Batman Arkham Knight: Take my cash right now

Sok! Pow! Crack! Kazow!

OK, so the above words come from the Adam West version of Batman in the late 1960s (it was so camp but fun to watch: Oh, and let it be noted I watched it much later in life, not during the 1960s) but they’re so fitting for the announcement trailer of WB’s next Batman game, Arkham Knight – and man, am I shaking in my Batcave for this one to come out.

OK, so it’s only a cinematic trailer so we shouldn’t get all excited but damn, it’s hard not too when you get a glimpse of the caped crusader and all that’s going on in the 3 minute-something trailer. And the game’s coming from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City developers, Rocksteady. Yay!

The trailers got explosions, Penguin, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, (I think) a voice over from The Scarecrow telling Gotham City that this is its only warning,  and a contemplative Bruce Wayne (oh, there’s also a voice over reading out the last will and testament of Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, who hoped that  Bruce used his money and legacy to the benefit of Gotham City).

In a nice touch, the trailer has Thomas Wayne hoping that Bruce didn’t waste the money on fast cars, outrageous clothes and a destructive lifestyle – just as we see a glimpse of the Batmobile and a new-look Batsuit.  The Batmobile here is a pretty kick-ass Batmobile but it’s very reminiscent of the tumbler one in the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, and that’s not a bad thing.  THE BATMOBILE (calm down. Breathe, breathe).

The last Batman game, Origins, was, in my (semi) professional opinion pretty rubbish, if my memory serves me correctly.  It just didn’t stack up against Arkham Asylum and City – and not surprising. given that it was  made by a new studio created by WB while Rocksteady were secretly working on the next game in the franchise.

Well done, WB, well done, you kept this one quiet.

Back to the trailer, though: Woo-eeee it looks good. And did I mention that the Batmobile is in the game? And you get to drive it? I did? Oh, sorry.

And Batman Arkham Knight is being made for this current-generation only (that’s Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC). There’s not going to be versions for the PS3 or Xbox 360, and I think that’s a good thing. It means that Rocksteady can put all its effort in to creating good current-generation content rather than diluting it by having to make last-generation versions, too. More developers need to do that, actually.

So, Batman Arkham Knight is due out in October sometime. Time to start saving up some money, then.

Update number 1: I can’t believe I forgot to mention that Kevin Conroy, who really is the voice of Batman, makes a return as the Dark Knight in Arkham Knight, after being replaced by another voice actor in Arkham Origins. Yay for the return of Kevin Conroy.

Update number two: Here’s some more information I gleaned from Joystiq today. 

Lead AI and combat programmer Tim Hanagan told Game Informer that “at any given time, there are between three and four times the number of thugs active in Gotham City than there were in Arkham City,” and that larger riots in the game will have up to 50 characters wreaking havoc.

Arkham Knight is set one year after Arkham City, in which Batman’s foes have banded together to tear the Dark Knight’s attention away from a crumbling Gotham City. The single player-only game will also include an arch-villain created from scratch by Rocksteady and DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns. Rocksteady’s initial announcement focused on another big addition to the Arkham series: Players will get plenty of time in the driver’s seat of the Batmobile, which can be fetched at the press of a button, can handle the jumps and boosts expected of the more reckless drivers among us and will eject Batman out of his seat at times. Also back to voice characters is, Nolan North who will voice Penguin, Wally Wingert who will voice Riddler, Tara Strong will continue as Harley Quinn and Troy Baker will voice Two-Face again.

Time to be afraid of the dark: Batman Arkham Origins impressions

batman-arkham-origins-4Watching my teenage son play Batman Arkham Origins is an interesting study in how emotion comes to the fore while playing a video game..

One moment he’s smiling with glee as floats across a snowy Gotham city before glide kicking an unaware thug into a snow drift and acrobatically taking out the handful of thugs that have surrounded him, the next he’s cursing because his rapid pressing of the “b” button to stun a boss hasn’t worked and his Batman is slammed to the ground, knocking his health for a six.

The swing of emotion is quite fascinating to see: the highs of happiness when something has gone according to plan, the lows of frustration when a button press doesn’t do what it’s supposed to when it’s supposed to.

