Eidos seems determined to challenge Take Two as the video game industry's bad boy publisher.
Last year's release of cops-and-robbers shooter 25 to Life inspired months of protests by law enforcement groups as well as legislative proclamations in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Now comes word that police in the U.K. are outraged by Eidos' upcoming game adaptation of director Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs film.
As reported in the Yorkshire Post, police officials are concerned that "players can take police officers hostage and go on to burn out their eyes with a lit cigar, chop off their fingers with a cigar cutter and hack off their ears using a scalpel, while they plead for their lives and scream in pain."
Viewers of the ultra-violent 1992 movie may recall that the "Mr. Blonde" character, played by actor Michael Madsen, viciously and psychotically tortures a police officer hostage.
A representative of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which represents chief constables in the U.K., condemned Reservoir Dogs, saying "Anything that encourages violent emotions, including such emotions towards members of the police service, is particularly disturbing and can only be described as offensive. It is disappointing to find violent video games on the market that may cause psychological harm to those who play them."
Tom McGhie, speaking on behalf of officers in the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said Reservoirs Dogs was a "sickening glorification of violence against police officers. Anything that encourages that type of behaviour, when police officers are suffering more attacks than ever before, should be banned."
Nor has the dust-up escaped the attention of members of Parliament.
"It's impossible to see how such a game can have anything than a highly damaging effect on how people perceive and react to police officers," said Harrogate MP Phil Willis said, "I am absolutely staggered that such a game is being allowed to be sold in our shops. It sends out the message that the police and authority figures are there to be targeted and dispatched, desensitises people to the idea of killing and undermines normal moral values."
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, an outspoken critic of video game violence, contends that the Reservoir Dogs game "promotes and supports the infliction of extreme violence and cruelty." Vaz has called for the game to be banned.
GamePolitics readers may recall that Reservoir Dogs was recently banned in Australia and New Zealand. However, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) told the Post that the game will be rated for players 18 and older and is expected to appear on retail shelves in the U.K. later this year.
"It contains nothing that is particularly stronger than things found in most 18-rated games," said a BBFC spokeswoman. However, Bill Hastings, New Zealand's Chief Censor said, "Players can pistol-whip hostages and repeatedly smash their heads on to nearby walls and surfaces. After the police comply, they can be disarmed, or killed in whichever manner the player chooses."
GameSpot's E3 preview confirms the existence of at least some degree of player-controlled torture in Reservoir Dogs:
"...we got a look at the game's hostage system. Basically, you'll be able to take any random character in the game, from civilians to cops, hostage at any point. While you have the person held hostage, you can use that person as a human shield as necessary or as a negotiating tactic against aggressors like cops. If you happen upon anyone while holding a hostage, you can order them to surrender. Normal people likely will, but cops tend to take more convincing, so you can then injure the hostage somehow (without killing them)..."
GP: First it was 25 to Life, next those mysoginist ads for Hitman: Blood Money and now this. We're still a bit unclear on the specifics of the violence in Reservoir Dogs, but harming hostages? That equals torture in GP's mind, and that's a line we really wish Eidos hadn't crossed. Inevitably, the rest of the video game industry will pay the price for game content such as this.