News: The ESRB details all of the sexual and violent images in Quantic Dream's next game.
The ESRB has posted their detailed Rating Summary of the upcoming PlayStation 3 adventure game Heavy Rain and it looks like it may set the bar for sexual and violent images in a video game.
The ESRB Rating Summary is typically one to two paragraphs and between 150-300 words long. The Rating Summary for Heavy Rain uses five paragraphs and 478 words to describe all of the mature content in the game.
First, the storyline is set up and the summary takes two paragraphs to describe the various violent visuals (warning, SPOILERS AHEAD):
In this cinema-style action game, players control one of four main characters whose lives are altered by events surrounding the investigation of the Origami Killer, a serial killer who kidnaps children in public places. Gameplay consists of controlling a character in a fully interactive environment; choosing a variety of action-, dialogue-, and decision-paths based on on-screen prompts; and watching as cinematic cutscenes progress the somewhat dark (film noir-style) storyline.
Players may encounter victims at various crime scenes: a woman (fully clothed) in a bathtub tainted with blood; a child under forensic examination (though the scene is largely narrative and clinical, with no depiction of victim's face or signs of trauma). More direct depictions of violence include the following: a woman squirming and screaming as she catches on fire; a man impaled in the chest with a power drill; a female attacked in her own home by masked male assailants (the scene is prolonged); and a man shot (shown in slow-motion) by police officers. Blood sometimes accompanies the acts of violence?whether triggered or viewed passively.
The most intense instance of violence occurs during a "lizard trial" sequence in which players' character, Ethan, is forced to cut off a segment of his own finger to save his son's life: Several instruments (saw, scissors, knife, etc.) can be used to remove the finger; and though the camera pans away from the actual dismemberment?instead the blade, the blood, the scream?the scene's poring focus on Ethan's psychological tenor/terror (the dread deliberation before the cut) may be unnerving for some.
Next, the summary describes in lurid detail all of the sexual situations that will be present in the game:
The game contains sexual content and nudity. Shower cutscenes may depict a male character's bare butt; if players control the female character, her breasts and buttocks are also briefly visible. A more prolonged instance of nudity occurs during a female character's investigation of a seedy club owner: After getting him alone in a room, the player-character is asked to strip; at gunpoint, she dances topless in front of the man. The game also contains a prompt-based love scene (kissing and rubbing) in which players match on-screen cues to angle characters' mouths, remove shirts and blouses, unhook bras, and lower to the floor; a woman briefly appears topless amidst the dark shadows and heavy breathing?actual sex is never depicted as the camera fades to black.
Finally, the summary points out several scenes of drug-related content and the coarse language that permeates the game:
The camera does not fade on characters addicted to the fictional drug Triptocaine, referred to as "dope" in the game: Players may see a character trembling next to open vials; lines of cut white powder on a table; and a man staggering from the drug's ill-effects, as the screen turns blurry. Consumers may also wish to know that the game contains strong profanity (e.g., "f**k," "motherf**ker," "sh*t," and "a*shole"). Overall, the game's highly evolved motion-capture graphics (advanced renderings by 2010 standards) sharpen the sense of realism, increasing the impact of some aspects of pertinent content (the nudity, blood, violence, etc.).
Admittedly, it's a good thing that parents and conservative gamers who may not want this type of realism in their games are warned ahead of time. But reading over the summary, I'm struck by the fact that a movie with these scenes would just barely qualify for an R rating. And they definitely wouldn't rise to the level of a "hard R", filmmaker slang for movies that push the boundaries of the R rating such as A History of Violence
Developer David Cage has often said he would not censor Heavy Rain's development, describing many of the above-mentioned scenes in detail during interviews over the last year. From the sounds of the ESRB Rating Summary, he wasn't exaggerating during any of them.
We'll have more soon.