WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the following games:
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham Origins
Batman: Arkham Knight
There’s no denying that Rocksteady have created a consistently good series with their Batman games. At best, they have been amazing and at worst, they’ve been decent. Unfortunately, as we all know, nothing is perfect and even games as good as these have their problems. And here, I’ve picked out eight of those problems; two for each of the main entries – Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Arkham Origins and Arkham Knight.
1. The boss fights (Asylum)
I remember when Arkham Aslyum first came out. Everyone was raving about it; completely surprised that Rocksteady managed to make a Batman game that wasn’t just good – it was bloody fantastic. But there was one negative aspect that we all seemed to agree on – the boss fights were kinda rubbish.
The first proper boss fight was against Bane, which was fine. It was overly simple but there wasn’t anything wrong with it, but when every boss encounter afterwards plays out the exact same way, it gets very frustrating, especially when the few changes that are made don’t really make much of a difference.
“Oh no, there’s loads of smaller mooks surrounding the boss.”
“Oh no, now there’s two of them I have to fight.”
It doesn’t matter since the same strategy you used the first time round still works. It turns what should be these exciting and dynamic fights into busywork.
Now I know some of are you thinking “Well, the Poison Ivy and Joker fights weren’t exactly the same.” True, but that doesn’t stop them from being boring. The whole fight with Ivy has you just avoiding her attacks, beating up MORE mooks, waiting for her weak point to emerge and then hitting it. Rinse and repeat. It’s not so much a breath of fresh air as it is a very warm fart.
And do I even need to explain why the Joker fight sucked? It’s bad enough that they had to turn him into one of the big monsters that we’ve been fighting the whole game, but I barely even consider it a fight. He flails his arms at you for a bit, and then he buggers off to showboat at a helicopter as you fight EVEN MORE mooks. I’ve been doing this the whole damn game; can I please do something else?
After that, you pull Joker down with your grapple, punch him in the face a few times, and the whole process repeats two more times. Asylum is still a great game but the bosses are easily it’s biggest fault. Thank God the sequel improved on them.
2. The Killer Croc section (Asylum)
To be fair, when I first entered the sewers, I was shitting myself the whole time. Killer Croc was everywhere; I could feel him. I was slowly maneuvering my way, praying that Croc wouldn’t rear his ugly head, only for him to pop up seemingly out of nowhere. It took me two deaths to learn that I was meant to use my Batarang to activate his shock collar to save me, but I still didn’t feel safe. When I eventually lured Croc to that explosive gel and sent him plummeting into the abyss, I could breathe easy.
However, repeated playthroughs have since shown that the Killer Croc section is only scary when you don’t how it works. Once you do, it quickly becomes very boring and very slow. No longer did Croc’s voice send chills up my spine. No longer did the sudden change in music that heralded his appearance make me panic. No longer was I carefully navigating my way through the sewers. It became routine.
The Scarecrow sections may stop being scary on repeated playthroughs but at least they were still somewhat entertaining to play. The Killer Croc section just becomes a dull slog that goes on way too long. Maybe that’s why he mauls Scarecrow; he’s jealous. For shame, Croc.
3. The Catwoman DLC (City)
Want to know how to get me easily excited for a sequel? Include a new playable character. Gets me every time. And that’s what happened when it was revealed Catwoman would be playable in Arkham City. Gameplay showed that she handled similarly enough to Batman so as not to be too drastic of a change but unique enough to feel like her own character rather than a second Batman. It was a shame, though, that unless you bought the game brand-new, you had to pay for the DLC. And considering what the DLC entailed, it wasn’t worth it.
While Catwoman herself was fun to play as, the moments that you played as her were so pointless. Let’s run through each section, shall we?
1. The prologue scene where Catwoman steals something from Two-Face. It’s super short, consisting of a brief fight against some mooks but it does make for a good prologue bit before jumping to the main plot with Batman.
2. Catwoman goes to see Poison Ivy to get her help for a break-in job, despite the fact that Ivy is pissed with her and wants her dead (real smart, Selina). After sneaking into her residence and fighting more mooks, Catwoman gets captured and is at Ivy’s mercy. So, she’s dead now, right?
