By Bryan Smith on July 11, 2015 at 9:02pm
WARNING: I’ll be spoiling “Batman: Arkham Knight” rotten. Turn away now if you don’t want the story to be spoiled.
So “Batman: Arkham Knight” has been out for a few weeks now. The PC version is still a mess, people are divided on the Batmobile but generally believe there’s too much of the tank, and the story, for “Batman,” is underwhelming, predictable, disappointing, done before, and rather stupid in certain points. You’d think that the game is awful, right? Not quite. With the gameplay mechanics (for Batman solely anyways), “B:AK” is extremely good. The problems surrounding the game, however, drag bog the experience down.
So join me in another rendition of How to Fix, where we try to make “Arkham Knight” a better game overall. For this installment, there will be two categories. The first one will focus on the mechanics and gameplay, where the second will handle the story, characters, and what have you.
Game Fix #1: The PC Port
It seems Warner Bros. Games never learns from their mistakes. Off the heels of “Mortal Kombat X’s” awful PC port came this train wreck. I can’t possibly understand the logic of Warner Bros. outsourcing the PC development to another studios other than to save possible money for Rocksteady. Warner Bros., you need to stop the horrendous PC versions of games.
Game Fix #2: Tweak the Batmobile Controls
I’m not going to lie; I raged at later points of the game that involve the Batmobile. The drill boss battle, which can hardly be considered a boss to begin with, is more luck-based when the game decides to let physics control the Batmobile. Driving on any wall may as well be rolling the dice. The last Riddler challenge with the Batmobile can go to hell as well, seeing that any tap to the Batmobile will stop it dead in its track, causing you to fall. Moving the Batmobile is just too loose in general where the car will go to places unintended.
The best way to fix the Batmobile, if it has to stay all together, is to tighten up the controls. I can’t stand when the Batmobile wants to help Batman, but only sends Batman off of the course.
Game Fix #3: More Boss Fights That Aren't Tanks
Another reason why the Batmobile is often rather hated is because Rocksteady thought that putting Batman’s rouge gallery into tanks would be a good substitute for actually having Batman fighting them hand-to-hand. Many people, myself included, thought that we’d get an epic boss fight with Deathstroke. Nope- just Chuck Testa here with a tank. The parts with the Arkham Knight, who turns out to be Jason Todd, are just like that. Even when Jason is trying to snipe Batman, all you have to do is not get caught and zipline up to him. The only legitimately decent boss fights Batman gets is with Two-Face and Harley Quinn, and that’s because they react accordingly when Batman either takes them down with a stealth takedown or a punch to the face.
What “Arkham Knight” needed, when more of the villains are brought in, is better boss battles- hell it needs bosses in general. “City” and “Origins” had great bosses, which makes me sad that this entry couldn’t even be bothered to have legitimate battles that didn’t involve the tank.
Game Fix #4: Dial Down the Batmobile
Technically, most of the problems stem from the Batmobile. If it was just Batman alone, the game would be fantastic with very little to complain about. The freeflow combat with allies works wonderfully and so smoothly, something that might other games slow down to process. With the Batmobile, however, there are many things wrong as stated before. Aside from the PC Port, my fixes are all centered on the Batmobile.
So how do we fix this? Simple- dial down the amount of usage the Batmobile needs. Let’s think about how the Batmobile is represented in other forms of “Batman.” What does it do in, say, “Batman the Animated Series?” The Batmobile is only needed to drive fast and to transport people. There was no shooting or tank fighting prominently. Even in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” doesn’t really have tank fights, despite the Batmobile being a force of destruction.
The Batmobile being forced upon the player doesn’t make this game feel all that much like “Batman.” It should have been a gadget Batman could have used instead of taking a good portion of gameplay. I think they should have utilized the Batmobile for more driving elements instead of the tank stuff, as I found myself in the battle mode more with more fingers cramping up for how long I had to be in it.
Story Fix #1: Better Mix of "Dark Knight Rises" (Dial Them Down)
In my review for “Batman: Arkham Knight,” I joked that “The Dark Knight Rises” would laugh its ass off at the story here. I said that because there are far too many elements stripped off from both the movie itself and Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. For a dark, gritty universe, the dark, brooding elements worked better because it’s more realistic. There aren’t giant crocodile men or men with capes who can fly. The villains had to be far more cunning than before, making for a chilling Joker and Bane.
Whereas Nolan’s universe is fine on its own, the “Batman: Arkham” series is taking more elements from “Batman: the Animated Series.” We have jesters in skin tight suits and a woman who can control plants because “SCIENCE!” I’m not saying the animated series couldn’t be dark (i.e. check where Batgirl dies by falling off a building and onto Commissioner Gordon’s car), but the tone has to be consistent.
Because of the more serious tone, Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight come off as boring. Scarecrow before was manic and skittish in the presence of Batman. He was only confident working behind his back. Now, because of Killer Croc attempting to kill him at Arkham Asylum, he’s more sinister yet less interesting. The game’s story becomes more of a chore when the all-too similar plot points for Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight, but suddenly picks when the Joker parts comes up. The line “No encore?” made me laugh and remembered I was playing a “Batman: Arkham” game.
Also, the whole Batman suddenly and seemingly dieing ay the end was pulled from “The Dark Knight Rises,” along with quartering off Gotham because/from a major threat. Considering that Nolan already took liberties on the original source material, the fact that a game more spearheaded by Warner Bros. and DC can’t come up with a different and/or better story is something telling.
