After Lengthy Legal Battle, Manhunt 2 Ban Lifted in U.K.

March 14, 2008 -
British gamers with an urge to play Manhunt 2 will now have their chance.

As reported by The Guardian, a ban placed on Rockstar's gory sequel last summer has been lifted by the Video Appeals Committee (VAC). The game was originally refused classification - essentially, banned - by the British Board of Film and Literature Classification on June 19th of last year. At the same time, the ESRB slapped an Adults Only rating on Manhunt 2, negating its viability as a commercial product in the United States.

In October the BBFC also rejected a toned-down version of the game, although the edited edition was able to gain a M (17 and older) rating from the ESRB for the U.S. market.

In December, Rockstar won its appeal before the VAC, but the BBFC appealed that decision to England's High Court. The Court ruled that the VAC should reconsider the issue. That has now taken place and the VAC's decision means Manhunt 2 can be sold in the U.K. with an 18+ rating. Addressing the decision, a Rockstar statement read in part:
We are pleased that the VAC has reaffirmed its decision recognising that Manhunt 2 is well within the bounds established by other 18+ rated entertainment.

Lawrence Abramson, an attorney who represented Rockstar during the legal proceedings, added:
The [BBFC] system works in films, but the gameplaying experience is different.

Comments

@ Buncha Kneejerks

'Oh noes' is right. But I don't have time to debate you.

Just thought I would share my observations today.

Before we get into another round of BBFC bashing, can I just point out that despite the UK hating that took place in the other thread, this goes to show that the independant nature of both the BBFC and crucially the Appeals Process in this country work well. We have someone to watch the watchers and, despite the prolonged nature of this game's fate, a correct decision has been reached.

Anglefire:

"I think the BBFC have learned their lesson now with this one, hopefully."

They claimed in many articles that if this appeal was successful that they would have to move the goalposts again to allow for this type of game to be classified as 18. If they practice what that preach, then yes I think they will take this decision into account in future.

How so DarkSabre?

Again, I'm with Colonel Finn here. It may rail against the vocal groupthink which is prevalent here but I feel what he says is accurate.

Other examples include GP editorialising stories making it seem as if the UK government had nothing better to than wield an axe against games. I would be interested to know if anyone here can name any cause Keith Vaz has been involved in that doesn't involve gaming? . The problem as I see it is because the site is american-centric. The good old classic line I have always heard is "Well I'm glad I live in a country that doesn't XYZ," you folk know who you are. Its as if because something goes against the good 'ol american way of things its wrong.

@ Jabrwock
"The question floating around the industry though, is why the BBFC feels the need to wander into the realm of morally questionable video games, when it feels quite content to stamp “18+” on morally questionable movies and the like. Clearly it feels that classification is the norm for movies (it’s even “un-banning” old movies it refused classification for in the past), yet it’s “grudgingly” allowing a classification for a video game, but only because it was spanked by two higher ups."

You're 100% right. There is a disconnect between the way the BBFC rates games and movies and that definitely needs to be fixed. They do need to apply their standards consistently.

That said, thier semi-legislative, semi-descriptive position is not a part of that problem. That system works just fine and this ordeal has only shown that they're not the overly powerful big brother entity so many of your cohorts have inferred them to be.

About that passports jibe: how you can expect to hold forth on topics regarding any other country in what you perceive as a worldly, informed manner when yo0've never even left your own - not even once - baffles me beyond belief. The fact that you might think such a thing isn't even important/relevant is of even greater ridiculousness.

Take that BBFC.

It was only a matter of time that it would be overturned. The BBFC isn't absolute after all, and things can be challenged. The original 'ban' from the toned down version may have been wrong, but it shows that no matter what gets banned in this country, it's possible to have it overturned.

I think the BBFC have learned their lesson now with this one, hopefully.

Banning Manhunt 2 especially the censored version was an idiotic decision on the BBFC's part. Glad to see it overturned.

YES....

