Syndicate considered "too violent" for Australia

This week, EA‘s reboot of cult favourite Syndicate was Refused Classification in Australia – and nobody was quite sure why.

Now though, we’ve got the report fresh from the Classification Board, and can share all of the juicy details with you.


From the Board‘s report, we’ve learned that Syndicate (allegedly codenamed Yellow Huntsman) is a “first person shooter with realistically rendered graphics”. It contains 12 single-player levels, 9 co-op levels, and an apparent abundance of violence.

This first person shooter is set in a futuristic world where people have installed computer chips in their brains that allow them to interact with the “dataverse” A player controls Kilo, an operative for Eurocorp, as he undertakes missions and discovers that his employers may not be as innocent as they appear.

The Board notes that this report is not meant to be an “exhaustive list” of content that caused the game to be Refused Classification – so while it may have a few spoilers, it’s not a shopping list of debauchery.

In order to complete the missions, a player has to engage in intense combat with swarms of enemy combatants who are clad in light armour. A variety of weapons is available and these often cause decapitation, dismemberment and gibbing during frenetic gunfights. For example, an intense sequence of violence commences when a player collects a “G290 minigun”, which operates much like a Gatling gun. A player moves through a building rapidly firing at enemy combatants. Combatants take locational damage and can be explicitly dismembered, decapitated or bisected by the force of the gunfire. The depictions are accompanied by copious bloodspray and injuries are shown realistically and with detail. Flesh and bone ar eoften exposed while arterial sprays of blood continue to spurt from wounds at regular intervals.

For those unfamiliar with the Australian censorship regime, the devil is – literally – in the details. Fragging a combatant is fine. Cutting him up into little pieces, while blood pools around your ankles? Not so acceptable Down Under. Apparently Syndicate has a fair lean towards the wrong side of the fence, with an assortment of weapons including shotguns, high-calibre revolvers, sniper rifles, assault rifles, rocket launchers, laser guns and grenades all in your arsenal.

The real problem, however, is yet to come – and summed up nicely in just one sentence from the Board.

The game also allows a player to repeatedly damage enemy combatants’ corpses.

Dispatched with a headshot, it’s then possible to blow off each remaining limb individually, or simply bisect the corpse, all with realistic ragdoll effects, arterial sprays of blood and “detailed injuries that include protruding bone”.

It’s worth noting that this sort of behaviour is only unleashed upon armed enemy combatants, and not the general public. Unarmed civilians may be targeted or shot (with “copious bloodspray”), but it is impossible to decapitate or dismember them – whether alive or dead. (Civilian deaths in single-player are considered neutral, but the Board observes that in co-op multiplayer, points are awarded for civilian casualties.)

In the opinion of the Board, the game contains intense sequences of violence which include detailed depictions of decapitation and dismemberment that are high in playing impact. The game also contains the ability to inflict repeated and realistic post mortem damage which exceeds strong in playing impact. It is therefore unsuitable for a minor to see or play and should be Refused Classification pursuant to item 1(d) of the computer games table of the Code.

Australia recently approved guidelines for an R18+ adult rating, but until those are written into law, the highest rating for video games is MA15+. This means if a game is considered inappropriate for a 15-year old, it’s inappropriate for the entire country.

The new guidelines will be discussed in parliament in February 2012, but may still take months (or years) to be made law.

UPDATE: Electronic Arts has officially responded to the issue – the short version is simple. Blaming “arcane censorship”, Syndicate simply will not be released in Australia.

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