But still, every now and then I get to talk about videogames with some of my students. Everyone has played Battlefield or Call of Duty, and the conversation always veers toward the latest Halo, Grand Theft Auto, or whichever other sequel is coming out this year, but anytime I mention Batman: Arkham Asylum/City, I always hear the same old, “I’ve heard it’s great, but I haven’t tried it yet.”
Part of the blame is probably this multiplayer-obsessed era of gaming we’re currently living in (we can discuss that later), but still I know there’s a lot of people not trying any of these games just because they're based on a superhero character, and licensed games have a tendency for sucking.
And while both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City aren’t exactly underrated or unappreciated, I still want to talk about the things these games do great, because I consider them to be a great contribution to this gaming generation, and they’re already influencing the way some games are shaping up to be.
A licensed game done right
Since the early days of videogames, licensed titles have mostly sucked, and those based on a superhero license have been some of the worst offenders. This seems almost a general rule, since licensed games are commonly rushed and underdeveloped in order to meet an irrational deadline.
I can see why there are still some people not trying Arkham Asylum/City; many of them must have grown skeptical about superhero games; I know I did, and I know that I was a hell of a lot more skeptical the first time I tried Batman: Arkham Asylum.
And thanks to you, guys.
Batman: Arkham Asylum wasn’t being developed in order to be released during the hype surrounding the newest blockbuster movie; it was created and conceived in order to serve as Rocksteady’s interpretation on how a Batman game should be experienced. Speaking of which…
A game done right
Rocksteady actually worked their minds to create these titles; as the game industry is actually going, they could’ve just reskinned the game on top of something already made. While it takes some obvious inspiration from other games and genres, the final result feels like a game utterly different from anything this generation has thrown at us.
It just doesn’t look and sound awesome; way more importantly, it plays awesome, and that’s the part where these games really stand out.
I hate to say it this bluntly, but they did everything right! While the game is focused to be played in a stealthy approach, it also gives you freedom to tackle every situation any in way you want, and it works that way too!
That’s my biggest issue concerning sneaky games, like Splinter Cell, Tenchu or the previous Hitman titles; they play perfectly while you remain undetected, but the games utterly break down the moment you’re caught; then is when you realize every single fault their control scheme has.
But it doesn’t go that way for Batman. In fact, your enemies eventually will realize they’re being pinned down and will react accordingly, growing more desperate as their numbers start growing thin.
And when you have to fight your enemies in a face-to-face situation, the game actually feels more awesome. I can’t help but admit that the combat mechanics in these titles are the thing that really got me all over them. I can play these fights over and over and still amaze myself of all the crazy stunts Batman is capable of doing in order to beat an always more numerous foe.
By the way, it brings me odd memories of the old Adam West’s series.
An exclusive plot for the game
Now this is the thing that truly marks how different the Arkham games are compared to the rest of the crowd. Every superhero game being made has always been tied in to the events of the newest movie or loosely based on another publication.
Rocksteady’s take on the Batman franchise tells a story that, while based on the lore of the series, is also not afraid to create and go further than any videogame ever has. Up until now, every superhero game has played safe and sticks really close to the material it tries to represent. But after the events of Arkham City, we all know that these games just don’t walk the same way; they have the nerve of killing some major characters of the series, creating a whole new continuity exclusive to videogames.
Do the Batman!
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, and maybe time will prove me right or wrong, but I’ll say it anyway: I think Batman: Arkham Asylum has created a new milestone in videogames, the same way Ocarina of Time did for adventure games and Halo: Combat Evolved did for first-person shooters.
Batman: Arkham Asylum has set a new standard for new games to come; superhero games especially are trying to be like Batman, and you can’t really blame them… I mean, who wouldn’t want to be The Batman?!
Captain America: Super Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man games feel heavily influenced by Batman’s fighting and general gameplay; they’re both not that good, but they’re not as bad as superhero games usually are, their main flaw remain being tied-up to the newest movie and rushed in order to meet a crippling deadline.
Now here we are, while there is a Deadpool movie in the works booked for a still unspecified release date on 2014, next year there’ll be a Deadpool game hopefully not tied-in to the movie, but being crafted only because someone had the great idea that the character deserves to live on videogame glory, and people are possibly working on a plot and a gameplay tailored specifically for the “merc with a mouth.”
I know that trailers are not always accurate... but so far, it looks awesome.
Of course, the game that I’m really waiting for next year is the sequel to Batman: Arkham City, because this game not only had a lot of momentum going on its own, but it managed to let us know that it wasn’t quite the end of the story; if you’ve investigated enough into Arkham’s world, you’ll know there’s something huge coming to Gotham.
See you next year, you creepy bastard.