ESRB Rates Manhunt 2 "Adults Only"

By Chris Remo, Jun 19, 2007 2:24pm PDT The Entertainment Software Ratings board, which assigns content ratings to games in North America, has rated the brutal horror sequel Manhunt 2 "Adults Only." Though there are no legal ramifications involved with such a move, most brick-and-mortar retailers voluntarily refuse to stock AO-rated products. Today's announcement comes just hours after the British Board of Film Classification refused to rate Manhunt 2, barring the game from sale in the UK.

Manhunt 2 is being developed by Rockstar Toronto for Wii, Rockstar London for PlayStation 2, and Rockstar Leeds for PSP. It has been announced as launching in North America on July 10, though the AO rating may affect release plans.

Take-Two Interactive, parent of Rockstar Games, has expressed its dismay at the news. "We believe the process of rating videogames is to help people make informed entertainment choices and not to limit them," the company said in a statement. It is currently considering its options in the matter.

The ESRB makes Manhunt 2 the second game from publisher Rockstar Games to be deemed suitable only for adults by the ESRB, after the organization reclassified the "Mature"-rated Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, Xbox, PC) to AO following the discovery of its "Hot Coffee" sex-oriented minigame. Rockstar reissued the game with the offending material removed, at which point the game regained its M rating.

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  • The single most worthwhile thing the ESA could do on behalf of the gaming industry is promote the idea that gaming isn't just for children. That's where almost all the problems related to proposed censorship, government enforced censorship (in Europe and elsewhere) or self-censorship stem from. The pervasive notion among the majority of non-gamers that this medium is primarily for people of an age that need protection means it will always be a target for politicians looking to score easy points with an electorate, retailers will continue to avoid stocking certain games in order to appear family friendly, and game developers and publishers will continue to self-censor in a bid to comply with mainstream tastes and assumptions.

    Given this, I'm surprised to hear people complain about the ESRB's decision to choose an Adult's Only rating. While one can't prove that being subjected to violent images increases the chance of behaving in a violent fashion, and therefore censorship can be considered unreasonable, I don't think it's too harsh to merely issue a recommendation that games featuring prurient and gratuitous acts of extreme violence, such as those found in the Manhunt series, be played only by people who are more likely to be of a maturity that enables them to set the violence in some sort of context - ie those of 18 or over.

    When used only in isolated cases, the Adult's Only rating is virtually useless. The industry simply looks like an exploitative peddler of snuff, constantly passing off nasty little games to youngsters under the cover of more vague ratings like 'Mature', then every once in a while trying to foist some behemoth of filth upon the unsuspecting kiddies, only to be warded off in their attempt by an AO rating. The message is that the AO is used as a blockade to prevent the industry meeting its goal of delivering its sickness to children, rather than a more straightforward means of informing the public that the game is aimed at, and only suitable for, adults.

    If more games were given an AO rating - and since it's only a guide, rather than a legally enforceable classification as in the UK, there's no good reason for not doing so - it would send a clear message that the games aren't just for children and would give the industry a good defence when hit by claims that they aren't doing enough to protect young people from material that may be unsuitable.



















  • I'm not surprised. The ESRB isn't going to take any chance here and we all know it's an incredibly violent game. They'll either tone it down or they should just forge ahead and hope to make AO a little more mainstream. What I find ridiculous really is that M and AO is really only 1 year in age difference. Just seems silly. Why not dump mature and make a new comparable rating to AO separating violent games and sexual games. I don't think stores really care about selling games with a high level of violence.

    Whatever. I don't really care.