Put down that shotgun for a minute, and listen up: everyone's favourite media scapegoat video game, Manhunt 2, will be released in the UK after all.

It's been a long time coming. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rejected the game last summer for its "sustained, casual sadism". It then rejected a version of the game that had been edited to make it less objectionable.

Hunt saboteur

The case went to independent review. In mid-December the Video Appeals Committee ruled that the game could be sold - a decision that has been upheld this week. And that would appear to be that, since the BBFC has thrown in the towel.

"It is now clear, in the light of this decision, and our legal advice, that we have no alternative but to issue an 18 certificate to the game," said David Cooke, the organisation's director.

Good news or bad? It's hard to say. But it would be disingenuous for this writer to make disapproving noises.

I loved Manhunt, and can't wait to play Manhunt 2. It took me a while to get into the first game - having overdosed on Grand Theft Auto, I found it jarring that the control systems of the two games were almost the same but with a few crucial differences, while Manhunt's tense, bleak silence seemed strange after GTA's visual and aural fireworks. But it grew on me hugely, with the beautiful design showing a grasp of atmosphere and mastery of the difficulty curve that belied its headline-grabbing reputation.

Mail model

The frustrating thing about these sorts of Daily Mail-type Ban This Sick Filth furores is that one side is often arguing against a vague idea rather than a real thing. The people who want to ban Manhunt are incredibly unlikely to have played it - you just want to sit them down with a PS2 and show them that a) it's a wonderfully crafted piece of (comparatively) grown-up entertainment and b) the morality of the game is surprisingly old-fashioned, based around a residual idea of goodies and baddies that you'd expect in an Arnold Schwarzenegger film from the 1980s.

Even if the game was as immoral as the phantasm Manhunt that's been conjured up in people's heads, it's still far tamer than films that are happily given 18 certificates. I mean, have these people seen 'Hostel'?

I suppose that I ought to say, nonetheless, that the gaming community has been guilty of a certain amount of one-eyedness on this matter. Despite what I said in the last paragraph, games are different from films. With a film you're a spectator; with a video game, to some extent at least you're a participant. And the better the game, the more involved you feel. Which could be a problem if Manhunt 2 is anywhere near as good as I expect.

So will the moral health of the nation decline as a direct result of this decision? I don't know. Possibly. But I don't think it's the BBFC's business to be policing the thoughts that go through adults' heads. And hell, at least we get to play a decent game before the country goes to the dogs.


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Via the BBC.