Editors Note: All editorials are solely the opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of DC Comics News or its staff.
There’s nothing cooler than being Batman. Name a thing cooler than being Batman. You can’t. Because Batman’s pretty much the epitome of cool. He’s a ninja James Bond with a solid dash of Sherlock Holmes thrown into the mix. Naturally, he’s the king of summer cinema and, a few years back, he started kicking all kinds of ass on video game consoles everywhere.
When Batman: Arkham Asylum burst onto the scene it was a damn revelation. A bar was set, and then Batman did one-handed pull-ups on it making everyone else at the gym feel inadequate. Then the sequel, Arkham City, came out, actually outdoing the original in many ways. Finally, just this past year, Arkham Origins was released. It wasn’t from the same team and it was glitchy as hell for a while, but it generally continued the awesome tradition.
But that’s what these games are starting to feel like: a tradition. A stagnant, decaying tradition. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all three games. But, much like the slow kid in the back of the math class, the fourth one has a few problems to solve.
1. A Longer Timeframe
Arkham Asylum took place over the course of one night in the titular madhouse. So Batman meeting up with a menagerie of his costumed rogues gallery made a fair amount of sense. Arkham City, for some reason, also seemed to take place over the course of a single night. But the inmates of Arkham were running the city, so I guess it kind of made sense that he’d meet almost every villain he’d ever faced. A little bit. Maybe. Arkham Origins took place over the course of one night as well. In that one night, a rookie Batman met (for the very first time): Joker, Black Mask, Penguin, the Riddler, Anarky, Bane, Deadshot, Deathstroke, Shiva, Killer Croc, Firefly, Copperhead, the Electrocutioner, and the Mad Hatter. That is insane.
The makers of the Arkham games seem to think that every video game they put out needs to follow the Hush model: Batman must meet and fight literally everyone he has ever known. Why can’t these games have a longer timeframe? Does the villain really need to start things off by setting some arbitrary timer? Why just one night? Things could unfold over the course of weeks or months or even years! Not only would that make the story lines a bit less convoluted, it could also allow for each villain introduced to actually get some much-needed depth.
2. A Different Central Villain
That brings me to my second point. We get it already. Batman fights the Joker. But Batman also fights other people! He has one of the greatest rogues galleries of any fictional character ever conceived! The Joker is interesting and all, but he needs to be used sparingly or he completely loses his effectiveness. He’s been the central antagonist of all three Arkham games so far. Let someone else step up to the plate.
That’s not to say the Joker can’t have a role. He could have several missions dedicated to him. But he’s just not the best foil for Batman to face again and again. What about someone who could challenge Batman both physically and mentally? Bane, Hush, Prometheus, Red Hood, Dr. Hurt, and the Court of Owls all spring to mind. Hell, what about Ra’s Al Ghul or Clayface? Any of them could offer up unique challenges to the Dark Knight that the Joker could never hope to match!
I don’t want to get sick of the Joker, but if he ends up as the central antagonist of the next game, I’m probably going to pass on buying it.
3. More Playable Characters
Arkham City took a step in the right direction by offering Catwoman up as a playable character in the story mode. But the next game needs to take that concept a bit further. Grand Theft Auto V recently came out and gave players the option of playing as three distinct characters, each with their own stories, personalities, and slightly tweaked play styles. Batman has numerous allies who could easily fit into that format: Nightwing, Red Robin, Robin, or Batgirl could each fight more acrobatically; Red Hood could focus on gunplay; Azrael could be a power hitter; Huntress could deliver some street justice with her crossbow; we could get our first taste of superpowers from Black Canary.
Each would bring their own personalities into the mix. After all, who wouldn’t like some light-hearted banter from Dick Grayson or Stephanie Brown? We could get some awesome buddy-cop moments from Batman and Robin. Jason Todd could even throw out a sarcastic quip or two. The potential for some amazing co-op action is being squandered right now.
4. Actual Puzzles
My biggest complaint about all of the Arkham games goes a little something like this:
“What do I do here? I know, I’ll just turn on detective vision. Ooh, a vent!”
And that’s just about how every single “puzzle” in the game gets solved. Detective Vision is ruining these games. Yes, Batman is smart and can figure things out quickly, but he doesn’t have goddamn x-ray vision.
Puzzles need to be greatly improved in the next game. I mean, Batman’s supposed to be the world’s greatest detective and I’d honestly like the satisfaction of figuring some stuff out rather than having it all spoon fed to me.
The next Arkham installment has the potential to be a game-changer or a franchise-killer. Personally, I’m hoping for the former, but I’m getting more and more concerned that we’re shifting towards the latter. People often throw around the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In this case, I think the best possible response might just be “if it ain’t broke, why the hell should I buy a new one?”