Sexual Violence is the cause.
Update: IGN has received a copy of the Australian Classification Board report, detailing the reason Outlast II was Refused Classification yesterday. Please note, the description below contains spoilers and is adult in nature.
Outlast II fell afoul of classification guidelines due to a rape sequence during a cut-scene in the game, viewed in first-person.
The event occurs amongst a group of grey-skinned humanoid creatures involved in “what appears to be a ritualistic orgy.”
As the lead character Blake yells at the creatures to get away from his wife, who is shackled to a platform above, “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 obscured, 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.”
The Board notes that such depictions of implied sexual violence “cannot be accommodated within the R18+ category” so the game must be refused classification.
Despite explaining earlier in the report the example detailed does “not represent and exhaustive list of the content that caused the computer game to be refused classified [sic]” an additional point remarked that the “Board is of the opinion that without the depiction of implied sexual violence listed above, the game can be accommodated within the R18+ classification.”
The R18+ rating in the Australian Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games imposes virtually no restrictions on themes and language, and it also permits high level violence, drug use, simulated sex and nudity. The full guidelines are available to read here. However, no Australian game rating allows for visually depicted sexual violence, or for the association of incentives or rewards for controlled drug use.
In 2013 Saints Row IV and State of Decay were refused classification for featuring proscribed drug use related to incentives and rewards and South Park: The Stick of Truth was refused classification for featuring visually depicted, interactive sexual violence. All three games were edited and were subsequently released in Australia. In 2015 Hotline Miami 2 was refused classification in Australia due to an implicit rape scene that the Classification Board determined could not be accommodated within the R18+ rating. Devolver Digital opted not to officially release the game in the country.
Outlast II has been refused classification in Australia by the Australian Classification Board.
The specific content unable to be accommodated within the R18+ classification in the eyes of the ACB is unknown at this stage. IGN has contacted both developer Red Barrels for a statement and the ACB for a copy of the post-classification report.
For now the only information available on the Classification Board’s website is a boilerplate notice referencing item 1a of the National Classification Code’s section on video games (a broad and unspecific statement prohibiting games that “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.”)
Outlast II was due to release next month. A bundle edition containing the original and its prequel was also set to arrive in Australia during April.
Back in 2014 the original Outlast was classified R18+ due to “high impact horror themes, blood and gore.” The game’s violence, nudity, and sex content was rated at “strong” (there are five levels of impact for ratings criteria: very mild, mild, moderate, strong, and high).
2016’s Outlast II demo was also rated R18+, on this occasion for “high impact horror violence, blood and gore.” The Outlast II demo contained no sex or drug use, very mild impact nudity, and the themes in this case were regarded as strong impact (as opposed to high).
We’ll update you when we know more.
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. You can find him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.