SIONR: Batman: Arkham Knight’s Third Act

I just did a review, and to do that review, I wanted to be as objective as I could.  That’s only fair.  But now I get a chance to be unobjective, and that is what I want to be, because I am SO annoyed at this game.  After how good Arkham City was, having dark and bittersweet elements that actually added so much character to everyone involved in the story, this feels like the ultimate slap in the face.  I’m about to spoil the shit out of the third act of this game, by the way, so if you are so eager to see it for yourself, don’t read on.  Fuck this game.

For starters, the reveal of the Arkham Knight was such a let-down!  It didn’t help that they basically made it clear who he was going to be earlier.  I mean, showing his entire story with the Joker?!  Come on!  Not to mention, the Red Hood story’s been done!  Why take all this potential with a NEW character and then just flush it down the fucking drain with an old one?!  You could have had Damian Wayne, or Anarky.  Part of me was hoping to see Anarky again in this game.  There were so many interesting twists that could have been done with this character.  Have some cool backstory.  But no.  Instead, they go the cliche route.  It was almost too much to stomach.  My interest in this game died the instant I saw that the Knight was revealed to be Jason Todd.  All that wasted potential.

Speaking of – why does nothing bad happen in this game?!  Am I the only one who is frustrated?!  Everything turns out okay!  Batman saves the day!  Sure, his identity is revealed, but that’s alright!  Not one person has a problem with it.  Because he sure is such a hero, isn’t he?!  Ugh!  First, Oracle’s alive!  But uh-oh, Robin was kidnapped!  I wonder what will happen to him?  It’s such a fucking mystery.  Then, they have this bit where they go into Bruce’s mind and you see his final struggle with the Joker.  Because that isn’t old hat at all.  For real, it was like the final showdown between the Dark Prince and the Prince in Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones.  I hated that ending too.  Is there a single game that is willing to bump up the darkness?  Is there a single game that is willing to admit that sometimes not everything turns out okay?  I wouldn’t be so mad right now if it weren’t for the fact that the entire fucking game basically just goes – don’t you worry, audience.  You’re Batman.  Batman never loses in any way.  Except in that last game, where he actually lost in a lot of ways.  Let’s pretend that didn’t happen!  Perhaps I should have seen it with the game’s marketing.  That whole “Be the Bat” crap.  Annoying…

Perhaps you think that I’m overthinking this.  But the last game did this so well!  It showed that there was darkness to this character.  Batman had some qualities about himself that were bad, and he was willing to do bad things to achieve his goals.  He had a dark kind of kinship with the Joker, where, in his final moments, the two share a joke.  That was good!  This was not.  This was the ultimate – don’t worry, everybody.  We won’t be going back there again.  Bittersweet?  This is the end of the franchise!  We have to end on a high note, right?!  You an end on a high note, yet still have the ending at least acknowledge that shit can happen.  But nobody died.  Nobody even has lasting damage.  The Arkham Knight even becomes a good guy.  Hooray!

My expectations were so high with this game.  The final game, where Scarecrow invites everybody to a meeting..  I expected this game to have the full monty of cast.  Show us some old favorites, and introduce us to new people.  It would be bigger, more dangerous.

Which brings me to my last problem – why the fuck is the Challenge Mode gone?!  That is such bullshit!  I could honestly weather how bad this game is, if I at least had that.  If I had the Challenge Mode, where I could have some fights and whatnot.  I downloaded the Harley Quinn and Red Hood DLC, and part of me thought that that would mean that we get to see them in the Challenge Mode.  I was even more excited when I saw that Red Hood has guns!  I can kill people?!  Sign me up!  A cool look and everything, this was an awesome character!  So why can’t I play with him and Harley in Challenge Mode?!  Why on Earth was something that basic not in your fucking game?!  Oh, right, so you could have “AR Simulations”, which let you drive around with the Batmobile and other dumb shit.  All the wasted potential.

This game’s story is bad, and thanks to the lack of Challenge Mode, the replayability is next to nil.  If you like the way all this turned out, fine.  Good on you.  For real, like what you do and don’t let naysayers like me bother you.  But I am so disappointed.  So much about this game disappointed me, and now it’s too late.  Fuck it.  I’ll have this vision of the perfect game in the back of my mind, and part of me will always hope that, someday, I’ll see it.