If there is an 18 rating for the game, then RATE IT!!!!

That is what the 18 rating is there for....

I am happy there is an independant body watching over the BBFC, but this could have been all cleared up with better judgement in BBFC's behalf and deicde to admit that they were too conserned about the history of the Manhunt games and the fear from their politicians instead of trying to rate a game in a mannor that was suitable for the games industry that tires its best to create games for the commerical 18 rated market in the UK,

I think the edited version should have been ok for an 18 rating, not matter how dark or sadistic it was.... Games and Films deserve to be treated as equals no matter how different their interactivity is....

However, the original version was a bit over the top, hope that Rockstar also knows what to do and what NOT to do when it comes to the next Manhunt game in the future.

but also, I have not played it, but just reading what was in it formed my own opinion, although I could be wrong...

As an Aussie gamer, I can't wait for an R18+ rating in Australia so hopefully games like these would be seen downunder so I would know for sure what was really in the game myself...

But it is so hard to form a good opinion without even playing it, as from what I have known from experience....

So UKers will finally be able to experience the game in all its critically-ordained mediocrity. Woo.

@Chuma

I still fail to see how a supposedly non-governmental entity can wield such force of law with their ratings. Do you feel comfortable with your government handing the deed to your rights to corporations?

(Okay, that was a little snippy particularly as I actually haven't played the game in question, but if they hadn't raised such a big fuss about it it probably would have died on store shelves relatively quietly.)

And now the console makers need to adjust to allowing certain AO games or the rating system should be changed to not give a game like Manhunt 2 a rating that a sexual game would get.

If that adjustment happened along with this great news of the UK accepting Manhunt 2 then there will be a great chance of Manhunt 3.

...so, question is: which version are we getting? The full-fat one, or the cut-down-for-US-consumption one?

/b

What's it matter at this point? The game is long past its prime (if it ever had one). Anyone in the U.K who truly wanted it probably bought it online months ago. Can we really so proud of this "progress" with the BBFC?

I might feel different if this was overturned immediately, but it wasn't. The BBFC still banned a game. How do they do they do that without the force of law to back them up? How can they flat refuse a rating?

What would of happened if they banned Bioshock, Mass Effect, or some other game?

@ LoopyChew

I've seen more than a few reviews that said Manhunt 2 was pure crap.

@ Eric

If is seen as important that the BBFC is independent of Govt, but also independent of the industry it regulates. The Govt set the standards which the BBFC should apply through statute, but the BBFC applies those standards independent of direct State interference. The Courts (including the VAC) ensure that it is applying the standards coreectly in individual cases.
The Govt oversees the BBFC's action but cannot influence individual decisions directly. It can hold the BBFC to account by amending the standards which the body is bound to apply. It's a pretty standard regulatory structure which operates in a lot of European states.

@ Erik

To be honest, with our current government Id feel happier if far more decisions reagarding our daily lives were taken out of their hands. At least corporations listen to the people, and know that if they don't it'll hit 'em in the pocket. The government consistently make our lives worse, then hammer it home with tax rises to pay for the privilege!

And Keith Vaz demanding a rebanning or boycott in 5, 4, 3...

Regardless of the quality of Manhunt 2 (and it's decent, not bad, not great, but decent in my opinion... a good horror story, but very cheap production values)... this is excellent news.

@Canary Wundaboy

"To be honest, with our current government Id feel happier if far more decisions reagarding our daily lives were taken out of their hands."

And wouldn't you like those decisions to be placed in your own hands? Do you feel comfortable with non-elected officials in a (wink wink nudge nudge) non-governmental corporations making these decisions for you?

Good, however 'flawed' the BBFC might be, this decision is BIG for games. Now you can't see headlines/taglines like, "YOUR KIDS ARE PLAYING A GAME THAT WAS BANNED IN BRITAIN!! - Stay tuned after the commercials for details on how your children's minds are being attacked."

