Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number gets refused classification in Australia

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Hotline Miami 2 is one of the many games that I’m excited to play this year! As my readers know I loved the first game a lot! This game might not have a clear release date yet, but preview copies have been sent out, and it’s getting classified by regional game rating boards like the ESRB and PEGI. But when this game got into the hands of Australia’s Classification Board, that’s run by their government, they classified it as refused yesterday. Meaning that Hotline Miami 2 might not see the light of day in the land down under.

It’s easy to see, as the previous game wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. It’s pretty much a game in the style of a Tarantino film. It’s infused with drugs and sex, which you don’t see, but the violence is clearly on display. Mitchell Dyer from IGN (I used to know him from NerdBlurb) pretty much explains that not an awful lot has changed from the winning formula of the previous game. But what he has noticed is that he’s more shocked about this game than the previous instalment. Maybe this will be something I discover when I get my chance to play this game. But I will admit that the new Swan mask duo characters look pretty damn cool!

It turns out that the Australian Classification Board deemed the game as refused due to an introduction where you play out a scene of a film that emulates sexual violence. It plays just like any other level in the game, but ends with a camera man and a director saying cut at the end. There’s a message that appears before you go into this scene making you aware about the sexual violence in the scene. You can pick yes or no. Picking one or the other leads pretty much to the same scene, except saying yes will show an animation of the character dropping his jeans, whilst selecting no just leaves the masked man standing. You don’t actually see any sex in the scene, just an arse. Granted it’s just about to happen, but it doesn’t. However this was enough to make the Australian Classification Board refuse the game outright.

Devolver Digital, the publisher of the Hotline Miami games responded with,

Source from Devolver Digital Blog

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

This reminds me a lot of the No Russian scene in Modern Warfare 2. Where you play as a terrorist in an airport about to perform a massacre, which is a major plot point for the story that begins World War III in the game. However just like in Hotline Miami 2, it gives you the choice of if you want to play the scene or not due to disturbing images. This too caused a stir in the media when the game came out, and was very controversial.

The thing that saddens me is that even when you’re given a choice of playing it out, it can be seen as bad. I can understand that sexual violence is a serious matter, but there are a few things I need to point out. As mentioned and shown above, there’s a choice to carry this out. Secondly, even though it feels like a level in the game where you kill off agents and thugs, you find out it isn’t real, but is in fact part of a film set. The character does get on top of the woman and removes his jeans, but there’s no sex at all. I’m pretty sure that films, TV shows and books have depicted scenes of this nature before. Finally, the biggest point to make, as Mitchell Dyer mentioned in his preview above, the game is ultra violent. You’d think that out of all the things in this game that’s possible such as neck snapping, drilling through people’s heads, and dismembering enemies; the Australian Classification Board would only be disgusted by a sexual violence scene, which isn’t really sexual violence and can be skipped.

Devolver Digital is correct in their response that they made on their blog, the choices are there, you don’t see any real sex. As quoted there’s no thrusting, and the director in the game cuts it before it can even happen. Now there are techniques seen in films where people get their hands or fingers cut off, but the camera isn’t pointing at it or pans away as it happens. You know it happening, but you don’t see it. However this isn’t one of those, you can see what is happening, but it’s interrupted before what you then expect to happen. It’s a clever ruse never the less, but it isn’t sexual violence. You even get to see the actress get up after the director cuts the scene.

In all honestly, I believe that the Australian Classification Board needs to re-evaluate this scene. If they really think that they’ve seen sexual violence in it then they’re very wrong. I’m sure that there are Australian fans of the game waiting in anticipation, and to banned just because of what their government thinks is a violent sex scene where none exists is just plain pathetic. I really do hope that they open their eyes a little and understand what’s actually going on in the scene. Maybe they should submit this scene as a fan video like the ones seen on YouTube.

What do you think of this? Are you an Australian and disappointed by this news? Should  Australia’s Classification Board re-evaluate the scene again? Is Devolver’s response correct? Tell me in the comments below.