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Hotline Miami 2 refused classification in Australia [update]

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Hotline Miami 2 is effectively banned from sale in Australia, following the Australian Classification Board's decision to refuse classification. According to Kotaku and Player Attack, the legislative body's report describes an implicit rape scene featuring "visual depiction of implied sexual violence" as part of the offending content.

On its website, the ACB says the ruling is accordance with National Classification Code that refuses classification to games featuring "matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena" that offend accepted standards.

The site's listing doesn't note the scene specified in the report obtained by Kotaku and Player Attack. According to both publications, the report notes that it doesn't include a complete list of the content that contributed to the ACB's decision.

[Update: Devolver Digital published a response to the ruling this morning, which you can read in full below the break. The publisher says it's "concerned and disappointed that a board of professionals tasked with evaluating and judging games fairly and honestly would stretch the facts to such a degree..." Devolver added it has no plans to officially challenge the decision.]

Gallery: Hotline Miami 2 level editor | 3 Photos

An excerpt from the report reads as follows (NB: potentially NSFW, and some readers may find the themes and graphic description of content disturbing):

"In the sequence of game play footage titled Midnight Animal, the protagonist character bursts into what appears to be a movie set and explicitly kills four people, who collapse to the floor in a pool of copious blood, often accompanied by blood splatter. After stomping on the head of a fifth male character, he strikes a female character wearing red underwear. She is knocked to the floor and is viewed lying face down in a pool of copious blood. The male character is viewed with his pants halfway down, partially exposing his buttocks. He is viewed pinning the female down by the arms and lying on top of her thrusting, implicitly raping her (either rear entry or anally) while her legs are viewed kicking as she struggles beneath him. This visual depiction of implied sexual violence is emphasized by it being mid-screen, with a red backdrop pulsating and the remainder of the screen being surrounded by black."
The scene described sounds like it may be the same one that came under scrutiny as early as 2013, after some players reacted negatively in demos. At the time, Denis Wedin of developer Dennaton Games said the studio was considering making changes based on the feedback.

"We were really sad that some people were so affected by it, because maybe they had been through something like that of their own," Wedin said . "Maybe they had a terrible experience of their own that was triggered by the game. That was not intentional at all. We didn't add the scene just to be controversial. There is a meaning to these two characters. There's a lot more to them than just this scene."

Hotline Miami 2 is now the fourth game to be refused classification in Australia since the long-sought introduction of the R18+ rating in 2013. The others are State of Decay, Saints Row 4 and South Park: The Stick of Truth, though all three did go on sale following some censor-obliging tweaks. Not that it stopped Obsidian and South Park Digital Studios having some fun at the ratings boards' expense.

So, Hotline Miami 2 and its bloody banquet of beat-em-up is scheduled to hit PS4, PS3, Vita and Steam in Q1 2015. That's certainly the case for less censorial places, but we'll have to wait and see how things shake out downunder.

Update: Devolver Digital published the following response to the ACB's ruling:
"We are aware of the recent report published by the Australian Classification Board in regards to Hotline Miami 2 and have been in communication with them. As such, we and Dennaton Games would like to clarify a few things:

First, to clear up any possible misconceptions, the opening cinematic that was first shown in June of 2013 has not changed in any way. We also want to make clear that players are given an choice at the start of the game as to whether they wish to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence. The sequence in question is presented below in context, both after choosing the uncut version of the game and after choosing to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence.

Second, in response to the report itself, we are concerned and disappointed that a board of professionals tasked with evaluating and judging games fairly and honestly would stretch the facts to such a degree and issue a report that describes specific thrusting actions that are not simply present in the sequence in question and incorrectly portrays what was presented to them for review.

Though we have no plans to officially challenge the ruling, we stand by our developers, their creative vision for the storyline, its characters and the game and look forward to delivering Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number to fans very soon.

- Devolver Digital and Dennaton Games"
Devolver Digital also published a video, showcasing the content with scenes alluding to sexual violence both skipped and not skipped. (Again: NSFW warning, and some readers may find the themes and graphic content disturbing):

[Image: Devolver Digital]

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