Bethesda Pulls All Fallout 3 Trailers as Game Launches

Ready to duck and cover? It's almost time. Bethesda's post-apocalyptic roleplaying uber-sandbox for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, Fallout 3, is whistling through the air like an atom bomb toward its midnight release circa "more than 2,000 stores across the country" as I type this. 2,000 stores, I kid you not. Is that nuts, or is that nuts?

Even nuttier: Bethesda's apparently just sent out emails to various gaming sites requesting that they "remove any...Fallout 3 trailers" in connection with ESRB advertising guidelines.

Which guidelines? These guidelines.

Censorship? Maybe, but maybe not. After all, the MPAA puts rating cards in front of movie previews (though off the top of my head, I don't recall if they're consistently in front of every online trailer). Of course there's also no such thing as an R- or NC17-rated movie trailer, but then not every Fallout 3 trailer is saturated with gore, either.

Still, Bethesda said "all." No exceptions. Which also poses something of a logistical enforcement problem. This is a popular, high-in-demand game. Several of those trailers are practically embedded.

Let's be very clear about something: Fallout 3 is a very, very violent game. As I've been playing it, in particular after acquiring a certain character trait that causes onscreen enemies to die as explosively as possible, I'm pretty awe-stuck at just how gory things can get. I'm not saying it's a personal bother (it's not) or that I think trailers revealing some of those death sequences ought to be pulled.

But I am saying you'll definitely witness an uptick in gruesomeness here, especially the way the tactical combat engine zooms on skulls and torsos as they split like grisly piƱatas whacked with sledgehammers (and sometimes sledgehammers are indeed literally involved). Think Herschell Gordon Lewis levels of splatter, cameras on "zoomed" and in slow-mo.

Why did Bethesda wait until the midnight hour to pull the ads? Either they didn't see the ads as non-compliant until someone at the ESRB made a zero-hour fuss, or they've been quietly battling/debating/negotiating with the ESRB behind the scenes, and this is the public sound of Bethesda capitulating.

What do you think? Is Bethesda doing the right thing by attempting to honor the ESRB's advertising guidelines? Or is pulling "any...Fallout 3 trailers" overreacting and/or verging on censorship?

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