Updated: Now including comments from the BBFC
EA and Starbreeze's upcoming reboot of classic top-down tactical strategy game has effectively been banned in Australia - and EA won't be censoring the game to ensure it gets a release in the antipodean country.
The decision came from the Australian Classification Board (ACB), who refused to classify the game. According to Kotaku Australia , the reason for the banning is the game's violent scenes, which include dismemberment, decapitation, bisection, exposure of flesh and bone and arterial sprays of blood. Which all sound awesome.
“In the opinion of the Board, the game contains intense sequences of violence which include detailed depictions of decapitation and dismemberment that are high in playing impact. The game also contains the ability to inflict repeated and realistic post mortem damage which exceeds strong in playing impact. It is therefore unsuitable for a minor to see or play and should be Refused Classification pursuant to item 1(d) of the computer games table of the Code,” the board told Kotaku.
It's a similar situation to exploitation horror film Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence, which was refused a classification by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). In that case, the BBFC recommended two minutes and 37 seconds of cuts to ensure an 18 rating. The BBFC has yet to make a decision on Syndicate, when asked they told us: "As we are yet to classify the video game we are unable to give further comment."
They did, however, explain why Syndicate was unable to receive a classification in Australia. "Unlike the BBFC the Australian Classification Board have no '18' category for video games so this means they are much more likely to reject a video game," the BBFC said. "In Australia computer games may only be classified G, PG, M or MA 15+."
The BBFC's rules regarding violence in film are, basically, that if it's brief or “fantasy” violence (against robots or orcs) it'll get a 12A certificate, if it dwells on the violence for longer then it gets a 15, and if it shows someone in pain for a sustained amount of time then it's awarded an 18. The latter seems to apply to Syndicate, as well as other 18-rated games such as Bulletstorm and Saints Row: The Third .
EA won't play ball with the ACB. In a statement EA said, “The game will not be available in Australia despite its enthusiastic response from fans.” They also said, “Syndicate is a game made for a mature audience and any changes to would significantly affect the game's quality and appeal.”
If Australian gamers want to get their hands on Syndicate, it looks like they'll have to take a trip to neighbouring New Zealand, where the game will be released on 24 February with a confirmed R18 certificate.