Until next time, a quote,

“Well, here’s the thing. Answers don’t give you everlasting satisfaction, sometimes you have to brace yourself for disappointment. Now think about it. Imagine your favorite TV show. You’ve been through it all. The ups, the downs, the crazy coincidences, and then: BANG! They tell you what it’s all about. Would you be happy? Does it make sense? How come it all ended in a church?”  -Joker, Batman: Arkham City

Peace out,

Maverick

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Lucien’s Review: Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman Arkham KnightTwo things to clear up before we get too far into this.  First, I got this game on console, so all that stuff with the bullshit on PC, I didn’t have to deal with that.  I am judging this game based on what I have seen and played.  Take that for whatever you will.  Second, I am a story-seeker with games.  A good story is the thing that hooks me.  It can make or break a game for me.  I want you to keep that in mind when I talk about this game, because it will help you understand the score I have given it.

When I first played Arkham Asylum, I was enraptured.  So many cool characters!  Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy reprising their iconic roles!  Everything was so perfect!  Well, okay, there were some hiccups along the way.  Gameplay elements that didn’t work so great.  Oh, and some of the boss fights were a touch predictable.  But if you can handle that, then you were set.  It was the first game of its kind.  A stealth superhero game that wasn’t crap.  In a league all its own.  Then came Arkham City.  If the first game was good, this game was SO much better!  It set the standard for any and all superhero games that I will EVER see.  Ever!  And you know what, I actually liked Arkham Origins too.  It wasn’t as great as the game before it, but it was still a solid experience.  A lot of that was thanks to Troy Baker taking the reigns as the Joker.  He owned that role in a way that only he could.  Was it a lot like the last game?  Yes, but it was still solid.

My expectations for the final game in the franchise were beyond sky-high.  I wanted this game to be the grand finale!  I wanted it to have the whole cast returning to cause trouble, along with some new people.  I wanted to see some of my favorites, like Anarky.  Maybe they could FINALLY give Harley Quinn a role in the game where she isn’t played like a joke.  Where her role isn’t something pathetically stupid.  The trailers came out, and they have this character – the Arkham Knight!  He looks cool.  He kicks Batman’s ass.  My expectations were through the roof!  And…this game disappointed in a lot of ways.  It’s a good game, don’t get me wrong, but this is NOT the game I wanted.  Not even close.

But let’s talk about what this game gets right.  The visuals are a cut above the rest.  It truly looks next-gen, in places.  There were some set-piece moments that had my jaw on the floor.  It’s not Bloodborne levels of beauty, but it’s impressive all the same.  This game will get you, on visual fidelity alone.

Then there’s the voice acting.  This game brought some A-list cast, even if SO many of them are under-utilized.  They didn’t get Arleen Sorkin to reprise her role as Harley Quinn, but you know what, I’m cool with that.  The person they got wasn’t quite as annoying as in Arkham City.  They even brought back a cast member who I thought was gone, and had said that he was out of the series.  That was a bit of a shock.  At first, I thought it was a reveal too soon.  But it grew on me after a while.  That game has a great cast, and it is fun to hear them doing their iconic roles.

The stuff controlling the Batmobile is…pretty cool, for the most part.  But then there is this one area, close to the end of this game, where that car is the biggest pain in the fucking ass that has ever been.  No joke, I lost my shit with that vehicle more than once.  It gets very frustrating.  However, when it is out in the open, and they give you the ability to travel freely, it is cool.

Now, on to what you all are probably waiting for, if you like reading negative material.  The problems.  This is gonna get a little long.  If you are expecting me to rip into this game, don’t hold your breath.  I will say that I am very disappointed.  But it is still a fun game.  This game makes me think back to Arkham Origins.  It’s fun, but fun to a point..  In fact, so much of this game reminds me of that one.  Did the people who made it come on board this team?

I was expecting this game to be so much bigger and better than the last!  The explorable area in this game was less than Origins!  I shit you not!  Or maybe it just seemed that way, with the break-neck speeds of the Batmobile.  Still, I expected to have all of Gotham as my playground.  For this game taking up over 50 gigs on my PS4, I figured that I was going to have the city as my toybox to play with.  A smaller area wouldn’t be so bad, if there was more to do there.  But there wasn’t  There just wasn’t!  It is so annoying how little there was to do here.  Which brings me to my second problem…

This game was so lacking in characters! When Poison Ivy said that Scarecrow had a meeting and everyone was there, I expected this game’s cast to be fucking epic!  But it’s not!  That’s so frustrating, to me.  I was hoping that maybe we could see some new characters.  Like Babydoll or Ventriloquist. Or Great White Shark.  Part of me was really hoping that the Arkham Knight was Anarky.  A little older, and more seasoned.  He learned from his beating and then came back, more determined than ever.  There were so many places that this game could have shined in every way, but it just plain didn’t.  Every piece of great opportunity was wasted.  Or hell, maybe it will be in that stupid fucking Season Pass.  I hate that crap.  You have to pay more money to get the whole game.  That’s bullshit.

