The High Court of Justice has overturned the Video Appeals Committee's decision to allow the sale of Manhunt 2 in the U.K., throwing Rockstar's effort to get the game on the shelves back into confusion.
The British Board of Film Classification, which provides videogame ratings in the U.K., had originally refused to issue a classification for Manhunt 2, preventing it from being sold. An edited version of the game, which was downgraded from an ESRB rating of AO (Adults Only) to M (Mature) in North America was also refused classification, but an appeal by Rockstar to the country's Video Appeals Committee determined the game could be given an 18+ rating, legalizing its sale.
The BBFC quickly moved to challenge that decision, saying, "The VAC judgment, if allowed to stand, would have fundamental implications with regard to all the Board's decisions, including those turning upon questions of unacceptable levels of violence." The game remained unavailable in the U.K. while the BBFC appeal proceeded.
During yesterday's appeal hearing, according to a Metro report, the BBFC argued that the overturning of its Manhunt 2 ban by the VAC could have serious implications for its role in the future, "Not only in relation to videogames, but generally." That appeal succeeded when the High Court ruled the VAC decision made "a clear error of law" with regards to assessing the question of harm caused by the game. The judge ruled the committee must now "reconsider" its decision.
Manhunt 2 was released just prior to Halloween, 2007, following lengthy battles with the BBFC, ESRB and other agencies. The game was met with mediocre reviews, receiving a Metacritic score of 64 for the Wii version and 67 on the PlayStation 2, and has been largely forgotten everywhere except, somewhat ironically, the U.K.
Update: Rockstar has issued a brief statement in response to the High Court ruling, saying, "We believe the VAC decision was correct and do not understand the court's decision to expend further public resources to censor a game that contains content well within the bounds established by the BBFC's 18-plus ratings certification."
The VAC's "reconsideration" of its decision to allow the sale of Manhunt 2 is expected to take place quickly, according to GamesIndustry, and a decision against Rockstar is expected to end the process, as permission to appeal the matter to the House of Lords is unlikely.