Ireland imposed its first ban Wednesday on a video game, citing what it called "gross, unrelenting and gratuitous violence" in the latest offering from Rockstar Games.
Irish film censor John Kelleher said "Manhunt 2," which has already been banned in neighboring Britain, features "sustained and cumulative casual sadism." He said some games could justify their depictions of bloodshed on storytelling grounds.
"However, in the case of 'Manhunt 2,' IFCO (the Irish Film Censor's Office) believes that there is no such context, and the level of gross, unrelenting and gratuitous violence is unacceptable," Kelleher said in a statement.
Kelleher conceded that players who wanted to get a copy in Ireland could do so over the Internet from suppliers in continental Europe, where televisions and game consoles use the same PAL broadcast technology.
"Manhunt 2," which is scheduled for a July 10 release on Nintendo Co.'s Wii and Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 2 consoles, depicts the escape of an amnesiac scientist and a psychotic killer from an asylum and their subsequent epic killing spree.
Rockstar spokesman Rodney Walker said the company was evaluating the Irish ban.
"We're going to look at this on a country-by-country basis, but this game is really important to us," Walker said.
In the United States on Tuesday, a national coalition of educators and child advocacy groups sent a letter to the video game industry's self-governed ratings board hoping to slap "Manhunt 2" with the strictest rating possible.
Walker said the Entertainment Software Rating Board was recommending an "Adults Only" rating. That means the game is suitable only for players 18 years old and older. Walker said the company was considering an appeal for a "Mature" rating — for 17 and older.
Rockstar and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., have long been a focal point for debate over the effect of video-game violence on children.
Rockstar's "Grand Theft Auto" series features characters who develop underworld careers through bank robberies, assassinations, drug-dealing, pimping and other crime. Two years ago Rockstar was forced to replace its first edition of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" after a hacker discovered a password-unlocked game inside it that involved a graphic sexual encounter.