Warning: This article contains descriptions of graphic content, including bodily mutilation, sexual content, and more. This article also contains what could be considered spoilers – proceed at your own discretion.
PlayStation versions of historical horror game Martha Is Dead recently received seemingly last-minute modifications – and we now what was removed (or modifed) and at least some of the reason as to why.
Having spoken to publisher Wired Interactive, and consulted with IGN’s reviewer, we now know that the PlayStation version has removed interactivity from scenes where players slice and peel off a corpse’s face and cut open a corpse’s womb with scissors.
References to masturbation were also removed, and the PlayStation version features more detailed content warnings at the start of the game than other platforms.
An optional censored mode was also added to the PS4 and PS5 versions that, if turned on, entirely removes the face peeling and womb cutting scenes, alongside scenes depicting miscarriage and suicide. All versions of the game feature an option to censor scenes of self harm in the final chapter, but Xbox and PC versions do not include the expanded censored mode on PlayStation.
Charity Safe In Our World was approached by developer LKA to include a message within Martha is Dead to help players struggling with mental health issues, and this is now displayed at the beginning and end of the game on all versions, including Xbox and PC.
The changes were announced on February 14, ten days before the game launched on February 24, alongside news that the physical PlayStation versions of the game would be delayed for a short period of time. However, at the time, the details of what was changed were not available.
Neil Broadhead, marketing head at publisher Wired Productions, told IGN that these changes were made due to talks with Sony itself: “The changes in content were made as a result of conversations with PlayStation in the lead up to our launch.
“Although the changes were not planned and the modifications did result in a slight delay in being able to start production on the physical edition, PlayStation fully supported us to help minimise this delay.”
Screens – Martha is Dead
Ratings board the ESRB, rated Martha is Dead M for Mature on all platforms. A spokesperson for the board told IGN that it’s unusual for companies like PlayStation to take decisions about what’s appropriate into their own hands. They clarified that “platforms and retailers always have the option to make choices about the content they want to offer their consumers,” though “situations like this are uncommon”.
PlayStation declined to comment when approached by IGN about Martha Is Dead, and it remains unclear if the changes were made due to an overall policy on game content at the company, or if this was a decision made based on this single case.
LKA’s founder and CEO Luca Dalcò said the modified scenes are a very small part of the game, and “PlayStation players can still experience the story we’re trying to tell.
“This is a vast and complex subject, and the changes that have been made [do not] distort the gaming experience.”
Regarding the interactivity removed from the face peeling and womb cutting scenes, Dalcò said: “In most circumstances, Martha is Dead is a game primarily focused on giving the player choice, both in the actions they take and the moves they make.
“However, there are naturally some cutscenes built into the experience that play out like a movie, but in the original version we allow some levels of interaction from the player in order to maintain immersion.”
Dalcò explained that LKA heavily researched the subject material for Martha is Dead, set in 1944 Italy, and was supported by the European Commission for audio-visual works of cultural interest with Media Creative Europe.
In terms of the removed masturbation references, Dalcò made clear there’s no visualisation of masturbation or sex in the game but “it’s the context that has been considered inappropriate”.
That context is that the references take place while the player is in a psychiatric hospital that practices religious as well as medical treatments. Dalcò says this is based on historical fact and real-life accounts.
“These were places where patients were compulsorily admitted and where they often spent their entire lives,” he explained. “They were total institutions, like prisons, restricting every facet of a person’s life and, as such, masturbation was one of the few things patients were able to do.
“In terms of this specific scene in Martha is Dead, the player walks in a field dotted with huge crosses with mask-wearing dolls hanging from them. A voice-over narrates the experience of living in an asylum, commenting that ‘there was this one young woman who would pleasure herself all day long… incessantly, to the point where she would bleed.'”
He added: “It’s important to note this is a very dramatic moment in which the suffering of the forgotten is recounted. Unfortunately, part of this speech will not be present on the PlayStation version of the game.”
Martha is Dead is now available digitally on PS4 and PS5, and physically or digitally on Xbox, and PC. The physical PlayStation versions will be released in a “small number of weeks”.
In our 7/10 review, IGN said Martha is Dead was “a confronting, compelling, and increasingly disorientating detour into darkness,” that made us “appropriately uncomfortable at times but ultimately unfulfilled by its inconclusive ending.”
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally remembers to tweet @thelastdinsdale.