Though Australia is finally working on implementing an 'adults-only' rating for video games, it's moving slowly, and another game has been effectively banned down under for now. The victim this time is Starbreeze's FPS reboot Syndicate, singled out for gore, dismemberment, mutilating corpses, and killing civilians.
The Classification Board's Syndicate complaints are similar to those which saw Left 4 Dead 2 initially refused classification--bucketloads of blood, guts, and gore. Kotaku Australia dug up the report detailing its horrors:
For example, an intense sequence of violence commences when a player collects a "G290 minigun," which operates much like a Gatling gun. A player moves through a building rapidly firing at enemy combatants. Combatants take locational damage and can be explicitly dismembered, decapitated or bisected by the force of the gunfire. The depictions are accompanied by copious bloodspray and injuries are shown realistically and with detail. Flesh and bone are often exposes while arterial sprays of blood continue to spurt from wounds at regular intervals.
Players can also dismember and bisect enemy corpses. "It is possible to decapitate a corpse with a headshot before individually blowing off each of its limbs," the report notes.
The laundry list of weapons capable of such great violence includes "shotguns, high-caliber revolvers, sniper rifles, assault rifles, rocket launchers, laser guns and grenades."
The Board also notes that players can shoot civilians, but cannot dismember them, and are awarded points for killing them in the co-op campaign.
Clearly, all of this would push the game up beyond a Mature 15+ classification, which is currently Australia's highest rating for video games--though 18+ and X 18+ exist for films. Games which would be rated Mature (17+) or Adults Only by the ESRB in the USA, then, are unlikely to pass in Australia. Titles refused a classification cannot be sold or displayed, effectively banning them.
Publisher EA may well appeal the decision but, given that Left 4 Dead 2 couldn't get away with such violence against zombies, it's likely Syndicate will follow in L4D2's footsteps and make a censored version for down under. The other alternative is to simply not release Syndicate in Australia, which seems less likely.
An R18+ classification is coming to Australia, after the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General voted in July to approve one. The decision had long been blocked by Michael Atkinson, former Attorney-General of South Australia, who resigned in 2010.
The legislative process will take time, though. The Classification Board's manager of applications, David Emery, noted in October that it may be "another couple of years" before the matter is settled and games can be rated 18+.
But how's Syndicate looking, anyway? Check out our Andrew's recent preview for his unnervingly erotic thoughts.