Oh, and get this – no more Challenge Mode!  What the fuck?!  You bring in Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin, Harley Quinn and even Red Hood into this game!  Why is there no Challenge Mode to play with them?!  That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.  One of my biggest fun points in Arkham City was the Challenge Mode, and seeing how well I could do.  Believe it or not, Robin was my favorite character to play in those.  Nightwing was a close second.  With the cool bits with Harley and Red Hood, they made combat with them feel cool!  Why on Earth am I not seeing more of them?!  Why make their parts in the game so miniscule?!  Why does this game feel half done?!

Speaking of half done, I won’t spoil who the Arkham Knight is, but the reveal of that character was so awful!  I saw it coming from a mile away!  The game even goes out of it’s way to pretty much have a cutscene where you might as well have a giant light saying, “he’s the villain!”  This was so uninspired!  They had some moments of good build-up for this character.  There is this great cutscene where the Knight and the Bat are going mono-a-mono, seeming to be evenly matched, and when Batman thinks he is getting the upper hand, he asks in a way that seems both furious and desperate, “who are you?!”  But this reveal was terrible.  I won’t spoil it, for the people who do want to know, but if you pay attention to the plot, it literally has a spotlight when it wants you to know who this guy is.  Just another chance for something creative, where it totally goes to shit.  What’s more, it feels like riffing on something else.  A DC animated film that I think is pretty awesome.  I wonder if they got the same guy to reprise his role.  Huh.

What was I hoping for with this character?  I was hoping that they would have something like in Metal Gear Solid 4, where you return to Shadow Moses.  After he’s beaten Scarecrow, and he’s got almost nothing left, he gets a last message from the Arkham Knight, telling him to go to the Asylum, and that’s where they finish it.  Both of them are beaten and broken.  They kick the shit out of each other, and that’s when Batman finally finds out who this guy is.  You have the Bat coming to terms with just how awful it all is, and having to face of who he has become.  Maybe give Harley a chance for some cruel revenge.  Like after everything is sorted, she shows up and puts a bullet through Batman’s chest.  Doesn’t that sound intense?!

In fact, this game goes so far out of its way to not have any legitimate darkness!  They hint at dark things, but it all works out in the end.  Oh boy!  That’s so wonderful!  Isn’t that just great?!  Because dark elements that work out in bittersweet ways might make the story more engaging.  Can’t have that!  This is a superhero power fantasy!  And we all know that in those, the hero always wins and nothing ever truly happens to cause him to maybe grow as a person.  Oh, sure, in the previous game, the city was falling apart, your girl was dead and the closest thing you had to a friend was in your arms as you left the theater.  But that’s was just a fluke!  Now we’re back to formula!

Let me say again – do not take this as me thinking that this is a terrible game.  All things considered, it’s not.  But it isn’t the game I was hoping for.  Not even close.  After how dark and serious the previous game got, with all the elements in it, and even a great twist at the end, I was hoping that more would come from it.  Instead, this game was a step backwards.  And now the franchise is done.  What a pity.  But for the best, I guess.  They could only make it worst from here.  Maybe their next game will be better

Final Verdict
6 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: Arkham Knight Season Pass? Are You Kidding?!

I’m starting to think that gaming needs to just go off a cliff, for a while.  I mean, what the fuck?!  It seems like every major gaming company, these days, is doing the same thing.  The endless nickel and dime DLC just bugs me, to death!  I mean, what’s the point of making a good game and polishing it to a mirror shine if you are just going to go and then charge us even more!  Come on, Rocksteady!  You’re better than this!  I know you are!  Let’s talk about this…

