Outlast 2, the latest in one of the most successful hyper-horror franchises, is out next month. Or at least it will be most countries, with the count decreased by one as Australia refused to classify the game and, by extension, banned it for sale. Australia is no stranger to banning videogames in their region, but their once draconian rating rules have loosened over time. Unless it comes to depictions of sexual violence, which Outlast seems to have quite a bit of.
The Australian Ratings Board have revealed some of the reasons why the game will not receive a rating in the region in its current state. detailing a grotesque scene from the product. The entire passage is slightly disturbing (as well as spoiler-filled), so read at your own discretion.
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.
The board footnoted their report by saying the removal of sexual violence would allow the game to receive an R18+ rating, although the depiction described above is only one instance that forced them to refuse the rating in the first place.
Australia has a few strict rules they seemingly won’t budge on, which range from the depiction of prescribed drug use to sexual violence. Both Saints Row 4 and State of Decay had their content changed to receive classification in the region, removing drug use from their gameplay. South Park: The Stick of Truth also removed its depiction of what the board deemed sexual violence to receive a rating, although Hotline Miami 2 opted instead to keep their content and not launch in the country.
Considering the effort that was put in to get the Outlast 2 demo to launch in Australia with a R18+ rating, it could mean that the game could see some changes specifically addressing the board’s concerns.