3. Wrong! After several in game hours of Batman, we cut back to find that Ivy STILL hasn’t killed her. Catwoman (somehow) manages to convince Ivy to help her break into Hugo Strange’s vault. This leads to a pretty tricky stealth section, more fighting and then a scene where Catwoman must decide whether to abandon her loot to save Batman or just leave Arkham City. Naturally, you have to save Batman.
4. Finally, there’s an epilogue section that exists solely to remind us that Catwoman and Two-Face are having a hissy-fit, with Catwoman sneaking into the museum and taking part in a stealth-section/boss fight against Two-Face. This leads to some post-game content where Catwoman must find her stolen loot from Two-Face goons. What happens afterwards? Nothing. No reward. No more plot or anything.
In the end, these sections do show new stuff but if you didn’t get the Catwoman DLC, you wouldn’t really be missing anything. You don’t gain any greater understanding of the overall plot from these scenes; you don’t gain anything aside from another playable character. It’s not so much additional content as it is padding.
4. The story lacks focus (City)
It’s very easy to assume that Arkham City‘s story is better than Arkham Asylum‘s simply because everything feels bigger. You have a bigger world to explore, more villains to deal with, more stuff to do overall. However, bigger doesn’t automatically equal better and, quite frankly, City‘s story is sort of all over the place.
In Asylum, you had a singular goal – stop Joker. In City, you start off with the plan to find out what Arkham City is really all about, find Hugo Strange and foil whatever scheme he has. But, instead, you are immediately sidetracked into another Joker plot, when he infects Batman with his own blood and forces him to find a cure.
So, how do we find a cure? We find Mr Freeze. How do we find Mr Freeze? We go to the GCPD. But Penguin has captured him. So, we go to find Penguin at the museum. But we can’t get in so we have to destroy some signal jammers. We get into the museum but there are GCPD members to save. We save them and find Freeze but Penguin’s taken his suit. We find Penguin but he sicks Solomon Grundy on us. We beat him and capture Penguin. So, we can get the cure from Freeze, right? Nope, because he needs a special enzyme to make it which we can make from the blood of Ra’s al Ghul.
All that and we’ve completely forgotten about dealing with Strange – you know, the main villain of the freaking game! By the time we get round to actually confronting Strange, it almost feels like it came out of nowhere. Not to mention it drops the twist that Strange was working for Ra’s all this time, which would’ve been a complete ass-pull if he hadn’t already been established via the Joker plot.
Speaking of, with both Strange and Ra’s defeated, that should be the end, right? Nope, still got to end with a Joker confrontation. He wasn’t even the main villain… was he? It’s like the game can’t make up its mind. It screams of a game that made the scenarios first and then attempted to stitch them together into a coherent story, which it failed to do. It’s not the worst story I’ve seen in a videogame but it’s certainly one of the least coherent.
5. The eight assassins become irrelevant (Origins)
Arkham Origins certainly raised judging eyebrows when it was announced as a prequel, but it’s set-up sounded exciting. Batman being hunted down by eight deadly assassins, consisting of some of his lesser known villains? Sign me up! After two games of dealing with the likes of Joker, Penguin and Riddler, this scenario sounded pretty fresh, even if the game was a forgone conclusion due to its prequel status. In the end, though, they wound up being utterly pointless. Don’t believe me? Let’s go through them:
1. Killer Croc gets taken out in the prologue, before Batman even finds out about the bounty on his head. So, it’s really seven deadly assassins.
2. Deathstroke – his boss fight was cool but you beat him and then he never shows up again aside from a post-credits scene. For someone who was so heavily advertised (he was even playable via DLC and offered as a pre-order bonus), he does surprisingly little. I thought he’d be a recurring boss or something but no.
3. Electrocutioner – the epitome of pointless. His boss fight consists of one punch to the face. That’s all it takes. I think it’s meant to be a joke about how useless he is (all bark, no bite) but I still wanted an actual fight. He shows up later… only to get killed by Joker. A game that advertises eight deadly assassins doesn’t let you fight all eight. Sounds like bullshit to me.
4. Copperhead just randomly shows up for her boss fight, infecting Batman with some hallucinogens or something in order to make up for the lack of Scarecrow in this game. Again, decent fight but that’s all she does and is never seen again.
5. Deadshot and Shiva you don’t even fight during the main game – you have to do side-missions to fight them. If all you care about is beating the main story, that means you only fight five of the eight assassins. Again, the game advertises you fighting EIGHT ASSASSINS!
