Vance says situation differs from "Hot Coffee" incident
Following reports that hackers were able to reinstate violence censored from the PSP version of Manhunt 2, the ESRB issued a statement defending its "M" rating.
"Our investigation indicates that the game's publisher disclosed to the ESRB all pertinent content in the authorized Mature-rated version of Manhunt 2 now available in stores, and complied with our guidelines on full disclosure of content," the statement read.
While noting that unauthorised versions of the game have been released on the Internet along with instructions on how to modify the code to remove the special effects filters that obscured certain violent depictions, the ESRB stated that it did not believe such modifications "fully restore the product to the version that originally received an AO rating, nor is this a matter of unlocking content."
"Manhunt 2's rating makes it unmistakable that the game is intended for an older audience. The unauthorized hacking into the code of this game doesn’t change that basic fact," said ESRB president Patricia Vance.
The ratings bureau made it clear that computer software and hardware devices are susceptible to unauthorised modification, and therefore game content could be changed in ways inconsistent with the assigned ESRB rating. Vance urged parents to monitor what their children are downloading to ensure that they are not removing the controls "put in place for their own protection."
In a conference call, Vance was asked how the latest situation differed from the "Hot Coffee" incident, in which hackers were able to unlock adult content on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas game. In that case, the ESRB re-rated the game AO (Adults Only), causing retailers to pull it from the shelves before Rockstar released a cleaned-up version.
Vance indicated that the "Hot Coffee" incident differed in that the GTA: San Andreas content was unmodified and merely unlocked, was not disclosed to the ESRB during the ratings process, and was easily accessible to owners of the PC version.
She was also asked about a situation involving The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, in which the ESRB re-rated the game after discovering previously undisclosed blood and gore in the game, not to mention topless art present on the disc that was not disclosed during the rating process.
In the case of Manhunt 2, the content in question had previously been disclosed to the ESRB, the content is being modified rather than being unlocked, and it requires unauthorised versions of software and/or hardware to play the modified content.
The ESRB is therefore standing by its M rating.