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

@ Eric

At the moment our electoral officials ignore the public wishes on everything anyway, at least the on-governmental coporations want money so are more likely to allow things than ban them. =p

Only nine months? Isn't that a really good turnaround for a European release? ;D
---
Fangamer

@TBone

"the original version was a bit over the top"

I am glad you have that opinion. In fact, I am happy that you held that opinion and didn't buy or otherwise play the game. That is your right and you exercised it the way it should be exercised - by not purchasing the game.

What this body attempted to do was to make that decision for you and everyone else.

Glad to hear it. Maybe the BBFC will rethink it's "we can ban things" stance.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

While it's nice to see other countries having a possitive outcome... I just wich that time and money had been spent fighting for some game that didn't suck. I just wish that T2 or R*, whichever, had take time to polish the game quite a bit more. If it was an OK game or something, I'd be a little more clippy at having it unbanned. But for now I kinda want to tell them "Congradulations, now go out and don't purchess it!"

Don't bother trying to talk to Eric. He doesn't listen.

@ Chumba

I agree with you 100%. Last time a round of BBFC bashing came into effect here, I cited precident that the BBFC went throught the exact same process with some hardcore pornography material and it seems that the exact same results have came from it. The material is avaliable and the BBFC have adapted and changed how they review the material.

Look how far that slipery slope we have sliden down that an established process has taken its course.

The BBFCs increasing irrelevance in an interactive digital age is coming to light.

Hooray! People will still not buy the game, even if it is now legal.

@ Buncha Kneejerks

You went from the phrase 'hardcore pornography' to 'slipper slope' just a bit faster than my male brain could handle....so many images I didn't want. >_>

This is ridiculous, this entire BBFC debacle has really underlined for me how far removed from sensible critical thought, many of the readers of this website actually are.

The BBFC made a decision based upon their reading of the standards upheld in this country. Regardless of our liking or disliking that opinion, they did their job.
This was then appealed by the VAC, and the BBFC legally appealed that decision. (Countersuits and legal debates are above board here not some murky backhanded idea some of you seem to imagine)
The VAC appeal was upheld and the BBFC have conceeded that decision and will amend their reading of the standards appropriately.

Nothing odd has happened here other than it's gotten a bit more technical than usual. Many of you just like seeing Reds under the bed anywhere you can. The game's out (in August) and that's that. The BBFC has not been proven irrelevent or outdated, simply incorrect in this instance; for which it has been corrected.

Christ, can we all give it a break now.

Game Over.

It is a bit of a victory.

Its important for the wii to have games like this, even if it is not the best game in the world.

That way I won't get lumped with "minigame" loving kids.

mwa ha ha ha

WE WON. Yeah..

@ Col. Finn, Kneejerks, etc.

I don't have the time or energy to get into this right now, but allow me to make a brief counterpoint.

You're right in that there is a group of vocal, American posters here who will jump on a bandwagon to bash anything cast in a negative light in a GP article, to rally blindly like sheep to the "omg tehy're cenz0ring mai gamz!" battle cry.

There is also a group of more reasoned, American posters who actually put some logic behind their arguments when attacking or calling into question such things, like the BBFC in this case. Just because we have the former group agreeing with us for the wrong reasons, doesn't automatically make us wrong as well.

There's nothing so dangerous to a legitimate cause as a pack of fools agreeing with it.

I have a question for all the BBFC apologists and people cheering that the system "worked:"

If this had been a small, independent developer, would they have been able to afford to lawyer up for this whole appeals process? Doesn't really strike me as being free speech if only a large company can afford it.

And, for that matter, what about people who could never afford the BBFC submission fee in the first place?

@Colonel Finn

"The BBFC has not been proven irrelevent or outdated, simply incorrect in this instance; for which it has been corrected."

The BBC is certainly questioning how relevant the BBFC is if systems like PEGI a) are more informative about game content, and b) don't cross the line between "label maker" and "censor".

