The US Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) — a body that gives games an age rating — doesn't always get it right, according to our colleagues at GamePro (US). Here are 10 examples where the ESRB got it wrong.
Rampant road rage, greasy street hookers, and the kind of uncensored tongue-wagging that makes your grandpa reach for his cane earned Grand Theft Auto IV an M-for-mature rating earlier this year, and deservedly so. The rating is reserved for those games geared towards adults, and GTA IV's sexy, bloody romp through a faux New York was anything but child's play.
Let's be honest, though: Halo 3 may bring the rock and roll, but it left the sex and drugs to the carjackers. Does it really deserve that same M rating from the ESRB? The way we see it, no way. And it's not the only game we think has been misrated.
The Halo Trilogy
Our rating: Teen
Master Chief's galactic odyssey may be action-packed, but it's no gore-fest. There's a distinct lack of flying limbs, the enemies spray puffs of neon blood when shot, and the smack-talking marines would be right at home on a primetime network TV show. There aren't any drugs or alcohol, and the only sexy things in the entire trilogy are an AI construct with circuits for skin and an ATV with a porcine nickname.
Halo might not be for everyone, but gamers are more likely to be offended by the sailor-mouthed kids on Xbox Live than the sci-fi combat of the games themselves. This series should have been rated Teen from the start - it simply doesn't belong in the same bucket as Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt.
Dead or Alive 4
Our rating: Teen
DOA4 is a bit of an oddity amongst its fighter brethren, and we can't figure out why. The ESRB deemed it a Mature title, yet other games in its genre have skated by without landing the big M. Take Soul Calibur IV and Tekken 5: They both got Teen ratings despite a happy amount of sideboob and plenty of brutal (though not bloody) action. Heck, even the earlier Dead or Alive games were rated Teen.
So what went wrong with DoA4? There's no gushing blood or bare nipples to speak of, and as god-awful as some of the opening one-liners in fights can be, they aren't making us cover our ears. Turning your age in the game up to 99 may warrant a few girlish giggles, but enough for that Mature rating? Come now.
Call of Duty 2 & 3
Our rating: Mature
That's right, look again if you need to. We're talking about bumping a rating up, not down. That's because unlike Call of Duty 4, CoD2 and CoD3 were rated Teen on release. It was good news for teenagers who wanted to experience what Infinity Ward and Treyarch had to offer, but it wasn't the right rating.
The biggest difference we see between CoD4 and its precursors is the setting, and the historical games were every bit as bloody and gut-wrenching as their modern sequel. Allies still cried out when they were hit and moaned on the ground as they died. Blood still flew from the wounds you inflicted, and weapons and environments were as realistic as the engines allowed them to be. The fact is, there's a difference between the sci-fi combat of a game like Halo and the gritty maturity of re-lived warfare. The ESRB should have recognized that.