I want to talk about Batman: Arkham Knight so I’m stealing an idea from John Wick. Here’s how he put it:
I write reviews using e-prime, a linguistical tool that excludes all uses of the verb “to be.” In other words, I can’t say “the movie is bad” or “the plot is confusing” or anything like that. I put this limitation on myself because I feel most reviewers would be out of a job if they couldn’t utilize that language. Instead of telling you whether or not the movie is good or bad, I just talk about my own reactions to it. My own highly subjective reactions that you evaluate on your own. Using e-prime also assists a writer in getting rid of a pesky little habit known as “passive voice.” If you want to learn how to write, I suggest you try it sometime.
Also, in reference to reviewers of any kind, I highly suggest you remain skeptical of anyone who makes a living criticizing the creative accomplishments of others.
I should have loved Batman: Arkham Knight. I loved Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. While I found Arkham Origins disappointing I let the change of developer take the blame. I also love the main villain of Arkham Knight. Scarecrow is my favorite Batman villain though, as my wife recently pointed out to me, I say the same thing about Mr. Freeze too. Still, I fucking love Scarecrow. I even love the secondary villain, but I’ll get back to him in a minute.
I need to take a minute to explain something. It took me awhile to get to Arkham Knight because of technological limitations. I needed to make a few upgrades to my computer to make even running the game an option for me. As a bonus I knew it helped to wait for a year of patches. I want to make it clear; my lack of interest didn’t keep me from this game.
I had a problem with Arkham Knight pretty early on. I call this problem “The Batmobile.” I don’t play a lot of racing or driving games but to me the Batmobile handled like a turd. Driving also killed the performance on my computer from the constant loading and weird graphical buffering issues. This made the large parts of the game requiring the Batmobile (a separate complaint) exceptionally tedious for me.
Bigger picture though, I didn’t feel as cool driving around as I did gliding. Jumping off building and flying around Gotham in Arkham City (and Origins) felt awesome. Taking a left turn in a tank… Eh. I’m Batman. I want to look down at Gotham from the sky, not up at the buildings from the streets.
Still, the story intrigued me. The Scarecrow gets treated like a serious threat so can we going to stop him this time? Who was this Arkham Knight character? (Except I already knew, avoiding the reveal for over a year proved impossible, but I’m playing along.) After all, Rocksteady made a big deal about him being a totally new and original character. Someone Batman had never met before…
Plus Scarecrow! The Scarecrow parts of Arkham Asylum are easily one of my favorite segments in the game. I excitedly expected a lot more of them. Except I never really got much out of Scarecrow. I spent most of the game dealing with the Arkham Knight and his cronies.
The game also had a new twist for me, something I didn’t think I would love as much as I did. Rocksteady brought back the Joker. Everything in the game dealing with the Joker, from the infected being locked up in the movie studio to seeing him sitting around randomly in Gotham, entertained the living hell out of me. In fact, when he gets resolved and stops popping up randomly I really missed him.
My biggest gripe with the game came from the ending. Actually, let me rephrase. From the endings. See, I finished the main story over the weekend but then the game tells you to complete some more of the Most Wanted (side) missions to unlock the “Knightfall Protocol.” I’m a Batfan so I knew what Knightfall meant which made me even more excited to see the end of the story.
I knocked out the last couple Most Wanted missions I needed to unlock Knightfall, hit the button, and watched the cutscene… Except to get the FULL ending I needed to 100% complete ALL of the Most Wanted Missions. Which I would have done if I found getting Riddler trophies a little less tedious.
I need to jump back though. The ending of the main story also irritated me. I feel like Rocksteady lied to everyone when, on the Arkham Knight, they said, “Completely original. Batman has not encountered him before, so this is a completely original design and role that the Arkham Knight brings.” Now, they telegraph the reveal so early (and I already knew before even picking up the game) I assumed they had some cool new twist on things. Except the Arkham Knight is an existing Batman character with a new name, and once you find out who’s under the mask… He just becomes the old character. I don’t know why they didn’t just use the old character’s name for the whole game. I didn’t need a big surprise twist.
Back to talking about Knightfall. The second part of the ending annoyed the hell out of me because now it feels like the game lied to me. The game told me to Complete X Most Wanted Missions. Except when I did the game suddenly says I didn’t do enough Most Wanted to see the FULL thing, so just go back and do the rest now.
If you want me to do ALL the Most Wanted missions, tell me to do all the missions. Don’t let me do most of them, dangle half a scene in front of me, and tell me to get back to it. Fuck that. Instead I did what I expect quite a few people did. I watched the ending on YouTube.
Seeing the complete ending pissed me off because Arkham Knight is the Swan Song for Rocksteady’s Batman series. Then instead of giving us an ending they shit out a big old “open to interpretation” turd on us.
Other parts of the story didn’t get the open to interpretation treatment. What happened to the Joker. What happened to Poison Ivy. What happened to Ra’s Al Ghul. What happened to Mr. Freeze. Throughout the whole god damn game they tell the final chapter for a ton of character stories, but the main story gets a bullshit “No one really knows what it means” treatment.
I don’t mean to say I didn’t have some great moments in Arkham Knight. I think they told a great story overall and I found some of the new twists on old ideas pretty damn fun. My problem comes in at the ratio of good to bad. I found every time I stumbled on something cool, I starting to expect some bullshit to follow it.
For example, the Arkham Stories DLC content let you play as other characters in their own mini-stories. I played through the Harley Quinn and Red Hood stories in about a half-hour. I didn’t like how linear they felt; fight a group of guys, do a predator room, fight a group of guys, do another predator room, fight a boss. While I found the plot lacking they did give me a taste for how well the game could handle other characters.
Then I started the Batgirl story. While it didn’t feel as linear as the Harley Quinn or Red Hood stories, I still didn’t care about the story. The plot didn’t hook me (Go save dad!) and having Robin show up in the first fight felt like a slap in the face. I never learned anything new about Batgirl. Plus Robin got to call all the shots, making Batgirl feel incompetent to me. I didn’t even finish the story. I didn’t even bother with the other Arkham Stories.
In fact, I think I’m just plain done with Arkham Knight. I completed Arkham Asylum 100% twice. I knocked out a 100% on Arkham City. While I didn’t get 100% of Arkham Origins, I’m willing to give it a pass because it came from a different developer.
I’m a bit disappointed I don’t want to get the 100% completion of Arkham Knight. When I finished Arkham City I hunted down all the Riddler Trophies because I wanted to squeeze as much Batman time out of the game as I could. With Arkham Knight I really don’t ever want to get back in the Batmobile again… and I really don’t have any desire to wring all the gameplay I can from it. I got enough. I’m full. Something neither Asylum or City did for me. Maybe that’s a good thing? I don’t think so. I think a game should leave me wanting more.
At least this paves the way for Telltale’s Batman since I don’t feel the need for more Rocksteady Batman in my life.