Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) has done it again. Their decision to bestow Dead Island with an MA15+ rating (which allows it to be sold in the country) has left me confused…especially in light of some of the Office's more recent bungles.
I live in Australia, and in the hope that you'll understand my bewilderment, I'm going to show you quotes from OFLC reports for games that were previously refused classification (read: banned) and compare them to some screenshots from Deep Silver's zombie title.
Here's an excerpt detailing the reasons why Left 4 Dead 2 wasn't allowed to be sold:
The use of the "melee" weapons can wipe out several Infected in one blow which cause the above mentioned blood and gore effects. The player kills a very large amount of enemy characters to proceed through the game. Whilst no post mortem damage can be inflicted, piles of bodies lay about the environment. (via Refused-Classification.com)
Well, that doesn't really describe Dead Island as well, does it?
In the six hours that I've spent playing Dead Island, I've fired three bullets. Three! Almost every zombie that I've killed has been bludgeoned or carved with a melee weapon in an explosion of, well, blood and gore effects. Worse than that, you actually can inflict post-mortem damage on zombie corpses, as seen below, after I gave that poor zombie a hammer facial.
As for the OFLC's "piles of bodies" comment:
The Banoi Island Dictionary defines "pile of bodies" as…this.
Let's look at another excerpt from the OFLC report on why L4D2 was refused classification:
However, it is the use of the "melee" weapons such as the crowbar, axe, chainsaw and Samurai sword which inflict the most damage. These close in attacks cause copious amounts of blood spray and splatter, decapitations and limb dismemberment as well as locational damage where contact is made to the enemy which may reveal skeletal bits and gore. (Refused-Classfication.com.)
Here's some of my handiwork using the trusty "Flimsy Diving Knife."
You may disagree, but there's a fair bit of "blood spray" in the image that I captured above. "Locational damage" and "skeletal bits and gore" are also readily apparent. I can't say for sure how this compares to Valve's zombie shooter, as I've never played the uncut product (L4D2 was only released in Australia as a censored version). What I do know is this: the action that I've seen in Dead Island seems to cover all of the criteria that got L4D2 banned.
Now let's have a look at a more recent example, House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut on Playstation 3, which was also refused classification. As reported by Kotaku AU:
“The “Hardcore” game mode allows players to play in a manner that exceeds strong in impact,” claims the report, “engaging a headshot-only mode which results in frequent, detailed blood and gore as the zombies and mutants heads explode into bloody pieces that spread around the environment and onto the screen.
I haven't exploded any skulls with a gun (yet), but you can burst many a zombie's frail noggin with blunt objects in Dead Island. Refer to the hammer facial above if you want explicit proof, but take my word for it: I've popped scores of heads in a game that was cleared for release by the OFLC. If anything, I'd argue that the damage that players can inflict on live opponents and on corpses would cause just as much "strong impact" as SEGA's banned light gun shooter.
I'll finish with the most painful of the OFLC's recent classification-refusals: the rebooted Mortal Kombat. Here's why it was banned:
At the conclusion of a bout, a character is invited to perform a ‘finishing move’ or ‘fatality’. To perform a fatality, a player has to push a series of button combinations within a short period of time. If this is successfully accomplished, a non-interactive cut scene is triggered which depicts a character explicitly slaughtering their opponent. (via Kotaku AU)
While non-interactive violence and gore can be viewed often in Dead Island (with zombies attacking NPCs and feasting on random corpses), if you would like to see some explicit slaughter all you need to do is spam the right trigger. No context-sensitive button combinations are required for scenes like this:
Stop! Zombie Hammer Time!
So why doesn't this match up? Why is some violence okay to the OFLC and some is not? Should I quit questioning it now before another game is banned in Australia? Could Left 4 Dead 2 really more violent than the images I've posted here, or this just another instance of confusing hypocrisy from the OFLC?