Australia bans Syndicate reboot, EA calls it "arcane censorship"

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EA's Syndicate reboot is poised for release in the coming months, but Australians with a lust for digital carnage will have to get their fix elsewhere. The nation's Classification Board has banned the game by refusing to issue an approved rating. Australia's current video game classification system currently peaks at "MA15+," which is roughly equivalent to the ESRB's "Teen" rating and includes content unsuitable for minors under 15.

After a decade on its agenda, the country has finally approved (PDF) an "R18+" classification, permitting more violence, sexual activity, profanity, drug use, and nudity. Unfortunately for EA and Starbreeze, the new guidelines won't be implemented until sometime in 2012 -- a timeframe that conflicts with the launch date of Syndicate. In the meantime, the first-person shooter has been deemed "unsuitable for a minor to see or play."

Set in a dystopian 2069, the game borrows many themes from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, including biomechanical augmentations that provide superhuman abilities. Players control Kilo, a prototype agent of EuroCorp, one of many ruthless "syndicates" who are vying for control of market dominance. As part of that ongoing struggle, players are tasked with many dirty deeds -- namely, slaying countless foes and extracting chip implants from their brains.

"In order to complete the missions, a player has to engage in intense combat with swarms of enemy combatants who are clad in light armor. A variety of weapons [are] available and these often cause decapitation, dismemberment and gibbing during frenetic gunfights," the Australian board explained (PDF). "Combatants take locational damage and can be explicitly dismembered, decapitated, or bisected by the force of gunfire."

The report cites realistic depictions of "copious bloodspray and injuries" as well as the ability to desecrate corpses. "For example, 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," the board said, noting that players can also target unarmed civilians throughout the game.

Australia reached a similar conclusion when it reviewed Left 4 Dead 2 in 2009. Fallout 3, Manhunt, Mortal Kombat and many others have also faced opposition, but they are often approved after making changes. It seems EA has no such plans, however, telling Joystiq that it simply won't offer the game in Australia, despite enthusiasm from fans. That could change if the R18+ rating is approved, but EA isn't holding its breath.

"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," the publisher said. "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."

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