If it takes both a committee, and a higher court, to remind the BBFC that it's job is to label things for public information, not to censor, then perhaps the BBFC needs to do some serious soul searching to figure out just what it's purpose really is. Is it to censor media to protect the public? Or is it to inform the public so they can make their own decisions? Right now it doesn't seem too sure what it's job is.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

I'm sorry if I gave you the impression I was tarring everyone with the same brush. I really wish the more reasoned posters like you would be more vocal at decrying some of the nonsense and FUD that gets posted.

The thing is, I don't think there is one right or wrong answer. I am not so arrogant that I believe my word and opinions are gospel. I concede that there are some good points on both sides of the argument. I think the BBFC is a good thing. Does that mean I think its right for America? Possibly not because of how politicized media violence has become over there. I could argue that the Manhunt 2 fiasco is an example that the process works.

To be fair I only really jump in when I feel that facts are being distorted or misrepresented. I have gone into great lengths in prior stories trying to disprove myths about the BBFC and highlighting the process of classification not only of video games but other media too. A lot of comments are baseless innuendo which only seems to feed the more paranoid posters. It’s just funny that it seems to me like the flipside of attitudes of anti-gamers. You know, that they see conspiracy and malice at every step. I invite people to look back at the comments attached to prior articles on the BBFC's & VAC classification decisions to see what I mean now that we know how the entire thing has played out.

@ illspirit

As an 'apologist' I'd just like to say that if you intend to publish obviously controversial material your business model will have to account for that commercial risk (which would go well beyond the cost in a potential BBFC submission and cover other insurable risks). Questions surrounding IP infringement are likely to be much larger, and more costly, potential risks.
The BBFC Fees of around £1,200 shouldn't be an enormous cost hurdle in comparison.

No jaberwock you are incorrect, their job is to classify media and if necessary refuse classification.

After reading this page on Next-Gen:

http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=9558&I...

It seems clear that the BBFC is assigning the rating rather reluctantly. They feel they are in the right, but since they can't reject the VAC's decision outright, they are forced.

I have a feeling that they are more than willing to try this again in the future.

@illspirit

Give me an example of a small time developer trying to push the bounderies in such a way that Rockstar has?

Are you aware how much it costs to develop a game for commercial release? Its a business venture at the end of the day and as such they should factor such things into a risk assessment.

You are looking for a problem that doesn't exist. Only two games, TWO GAMES, have been thru this process and each time the end result is the games have been cleared for release.

Are you aware that as part of process the BBFC refunds the cost of the appeals to Rockstar now?

@Buncha Kneejerks

"No jaberwock you are incorrect, their job is to classify media and if necessary refuse classification."

Are you sure?

From the BBFC website: (Why do we do what we do?)
- we give the public information that empowers them to make appropriate viewing decisions for themselves and those in their care.

- We help to protect vulnerable viewers and society from the effects of viewing potentially harmful or unsuitable content while respecting adult freedom of choice

- we provide media industries with the security and confidence of cost-effective, publicly trusted regulation and help to protect providers of moving image content from inadvertent breaches of UK law.


Sounds to me like they think their job is to inform the public so they can make their own decisions, not to censor. And refusing to classify something, well, that falls under censoring it. Because without a BBFC classification, adults are denied their "freedom of choice"...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@EKZ

Oh noes.

You have more to fear from EA than the BBFC.

@Jaberwock

Then your reading it wrong. The BBFC have on multiple occasions prevented classification of movie titles in the UK and have been doing so for years. Shall I offer up some examples?

@Buncha Kneejerks

"Then your reading it wrong. The BBFC have on multiple occasions prevented classification of movie titles in the UK and have been doing so for years. Shall I offer up some examples?"

You're missing the point. The BBFC is trying to give the impression that they respect adult choice (in their "mission statement"), but from their actions (MH2, and all the movies I'm sure you're going to list), it's clear that they don't believe that at all.

To me that is a conflict of purpose. And so the BBFC should step back and decide what it is their job ACTUALLY entails. And communicate this clearly to the public.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...
 
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