This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Batman: Arkham Knight.
In case you’ve been spending the last century sitting at the bottom of the Challenger Deep with a really, really interesting book, Batman is a popular superhero with the power of infinite money, with which he bought a suit of armor for punching people who don’t have suits of armor. He’s also an incredibly boring asshole with no hobbies, who compensates for this fact by ensuring that no one other than himself gets to do anything interesting. “No really, fully equipped police force, it’s too dangerous for you out there! Just leave it to me, my ridiculous car and my death wish.” If Batman’s pointy ears represented his martyr complex, they would get caught in power lines.
In Batman: Arkham Knight, our hero must face his deadliest foe yet: a 30fps frame rate cap. The PC master race started sharpening their carbon fiber knives after a PC port that has been most charitably described as a face full of piss on a hot summer’s day limped through the castle gates. I wouldn’t know about that - I played the console version, because I recall the Arkham Origins PC port being dodgy as well, and I too possess a superpower: the power to remember things! Such as the fact that my new game Hatfall is out and you can play it now, hip-hip hooray, it’s great!
Arkham Knight is the final installment of the Batman Arkham Trilogy (and it does refer to itself as a trilogy, so I guess Arkham Origins is officially the red-headed stepchild.) A welcome final installment indeed! Not that it’s been a bad series, it’s just done all it can do now, and the story of Arkham Knight is as worn out and held together with pins as the bones of most of Gotham City’s thugs at this point.
The problem with superhero movies is that they only have three plots:
- Villain endangers hero's loved one,
- Hero faces villain who is dark reflection of themselves,
- Villain threatens to cover a city in gas that will make everyone as petty as they are.
Arkham Knight goes through all three multiple times with varying degrees of disconnect and all messily layering over each other like an orgy in a poorly made lasagna.
Scarecrow is doing the gas-spreading thing, but he weirdly obligingly gives everyone a few weeks’ notice, so all the normal people evacuate Gotham before the game starts, leaving him to prepare a gas attack upon a mostly deserted city whose remaining population consists largely of his own men. Christ knows how the henchman temp agency meets demand in Gotham city!
But Batman is pledged to defend Gotham and he’s not gonna stop just ‘cause there’s no one in it except enemy thugs, for even they deserve a second chance (as well as a shattered vertebrae or two).
"Batman’s pledge to defend the helpless innocents who have all already fucked off" is an unavoidable plot hole, since a sequel demands a bigger sandbox and a bigger sandbox demands better transportation, hence Batmobile! And we couldn’t have had a Batmobile while the streets were littered with clueless window shoppers hoping to get through the day without having their pelvic bones shattered by an ill-judged power-slide.
The Batmobile is the new gameplay mechanic demanded by innovation. Now all we need is for the word ‘Zok’ to appear when we punch someone and we'll finally have the truly complete Batman experience. The problem is that the old hookshot/hang-glider combo was, and still is, perfectly adequate for getting around, and is handy for surveying the city for maliciously unbroken spines. So the game ends up having to force us to use the Batmobile and that’s largely the titular Arkham Knight’s job.
The Arkham Knight, besides being a classic case of coming up with the name before the concept, is a militia leader who fills the streets with unmanned tanks for you to blow up. He’s secretly a figure from Batman’s past who knows all his tricks, but can’t be that smart, 'cause if he was, he’d sellotape a single live person to one of the seventy million drones Batman blows up without a second thought, after which he’d have to run off and cry on a gargoyle for the rest of his fucking life.
Even before release I thought it was weird that a series about being sneaky and clever and unexpectedly jumping on people should introduce demolition derbies as a central mechanic, and having to smash up a load of Tonka toys every now and again feels more like an interlude than a natural addition to the sneaky punchy gameplay; which remains perfectly fine. Bordering on slightly overloaded with gadgets that I largely forget about as long as the hookshot still works. The only major thing added to that aspect is the ability to instantly take down up to five lads at once, which is an innovative addition to gameplay if holding down the fast-forward button is an innovative way to watch films. Certainly not as innovative as - Hatfall! The new Zero Punctuation game for browser and tablets by me, pluggo pluggo etc.
So, Scarecrow and Arkham Knight have joined forces to destroy Batman, and it seems that the method they have chosen to do so is to bore him to death! What the fuck happened to the Scarecrow who was the highlight of the first game, that cackling energetic genuinely scary motherfucker, who’d secretly slip you fear gas so you only knew he was around 'cause all the chandeliers started looking like your father’s willy. He was a guy who acted! The Scarecrow in this game is a guy who just talks in a droning monotone, so whenever it’s his turn to have to go on the citywide PA system, I think for a moment it accidentally got tuned to the shipping forecast. They turned him into Jerry Generic, the standard super villain, and he looks like exactly like Skeletor from the Masters of the Universe film.
Meanwhile, the Arkham Knight does his bit by flooding the game with interminable tedious side-missions, taking down militia strongholds which usually entails beating up yet another group of identical toss-buckets. The other side mission paths with colourful villains are more fun, but mostly have about three to six missions in total, whereas there are fucking forty-odd militia strongholds of varying types! I wouldn’t mind, but you need to do a minimum of all this bollocks to get the final ending! It’s like withholding the last few pages of a book until the reader has eaten all of the previous ones. There is, however, a surprise third main villain, who I won’t spoil but at least puts the colour back in the game's cheeks, so Arkham Knight does have its moments. Certainly better than Origins and is at worst still fun enough. It should definitely be the last one, because it’s about 40% using up the last of the series’ good ideas and 60% pissing about.
And on a final note, what is it with this game and female characters? Now, I know that the number of games that don’t piss off some gender activist or another can be counted on the fingers of a retired bomb disposal expert, but even I felt something was off. Catwoman spends the whole game locked in a basement wearing a slave collar waiting for Batman to come take her for walkies. And without wishing to spoil, all the major ladies have a particularly nasty time of it. Then again, it’s nasty all over; the men aren’t exactly having a jolly locker room towel-flicking contest. You know what, forget I said anything. I ain’t tea-bagging this beehive any further - I’m gonna go play Hatfall instead, check it out!
Just too nice a guy: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
So if Batman has to name all his shit the bat-something then what does he call his batteries
To the commentmobile
Hey, have you ever wanted to be me? (No obviously not.) Well, have you ever wanted to be me without the massive personality defects and only capable of moving from side to side like a brain-damaged crab?
Well then play Hatfall, the official Zero Punctuation game for browsers and tablets designed by me and without a doubt the greatest interactive hat putting-on simulator called Hatfall ever devised by man!