Batman: Arkham Knight looks to have everything a gamer could want: sleek graphics, an incredible voice cast, hard-hitting combat and – oh yeah – a Batmobile that has a bigger arsenal than some entire countries.
While that all seems great on paper, why does something feel off about the most anticipated video game of the year?
Well, in spite of featuring everything fans could ever want in a Batman game, Arkham Knight doesn't really seem to feel like a Batman game.
Rocksteady has made very few missteps with the world of Batman so far — but with Arkham Knight on the horizon, and years of hype leading up to it, there are a couple things that are concerning as the studio gets ready to finish the trilogy this June.
Since When Does Batman Need A Tank?
Fans have been clamoring for the Batmobile to be playable in a Rocksteady game since it made a brief cameo in Arkham Asylum. It's a vital part of the Caped Crusader's comic book lineage, so gamers naturally want to hop in the cockpit and cruise around Gotham with reckless abandon.
So of course the choice to make the Batmobile drivable in Arkham Knight was seen as the obvious next move for the series. But instead of giving the Dark Knight a fancy ride to get from point A to point B, Rocksteady turned the Batmobile into a glorified tank with enough firepower to reduce the city to rubble.
How is it that Batman could balk at the idea of using a handgun against criminals — but would be completely comfortable slapping multiple rocket launchers and machine guns onto his nuclear-powered car to quell crime?
This is something more in line with Halo or Twisted Metal; it has no place in the moody, methodical world Rocksteady built in Arkham Asylum. Sure, Rocksteady has reasoned that Batman only uses rockets and miniguns against unmanned drones and non-lethal weapons against human opponents — but that really just smacks of a cop-out to me.
These games are all about counter-based combat, stealth and detective skills working harmoniously to bring Batman's world to life; they're not about speeding around Gotham in a WMD on wheels, blowing up the city he's supposed to protect. It's the first time in the Arkham series that something just hasn't felt authentic to Bruce Wayne's world, and unfortunately, it wouldn't be the last time.
The Heroes We Wanted (But Not How We Need Them)
Another feature fans have been calling for (notice a trend here?) is the ability to play as Batman's various sidekicks. While Robin and Catwoman were playable in Arkham City, their adventures took place on the fringe of the main story as DLC. In Arkham Knight, the members of the Bat-Family finally join the fray head-on, as they can be controlled on the fly during the game's combat.
Weirdly enough, though, according to hands-on previews of the game, these side characters disappear right when the combat is over. I'm sure there's a story-based reason for this, but again — instead of being naturally introduced into the game, the Bat-Family seems to be just another gameplay mechanic to make Arkham Knight bigger than the games that came before. Is that what fans really want — Nightwing just to exist to pull off some flashy combos with Batman? No solo missions of his own?
This might all make complete sense in the final game, but on the surface, it makes Arkham Knight seem more like –dare we say – a video game, instead of an authentic Batman experience.
The Curse Of The Third
Pulling off the last act in a trilogy is the hardest thing to do in any medium — after all, for every Return of the King, there are a dozen Godfather IIIs. Maybe that's why I've been questioning so many aspects of Arkham Knight recently. It could be that the four-year wait between Arkham City and Arkham Knight has created such a level of anticipation that the anxiety of the homestretch is starting to kick in.
Maybe I'll learn to love this new Tankmobile, and perhaps the Bat-Family really will add some much-needed variety to the Arkham combat formula. Or maybe Arkham Knight will be just another example of a studio losing focus on its roots by putting an emphasis on bigger instead of better. We'll know for sure if Rocksteady sticks the landing in just under a month.
Batman: Arkham Knight hits stores on June 23.