The lights are on
A lot of people are going to tell you Batman: Arkham Knight is one of the best games at the show. I'm not going to argue that. I've seen it, and it's awesome. I got to play the game and I totally love it; but here's a counter argument for what could still go wrong.
I'm a huge Batman fan (I weigh about 200 pounds, but my love for Batman is well over 500). I love the comics, I’ve loved the movies, and I’ve obsessed over Rocksteady’s recent games. Maybe I’m bias, and maybe I just love too much, but there are a few things about Batman: Arkham Knight I want to nitpick about.
The Batmobile shouldn't be a big focus of the gameI think that the Batmobile is a great element of the Batman universe, and I think it makes sense to want to put it in the game, but it looks like Rocksteady is making too big of a push with the car. The Batmobile can transform from racing mode to a battle mode where it performs more like a strafing artillery tank. Like all of Rocksteady’s games, the mechanics and animations are extremely polished, but I worry that the Batmobile’s battle mode mechanic doesn't fit with the overall structure of the Arkham games.
During one part of my demo I remote controlled the Batmobile and had it blow open a wall and then grapple an elevator cable in order to raise and lower the elevator box for Batman to access a new area. I love the idea of incorporating the Batmobile into more puzzles like this. Unfortunately, most of the marketing we’ve seen for the Batmobile so far has focused on the more tank-like battle mode that has Batman strafing drones and blasting them into debris. That kind of gameplay feels a little too much like a generic shooter to me. I hope it’s not a major facet of the gameplay, because it doesn’t fit with my idea of Batman.
This Story Is Still UnprovenThe first two Batman games didn’t tell the most complex or narratively rich stories in video games, but they were still incredibly fun tales that incorporated a lot of nice elements from Batman’s mythos. I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini helped draft the story. With Arkham Knight, Rocksteady is handling the game’s story in house. This makes me a little nervous.
The team got to create a new character for the game, a villain called Arkham Knight. This new character’s design is great, as he looks kind of like a military inspired version of Batman himself. I know Rocksteady worked with DC Comics CCO Geoff Johns to create the character, and I don’t know how much work Johns has done on the character, but I get the impression Rocksteady is writing a lot of a dialogue themselves. Based on what I saw at E3 this might not be a smart choice. Despite the fact that Arkham Knight looks incredibly badass, most of his dialogue came across as if he were an antsy teenager who was obsessed with killing Batman. Hopefully, Arkham Knight will have an amazing and rich story, but for the moment I feel like Rocksteady is unproven in this particular area.
Why does everything have to be so boxy and edgy and sexualized?I think the title for this section pretty much speaks for itself, but I’ll go ahead an elaborate on it, because that’s what writers do. The Batman Arkham games have always had a distinct design style. If you’ve played one, or even seen the concept art for the characters, you know exactly what it is. I don’t feel like this style is wrong, but I have started to grow tired of it over the course of the series.
Some gamers have already complained how Harley Quinn and Catwoman have been portrayed as hyper-sexualized beings. Why is this necessary? In fact, I think these kinds of extreme designs take away from the games overall believability (though I understand believability is already stretch somewhat thin for a character who dresses up like a bat to fight crime).
Additionally, Batman, his villains, and pretty much every other character in the game seems over masculinized. Commissioner Gordan looks like he takes creatine in his coffee, and even characters like the Penguin and the Joker seem a littler bulkier than they are in the comics. This bulky design sense carries through to every part of the game – from the Batmobile, to the architecture, to the weapons and tools Batman uses in the game. I don’t want a wimpy looking Batman, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a more grounded and realistic depiction of the character.
Despite these complaints and concerns, I’m still incredibly excited about Arkham Knight and the game could be my game of the show. Does that make me a hypocrite? No, it just means I care too much.
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Fighting hordes of villains in the Batman games is repetitive, too...doesn't mean it isn't fun, though
Your third third point I couldn't disagree with more. The game follows the style of the comics, which is hyper violent and hyper sexualized and looks and feels real enough to make the universe seem grounded even though it's full of implausible things.
Your second point, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Rocksteady knows batman. I think they'll do him justice for his big finale.
and for your first point. In an interview Rocksteady said that balancing the Batmobile and Batman on foot was something they were very conscious of. They wanted to make it feel important and now like a gimmick. Of course there was a lot of Batmobile reveals recently because that's the biggest new thing in the game they've announced so far. I believe they said it'll be balanced 60/40 with Batman taking the 60%.
We'll see. But I'm very excited and have nothing but confidence in Rocksteady.
I feel the same way. I was especially worried the moment I learned Dini wasn't involved. I think it will be great, but I doubt they'll be able to deliver the kind of rich storytelling experience we'd expect with this new character.
Aside from that, I definitely think making the Batmobile so big a part of transportation and not also offering fast travel really sucks. I definitely liked having that option in Origins, and they even made a sidequest out of it.
The way Catwoman was designed was definitely a bit like fanservice. She otherwise was a great character. I was glad to have the alt skins because I like her classic skin the best. Brought back a lot of nostalgia.
I agree completely with item #1. I hope the Batmobile doesn't dominate the gameplay in any way. The other items don't concern me; in fact, I'd be far more concerned if Rocksteady decided to abruptly shift the tone and style of this game. I'd prefer all the Arkham games share a uniform style.
Yeah. The batmobile looks cool, but I want it to be an option.
I believe that if this should be the "grand finale" for the Rocksteady franchise, then ALL of Batman's vehicles should be at his disposal. This includes the Wing, Cycle, Boat, etc.
Of the three of these, I think the first worry is the only one that holds water. They seem to be pushing the Batmobile quite a bit and while it looks cool it'd be a shame to see it take over the game. The prevalence of it thus far could be chalked up to marketing, and Rocksteady's track-record is such that I'm too worried about it.
Unless whoever at Rocksteady is writing this game is an utterly wretched writer, as far as series standards go, there's not much to worry about. Despite Paul Dini's legendary status as a Batman writer off the animated series, the writing of the last two games was serviceable at best. It got the job done in a satisfactory way but no minds were blown. This doesn't worry me terribly much.
As for the art style, the time to gripe about that is long since past. It's been established for so long at this point that it'd be weird to change it. I like the stylized reality of it, it gives the feel of playing a comic book that's been switched into 3D. Going any more grounded just brings us back down into a mundane realism we've already seen. Maybe Harley Quinn and Catwoman are sexied-up a bit much but I loath the former and am indifferent to the latter, so if they're the price to pay for this art style, I'm more than willing to pay it.
I still haven't got around to playing whatever the prequel game was.
I'm more worried about the series losing it's identity. It has always been about making you FEEL like Batman in gameplay. The first 2 games were good but limited. I honestly thought the next-gen Batman game would be a full on Batman sim with an active and living Gotham to interact with. Instead we get a bigger Arkham City...and a tank that fights robots and fires "non-lethal rounds". (how is that supposed to make me feel like Batman?)
I agree with both points. But Rockstar wanted to create a different Batman, arcade universe, not the simulation that everyone hopes to see some day.