Good evening, America. Gather around whilst I tell you a tale. A tale of a young man, and a dark knight. A tale of high’s and low’s, ups and downs, rights and…ok, I’ll just get on with it.
Let’s go back in time a bit, to when Batman: Arkham Knight was first announced. I can’t tell you when that was off-hand, but I do recall trailers and information for it near the beginning of last year. I remember this because a good friend of mine was still currently serving with me in the Marines, and he brought to my attention something that seemed pretty noteworthy: “Bro, it’s going to have the Batmobile.”
I was instantly hit with a feeling of…apathy, mixed with slight disappointment.
“But Jonesy!”, you scream at me, flailing your arms like a madman, “the Batmobile is totally radalicious and groovy funkadelic! (Is that what the kids are saying these days?) Why on earth would you have issues with the Batmobile?!” The answer to that is simple. When you are younger, and still delving into the idea of video games and creating experiences and memories, you are able to see the full potential of things such as the Batmobile. You let your imagination soar to new heights, wondering what could possibly unfold before you on your journey as the Caped Crusader. As a slightly more experienced player, however, the only things I could imagine was the joy of “Pursuit Missions” and “Escape Missions” and the such that is involved with automobile’s and video games. Though many people may be fond of these types of missions (hence the vast success of car games like Need for Speed and GTA), I am not too keen on them. Something about a lack of hand-eye coordination and skill at gaming. Who knows.
I would like to fast-forward to now. I have currently beaten the main storyline to Arkham Knight, and though I am glad that I took the time to play this game, I was left with a feeling of general lack of enthusiasm afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, the game was very well designed and had some great qualities to it. I am just still currently trying to decide if it was worth it. I will now do the world a favor and voice my disappointments on the Internet (I know, it’s a new concept).
(WARNING: THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!)
To me, the greatest disappointments came in a few different forms. Of these upsets was the notable inclusion of the Joker in the game, despite the fact that the entire first few minutes of the game are him being incinerated. Now, I completely understand the fact that he was all part of Batman’s fear-induced trip (Bats was gassed by scarecrow’s toxin), and truthfully my encounters with the Clown Prince of Crime were some of the most enjoyable of the game. The writing for him was superb. I just…wish that we could have a game focusing on the other villains. In the end, I was glad he was added as a character, but my initial (and still somewhat lingering) feeling was that it would have been interesting to see a world for the Detective without his nemesis.
My other regret of the game was that I allowed myself to figure out the big plot twist of the game. The main bad guy, the Arkham Knight, is supposed to be this intense enemy of Batman due to his incredible anonymity and deep knowledge of Batman’s skills and playbook (none of which seem to matter, as you tend to trounce his armies pretty easily). SPOILERS! When the game was close to coming out I looked at one of my co-workers, as we finished reading an article during our union break, and half-joked that the Arkham Knight was most likely a prior Robin. As I went through the game and had my interactions with the Knight, I realized more and more that this had to be the case. I continued to play the game, knowing that it wasn’t Tim Drake (the current Robin) or Dick Grayson (currently Nightwing) underneath that mask. As the game series had never mentioned the existence of Damian Wayne, there seemed to be only one likely suspect: I figured it out for certain about three missions prior to the big reveal, and the scene in the game where joker is internally taunting you about Jason’s death nailed the door shut. When the big reveal came and the mask came off, I was left feeling emotionless and, frankly, not very interested. I was more emotionally stimulated by the side missions than I was with the super-duper plot twist. I enjoy being surprised by these things, and generally they get me pretty good, yet I saw this twist a mile away. To top it all off, you have a big fight, you punch the dude in the face a bunch, you let him go, and then…he comes and helps you? Batman seems to be in on the joke, but I was not amused.
Of course, there was also the aforementioned Batmobile. It was surprisingly really easy to handle and use, and was pretty fun from time to time. Unsurprisingly, it was used excessively throughout the game. I found myself taking the long way to get from place to place with gliding. This was all to be expected, though, so I won’t go into it too much.
This isn’t to say that it was a horrible game. There were some really great elements to it. The combat system felt incredibly clean, and the more complex combo’s felt accessible to a not-so-great gamer like me. The ability to tag team with NPC teammates like Nightwing or Catwoman was incredibly fun, and there were some great emotional set pieces throughout the game (the kidnap and “murder” of Barbara Gordon, the entire portion in the blimps, the reveal of Scarecrow and the twists and turns that came with it). And as mentioned before, I was eventually glad that the Joker was included so heavily in the game, despite his obvious demise. At the end of the day, however, I was not entirely sold on the idea that this game was better than its predecessor, Arkham City. Maybe the bar was set too high. Perhaps I was wearing my judgment hat more often than my fun hat. Overall, this game just didn’t live up to what I knew an Arkham game was capable of. Maybe next time, Rocksteady.