Rocksteady had recently announced that their new game, Batman: Arkham Knight, is going to have a Season Pass.  It costs and additional $40, and it gives you thinks like new villains!  Oh, and let’s not forget – skins for the Batmobile.  Really?  We’re paying you $60 for this game, and you want an additional $40 for the Season Pass.  You want gamers to spend $100 to get the complete package of your fucking game.  Do I have that right?  This isn’t like when you added characters like Nightwing to the Challenge Mode.  That was $5.  For $5, you could get new characters, if you wanted them.  You could get skins for Batman.  Oh, and there was that AWFUL “Harley Quinn’s Revenge” DLC for $15.  But it was what we wanted, when we wanted.  Plus, it wasn’t stuff that should be in the fucking story, like villains!  I have this bad feeling that this game is going to be devoid of side-quests, unless you have that stupid fucking Season Pass.  If that is the case, then I am going to ream that game so hard in a review.  I am going to give it the worst score that has ever been.  If the Riddler content that I have seen in trailers isn’t in the game, because I don’t have that Season Pass, then I am DONE with you, Rocksteady!  I am fucking done!

I have written two articles for Gambitcon about the nickel and diming DLC trend that is going on.  The first covered EVOLVE and the absolutely insane levels of DLC they had.  The second covered the stupidity with Mortal Kombat X and what I fear is going to be the case with the new Star Wars: Battlefront.  In both articles, I had a thought, and now that I am seeing this with Arkham Knight, it’s kind of putting this thought into clarity for me.

See, I wish that I had gotten some business or accounting education, because then I would be able to crunch the numbers and answer a pretty crucial question.  That question is – is video game development now so expensive that, to keep companies financially solvent, they have to milk their players with shit like this?  I’ve been thinking about this for a while.  Ever since the PS4 was revealed, we either get games with a fuck-ton of glitches, or a fuck-ton of DLC.  It’s no surprise when EA does it.  They are a greedy little worm.  Though, people are kind of leaving them.  They are following the path that Capcom blazed not too long ago.  And look what happened to them.  They went bankrupt.  AAA companies won’t take risks, because the fact is that if they make a bet on a new IP, and it doesn’t pan out, their company could go belly-up.  That’s the point that we’ve gotten to.  I think that the answer to my question is – yes.  Without the constantly influx of capital, gaming companies like Rocksteady will go out of business.  That fact depresses me to no end.

Because that means that the AAA market is going to crash.  Soon.  Within the next couple years.  Players are wising up and not wanting to get involved with this kind of business practice anymore.  Times are tough and we have to spend our money wisely.  Why would we buy a product that we have to pay around or over $100 to get the complete game?  That’s ridiculous.  What’s more, we shouldn’t be expected to.  We are giving these companies $60 for a game!  For that amount of money, we should be given the complete game.  Okay, maybe you have some cheap DLC, like an additional character in Challenge Mode or some $1.99 skins DLC.  I might look into that, later on.  But the game still needs to have its meat.  The game needs to be a full game.  We gave you $60.  You owe us that much!  If we are paying you money, it is only fair that we get a complete product.

That may not be enough, though.  For these companies, it may not be enough to get $60 for a game that they know people want.  It may be that they need vastly larger sums of money.  If that is the case, then gaming is dead, and we’re just waiting for the final bell to toll, letting us know that the end has come.  Hints are in the air that Konami is going to close their gaming shop.  Now that Kojima was fired, it looks like they are going to invest in their pachinko and slot machine market.  It’s surprisingly big.  They might see the writing on the wall.

I am nervous, people.  My whole life, gaming was a past-time.  I am a console gamer, and the time of the consoles may come to an end, once the AAA companies crash.  It’s very upsetting.  But there may be hope.  Perhaps, once the AAA market crashes, we can see the mid-level game market come back.  Where there can be innovative ideas.  Maybe we can see that again.  There is hope.  I am glad for that.  We could use some hope.  Spirits know, there never seems to be much, these days.  But I guess we’ll wait and see.

Until next time, a quote,

“Happiness isn’t enough for me.  I demand euphoria!”  – Calvin, Calvin and Hobbes

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR/L: Batman: Arkham Knight Might Suck (but I hope not)

Up-front, I love the Arkham games.  They finally gave me a video game that made me feel like the Bat.  I even love Origins, which has gotten shit on by a ton of people.  Though, I admit, the reason I love it is Troy Baker’s performance as the Joker.  He nailed it so flawlessly that it did Mark Hamill’s Joker proud.  For real, he took all his cues from that, and it was so awesome.  It was a great introduction.  But, the best game in the franchise, to date, is Arkham City.  For real, don’t you say it’s Arkham Asylum.  You’re an idiot!  Arkham City had it all.  It had great villains, cool locations, sick boss fights and a story that was both dark and engaging.  It really stripped away some of the flim-flam of Batman and showed us that he really is a common thug, which is an interesting perspective to take.  Going balls-to-the-wall with that game took guts, and Rocksteady did it almost perfectly.

