Salida dear readers,
my name is Jim aka "OpiumHerz" and as some of you may already guess by that nickname: I am german. With the blog series "The worst thing about censorship is ███████ " I want to simply give you a little insight in videogame censorhsip, which is still pretty much alive and kicking here in Germany (but I won't restrict myself to Germany exklusively). I'll try to post entries at least all two weeks or so. Feel free to comment for suggestions, corrections or critique.
This episode is about: Manhunt
Manhunt got pretty infamous pretty soon. Developed by Rockstar, who were already infamous for their Grand Theft Auto-series, the bloody murder fun had a reputation already before it's release. And it should live up to it. Manhunt was a bloddy stealth game with gore that was legendary. It's detailed and not unrealistic depiction of murder was unprecedented. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game: you get through levels by eliminating the enemies in your way one after another. You have only two weapons and are usually outnumbered, so you have to use stealth. When you get behind an enemy a crosshair appears. It turns from grey to yellow to red, depending on how long you are holding the attack button (the higher levels give you more points in the end). The executions were gruesome and, of course, were blamed for some real life murders.
However, Manhunt didn't really face many problems. Only the US state of Ontario gave it some trouble and the game was banned in New Zealand, Australia (it was refused a rating which is as good as banning a game) and, of course, Germany. The interesting thing is: since Mortal Kombat 3 in 1997 there has been not a single game confiscation in Germany. And even ever since it rarely happened, while indexing is something that is quite common. As it stands right now there are only 12 confiscated games in Germany and Manhunt was the first after a long time.
But shit really hit the fan with the release of Manhunt 2. This time it was even too crass for the USA. The ESRB gave it an AO rating which means that big stores like WalMart etc. won't sell it, because they have to keep their family friendly images and the AO rating is associated with pornography. Also none of the big three (Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony) allow AO titles on their consoles. The principle of the game was the same as in part 1: sneak up to enemies and watch a murder sequence.
So the game was edited. The kill scenes got a filter which gave some players actual headaches (while I myself was unaffected by this, I can seriously understand why - the filter was horrible, as it was a mixture of "dancing" black, red and white distortion). Besides that some kills were changed and levels were edited. Also the score system in the game itself was removed.
After these edits the game was rated M in the USA and could be sold. However there was still one market that could get the completly uncensored version: the PC. Thanks to online distribution Rockstar could have simply released the original version in all it's gruesomeness - and they did. The online service Direct2Drive sold the uncensored version for a while. After it was swallowed by GameFly, however, this game was removed from the library.
The fans, however, were already head over heels into this. No only was uncensored material leaked by an internal source, but there were also hacks that removed the filter and tried to restore the censored content. They had mixed successes as some of the kills, especially the infamous pliers kill, look very much like beta material.
The sad thing is: they could have released a normal, boxed retail version of this in many countries - but didn't. Netherlands was a hot candidate as they don't have laws to ban videogames and there are many others, where a release would have been possible. The ban from Direct2Drive took about one a half year and anybody who wants the game surely did get it in that timeframe, but still. Manhunt 2 is a one of a kind. I have never seen so much hate against a game, so much work to get a rating and so much fan effort to remove censorship in a game ever since. And it's really not easy to see through all the things that were in fact changed from beta to AO, and from AO to M rated version. There are whole websites dedicated to it and if you are really interested in ALL of it, you better go there.
As for the "rating war" that happened here... well, after the censored version came out, it got very quiet. Just with the first one: some countries still banned it, others rated it, and every player who wanted to play it played it. End of story.