R18+ And The Darkness II: It's All In The Context

Violence in video games is a subject that tends to raise its bloodied head on the rare occasion that a product - in this case Mortal Kombat - gets refused classification in Australia. So when we spent time checking out the incredibly violent The Darkness II with producer Tom Galt, who had previously worked on Dark Sector - another game that was refused classification - the subject of the Australian ratings system was seemingly unavoidable.

"It’s this weird mix," claims Galt. "Some get through and some don’t."

Dark Sector didn't make it through but Tom Galt who is, as you'd expect, quite well informed on the R18+ issue, claims that improvements in his team's ability to provide context via story has made him confident the game will pass through the Classification Board unscathed.

"It seems to be all about story context," says Tom, "and since we do have that story - where our narrative context provides a reason why you’re doing this stuff - I'm hoping it'll get through."

The Darkness was one of the first really strong narrative driven shooters released this generation and with Paul Jenkins, writer of both the comics and the original game, returning for the sequel, Tom and his team have made story their main priority.

"That’s the thing that sets the game apart," claims Galt. "The story beats are really important. Paul Jenkins, the writer of the first game and the comics, he's involved in this game as well. The pacing of The Darkness II is important.

"Our high level goal in this game was ‘service of story’. As much as we’re going to improve the mechanics of the game, story is the first point."

The Darkness II is set a couple of years after the events of the first game, and finds Jackie Estacado in a more established position as head of the Estacado family. After a brutally executed opening sequence, which seamlessly integrates playable flashback sequences into the main narrative, Jackie finds himself, literally, with his own cross to bear - with 12-inch nails being explicitly brutalised into his hands.

As he inevitably breaks loose, however, all hell breaks with it - again literally - as the full extent of Jackie's new Demon Arm powers are revealed.

"When we saw the IP," mentions Galt, "we thought, 'what should we do with these demon arms?'"

After roughly two minutes of in-game footage, we get an answer to that question - in the form of close-combat carnage. Jackie uses his demon arms to crush skulls, swipe bad guys, and seperate limbs from torsos.

"We wanted the demon arms to get up close and rip enemies in half. We loved the first game, but it didn’t really give you that opportunity - we wanted to create that ‘quad wielding’ experience."

It's precisely this sort of attitude that makes us simultaneously excited about The Darkness II's visceral new direction, yet worried about its potential for release in this country - but if games like God of War III and Duke Nukem can make it through unscathed, for better or worse, we may find ourselves able to play this game with an MA15+ rating.

"I hear what our publisher has done with getting games into territories where I didn’t think they would make it," says Galt, "so I’m hoping they can work some magic for us."


    Frankly if Condemned 2 got through, I don't think Darkness 2 is going to have any problems.

    Maybe that's a testament to why the system needs to be reformed - maybe both Condemned and The Darkness should have been R18+... I don't think there's anything that they can do in games that's worse than what currently gets in under M15+ that wouldn't be RC regardless of an R18+ rating - except apparently dismembering human-like corpses like in Left 4 Dead 2, even though you can explode humans (and mutants alike) in gruesome slow-mo in Fallout 3 and New Vegas.

    Anyway, my point is: I don't think The Darkness 2 is in any danger here, even if the demon arms are ripping shit in half and blood is going everywhere.

    Then again, Mortal Kombat was RC'd recently, so who the hell knows anymore?

      I think its more because the people you can kill so gruesomely are human or closely resemble humans, thats why it varies so much. Also the context: i.e. killing Nazi's is okay because they are bad. But then that doesn't explain the "No Russian" thing or a number of other things.

      To me, it sounds like they just pin new game names on a board, throw a dart and ban whatever it hits.

      Also, thank you for reminding me of Condemned. They were awesome games. A bit sad their hasn't been any news on the sequel.

        I always imagined the decision making process to involve a giant spinning wheel of ratings.

      Just in response to Fallout; it's a common misconception to gamers why Fallout gets away with the things it does. It's simple, when it comes to rating these things it's all about impact, and Fallout, as much as you can explode or decapitate human beings in that game, they don't exactly scream realism or believability in the first place. I'm talking about the stiff, robotic, expressionless people in the game; in short, their lack of good or lifelike animations made the characters robotic representations of human beings, thus less impact on the player.

      People have to understand that the Classification Board works under a general audience perception standard, not a checklist standard (though they do have a checklist nevertheless). If something looks realistic (not only in animation, but in art direction as well) and there's things like being able to sever limbs etc., then it's likely RC.

      Which makes me worried about how a game like Metal Gear Solid Rising is going to get through.

    Last sentence repeats the earlier quote. Is that intended? I hope you're not suggesting that the publisher has some kind of crack team of elite quad-wielding commandos who will go in and rip the classification board in half. I think they might take a dim view of that. :P

    i think that since it's like, demons and stuff that are doing most of the gruesome killing, they might be a bit more leniant, i mean, left 4 dead was RC'ed because it was humans killing humans in violent ways, same with mortal kombat (in some cases, yes i know there is robots and lizard things, don't question me on my mortal kombat), but this is freaky shit crushing skulls, i mean, alien vs predator got through for i think the reason that they are aliens, and for some stupid reason, that makes the violence okay -_-

    It's simple. Give Australia a R rating for games or see billions of gamers dollars go over seas.

    Is there also a real preview of the actual game that came from this as well?

    The Darkness was a game I never got round to buying, which is a shame because I quite liked the Demo.

    The Darkness 2 looks awesome.

    Matthew Kermeen pointed something out. Condemed made it so why not The Darkness 2. But yeah Mortal Kombat got refused classification.

    We need an R18+ Rating, we need the board to be consistant and clear. Because frankly it really does look like they give the ol' wheel of ratings a spin.


    I love that image.

    Its all about context hey?


    PEGI doesnt seem to agree!

    Which in turn, means the ESRB need a good shakeup and reform.

    Oh please don't let this get RC'd! First one is still one of my favorite games on console, would be devestated if it didn't make it through

    I thought the chance of a game getting through or RC'd depended on the individuals making the decision (and their own feelings/attitudes). In other words its like a lottery. If you get the 'right' people making the decision, then it will go through. Perhaps I'm thinking of the appeal process? The ACB has been giving most games that belong in 'R 18+' an 'MA 15+' rating for some time - There are many games that in the rest of the world are given an R18+ equivalent rating but receive an MA15+ rating in Australia.
    All I can say is good on them. They don't like the situation anymore than anyone else, but until Australia gets an R18+ schedule they can't do their job properly so congrats to them for putting what should be R18+ games into the MA15+ schedule - It helps show how badly Australia needs an R18+ category...

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