Hotline Miami is one of the most violent games I've ever played, but that is part of its charm. The retro style game is a drug fueled top down murder game that apes the 'cocaine cowboys' era of Miami. Its gruesome, colourful and disorientating art direction is spot on and it's married to razor sharp gameplay. It's one of the most cohesive packages the indie scene has had.
The long delayed sequel has hit a snag though. In Australia, unless developer Dennaton make some changes, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number might not be available. The Australian Classification board gave the game a RC (refused classification) rating meaning the game won't be available to purchase in its current state. Kotaku Australia got a report of the boards reasoning which states this:
Warning: Possibly disturbing sexual content below
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 scene is not news either. Rock, Paper, Shotgun spoke with Hotline Miami 2 developer Dennis Wedin when the scene turned up in an early demo for the game. He explained:
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.
Now, Australia is known for being one of the most conservative countries in the world when it comes to video game classification. Left 4 Dead 2 and Saint's Row 4 have famously had run ins with the classification board.
That being said, the issue of sexual assault in games is a very complicated one. The world in general seems to be turning a more prominent eye onto rape culture of late as it's clear it is a prevalent issue for women. I think that video games should be able to tackle tough subjects like sexual assault in games, but it's a very sensitive issue that should be broached carefully and considerately. It is a real issue for many women and anything that can act as a trigger for past traumatic experiences needs to not be handled lightly. My worry is that a franchise known for its excess like Hotline Miami may not do that.
I won't judge anything until I see the full context of the scene though, if it is still intact when it hits shelves. I'd love to be wrong. I'll let you know what's going on as I get it.