"Rejecting a work is a very serious action and one which we do not take lightly," said BBFC director David Cooke. "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. There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game."
Manhunt 2 has generated a considerable amount of controvery for its level of violence. Among the game's detractors is ever-present gaming crusader Jack Thompson. Rockstar North's original Manhunt (PS2, Xbox, PC) saw similar criticisms, though the Wii version of the followup has taken heavier fire for its control methods; it uses the motion-sensing Wii remote to simulate the wielding of physical weapons. The game has been received favorably by the gaming press in pre-release play sessions.
Manhunt was rated "18" by the BBFC, though in his statements today Cooke noted that it was "already at the very top end" of that category's acceptable violence levels. He explained that Manhunt 2 crosses the line into unrated territory for its sheer uncompromising attitude towards violence and brutality as well as its unwillingness to allow the player not to participate in its virtual violent acts.
"The Board's carefully considered view is that to issue a certificate to Manhunt 2, on either platform, would involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks, to both adults and minors," Cooke continued, "and accordingly that its availability, even if statutorily confined to adults, would be unacceptable to the public."
The rejection of Manhunt 2 marks the first time the BBFC has refused to rate a game since Stainless Games' kill-happy 1997 PC racer Carmageddon. That decision was appealed after publisher SCi issued a patch modifying certain aspects of the game, such as the color of its in-game blood, and adding a parental age lock. Wii features its own system-wide parental controls.
Publisher Rockstar Games has six weeks to appeal the decision, or it may resubmit an altered version of the game for reclassification.
Manhunt 2 is due for release in North America next month. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board has not yet released its content rating for the game.
Update: The ESRB has announced that Manhunt 2 has been rated "Adults Only" in North America.