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5 High Hopes For Batman: Arkham Knight
When Rocksteady Studios releases Batman: Arkham Knight later this year, they will have been given the keys to the Batman kingdom with one final chance to restore faith in the series. With an ambition to go out in style, there are mountains of methods at their disposal with which to use.
The property has learned some valuable lessons over the years, and can now take every note to heart for what we can only hope to be a masterful final thesis. Like any well-to-do professor seeking to judge these labors, it wouldn’t hurt to let the developers know that there are a few criteria we’d possibly like to see met in order to hand out a passing grade. This is Batman’s senior year in our gaming generation, and Rocksteady knows what they need to do in order to walk that stage and finally accept their diploma.
1. New Villains
We’ve been living on a steady diet of repeat offenders throughout the evolution of the Batman: Arkham video games and that plays to the same standard that the comic books have. For every altercation that ends with the Dark Knight keeping another foe alive and placed behind bars, the legend only makes sense for these same rogues to seek spiteful victory against their heroic captor. With over half a century’s worth of narrative to pull from, Bruce Wayne’s little black book of opposition is vast. There is fresher blood to be exposed here, even given the short list of characters that have only ever managed to receive a passing mention or indirect cameo shot thus far (i.e. Maxie Zeus, Amanda Waller & the Suicide Squad, Scarface, Prometheus, Man-Bat, Joe Chill and Jack Ryder/The Creeper).
The studio may have already nailed this one right on target by taking the path of original design when they exposed that the Batman: Arkham Knight titling actually bears a reference to a never-before-seen antagonist, coincidentally named the Arkham Knight. This tactical, armor-plated newcomer is an innovative collaboration between DC and Rocksteady to not only visualize the diversity of the comic book universe in a different medium but an attempt to make a healthy addition. While the likes of Doctor Hurt, the Circus of Strange, the Cains or even Calculator are still waiting in the wings, the first Arkham Knight trailer also revealed plenty of the old gang up to their usual shenanigans. Granted, the Penguin, Two-Face, Scarecrow & Harley Quinn were always likely to have some sort of marquee involvement throughout every step of the Arkham genesis and fans of the source material should still be fine with that.
I feel like I’m forgetting someone here though . . . I guess I’ll just Hush up about it.
2. Time Progression
After three games and subsequent singular night stories, isn’t it about time that Batman finally be offered a chance to take a nap among all the brooding research and fearless heroism of saving the city in a matter of hours? Sure, the adage plays that evil never sleeps . . . so why should the World’s Greatest Detective have to as well? Granted, Bruce Wayne has a drive and determination that’s tougher than a $2 steak. While he doesn’t make it a prerogative to don the cape and cowl while the sun is still up, even the most prolific crime fighter of the last 70 years could stand to take a breather between beat-downs.
Sure, the adventures of Asylum, City & Origins have all had time sensitive issues at play and required swift action. Early indications on the game’s setting from the trailer seem to indicate that this is an abandoned Gotham City, devoid of its citizens and overrun by the criminal hordes that are now free to roam the streets. Batman doesn’t have any real need or obligation to continue to be hidden by the veil of night at this point. Just as we saw in the final stand-off depicted in the film The Dark Knight Rises, where Batman leads a gaggle of GCPD police officers against Bane’s mercenary army, our hero is just as capable of taking names and busting faces sun-washed and exposed for all to see.
From a film standpoint, it was the first modern depiction of a Batman that didn’t seem to only act nocturnally. A hero that has always used a sense of fear and intimidation to get the better of his foes is just as effective when facing them head-on. His greatest reliance in the video games has been through the use of darkness, utilizing stealth cunning and an expertise at lurking in the shadows. While I’m not suggesting this aspect be removed, this change in environment could have a powerfully refreshing effect on our adventure and repaint a city Arkham gamers are only familiar with in a nighttime design.
3. New Gadgets
Don’t worry kids. We’re not asking for shark repellent bat spray here. Between Batarangs, grappling hooks, explosive gel and few others in between, our masked vigilante has had a plethora of toys for us to mess around with. Most have served great purposes up to this point and really haven’t been too disappointing after three go-arounds. While they’re not entirely broken and living well alongside the franchise’s intuitive combat system, now may be a great time to diversify. The repeated use of the gadgets that we’ve all made ourselves familiar with since Arkham Asylum ostensibly damaged learning curves when it came to approaching the later titles. Their uses may have been altered or innovated in order to ward off staleness through the majority of the series and that’s all well-to-do.
Of course, we can’t forget the true star of the Arkham Knight trailer and the biggest bat toy addition possible: The Batmobile. The ability to finally operate this comic book king of cars could very well turn the Knight experience on its head. It changes the perspective of enemy interactions, allowing large scale interpretations of combat, travel and puzzles. Sefton Hill, the title’s Game Director from Rocksteady Studios, recently posted an entry on the US PlayStation Blog expounding on the detail and effort that the designers are working with in order to “build the Ultimate Batmobile”.
4. Interactive Scope
With each passing title, the affected areas of Gotham City depicted through the games’ maps have continued to escalate. Size and scale have been phenomenal up to this point and plan to reach an apex with an in-game map promised to be five times the size of the area covered by Arkham City. With a devotion to strictly using the latest generation hardware, Rocksteady considers this an opportunity to focus on using high-end resources to their maximum potential and not sacrificing performance in order to make a cross-platform product on older systems. Gang and enemy counts could go as far as quadruple the original amount seen onscreen at any point in time during the previous three iterations. This brings gamers one step closer to the one man army warfare we’ve always wanted to see ourselves capable of when it came to playing with these characters.
However, massive open world environments can often suffer from a sort of poisonous effect. Plain and simple enough, it isn’t always true to believe that bigger must mean better. The whole of Gotham is now your battleground. All prior Arkhams were contained situations, allowing all the elements of the stories to stay relatively close knit. Origins & City may have been the proof in the pudding that inflating the scale of the game could cause damage to public intrigue. A balloon that’s already been blown up sure is fun but, add just enough air to be too much, and the party’s over. This can be done correctly, especially in the hands of the team that first took us from the cliffs of Arkham Asylum and onto Gotham’s city streets with marked success. Barring a sense of overwhelming excess, the developers will have to levy concerns that their key dynamics may end up being drawn too thin or grow long in the tooth. We will continue to digress and have faith.
5. Grand Finale
Like watching a pro athlete play his final match before concluding their time in the public eye, this is Rocksteady’s farewell tour. The team that threw everything but the kitchen sink at us in the closing missions of Arkham City will seemingly have to find a way to pen a worthy parting shot. This even empowers the studio with a round at manifesting a send-off better than director Christopher Nolan’s auto-pilot-patching, nuclear-detonation-dodging, Fernet-fueled-café-sighting, Robin-namedropping, spastic-splashy-spelunking conclusion. In much the same vain that The Dark Knight Rises is not likely to be the last Batman film ever made, Batman: Arkham Knight is also not likely to be the last Batman game ever made. Like Nolan, this is simply the studio’s last opportunity to work with the license under their current permissions. Also just like Nolan, the power of 3 tries is thoroughly in Rocksteady’s court.
We may fall victim to the same effect that the Star Wars or Godfather sagas had on most people: the middle story may be the one most remembered, adored or regarded. The power of a second lap around the same track can often be the most encouraging, lest we forget the power that the second cinematic installment of the Nolan Batverse had on us all as moviegoers. If Arkham City truly was the Empire Strikes Back of our gaming era, then so be it.
You just never know.
Perhaps it could be third time’s the charm.