6. Firefly is pure filler, serving only as a means to stop Batman from saving Alfred from Bane in time. Speaking of…
7. Bane is the only one with any plot relevance and even manages to deduce Batman’s secret identity. Cue him conveniently losing his memory during the final boss fight, which was just a slightly lamer version of the Mr Freeze boss fight in City.
The concept was so cool and it could’ve given Origins an identity but the assassins wind up being nothing more than background noise and filler for the actual plot, which is just Batman VS Joker… again.
6. Enigma’s side-mission (Origins)
As repetitive as Riddler’s shtick throughout the series got, it was always fun to hear him slowly lose his mind as you solved riddle upon riddle. His confident demeanor would gradually peel away; his false bravado would begin to crack as he attempted to sound like he’s still in control, eventually resulting in him basically throwing a temper tantrum. And in the end, when you finally captured him, it was immensely satisfying. Asylum‘s funniest moment is easily having Batman essentially sending the police round Riddler’s house and hearing him get arrested over the phone. And in City, you even got to punch him in the face yourself and stick him in one of his own torture devices (don’t worry, he’s fine).
But then you get to Origins, where he goes by the name Enigma. But rather than solve riddles to try and find him, you just go around collecting datapacks. Don’t get me wrong, two whole games of solving riddles can get tiring but at least they require some level of puzzle solving. Here, you’re just looking for things to pick up. It manages to be even more boring.
And what’s worse is that when you find Enigma’s location, he’s not there. Rather than witnessing another mental breakdown, you’re just left with a room that foreshadows his plans in Asylum and a single Riddler trophy, which is a cute reference but it’s also incredibly disappointing. All that work and we don’t even get to mock him. It’s like finding the room was meant to be some huge reveal that Enigma is the Riddler but we already knew that from the get-go. They didn’t even try to hide that it’s Riddler. This whole mission is one massive letdown – a lot like
Origins as a whole.
7. The Riddler side-mission (Knight)
Speaking of Riddler, screw his side-mission in Arkham Knight as well. Not the one where Batman and Catwoman work together (that one’s pretty cool) but everything else. There are just too many trophies to find and puzzles to solve – yeah, there were loads to do in City as well but you didn’t have to do everything in order to find him. The only reason you would 100% that game is if you wanted an achievement. Here, you need everything to fight Riddler. It is pretty funny hearing him gradually getting more and more afraid as you solve the very last few, as it dawns on him that Batman’s going to kick his ass, but the boss fight itself isn’t all that good.
And probably the worst part about it is that you need to do this side-mission if you want the ‘true’ ending to the game which, let’s be honest here, probably isn’t worth all the effort you go to in order to unlock it.
8. Deathstroke is a letdown (Knight)
Remember how you fought Deathstroke once in Arkham Origins and never again? It’s still ten times better than his appearance in Arkham Knight.
When I beat the Arkham Knight, it never crossed my mind why his militia would stay in Gotham until I received a message from their new leader. I was suddenly curious. Who could it possibly be? Cue Deathstroke and me squeeing with excitement. It was a surprise but it made total sense. Deathstroke is probably the only villain that is a perfect antithesis to Batman (aside from the Arkham Knight obviously). He is just as smart, has just as good combat skills – the only difference is that Deathstroke won’t hesitate to kill.
I expected the final confrontation between the two to involve every skill Batman has. I wasn’t surprised that it involved Batmobile combat against tanks, especially considering Deathstroke’s own military background.
Once all the other tanks are dealt with, you can take on Deathstroke’s head-on. You can’t be sneaky; it’s all or nothing. Fortunately, by this point, the Batmobile should’ve been upgraded to the point where his tank will get wrecked within a minute. At that point, Deathstroke leaps out of his tank, sword at the ready, leaping at the camera… and then Batman takes him out with one punch in a cutscene. Bull. Shit.
This should’ve led to some awesome hand-to-hand combat in the middle of the streets but no. Deathstroke, one of the most dangerous villains in the entire DC Universe gets taken out in a cutscene. For a game that makes a big deal of you ‘Being the Batman,’ I sure didn’t feel like Batman then.
The Arkham series may be overall fantastic but if these moments are anything to go by, even someone as smart as the Dark Knight can make mistakes.