO (Adult Only) rating, one above M (Mature), seems more liberal, in practice it too effectively prevents release since neither Sony nor Nintendo permit 3rd party developers to release AO rated games on their systems.
30 June 2007 at 11:38 pm
Although (and I can’t really say with this game, haven’t exactly played it and whatnot, and am generally slightly out of touch with gaming these days) I reckon censorship of blind idiotic brutality is a good thing, and there’s no need for that kind of thing (I can’t believe those words came out of my fingers), I am somewhat chuffed that someone looked at a Nintendo product and thought “I know, let’s use that to saw someone’s head off”. There’s at least some hope for them yet…