In a landmark decision representing the U.K.'s first video game ban since 1997, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has rejected Manhunt 2 for both PS2 and Wii, which now makes it illegal to sell the game within the borders of the country. The BBFC's decision was based heavily on the game's bleak atmosphere and its tendency to encourage mindless slaughter.
"Rejecting a work is a very serious action and one which we do not take lightly," said BBFC director David Cooke. "Where possible we try to consider cuts or, in the case of games, modifications which remove the material which contravenes the Board's published Guidelines. In the case of Manhunt 2 this has not been possible. 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."
While the original Manhunt game was classified "18" back in 2003, Cooke lists a number of differences in the sequel that support the ban, including the game's "sheer lack of alternative pleasures", the "different overall narrative context", and the game's "unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying". Of course, the original Manhunt's "18" rating was given before the BBFC's scientific research on games and behavior was completed, although Cooke also notes that it was "already at the very top end of what the Board judged to be acceptable". The original Manhunt game was also banned in Australia after only a brief time on sale.
Rockstar Games has not yet had a chance to comment on the ruling, although, under the terms of the U.K.'s Video Recordings Act, the publisher has an opportunity to appeal the BBFC's decision. The ban on the 1997 title Carmageddon, the only other video game to be rejected by the BBFC, was eventually overturned after an appeal by the Video Appeals Committee.