Left 4 Dead 2: Edited Australian Edition

Left 4 Dead, a bloody mess (in the good way) of a zombie video game, limbs a flying, blood spewing and lots of fun for online with friends.  The much anticipated sequel has a few bumps along its path to release, mainly fan's annoyance with Valve making a straight sequel instead of releasing an expansion pack or extra maps.  However, for fans in Australia, things get a bit more complex.  A while ago it came out through the web that current version of Left 4 Dead 2 had been refused classification in Australia because of its violent content and had to be edited to earn a MA15+ from the Australian Classification Board. 

The Australian Classification Board (like ratings board in quite a few countries) is government run, unlike the American ESRB or MPAA system.  The Australian system has the basic ratings are G, PG, M; and the 'legally restricted' ratings are MA15+, R18+, and X18+.  However, the R18+ and X18+ ratings do not apply for video games, making MA15+ the highest rating a game could have.

My curiosity as to why L4D2 was initially not rated and why there isn't a higher rating led me to send an inquiry to the Australians and very kindly Jessica Coombs of the Classifications Operations Branch responded:

"The Classification Board classified the computer game Left 4 Dead 2 Refused Classification (RC) on 15 September 2009.  The Board found that the game contained ‘realistic, frenetic and unrelenting violence’.  The Board was of the view that the game had high impact violence and was unsuitable for a minor to see or play.

The Classification Board classifies each computer game on a case by case basis.

Under the National Classification Code and classification guidelines, agreed to by Federal, State and Territory governments, computer games with this content must be classified RC.  RC games cannot be sold, hired, advertised or exhibited in Australia.

The introduction of an R 18+ classification for computer games is a policy matter for Commonwealth, State and Territory Censorship Ministers, not the Classification Board."

In my view it would be a bit easier to add the R18+ rating to possible game ratings, however as it stands, its not as simple as I initially thought.  You have to channel through nearly the whole nation's government to make the change.  News.com.au has the official report on the reason rating.  Reading it, the MA15+ version of Left 4 Dead 2 doesn't seem to be the castrated game I thought. 

"During the player's attacks on the infected, large and frequent blood splatters are seen as the infected fall to the ground.  No detail is shown and the implicity dead bodies and blood splatter disappear as they touch the ground...the board notes that the game no longer contains depictions of decapitation, dismemberment, wound detail or piles of dead bodies lying about the enviorment."

Basing off this, the game will still be bloody and 'frenetic' however blasting zombies to bits and having pools of blood and body parts lying about the map will be gone.  A bit sad for the gorehounds, however the game is more preserved than I thought it would be.  Left 4 Dead 2 will be released in the US on November 17, 2009 while the Australian release has yet to be determined. 
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