UPDATE #2 16/1/15 8.45am: Hotline Miami 2 designer Jonatan Söderström has said that Australian gamers should simply pirate the game if it does remain unavailable to buy.
Söderström's message was revealed in an email sent to one fan last night, which has since been verified as legitimate by Ars Technica.
"If it ends up not being released in Australia, just pirate it after release," the designer wrote. "No need to send us any money, just enjoy the game! Peace, Jonatan."
There are no plans to challenge the Australian Rating Board on its decision to refuse classification for the game - which essentially bans it from sale - although yesterday its publisher Devolver issued a rebuttal to the rating, seen below.
UPDATE 15/1/15 3.45pm: Hotline Miami 2 publisher Devolver has issued a response to the Australian Classification Board's decision to grant the game a rating, and provided video evidence of the scene in question - which it claims has been incorrectly described.
The publisher also points out that the scene can be skipped entirely via an option on starting the game that will skip over sections with implications of sexual violence.
- "We are aware of the recent report published by the Australian Classification Board in regards to Hotline Miami 2 and have been in communication with them. As such, we and Dennaton Games would like to clarify a few things:
- "First, to clear up any possible misconceptions, the opening cinematic that was first shown in June of 2013 has not changed in any way. We also want to make clear that players are given an choice at the start of the game as to whether they wish to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence. The sequence in question is presented below in context, both after choosing the uncut version of the game and after choosing to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence.
- "Second, in response to the report itself, we 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 and issue a report that describes specific thrusting actions that are not simply present in the sequence in question and incorrectly portrays what was presented to them for review.
- "Though we have no plans to officially challenge the ruling, we stand by our developers, their creative vision for the storyline, its characters and the game and look forward to delivering Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number to fans very soon."
- - Devolver Digital and Dennaton Games
And - possible NSFW warning - here's the scene in question:
ORIGINAL STORY 15/1/15 5.35am: Australia's Classification Board is refusing to grant a rating to Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, effectively banning the sequel to everyone's favourite top-down f***-'em-up from sale in the country that brought us Mad Max.
The Australian Classification Board said that "The computer game is classified RC [Refused Classification] in accordance with the National Classification Code, Computer Games Table, 1. (a) as computer games that 'depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.'"
According to Kotaku Australia, the offending material comes down to a rape scene. Kotaku has the full report, and it's definitely not for the squeamish, but if you're curious, here goes: It basically comes down to the player character gruesomely slaughtering some male foes, knocking a woman to the ground, lowering his pants, then thrusting into her rear while a red backdrop pulsates in the background. Contextually, the scene in question is part of a film that's being shot and you're playing an actor simulating this behaviour, rather than an actual rapist. Does that make a difference to you?
This scene previously caused some controversy when it was placed at the end of a demo in summer 2013. Hotline Miami 2 co-creator Denis Wedin told Rock, Paper, Shotgun at the time, "We were really sad that some people were so affected by it, because maybe they had been through something like that of their own. Maybe they had a terrible experience of their own that was triggered by the game. That was not intentional at all. We didn't add the scene just to be controversial. There is a meaning to these two characters. There's a lot more to them than just this scene."
"We removed it for the demo. We're going to work with it, see if we can fix it. You get a bigger picture when you play the whole game, which is lost in the demo of course."
In light of the Australian Classification Board's decision, we've asked developer Dennaton Games and publisher Devolver Digital if it's going to comply with the Australian authorities on this one and release a censored version for the region, ala what Saints Row developer Volition did to get Saints Row 4 into the country after it was likewise refused a rating due to its alien anal probe. We'll update as we hear more.