Story Fix #2: Better Treatment to Females
Yeesh. If you’re a female character in this game, you’re going to be treated like crap. You’re either locked up, swooning over a dead man, or flat out killed. Vicki Vale turned out to be the sole lady to not get any maltreatment towards her, surprising since she had to be rescued in “Arkham City.” Harley is reduced to a hostile, Joker-obsessed lunatic that we’ve seen before. Why not give her some of the elements where she tries to be human instead? I’d love to see her interact with Ivy more, considering they are in a relationship in other media.
Speaking of Poison Ivy… good grief. What did they do to her here? She’s locked up by Scarecrow, saved and then locked up by Batman, put into a botanic lab, and then killed off to serve as a stereotypical sacrificial lamb to make us feel sad. Look, I appreciate her being more of a good person here, but this? Barbara’s treatment isn’t much better either. She gets kidnapped, seemingly killed off, and used as a hostage for Commissioner Gordon, only for him to be kidnapped after revealing she’s ok. Catwoman is also kidnapped by the Riddler and forced to stay in the local orphanage or her head gets blown off. Then there’s Dr. Kirk Langstrom’s wife, Francine. In the comics, she’s alive and even becomes She-Bat. Here? Nope- Man-Bat accidentally kills her just to make us feel sad some more. Talia is nowhere to be seen, presumably still dead.
It’s astonishing that most of the women are so poorly treated while most of the men, namely the villains, get a slap on the wrist and put in a jail cell. The only male characters I feel bad for are Jason Todd and Kirk, which I think is a sign of relatively poor writing that you can’t get me to care about a large chunk of your cast of characters.
Story Fix #3: The Arkham Knight's Identity
Well, here’s another shady thing the PR guys did for “Batman: Arkham Knight.” They told people that the Arkham Knight would be a brand new character, or at the very least someone who hasn’t been introduced or alluded to before. Jason Todd has been at least referenced before. Jason himself is more interesting with his back-story and as Red Hood, where the Arkham Knight is just centered on revenge. You know who would have been better for the Arkham Knight, if not a completely new character? Damien Wade.
Damien hasn’t been introduced in the “Batman: Arkham” world yet and he would have a lot more reason to be pissed at Batman, seeing Talia and Batman are his parents. Talia died with Batman partially to blame (though Clayface and Joker are mostly to blame). Talia would have trained Damien to be more assassin/militant like than Jason. If not Damien, why not Hush? He has beef with Batman and Bruce Wayne. Instead, Hush was pushed to a minor side mission where Batman just knocks him out. Missed opportunities all round.
Story Fix #4: Joker as a Crutch
This may sound blasphemous, but I’m getting tired of Joker being used as the crutch to making anything in the “Batman” universe. The fact that Joker died in “Arkham City” and is still around screams volumes to me. You have a whole rogue gallery at your dispose, but Joker, despite being dead, is one of the most domineering threats to Batman as a hallucination. It seems that Harley Quinn is channeling whoever is behind the writing team that simply can’t let Joker go for just a little while.
I groaned when Joker turned out to be the main bad guy for “Arkham Origins,” and I did the same thing when Joker suddenly popped up (though, to see Mark Hamill return again, with him confirming he wouldn’t be back, pleasantly surprised me. That fooled me good). I can only get so much of the “Joker and Batman are two sides of the same coin” shtick before I want to see something else.
It’s also sad that the Joker parts were some of the best elements of “Arkham Knight.” Ponder on this- the writing team couldn’t think of a good story to tell without Joker. That’s just depressing, really. They really couldn’t think of better ways to get some of Batman’s greatest villains to make a compelling “Batman” story.
Story Fix #5: Better Utilization of Rogue Gallery
Speaking of the rogue gallery, there are so many villains that could have been used. Clayface, Bane, Calendar Man, Catman, Copperhead, Deadshot, Mr. Freeze Killer Croc, Killer Moth, Mad Hatter, Owlman, Prometheus, Solomon Grundy, Maxie Zeus, either of the Ventriloquists, and Zsasz don’t show up at all, let alone fight Batman. Some characters like Hush, Firefly, Deathstroke, and Man-Bat are criminally (ha, pun) underused and aren’t satisfying while Black Mask is relegated to the Red Hood segment, which is super short and has him killed by Jason. Gee, I can’t possibly think while these characters weren’t used to their fullest potential or weren’t used at all… with sarcasm thrown harshly at the Batmobile. For a (presumably) final chapter to the “Batman: Arkham” series, things really didn’t escalate past Batman, the Arkham Knight, and Scarecrow.
In contrast to “Resident Evil 5” slightly, “Batman: Arkham Knight’s” functionality is scattershot. Console versions work (for the most part), but the PC version is a mess. Despite that, there are a lot of problems that plague this seemingly final installment. The Batmobile, while a good idea, consumes too much of the game and isn’t at its best. The tone of the story, treatment of female characters, and missed character/story chances aren’t good comparatively to the other stories of the “Batman: Arkham” games.
I like the game, but I don’t love it nor enjoy it as much as I hoped for. So what do you think would have helped make the game better? Also, make suggestions of what game you think would should get the “How to Fix” treatment.