It appears that the BBFC does NOT want Manhunt 2 to be released in the UK. The ratings board has applied for a judicial review of the recent VAC decision that allowed the game to be classified. Here’s the deal:
The BBFC is contesting the VAC judgement because in the Board’s view, it is based on an approach to harm which is an incorrect interpretation of the Video Recordings Act. The VAC judgement, if allowed to stand, would have fundamental implications with regard to all the Board’s decisions, including those turning upon questions of unacceptable levels of violence. If the VAC’s decision is suspended, then the game will not be classified before the outcome of the Judicial Review.
Though the game was released in the US this Halloween, Manhunt 2 is yet to be released on the other side of the pond as BBFC still denied the title a classification. However, the regulations board has considered an appeal by Rockstar to take a look at the game once more. Their judgment will be carried out soon, they note in the press release.
“The BBFC exercises great vigilance and care in ensuring that all violent games which are submitted to us are correctly classified. Our decisions are based on published guidelines, which are the result of very wide public consultation. The Board also provides very full content information to the public, including parents, about the videogames which it classifies. We recently launched a new website for parents, PBBFC, in addition to the main website and our websites for children and students.
“The BBFC twice rejected Manhunt 2 for its focus on varied and cumulative killings. We recognize that rejection is a very serious step, in which the desire of publishers to market their games, and that of gamers to buy them, must be balanced against the public interest, including the full range of possible harm risks to vulnerable individuals and to any children who may be wrongly exposed to such games. Such balancing judgements are inevitably complex and multi-faceted, and are made only after very careful consideration of the contents of a work. We played Manhunt 2 for well over 30 hours prior to our decision.
The Board recognizes that the available research findings on the effects of video games (including positive as well as harmful effects) are varied and contested. But we continue to believe that a broad approach to the possible risks is needed, which goes beyond purely behavioural harm, and which also takes account of other possible effects on the sensibilities and attitudes of individuals.”
Legal loopholes may allow the release of Manhunt 2 in the UK, where it has been denied classification twice now. According to MCV, the game could be released as a digital download without needing any BBFC rating, as the Video Recordings Act does not cover mediums of delivery like the Internet.
Neither Take-Two nor Rockstar have commented on the matter. The game has been re-rated M in North America and will be released in the region on October 31 for PS2, PSP and Wii.
Apparently, the version they submitted is the same as the M-rated Manhunt 2 that will be released in North America on October 29. “We are continuing to appeal the British Board of Film Classification’s decision to deny the edited version of Manhunt 2 an 18-plus certificate and thereby ban its release in the United Kingdom,” the company said. “The changes necessary in order to publish the game in Britain are unacceptable to us and represent a setback for videogames.”
The BBFC issued a statement announcing that they have rejected a revised version of Manhunt 2 that was submitted for approval from the ratings board. This follows the rejection of the original version which was last submitted in June.
Apparently, the changes weren’t enough. Says David Cooke, director of the BBFC: “We recognise that the distributor has made changes to the game, but we do not consider that these go far enough to address our concerns about the original version. The impact of the revisions on the bleakness and callousness of tone, or the essential nature of the gameplay, is clearly insufficient. There has been a reduction in the visual detail in some of the ‘execution kills’, but in others they retain their original visceral and casually sadistic nature.”
He also states that further changes were suggested to Rockstar for getting approval. As it stands, they have refused to change any more of the game, resulting in the rejection of the game from the board.
Following Manhunt 2‘s rejection from BBFC over its rating, Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive have appealed the decision with the Video Game Appeals Committee. A date has now been set for the hearing, which will take into account both the BBFC and Rockstar’s position; they will also view demonstrations from the game to back up their views.
The decision of releasing the game now lies with the chairman of the VAC John Woods. BBFC originally rejected the game, effectively banning it from release, for its “unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone.”