Archive for August, 2015

I caution you, reader, that if you haven’t played the Arkham Knight yet, do not go any further than this. This post contains spoilers.

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You know, when Rocksteady announced that they would be making another Batman game, I was ecstatic. After the let down that was Arkham Origins, I was ready for another installment. And while I feel that Arkham Knight is better than its predecessor-not by much-I cannot help but feel melancholy and my gaming mind is somehow empty.

The Plot

Arkham Knight takes place on Halloween, nearly one year later after the Joker’s death. With Batman’s counter balance gone, the villains of Gotham have rallied together to finally kill the Bat. The Batman’s main nemesis though is Scarecrow and a mysterious figure called the Arkham Knight. Bad guys the likes of Penguin and Two-Face really don’t have a whole lot to do with helping kill the Bat and pretty much stay out of his way. They are more or less, side missions.

After the introduction, where you get to cremate the Joker, there is a little dialogue from Jim Gordon and a movie in a diner that seems to be perpetually stuck in the 50s. Scarecrow releases a dose of his latest fear toxin and broadcasts it to the citizens of Gotham. A mass exodus ensues and as Gordon says: “yesterday, there were 6.3 million people in Gotham City. Today-not so many.”

Where Origins teased the player with the Batwing, Knight uses the Batmobile as an actual character. The Arkham Knight has deployed men and drones throughout the city to hunt down and kill the Batman. Gotham city is much larger in this one (three times it’s size according to Rocksteady creators) than the previous three. Traveling throughout the city is pretty easy once all the bridges are lowered.

To start off with, the game does a pretty good job introducing the user to things such as the Batmobile. After talking with Gordon at GCPD, Batman saves the life of a cop stranded and surrounded by a gang of thugs. He then heads over to a penthouse in China Town where Scarecrow is holding Poison Ivy hostage. After taking down the thugs, Batman watches as a mercenary holds a gun to Ivy’s head. Scarecrow then releases a gas inside the isolation chamber, incapacitating the thug but not Ivy. Ivy then reveals that she has a natural immunity to Scarecrow’s gas. Batman takes her to GCPD, but it isn’t long before the toxin is released that he realizes that Ivy’s plants counteract the toxin. Ivy dies, by the way.

Something that boggles the mind, and I know that things in movies and games don’t always have to make sense, but there are two blimps that seem to be glued into place in the sky. Unless, of course, they are somehow tethered to the ground or a nearby structure. It is on the second blimp that Batman and Scarecrow’s paths cross and it is revealed to the gamer that Batman is slowly turning into Joker, because in Arkham City, he was infected with the Joker’s tainted blood.

In AC, you’ll recall that Joker said that he sent his blood out to all the hospitals. But didn’t Batman take the antidote for that? And if so, how is it Batman and four others are slowly turning into Joker? Unless, creators needed to find a way to bring the Joker back, albeit still dead. Hence, his ghost. Or a hallucination of Batman.

It is then that Scarecrow blows one end of the ship off and flees from Batman. At this point, shouldn’t the blimp crash to the ground in a fiery inferno? And inexplicably, moments later, Barbara Gordon’s death and apparent suicide is broadcast over live television. Batman tells Jim. Jim gets pissed at Batman and vows to bring Scarecrow to justice and disappears.

Later in the game, the toxin is dispersed throughout the city and blankets Gotham in a thick, boiling cloud. Question: earlier in the game, before Batman neutralized the toxin at Ace Chemicals, Scarecrow said he hoped to cover the entire eastern seaboard. So why didn’t the cloud cross the bay to the neighboring city of Bludhaven? Batman unites with Poison Ivy and together, they save Gotham. Did I mention that she dies? Well, it is here that her body turns to dust-literally.

It is at this point that the gamer has to spend useless time in taking out six Cobra drones and the cloud burst. Now, as you can imagine, I do have a complaint about this part, and it wasn’t until my wife played the game that she found out why I would get so irritated.

Whenever Batman is detected by one of the drones, the screen seems to draw back from the Batmobile and the Batmobile’s handling and maneuverability seems to go into the toilet. After taking out the drones and the cloud burst, the Arkham Knight emerges from the tank, a disoriented mess. Batman grabs him and takes him up to a rooftop, where he begins a beat down on him. The Knight’s helmet comes off and the Joker stares up at Bats, laughing his ass off. Soon, the Knight completely disappears and all we’re left with is the Joker and Batman holding his head.

Surely, the Knight, having been trained by Batman and subjected to hellish torture by Joker, would’ve recovered by their fight and assaulted Batman. But nope. He vanishes into thin air. After hearing the Knight taunting Batman and declaring that he wanted to kill him, it would’ve been more tolerable had the two had a fist fight afterwards.

