Like a few people this past week, I excitedly picked up a copy of Batman: Arkham Knight. The series combines two of my favorite pop culture things: the Batman and video games. Of the series as a whole, I liked Arkham Asylum (I liked it even better when it was called BioShock), found Arkham City okay, and avoided Origins like it was a fat sorority girl on spring break.
It’s been long enough since Arkham City came out that I was ready to tear through a fully realized Gotham City… and oh yeah… the new Batmobile!
According to the magnanimous Jim Sterling and his review of Arkham Knight, fans of the series have been calling for the inclusion of the Batmobile for some time. However, I was not one of those fans, knowing full well all the chaos and un-fun to be had with the inclusion of the Batmobile in any Batman game ever made. The Arkham games gave gotten along great with it being largely nonexistent or as a deus ex machina… so why bother now?
Even previews coming out about Arkham Knight’s new Batmobile mechanic were tepid at best. I tried to keep this in mind as a booted up the game and attempted to let the Batman wash over me.
Sweet Vehicular Homicide, Batman!
It appears as though Rocksteady Studios was totally married to having the Batmobile in the game, and when it’s initially presented, it seems like it’s going to be kind of a pain in the ass, but not too much. Surely you’ll be given plenty of time to get the hang of the Batmobile itself? Nooo… Rocksteady wants you to really, really enjoy the Batmobile right now!
My problem isn’t with the Batmobile proper. In its resting state, it plays like a car in Burnout, even up to the boosting around corners and the like. My main beef is with the “battle mode” tank transformation and its constant need to be used for combat, puzzle solving, sandwich making and so on!
Not even ten minutes in and the game is making you play an AR training mission with the Bat-Tank! If you didn’t have the foresight to do so, you really should turn the “battle mode” toggle switch to on, so that with the press of a button you go in to “battle mode” instead of the hand-crippling insanity of holding down the button the entire time you’re in Bat-Tank mode!
Now for the fun part!
You get your standard machine guns… I guess for chip damage?… and then initially one shot of the Vulcan Cannon, which has a bit of a cooldown, so you don’t go firing it all willy nilly! If you build up a combo (I know, right?), you can fire a volley of four homing missiles!
When I first started playing around with the Bat-Tank, I had some slight nostalgia as I was reminded of the olden days with their deluge of car combat games. But then that time was eroded by the sheer length of some of these goddamned Bat-Tank sequences! Not to mention the supremely telegraphed “Hey! I’m gonna shoot my cannot THIS WAY!” laser sights from the bad guy “drone” tanks. This is Batman after all… no killing!
When you’re finally freed from the obtuse Bat-Tank combat, you’re allowed to gleefully glide around Gotham City. But there’s not much to do, so you must do the one story mission, and that’s where Rocksteady really pours on the Batmobile shenanigans.
Taking place at the ACE Chemical factory, the game forces you to drag the Batmobile around, solving Batmobile specific puzzles and the like.
Where my mind finally snapped was when I was forced to maneuver the Bat-Tank around (because the Batmobile is much too fast to finesse some of the minutia-laden baloney real estate) to get to a building housing a few bad guys. Instead of just dropping in from the ceiling, punching the doods in the their dicks and moving on, the game forced me to pull down a wall to get to them! Why?!
Batman has exploding gel for this kind of stuff… well, okay… for the walls that are “marked” for exploding. But come on! Thankfully, I only had the Bat-Tank slide of the side of the trail on the way to the building once.
After a bit more exploring, Batman is then forced to get the Batmobile even further into the chemical plant, and by that time you are allowed to do what I tried to do in the first place: crash through the giant wall with “ACE CHEMICAL” painted on it at the very beginning of all this nonsense! Oh, now these bricks are magically able to break?
I would understand if by doing this earlier I would’ve smashed through the wall in to an area full of drones and/or a scenario that would’ve been really bad to get in on too early, but that is ridiculous. It’s completely counterintuitive. So I have to maneuver this piece of shit Batmobile around in the teeny tiny space for mission filler, only to just Kool-Aid Man through the clearly labeled “SMASH THROUGH HERE BRO” at a later time for a “boss battle?” Sheesh!
And that’s not all: apparently some of Batman’s villains are Batmobile-crazed now too. The Riddler gets in on this by making racetracks for you. Yeah, Riddler… that supposed acerbic brilliant minded mastermind has no time for riddles… only the need for speed!
It’s unfortunate that they front-loaded the game with so much Bat-Tank bullshit. You really have to power through this stuff, because Arkham Knight does get better after that point. Even more insulting is that Batman gets around Gotham City just fine the old-fashioned way: grapple hook up a tall building and glide to the marker! So easy!
I reached out to Rocksteady Studios on Twitter and as of deadline, I have not heard back if they plan on patching the Batmobile out of the game. In fact it may very well be the reason why they had to pull the game on Steam in the first place. Stay tuned to Reaxxion for more information as this story progresses.