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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