When I saw the debut trailer for Batman: Arkham Knight, I ain’t gonna lie, I was both confused and a little worried.  For starters, it had this monologue that I’m assuming is Thomas Wayne, giving his last will and testament to Bruce.  It makes it sound all important, and there are neat little jabs that make it sound like he would not approve of his son’s double-life as Batman.  But then it becomes a very inspiration and action-packed trailer that makes this game look like it is just going to be a lot of ass-kicking.  That bothers me for a couple reasons.

The first is that the Arkham games have not been especially uplifting.  For real, Arkham City had an unbelievably bitter-sweet ending (and I don’t count Harley’s Revenge.  That was terrible and as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t exist), with Batman’s girlfriend, Talia Al Ghul getting shot and killed, which, since her father is dead, probably means that the League of Assassins is dead.  You don’t know if Clayface lived or died.  The Joker unleashed a plague with his blood on the city (since I don’t count Harley’s Revenge as a thing, I don’t see it as plot-conveniently cured) and potentially killed dozens.  Dozens upon dozens of criminals dead within Arkham City.  And most importantly – the closest thing that Batman will ever have to a human connection, the Joker, is dead.  I am sure that his death hurts, because as the Joker pointed out – they have been trying to kill each other for so long that, if you take that away, what do they have?  Not much, as far as I can see.  Arkham City ended with Batman carrying the Joker’s corpse out of the theater and laying him on a police car, then leaving, without saying a word.  I have no doubt that the death of his greatest foe left its mark on him.  This kind of bittersweet darkness can’t just be ignored.  Not without the narrative sucking ass.  Oh, and I forgot – Hush was seen having made himself out to be a perfect copy of Bruce Wayne, telling him that he is going to be getting revenge on his former friend in a very ugly way.

The second reason is that these games were all about the darker aspects of the worth of Batman.  It never showed the carnage and gore, but you heard NPCs and read log entries about just how vicious and brutal the world of these games was.  To have a debut trailer for this franchise be so uplifting and almost hopeful, it’s a little off-putting, and leaves me wondering if Rocksteady is just going to spoon-feed what they think the audience wants to end this.  Fuck that!  I want this game to be filled with the dark and creepy goodness that made the other games so damn nice to play.

So, what would I like to see?  I have a rough sketch of what I hope this game is.  First, it’s been a LONG time since the events of Arkham City.  With the Joker dead, things have gotten a lot better in Gotham.  The police are finally able to step up in a way they couldn’t before.  Which is good, because the Bat isn’t quite the badass he used to be.  He’s still doing his job and fighting crime, but his heart just isn’t in it the way it used to be.  The death of the Joker still haunts him, and that’s not all.  There was a pretty awesome screenshot of someone in a Batman-like suit that looks pretty cool (and hopefully leads to a sick bossfight, like Deathstroke).  Some are speculating that it’s Damian Wayne.  I could get onboard with that.  Not to mention – what has Hush been doing.  He wasn’t about to let Wayne go, after all.

However, Batman’s repose is broken when Scarecrow and a number of other villains finally see that if they don’t take this chance to get their revenge on the Bat, they may not get another.  The bulk of the rogue’s gallery of Batman come to make the most of one last night.  One last score that will end it once and for all.  Meanwhile, other forces are at work.  Other villains who are plotting things for Batman, such as whoever this dude in the ninja-Batman suit is.  Forces are gathering as Bruce has to finally face down the end of his time in the mask.  So much of what he loved is lost.  Now, a choice has to be made.  Does he keep doing what he is, or does he hang up the cape and cowl, before her loses it.  Maybe have him losing control, letting inner violence that has been contained for years finally start to seep out.  That would be a nice little way for the Joker to get the last laugh, wouldn’t it?

Like I said, I love these games.  I am going to be playing this one, because I want to see how the franchise ends.  I just hope it does what they have built justice, instead of sucking.  Let me know what you think about it all.

Until next time, a quote,

“Sometimes I wonder if all this will end with one of us looking down at the other’s corpse, trying to work out what to do next!”  -The Joker, Batman: Arkham City

Peace out,

Maverick