The PlayStation release of the upcoming psychological horror game Martha is Dead will reportedly be censored, with some elements “no longer playable” on the family of consoles, in order to comply with Sony’s content policies.
[DISCLAIMER: This article will contain possible spoilers for Martha is Dead, and features images and videos featuring fictional gore and violence some readers may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.]
In a statement released on February 11th by Wired Productions, the publisher opened by emphasizing that while the game was “a narrative adventure recommended for adult audiences only, with play consisting of potentially discomforting scenes and themes that may distress some players,” both they and the game’s developer, LKA, “have always been open and honest about Martha Is Dead content, with the sensitive depictions in play consistently communicated to the media since the game was announced in 2019.”
Yet, despite how “this content is also flagged clearly and repeatedly within the game itself before play begins,” Wired Productions then revealed, “it is with regret that we have had to modify the experience on the PS5 and PS4 versions, with some elements no longer playable.”
“After over four years of passion and hard work, Developer LKA now requires extra time to make these unplanned changes,” they elaborated.
As such, Wired Productions explained that though the game’s cross-platform digital launch would still occur on February 24th, the physical release of the PlayStation 4 and 5 editions would “be delayed to a yet to be disclosed date” which the publisher anticipates “to only be a small number of weeks.”
“Our physical edition will still contain the bonus content of a double-sided poster, digital tarot cards and Martha Is Dead Digital EP,” Wired Productions further noted. “We will update players with the date we ship this edition as soon as we have the information.”
In conclusion to their announcement, Wired Productions reassured players that “The PC and Xbox versions of Martha Is Dead are both unaffected by these developments and will launch with the full unedited gameplay as planned.”
“We look forward to players experiencing the work of LKA on Thursday February 24th, 2022,” they ultimately asserted.
Set in 1944 Italy, Martha is Dead follows the story of Giulia, whose sister, the eponymous Martha, is found to have been murdered and mutilated.
In the wake of Martha’s death, Giulia must not only contend with her loss, but also her repressed memories and mystery surrounding the local folklore of The Lady.
The game’s Steam page features the disclaimer “The game is not recommended for players who may find depictions of mature scenes containing blood, dismemberment, disfigurement of human bodies and self-harm disturbing.”
Though Wired Productions did not specify what exact content was deemed unsuitable for PlayStation users, an early stream of the game by Eurogamer led some on social media to speculate that it may have been a particularly graphic scene involving body mutilation.
The scene, which takes place in the context of a nightmare and left Eurogamer’s Zoe Delahunty-Light recoiling in disgust and terror, finds the player tasked with cutting Martha’s face off of her corpse, peeling it off, then wearing it themselves. Martha’s mutilated body can then be seen afterwards.
[Time Stamp: 00:32:24]
The ESRB gave the game an M for Mature rating for “Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, and Strong Language.” Themes of rape may also be part of the narrative, as one line of dialogue references “the raping being committed by invading soldiers.”
They also note that additional nightmare scenes include imagery of “Guilia cutting a corpse’s stomach open and pulling out a dead fetus”, “a character slitting her wrist open”, and a depiction of “a character shooting a bound woman off-screen, then burying the dismembered corpse.”
On Twitter, reactions to Eurogamer’s clip have been taken as representative of the game as a whole, with some finding this particular scene so revolting that they believed censorship was necessary – even though it has not been specified whether or not the face-cutting scene was the subject of Sony’s censorship.
“Yeah Sony has every right to not allow this on their console”, tweeted k.d6 3 3074. “I’m not for censorship but I can understand why they would sensor [sic] this.”
While other Twitter users said the scene wasn’t scary or creepy, Pain replied “You’re right, it’s borderline psychotic. If it was a cutscene then don’t censor it but telling you to interact with the process is a big NO for me.”
“That should be rated as Adult,” proposed Freelancer. “I have seen many horror scenes like this before but it has context and it was subtle. This one is extreme. Really ? They could use as a cutscene instead mini game. This is shock value.”
Others argued that it was appropriate for a M-rated horror game, feeling that it was equally, if not less, gorey than certain scenes left uncensored in other PlayStation games.
N.D. tweeted, “This is incredibly graphic and disturbing but Sony didn’t have to censor the game for everyone,” noting that “some games nowadays with graphic content give you an option to turn it off.”
“People are saying Martha Is Dead deserved to be censored then there are games out there that are more graphic lmao” said Fish, posting a side-by-side comparison of Martha’s faceless body and the end-result of a face-ripping fatality from Mortal Kombat 11, the latter of which presented much more graphic viscera than the former.
TheRami98 speculated that larger developers and publishers were exempt from Sony’s censorship, asserting, “So Baraka ripping someone’s face off in Mortal Kombat 11 is OK? My guess is that it’s fine when a big publisher does it but then they start pushing around smaller developers.”
This is not the first time Sony has censored a game on their PlayStation platform.
In late 2018, visual novel developer light claimed that Sony had introduced a policy to censor games with sexual themes not only for the West, but for Japanese audiences as well.
Asked about this supposed policy and how it would balance with freedom of expression during a PlayStation event that December, Sony Interactive Japan Asia President Atsushi Morita explained, “About the censorship, we tried to meet global standards.”
“Regarding the balance of the freedom of expression and safety for children, it’s a tough problem to deal with,” he admitted in follow-up.
This policy was later confirmed to exist in 2019, with a Sony spokeswoman citing the rise of the Me Too movement and increasing popularity of YouTube and Twitch as contributing factors to their censorious efforts.
Since then, Sony has continued to censor games with sexual content, but mainly those with an anime art-style – even if the title was intended to have heavy fan-service.
This was one of the reasons why Senran Kagura developer and producer Kenichiro Takaki left Marvelous! in 2019.
In February 2021, CyberConnect2 President and CEO Hiroshi Matsuyama revealed that Sony even had regulations against scenes of violence, particularly those featuring dismemberment.
“This is because the loss of limbs in characters that look human is prohibited by Sony Interactive Entertainment,” he revealed. “[For example], even if Minato Namikaze [from Naruto] is a corpse resurrected by unholy reincarnation, if it looks human, it’s out.”
Likewise, in July 2021, Team Salvato announced that the PlayStation release of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! would be censored, with a scene of suicide to being change to have black blood instead of red.
Outside of their displeasure with censorship in general, many have also taken issue with what they perceive as Sony’s blatant hypocrisy and double-standards, given both their support and promotion of the highly-graphic The Last of Us II.
These critics note that, despite Sony’s rampant desire to cover up even the slightest bit of blood or skin from anime-styled games, The Last of Us II not only featured a number of brutal ways for Ellie to take out her enemies, but also a full-on sex scene.
However, there have been notable exceptions to the censorship, even with anime art-styles. In early 2021, Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story was released for the PlayStation 4 completely untouched, despite the best efforts of outraged social media mobs and “industry adjacent people” to force developer Top Hat Studios into compliance.
Later that year, Bandai Namco declared that they would be releasing Tales of Arise completely uncensored across all platforms – a possible indication that even they have come to understand how unpopular Sony’s policy truly is.
Market researcher Hideki Yasuda of the Ace Research Institute stated in January of last year that PlayStation would face it was “decisive decline” in Japan, thanks to censorship and focusing on the US market over Japan.
This Western development focus was also echoed by the company’s physical moves, as after a 2016 restructuring, SIE established their new headquarters in San Mateo, California.
What do you think of Sony forcing censorship upon yet another title? Let us know your thoughts on social media and in the comments below.