As regulars are aware, Outlast 2 will officially go on sale in Australia with an R18+ rating after going through a couple of rounds with the Classification Board. The game was initially banned for implicit sexual violence that was showcased in an alpha video of the game that was incorrectly sent to the board.
The Board quoted one scene in particular when Outlast 2 was initially banned. Question is, what changed in the final version of the game?
In the latest copy of the Classification Board's report, which has been provided to Kotaku Australia, the censors have helped outline some of the changes in Outlast 2 that illustrate why it was eligible for an R18+ the second time around.
For reference, here's the passage from the Board when Outlast 2 was originally banned. Warning: this passage contains a description of implied sexual violence.
In one cut-scene in the game ... a female creature prepares Blake for a ritual. She says, "I want to see your true face. Your seed will burn this world." Shortly afterwards, he objects to having psycho-active dust blown into his face, yelling, "Nope! Nope!" before he stumbles into a forest clearing.
His vision blurring, he witnesses what appears to a ritualistic orgy. His wife, Lynn, calls out for his help, saying, "It hurts! Oh god!," as she hangs from chains on a raised platform at the front of the clearing. Humanoid creatures, their skin grey, spattered with blood and scarred, implicity have sex as others pray, or chant, or gesticulate.
One creature has another bent over a rock, thrusting as they implicitly have rear-entry sex, another sits astride the pelvic region of a creature prone on the ground, moving their hips rhythmically as they too implicitly have sex. Two other pairs of creatures in the clearing are also implicitly having sex.
As Blake yells for the creatures to "Get away from her!" a female creature, her greyish breasts bared, pushes him onto his back, holds his arms to the ground and repeatedly thrusts her crotch against him. As Blake protests, saying "No! Stop that!" the creature thrusts again, before placing its face over his midsection and then sitting up and wiping its mouth.
Although much of the contact between the creature and Blake is obscurred, by it taking place below screen, the sexualised surroundings and aggressive behaviour of the creature suggest that it is an assault which is sexual in nature. The Board is of the opinion that this, combined with Blake's objections and distress, constitutes a depiction of implied sexual violence.
In the Board's opinion, the above example constitutes a depiction of implied sexual violence and therefore cannot be accommodated within the R18+ classification category and the game is therefore Refused Classification.
In the latest report from the board, the scene is described as a segment of gameplay where the player is able to move around, rather than being bound, and the interaction with the female demonic creature is removed:
In one section of gameplay, the player, as Blake, stumbles into a forest clearing after having psycho-active dust blown into his face. Blake's vision blurring, he witnesses what appears to be a ritualistic orgy. Humanoid creatures, their skin grey and scarred, implicitly have sex as other pray, or chant, or gesticulate. One creature on the right side of the clearing has another bent over a rock, thrusting as they implicitly have rear-entry sex. The player can approach the couple and view the implicit sex from different perspectives, but no genital detail is viewed.
Importantly, the Board wrote that Outlast 2 contained "no actual sexual violence nor does it contain implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards."
"Themes and violence are inextricably linked by the game's narrative, in which the player's character, Blake Langermann, finds himself navigating a hellish world when his wife, Lynn, is abducted," the report added.
Other Outlast 2 scenes described focus more on their violence and gore, rather than anything of a sexual nature. If you don't want to have the game spoiled for you, look away now:
In one section of gameplay, Blake entres a room to find a man, Josiah, chained to a spiked wheel, next to a large pile of maimed and bloody bodies. The wall behind is covered with blood spray and blood coats the floor beneath. He has the word "Judas" carved into his chest and his eyes appear to be gouged out. He begs Blake, saying, "Kill me. You have to kill me. Knoth is coming back. With MARY. He'll hurt her and I'll talk."
Knoth and two of his henchmen enter the room dragging Mary, Josiah's wife, and strap her to a rack-like torture device. She is already covered in cuts and blood. Knoth interrogates Josiah about the whereabouts of Blake's wife, Lynn, and when he does not give a satisfactory answer Knoth commands his henchmen to wind the rack, saying, "Make the woman scream.".
He does so, causing the woman to struggle and scream in agony as she is stretched. Josiah begs for them to stop the torture, before his will breaks and he tells Knoth of Lynn's location. Another of Knoth's henchmen then implicitly kills Josiah with an axe, before they leave the room, with Mary still strapped to the rack.
What's intriguing between the latest report and the first one appears to be a difference in perspective: the Board seemed to be much more appreciative of context and surrounding. That's not to say implied sexual violence would be appropriate in Outlast 2 at all, but the note about sexual violence "not justified by context" is an indication that the Board would accept with implied sexual violence, provided it was neither interactive nor incentivised. (Both points were the breaking point for GTA: San Andreas and the Hot Coffee scandal.)
There's also another note towards the end of the report which reads as a warning of sorts to the developers. "If the Board is of the opinion that a classified computer game contains contentious material (whether activated through use of a code or otherwise) that was not brought to the Board's attention in accordance with subsection 14(4) or 17(2) before the classification was made and if the Board had been aware of the material before the classification was made, it would have given the game a different classification, the Board must revoke the classification."
Basically: if the original Outlast 2 scene is ever re-released via DLC, or patched into the game at a later date, the Board reserves the right to revoke its classification and ban it from sale all over again.
Outlast 2 launches in Australia on April 26 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.