Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has been denied classification by the Australian ratings board, a move that will essentially prevent it from being sold in most marketplaces in the country. According to the report, which was obtained by Kotaku AU, the denial comes at least partially as a result of a particular scene in the game's opening, which depicts a female character being sexually assaulted. As the ratings board's description of the scene graphically states:
In the sequence of game play footage titled Midnight Animal, the protagonist character bursts into what appears to be a movie set and explicitly kills 4 people, who collapse to the floor in a pool of copious blood, often accompanied by blood splatter. After stomping on the head of a fifth male character, he strikes a female character wearing red underwear. She is knocked to the floor and is viewed lying face down in a pool of copious blood. The male character is viewed with his pants halfway down, partially exposing his buttocks. He is viewed pinning the female down by the arms and lying on top of her thrusting, implicitly raping her (either rear entry or anally) while her legs are viewed kicking as she struggles beneath him. This visual depiction of implied sexual violence is emphasised by it being mid-screen, with a red backdrop pulsating and the remainder of the screen being surrounded by black.
This depiction of implied sexual violence exceeds what can be accommodated within the R18+ classification category and the game is therefore Refused Classification.
If the description of this scene is familiar, it's because it's been a topic of discussion before. Cara Ellison wrote about her discomfort with the scene and its context within the game in a preview for PC Gamer back in 2013. Series designer Dennis Wedin discussed the scene in an interview for Rock, Paper, Shotgun shortly thereafter, explaining its existence within the framing device of an "exploitation film" based on the events of the first game.
Hotline Miami 2 publisher Devolver Digital responded to the rating refusal via a statement on the company's website, expressing displeasure with the ratings board's decision, and decrying what it believes is an unfair representation of the scene in question.
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 has posted the sequence in question online. The video includes both versions of the scene a player could see, depending on which option they choose from the opening prompt.
Australia has a long history of refusing classification to overtly violent or sexual games. Between 1993 and 2012, the country had no equivalent to the ESRB's M rating, and games have often been edited for content in order to gain classification. Most recently, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Saints Row IV, and State of Decay have all had to resubmit edited versions in order to acquire ratings.