Jim Gordon then transmits an encrypted message on the swat frequency when there is no swat to receive it, telling Batman that he has found Scarecrow. Batman goes to rescue the despondent Commissioner, and runs into the Arkham Knight again. This time, being chased by an earth tunnel digger. After the Batmobile is destroyed and he finds Gordon, the Knight appears behind Batman and reveals himself to be Jason Todd. Which, at this point, was a major let down to all gamers, myself included, since Rocksteady kept the Knight’s true identity a secret better than the plausibility of the Warren Commission’s Magic Bullet Theory. However, despite Batman and Alfred’s failed attempts to unmask the Knight, it wasn’t incredibly hard to see the secret that was being handed to the gamer on a silver platter-what with Joker giving an entire back story of how he tortured the poor soul.

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Batman defeats the Knight and Todd disappears. A recurring theme for this game. And it is at the top of the building that Barbara Gordon is found to still be alive; her freedom bought and paid for from Gordon betraying the Batman. Gordon shoots Bats and Scarecrow pushes Barbara off the top of the building, but Batman saves her-where they find themselves under attack from drones. It seems to be almost an after thought on the part of the creators that, with the original Batmobile being destroyed, how is the gamer suppose to finish the side missions where the Batmobile is needed. And didn’t Lucsious Fox say that it was one of a kind? The Batwing drops off another Batmobile and after defeating the drones, Barbara is taken to GCPD.

After defending the police station from an all out assault, Batman surrenders to Scarecrow and allows himself to be taken to the now condemned, Arkham Asylum. However, it is on the way there that the van carrying the Dark Knight is hit and Batman escapes to fight a never ending onslaught of Jokers. And all for the purpose of Batman snapping the neck of one-just so Joker can have a laugh and say that Batman is becoming him. I found this part truly annoying.

At the asylum, the Scarecrow reveals Batman to be a mere man to the entire world. Vicki Vale watches in stunned silence as Bruce Wayne is unmasked. Which, this part makes no sense to me. The entire plot of Scarecrow is reveal the Batman’s true identity? To show that he is only human?

It is then that the gamer gets to go around playing as the Joker, shooting and killing people, before Batman locks him away in a proverbial chamber of his mind. And that’s enough to counteract the fear toxin? And Batman becoming the Joker?

Suddenly, the Arkham Knight appears and shoots the cuffs off of Batman. This, coupled with the fact that Todd now has a red Bat symbol painted on his chest makes one wonder: what was it that made him change sides? And this is the last time we see Todd. Which, kind of perplexes me, because isn’t Gotham situated on an island and isn’t the bridge to the mainland raised? Not to mention, there’s no closure for the gamer. No final conversation between the two, nothing. Crane is then injected with his own toxin and is taken to GCPD.

And so, reader, that is where the game ends. Assuming, that by now, you’ve beaten all the side missions, you can then activate the Knightfall Protocol; where you’ll watch a movie of Bruce Wayne returning home. Vicki Vale reports just outside the front gates when Wayne Manor explodes.

What I liked about the game

I like the graphics, the Batmobile, the Bat suit, Catwoman (who doesn’t). I’m sure there are other things I can’t think of.

What I didn’t like about the game

For me, it wasn’t just about playing a new Batman game or the graphics, or what not. I’m sure other gamers could excuse a limp plot for everything else the creators got right, but not me. I can understand that with the Joker dead, the other villains would want to exact some much deserved revenge on the Batman. But, where is the threat to Gotham when all that is left-when push comes to shove-are people who are pretty much a waste of oxygen? I mean, would anyone really miss them? Wouldn’t there be a greater urgency to save the city if the inhabitants were left? What if Scarecrow gave no warning at all? What if there was a better plot?

The plot to ransom a city devoid of citizens makes as much sense as Arkham City. You’re going to build a city prison just to execute them all? That’s what the whole build up to Protocol 10 was? Gasing a city that accomplished nothing whatsoever, is tantamount to the trailer of Origins where it showed Batman fighting Deathstroke in a place where neither one meet. And Deathstroke wasn’t even a main character in the story.

Speaking of Deathstroke. How in the hell does he become leader of the militants? Up until this point, he’s not even mentioned in the game. And after you take out the militia check points and everything else, you again, have to battle the leader with about five Cobra drones. I could forgive this if it took more than just a few punches to incapacitate a battle hardened assassin.

The thing that annoyed me was the games predictability. I wasn’t long into the game when I told my wife that Barbara Gordon would be kidnapped. When it was revealed that her dad had no idea she was still inside city limits-let alone working for the Batman-one knew that the clock tower would be compromised. And, at any rate, wouldn’t Jim Gordon, being the loving father that he is, of made sure his daughter got off the island safely? I must admit that I didn’t see the whole suicide thing coming. But I did expect that Barbara was still alive.

