No one was more disappointed in the 2015 release of “Batman: Arkham Knight” than me.
Especially since I had already bought the season pass which amounted to an extra ten minutes of gameplay with characters that refused to be fleshed out in scenarios that would have been so much more fun if they hadn’t been tacked onto the end of “Arkham Knight” like a sad afterthought.
In my driving games article, I talked about the difficult driving controls and the convoluted gameplay mechanics that had been introduced to incorporate the Batmobile into all levels.
For this blog, I was originally going to post a two-minute video of me driving
through around Gotham to illustrate my point, but as I mentioned last week, I think it’s more productive to talk about what we do like about video games rather than complaining about what we don’t.
That being said, I have to address the dead Robin in the room.
To all the comic book junkies that may or may not be reading this, I have to say that while Jason Todd wasn’t my favorite Robin – photographer/stalker Tim Drake takes the number one spot over plucky Dick Grayson and homicidal Damian Wayne – he was an interesting character to be sure.
However, I think the best thing DC may have done for his character was kill him off because they allowed him to come back with a vengeance as Red Hood, the scourge of Gotham’s underbelly, a little bit of an anti-hero who’s not afraid to kill to get what he wants.
In “Arkham Knight” the story of Jason Todd is a little different in that he isn’t killed and resurrected via Lazarus Pit. Instead, he’s tortured and fake-killed off by the Joker, before being brought back as the Arkham Knight, a bat-like villain with a grudge the size of Gotham City.
Part of my problem with this rendition of Jason, is that it left no room for surprises as far as the plot of “Arkham Knight” was concerned. When word got out about the Red Hood DLC, any lingering questions about who the Arkham Knight was and what he wanted with Gotham’s caped crusader vanished in a puff of Batman’s smoke pellets.
Because Rocksteady waited so long to “reveal” the Knight’s identity – almost half a game too long – the impact of his character was left wanting and all his earlier actions came off as bratty and incoherent.
Another thing about the game I really did not like was its treatment of women.
Denny Connolly on Gamerant.com hit the nail on the head when he said that nearly all the women of the game were treated as damsel-in-distress type characters, something that sets Rocksteady apart following the revival of Lara Croft, and not at all in a good way.
From Poison Ivy to Catwoman, nearly all the women of the game were thrown in various distressed situations with Batman acting as the white dark knight in shining armor.
What makes this so sad is that there was so much potential for bad-ass female representation. Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Barbara Gordon, all of them had the potential for greatness, but instead of the royal treatment they deserved, we were given a few cut scenes and some DLC content that amounted to poor character and female representation.
The worst, by far, was the game’s treatment of Barbara Gordon as Oracle. In reviving the controversial comic arc in which the Joker shoots her and relegates her from Batgirl to wheelchair-bound paraplegic, Rocksteady did not do their game any favors.
In the comics, Oracle is a member of the elite female team Birds of Prey, an extension of the Bat-family and a set of awesome crime-fighters in their own right.
But in “Arkham Knight,” Oracle is merely a tool to further male angst, something I think we could all do without.
She spends nearly the entire game captured by the Knight and her supposed “death” by suicide only increases Bruce’s man-pain to near staggering levels.
However, I have to give credit where credit is due. The Batman/Joker dynamic really came to fruition in this game with the Clown Prince’s death in “City” and the merging of his consciousness with Batman’s at the beginning of “Knight.”
His deliberately crazy dialogue, interjecting conversations and general hanging-about was probably the most compelling part of “Arkham Knight” and playing from his perspective towards the end was the most fun I had in the entire game.
So while I could say a lot more about what was wrong with “Arkham Knight,” I’d rather end this post on something Rocksteady did right, a positive note that gamers can point to when we talk about what else we might want from future video games.
Next week, I finish off my own Arkham trilogy with an open letter to Rocksteady and a proposal for a Wonder Woman video game.
For a more comprehensive look at what “Arkham Knight” did wrong, read Paul Tamburro’s post on Craveonline.com.
So game on, caped crusaders, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.