Hotline Miami was a surprise indie hit. The top-down 2D shooter picked up popularity with gamers for its neon-tinged ultra violence, with plaudits for its twitch-focused gameplay and impressive synth-based soundtrack. Evoking the same feeling as titles like Smash TV and the original Grand Theft Auto, Hotline Miami gained a cult following.
It was no surprise, then, that Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital announced there would be a sequel. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was first showcased at E3 2013, promising more of the same vicious gameplay and bonus features such as a level editor. The sequel was promoted with a variety of violent trailers, including a nightmarish live-action short.
Unfortunately for Dennaton and Devolver Digital, the Australian Classification Board has found Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number so offensive that it has been denied classification, effectively banning the title in the country. The game has been ruled to breach restrictions regarding sexualised content in video games, with the Australian Classification Board citing an implied rape scene as a specific example of prohibited content. This is based in particular around a sequence of gameplay footage titled 'Midnight Animal'.
The report was shared with Player Attack, that states that the rape scene implied in gameplay footage is not the sole reason for the game being denied classification. The addition of the R18+ Adults Only rating in 2013 has reduced the number of games being refused classification, suggesting several serious issues with Hotline Miami 2 are behind the board's ruling. According to the Classification Database Entry, Hotline Miami 2 falls foul of a section that states games should not be classified if they "depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addition, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena."
Devolver Digital has since released a statement on the Australian Classification Board's ruling, revealing that there has been communication with the board and that the developer is disappointedt at the decision to refuse classification. Devolver cites that players can opt out of seeing any "content that alludes to sexual violence," although that may not ease the concerns of those distressed by the inclusion of the content in question. Devolver and Dennaton Games will not officially challenge the ruling, but the statement does say that they "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."
Australia has strong censorship regulation in place for video games, and Hotline Miami 2 is not the only game to fall foul of its Classification Board. Warner Bros. unsuccessfully combated a ban on 2011's Mortal Kombat reboot, until the game received an R18+ rating when the classification was approved in 2013. Saint's Row 4 was also banned, until an edited version of the title was made with the Girl's Night Out mission removed.
It appears that gamer will have to wait and see if Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital make any changes to the game's content to gain an Australian release.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is set for release for PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS4 and PS Vita in the first quarter of 2015.