It was announced last month that Batman: Arkham Knight had collected an M rating from the ESRB, and now the official report explains why. Many of the reasons are pretty standard fare for the Arkham series to date, including takedown-heavy combat and slow motion finisher sequences, but a little out of character are the references to torture and gore – somewhat unusual to the series, not to mention Batman in general. Normally he intimidates his opponents – occasionally skirting the line, but never crossing into full-on Guantanamo Bay mode.
Here’s the full description:
This is an action-adventure game in which players primarily assume the role of Batman as he battles several villains spreading chaos across Gotham City. Players traverse a variety of locations around Gotham while battling thugs, examining crime scenes, and occasionally rescuing hostages. Players engage in melee-style combat using punches, kicks, and gadgets (e.g., batarangs, explosives). Enemies cry out in pain when struck, and some takedowns are highlighted by brief slow-motion effects and loud impact sounds. Some sequences allow players to use tank-like vehicles with machine gun turrets and rockets to shoot enemies; a vehicle’s wheels are also used to torture an enemy in one sequence. Cutscenes depict characters getting shot (on and off camera) while restrained or unarmed. Large bloodstains/pools of blood appear in crime scenes and in the aftermath of violent acts; one room depicts a person torturing a character on a bloody operating table. During the course of the game, players can shoot unarmed characters and a hostage. Neon signs in a red-light district read “live nude girls” and “XXX.” The words “b*tch,” “gobsh*te,” and “a*s” appear in the dialogue.
Some might raise an eyebrow at the reference to the “b” word, particularly after Arkham City generated so much controversy due to its perceived overuse of it when referring to female characters (mainly Catwoman).
When news of the M rating broke in February, IGN spoke to Rocksteady founder Sefton Hill who said “We’re not including gratuitous blood or swearing. We want to deliver a true end with no compromises, and it takes us to some dark places.”
Hill also mentioned that Arkham Knight involves the villains cooperating to push Batman to increasingly more stark places. “Batman is at his peak and most powerful. That’s why [the villains] also have to push him harder than before. You still get the power fantasy of being the Batman. But to counter that strength, the super villains are going to fight dirty and take him to dark places.”
Batman has long been associated with darkness – he is, after all, a man who was so messed up by his parents’ murder that he obsessively attempts to avenge their death and assauage his survivor’s guilt. Both Batman and his villains are therefore going to inevitably venture into some very dark thematic territory. It’s just surprising to see the latest game receive an M rating, and to see references to torture. However, among critically successful series like Saints Row and Assassin’s Creed, not to mention Grand Theft Auto – all of which also carry M ratings – it’s unlikely to faze either publisher Warner Bros. or Rocksteady, and fans of the series won’t even bat an eyelid (see what I did there?).
Batman: Arkham Knight will be released on June 2nd for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.