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Manhunt 2 banned

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Rockstar Games' Manhunt 2 has been to all intents and purposes banned in the UK after the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) refused to certify the PS2 and Wii title. Without a BBFC certificate, the game can't legally be sold here.

The BBFC's verdict of the game is damning: "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," the organisation said today.

"There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game," it added, and highlighted "the game's unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying and the sheer lack of alternative pleasures on offer to the gamer".

The BBFC can demand publishers and developers tweak titles that fail to make the grade, or cut material in order to gain a certificate or one allowing it to be sold to a lower age group. However, the BBFC suggested Manhunt 2 could not be so modified, leaving it no choice but to refuse certification.

While many countries have voluntary game rating schemes, the UK's certification process is mandated by the Video Recordings Act of 1984, ammended in 1993, which obliges publishers producing visual material that depicts realistic or semi-realistic people to have their material certified by the BBFC. The Act applies to games, videos, DVDs and cinema releases. The certificate - U, PG, 12, 12A, 15 or 18 - defines to which age groups a work may be sold. Selling a certified work to an inappropriate age group is a crime under the Act.

"The Board's carefully considered view is that to issue a certificate to Manhunt 2... 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," the organisation said.

In short, the BBFC believes it's not worth risking the game falling into the hands of kids, which retail restrictions aside, on past evidence we all know it surely will. There are too many parents ignorant of the meaning of game certification, some who imagine gaming's just for kids and others who simply don't care.

Rockstar has the right to appeal against the decision, but at this stage it's not known whether it will do so.

The original Manhunt, released in 2003 was granted an 18 certificate by the BBFC, which did not require any cuts to be made in order for the game to be awarded that certification.

However, today the organisation noted the title "was already at the very top end of what the Board judged to be acceptable at that category" and hinted certification might not have happened had "the BBFC's recent games research" taken place at that time.

Rockstar has a history of causing a ruckus with its games, most infamously Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' hidden sex scenes and, later, the brouhaha over Bully, renamed Canis Canem Edit in the UK.

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