For me, Batman Arkham Origins is like that much of the way through.  I hit moments when I’m genuinely enthralled and captured by the story telling then completely frustrated. Generally the frustrated part is during the boss fights with the assassin’s that descend upon Gotham City, lured by the $50 million bounty on Batman’s head. DC characters that make an appearance include Copperhead, Shiva, Bane, Deathstroke, Firefly, Black Mask and The Joker. It’s Christmas Eve, too, so the city is in lockdown and quiet.

I’m confused as to why it’s called Origins, though, as the game stars a Batman who has been on the prowl for a couple of years so it’s not really an origin story where he’s a Bruce Wayne just coming to grips with the responsibility of being a masked vigilante. He’s already confident with his skills and knows what he’s capable of.

Batman Arkham Origins owes a gratitude of debt to Rocksteady’s Batman games. A gratitude of debt that should be accompanied by a large chocolate cake, a few sacks of nice wine and a signed “Thank you” note. Batman Arkham Origins sits firmly on the foundations established by Rocksteady and doesn’t stray far from the formula.

Perhaps that was to be expected, though: I guess new studio WB Montreal wasn’t going to reinvent the wheel when it came to the lucrative Batman franchise, but by deviating little from the tried and true means that Origins is a good game without being a spectacular one.

Visually, it looks little different from the other two Batman games, and Troy Baker does a great job channeling Mark Hamill’s Joker. It’s a pity that Kevin Conroy wasn’t bought back to voice the dark knight, although it must be said that the new voice of Batman does a sterling job in presenting a younger Batman (he even seems to imitate distinctive growl at times).


The smooth combat from Rocksteady’s Batman games returns, and it’s just as good here. I’ve always loved the free-flowing melee combat of Rocksteady’s Batman, granting the Dark Knight almost ballet-like poise and grace as he jumps from foe to foe, handing out vengeance and justice.

Although, at first, it seemed as if my Batman beat-’em up skills had left me since as I initially had trouble defeating even the first boss Killer Croc. I soon got my groove back, but for me, the boss battles had no consistency:  The fight against Slade WIlson, aka Deathstroke in the bowels of a derelict ship was a lesson in frustration punctuated by swear words and numerous restarts, while the fight against Copperhead was ridiculously easy.

There’s a strong sense of deja vu with Arkham Origins but it does try to tweak somethings a little (scanning for evidence is handled differently now, although it holds your hand a little) and some of the gadgets, like a pair of gloves that can electocute enemies, are genuinely great fun.

Overall, Batman Arkham Origins is a solid game that plays it a little safe. Perhaps that was the idea, though: that it was designed as a tester to see whether WB Montreal, which made the Wii U version of Batman Arkham City, could take the reins of a new game itself and make something of it.

Well, the studio has shown that it can, but now it’s time for WB Montreal to show that it can deliver a fresh, innovative Batman experience (I’m sure more Batman games are planned) that will come out from behind the shadows of  Rocksteady and stand on its own two bat boot-clad feet.

Footnote: There’s an interesting scene in the game’s closing credits featuring Deathstroke, that could hint as to what direction WB  – or perhaps Rocksteady – are taking the series. No doubt we’ll know soon enough.

Batman Arkham Origins: 17 minutes of footage

Warner Brothers have sent across a developer video showing 17 minutes of footage from the upcoming Batman Arkham Origins, which comes out, I think, this Friday.

Here’s what WB has to say about this, the third game in its Batman franchise. “Taking place before the rise of Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals, the game showcases a young and unrefined Batman as he faces a defining moment in his early career as a crime fighter that sets his path to becoming the Dark Knight. As the story unfolds, players will meet many important characters for the first time and forge key relationships.”

To be honest, Arkham Origins has a lot to live up to. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were two of my most favoured games  and I know that while the core mechanics won’t be changed by developer WB Montreal (I’m a little disappointed that Rocksteady hasn’t done this game), I’m hoping there’s actually new mechanics that will make this game stand out from the previous two.

Batman Arkham Origins is going to go one of two ways: It’ll either deliver a compelling experience that builds on what the other two games have established or it’ll be lost in mediocrity,  despertae to move from the shadow Rocksteady’s previous Batman games created.

Watch the footage and decide for yourself.