If you played the side mission Identity Thief in Arkham City, you’ll know who Thomas Elliot (Hush) is. He is just as skilled as Batman and just as intelligent. Being a master surgeon, Elliot was meticulous about choosing his victims and slicing off their faces to graft a face for himself that looked identical to that of Bruce Wayne’s. And all we’re left with in AK is that Fox goes incognito, only to find out that Hush has infiltrated Wayne Tower? And all for the sake of-what I assume-stealing money from his former friend? That’s what we’re left with?

What if Hush was the Arkham Knight? What if by some set of circumstances, he discovered who the Batman really was? Wouldn’t it have made a better and more plausible story if he sought to kill the Dark Knight and assume both identities?

Robin and Nightwing make cameo appearances. And as you might imagine, Batman doesn’t want either ones help, which doesn’t make any sense. What’s the point of having a side kick and sort of a side kick if you don’t allow them to help you? What’s the point of keeping Robin locked away in a room searching for a cure to the Joker syndrome when Batman took the antidote in Arkham City? Did Mr. Freeze die sometime during that eight months? And come to find out, the only guy that was infected and not showing any real signs, was playing possum all along.

Come to think of it, how can being infected with Joker’s blood make someone a “Joker”? Wasn’t the thing that was killing the Joker the Titan formula?

The Riddler is an annoying little bitch, and I’m not any real good at puzzles. So, suffice it to say, I stay away from him as much as possible. But he’s not really a threat to Gotham City; he just likes to prove he’s smarter than the world’s Greatest Detective. And I’m glad that Catwoman made the cut, but if all her contribution is to be captured by the Riddler, then it is a travesty. After all, not only is she a fun character to play as, but am I the only one that finds her sexually attractive? I know, she’s an animated character. Don’t focus on the wrong part of the story.

As in the case of Origins, where the trailers made it seem that Deathstroke was the focal point of the story, AK made it seem that Batman would be fighting the likes of Two-Face in the city streets. Batman pushed to the point of breaking, would have to rely on the help of his allies. But, alas, my enthusiasm went up in a foul smelling vapor. A bit of false advertisement, in my opinion.

Knight is a great departure from City and Origins, in that Gotham City looks nothing like it’s former self. Its a reboot of sorts. In both Origins and City-Asylum even-Wayne Tower looms on the horizon, from what I assume to be the mainland. But in Arkham Knight, Bludhaven is the mainland. And it looks bigger than Gotham! A series of questions:

Where are the suburbs? You’re telling me that three islands are able to hold 6.3 million people? But most important, where is Arkham Asylum and Wayne Manor? And since neither one is in evidence, where are they? And are they on the mainland? And if they are, how did Batman get the Batmobile on the island and how did Scarecrow get Bats to the Asylum when the bridge going to the mainland is closed off?

I know that I’ve ranted more than praised this game and its creators (but damn it-I bought an Xbox One with this game in mind), but one more thing before I go. Okay, two.

Inconsistencies and repetition. Where Origins has you fighting Bane three times, Knight has Batman pitted against Cobra tanks a number of times, and the fact that Deathstroke has his own tank just reeks of a lack of ingenuity. It’s like the writers took one theme and wanted to play it over and over.

The Arkham Knight is either bipolar or has multiple personalities. Numerous times throughout the game, he says he wants to kill the Dark Knight, but doesn’t. Instead, he defers to Scarecrow. He even puts a bullet in Batman’s gut and walks away. Make up your frigging mind!

Alright, I’ve ranted long enough. Like I said, some can forgive a bad story, but I can’t. I like a good story to go along with what I’m playing, and this just wasn’t one of them. In the years between Arkham City and Knight, I am bemused as to how the writers and creators, in all their brainstorming, couldn’t have come up with a more compelling, believable story. If Scarecrow wanted to unmask the Batman and deprive the citizens of Gotham of hope, then why not do it with them on the island?! After all, by the time the cowl is removed, the toxin had already been neutralized. All it would’ve taken was a well placed snipers bullet to end Scarecrow once and for all. Is the GCPD really that incompetent?

In using false propaganda to build hype and fan’s fervor for the Caped Crusader, Rocksteady promised a satisfying culmination of the Arkham trilogy. But all we got were repetition, inconsistencies and errors that cannot be ignored. In severing the line for any other division of WB Games to build upon the Arkham story, Rocksteady any praise for them is nothing but white noise.

I not only mourn for Batman, but also anyone who spent their hard earned money to purchase this grand debacle.

My Grade: C