A couple of weeks ago, the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), the folks who judge the content in a given video game to determine exactly for which audience the game will be appropriate, slammed the gavel down and gave Batman: Arkham Knight an ‘M’ for Mature. This meant that the content of the game was not appropriate for those under the age of 17, ultimately limiting the number of copies of the game they will be able to sell. This raised a few eyebrows as every Arkham game hitherto has received a ‘T’ for Teen.
For the most part, people expected that this game will be darker and more violent than the previous titles in the series. Well, we need not guess anymore as ESRB has released a description of some game content that led to their decision. There are some spoilers in there, so if you want a clean slate for when it arrives in-stores in June, I suggest you look away!
Still here? Okay, here we go:
Rating Summary: 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.
There’s very little here, I believe, that warrants a Mature rating, but I suppose the quality of excess is what really nabbed it the ‘M’. Torturing a victim with a car wheel is pretty grisly. And then, witnessing someone being tortured on an operating table may have some younger ones squirming. If we’ve learned anything in the past is that most of these rating boards flip out whenever anything involving sex appears, even if no actual sex occurs. The neon signs reading “live nude girls” and “XXX” are relatively harmless and it’s not like teens won’t know what those signs mean in a world where the Internet exists.
Good call? Well, if the violent bits are as bad as they seem, then I believe the ‘M’ is justified. However, for someone way above the age of 17, it makes little difference to me. My sympathies to our younger readers.
What’s piqued my interest, however, is this little bit: “players can shoot unarmed characters and a hostage.” If it’s not referring to the Batmobile – and I don’t think so, because they already mentioned a tank earlier in the summary – and if it’s not Bats, then it looks like we’re switching to another character mid-game. I’d like to think it’s the Harley Quinn DLC or the Red Hood DLC.
What do you think? Appropriate call from the ESRB? Or are they just being too conservative? Let me know.