The world raised an eyebrow when it was revealed Batman: Arkham Knight would be M-rated, since the previous games — Arkham Asylum, Arkham City — were both T-Rated. The ESRB has now released its official ratings entry for Arkham Knight, providing insight into the decision.
If you don't want to know anything about Arkham Knight, consider this spoiler territory.
Content Descriptors: Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
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.
Kotaku has explored how the ESRB has viewed Rocksteady's Batman games in the past, wondering Arkham was getting away with T ratings, compared to other violent video games.
One could theorise the ESRB is simply judging Arkham Knight a tad harsher because of the increased visual fidelity, but there's one line that really stick out in the ratings description:
During the course of the game, players can shoot unarmed characters and a hostage.
That doesn't sound like Batman. Is it possible there are sequences where players control someone who doesn't have the same lofty ethical standards at the bat? We'll have to see.