Friday, November 11

Arkham City is not a heroic take on the open world action game

Batman: Arkham City may be a great looking game, but I can’t help the feeling that I’m a poor imposter of the Caped Crusader. Further to that, I can’t help but feel as though the game itself gets the character and flow of Batman wrong sometimes. 

Firstly, whether it’s in the flesh or in the digital representation of Gotham, I’m a relentlessly clumsy person. Real-life Tristan nearly gave himself a concussion when trying to retrieve an elephant-shaped piggy bank at the age of fifteen. As Batman, I’ve made my presence obvious to goons all over Arkham City. I can beat them senseless upon discovery, but never with the unbeatable finesse of the hero in print form. In my hands, Batman is a fumbling shadow of the character I’ve been exposed to through comic books and film. 

There’s also the problem of focus: as in Bat-Tristan lacks any semblance of it. I could be on my way to save a political prisoner, only to hear a phone ringing in the distance. That poor bastard probably got stabbed to death, but at least I’m fifteen percent closer to cracking the case of the Cold Call Killer! 

While we’re on the subject of side-quests, they just seem to be at odds with Batman and how I know him - or the superhero comic book medium as a whole - to operate. Would the Caped Crusader allow Mad Hatter to indoctrinate new followers unabated, so that he could thwart another villain? No. He would engage with him in an episodic manner; or, Mad Hatter’s antics would tie into the main story arc leading the hero to the next piece of the puzzle. I guess you could argue that comic book aficionados are afforded the same level of freedom - as they don’t have to read every Bat book – but in the context of a self-contained adventure, this doesn’t sit well with me. The fact that you can abstain from some of these encounters altogether annoys me to no end. Not that I’m going to, but the Batman I know wouldn’t let any evil go unpunished. 
So, you're going to let him go?

I’m not saying that Bats couldn’t prioritize either, but as far as the writing in the comic book goes, he often doesn’t have to. He’d be able to call on Robin, Nightwing and a great many other allies if the number of opponents became too great. Batman: Hush, Battle for the Cowl, hell, even Superman/Batman show that anyone wearing the cape and cowl can play nice with others. The Batman in Arkham City almost resents the offer of assistance, and his partners aren’t too charming either. Videogame Robin matches the hero in terms of broodiness while Nightwing is unforgivably-silent in the expensive Nightwing Challenge Pack DLC. Sure, Catwoman is there to provide a different perspective, but the over-sexed interpretation of Selina Kyle is hard to take seriously.  
The lack of other voices in Arkham City feels like a real missed opportunity. It’s about time Rocksteady got a little more heroic with its DLC strategy and offered some story, instead of all this throwaway score attack nonsense. Dick Grayson is one of my favourite characters: you could have at least given him some purpose, if not some personality.  

Please! Say something!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the game, and it is an amazing – if not, flawed – second effort from the developer. I just wish there was a little less freedom in this game. Batman can’t fart around looking for collectibles when there’s evil afoot! 

Am I out of line here? How have you enjoyed your experience with Arkham City?

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