EA and Starbreeze Studios' reboot of Syndicate may have more than enemy agents to worry about, as the game has been refused classification by Australian officials. To make things worse - depending on your point of view - EA has decided that they will no longer seek classification for the title, meaning the game will not be made available to the Australian market.
It seems that Syndicate is a tad too violent for Australian officials. According to the classification listings, the game gives players the ability to mutilate enemy combatants, including their corpses. Judging by Syndicate's gameplay, we wouldn't refute that the game is violent, but whether or not it should be sold is a totally different debate.
The game also allows players to shoot and kill civilians, though players will be unable to main them. In co-op mode, players will actually earn points for civilian casualties. All of this has painted a giant target on the game, making it so that Syndicate has been refused classification. What this essentially means is that the game cannot be sold or distributed in Australia, and it cannot be displayed either.
From the Classification Board report:
“Combatants take locational damage and can be explicitly dismembered, decapitated or bisected by the force of the gunfire. The depictions are accompanied by copious bloodspray and injuries are shown realistically and with detail. Flesh and bone are often exposed while arterial sprays of blood continue to spirt from wounds at regular intervals. It is possible for a player to decapitate a corpse with a headshot before individually blowing off each of its limbs. Depending on the weapon used, it is also possible to bisect a corpse, with realistic ragdoll effects noted. The depictions are again accompanied by arterial sprays of blood and detailed injuries that include protruding bone.
Civilians can be shot, accompanied by copious bloodspray, but it is not possible to decapitate or dismember them. It is noted that in cooperative play, points are awarded for civilian casualties.”
Unlike other countries, Australia does not have a rating for games that are suitable for those older than the age of fifteen. Basically, their ratings only go up to "teen" and there is no "mature" rating. Publishers can attempt to resubmit their games as an edited version to lower the rating down to "teen," but this usually results in cut content. Unfortunately, EA does not plan to resubmit the game, due to Australia's "arcane censorship." The country was supposed to adopt an 18+ rating this year, but delays have caused issue with the classification of violent games.
EA's Tiffany Steckler addressed the issue in a statement to Joystiq.
"The game will not be available in Australia despite its enthusiastic response from fans. We were encouraged by the government's recent agreement to adopt an 18+ age rating for games. However, delays continue to force an arcane censorship on games — cuts that would never be imposed on books or movies. We urge policy makers to take swift action to implement an updated policy that reflects today's market and gives its millions of adult consumers the right to make their own content choices."
Australia's classification system has caused many issues with games in the past. Sega's PS3 version of House of the Dead Overkill was almost denied classification due to extra content the game contained, and Left 4 Dead 2 had to be edited in order to be sold in the country. We certainly hope Australia adopts the 18+ rating soon. That way, everyone down under can enjoy future games without fear of unnecessary censorship.
Syndicate releases February 21, 2012 for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
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