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'Manhunt' (PS2) Gets Banned In New Zealand

by Rainier on Dec. 12, 2003 @ 9:21 a.m. PST

Chief censor Bill Hastings said today while computer games appeared to be getting more "edgy", Manhunt went further than any game previously referred to his office.

"It's a game where the only thing you do is kill everybody you see," he said.

"It gets worse. Not only do you have to kill everybody you see, you can choose to kill 'mild,' 'medium' or 'hot'."

Mr Hastings said "hot" kills were particularly gruesome. Weapons used ranged from shards of glass to garrotting wire, plastic bags and machetes.

The game was set in a weird city inhabited by criminals and psychotics. Through an earpiece, players were given instructions by a person making snuff films to kill everyone they saw.

"When you go for the `hot' kill you actually see the snuff film. . . you see the person being killed in close-up. With the plastic bag, for example, you see the victim's mouth gasping for air inside the bag."

Mr Hastings said the game was produced by American company Rockstar Games, "the same people who brought us Grand Theft Auto" – a controversial video game sharply criticised by opponents of media violence.

An updated version of that game – Grand Theft Auto 3 – is the subject of a $US246 million ($NZ386.54 million) lawsuit in the United States by families of two people shot by teenagers allegedly inspired by the game.

Grand Theft Auto 3 is classified in New Zealand as R18, restricting its sale or hire to persons over 18.

Unlike the Grand Theft Auto series, which Mr Hastings conceded had an element of humour in its depiction of police chases, Manhunt "has none of that whatsoever".

"In fact, you're rewarded for making the kills as gruesome as possible because that's the only way you can unlock the (game's) four bonus levels."

Manhunt had been banned from sale or hire in New Zealand for its likely effect on "players of any age," Mr Hastings said.

In its 12-page decision, the classification office ruled that Manhunt depicted and dealt with matters of horror, cruelty, crime and violence in such a manner that its availability was likely to be injurious to the public good.

"The only way you can accommodate the game's images is by an attitudinal shift," Mr Hastings said. "You have to at least acquiesce in these murders and possibly tolerate, or even move towards enjoying them, which is injurious to the public good."

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