With the news of what is most likely the next Batman game to graces consoles having potential titles leaked (see here!), it seems a good time to reflect on just how damn good the two Arkham games have been. Developer Rocksteady Studios didn’t have much under the belt before their first game featuring the Caped Crusader. A small title named Urban Chaos: Riot Response for PS2 was their bragging right. Queue 2009’s Arkham Asylum and the subsequent Studio of the Year award form Spike TV. From their they went on to improved in almost every way on the original game, bringing Batman’s greatest representation in video games to light in Arkham City.
As we look to the future of the already stellar franchise, we have to ponder where it will go (with tantalizing names like Origins, Universe and Legends) but also it’s important to note it’s place within the wider Batman franchise. It’s time to look through some of the reasons Batman is laying low in other media, and how this might be the time for the consoles to take up the cowl.
Nolan’s Cinematic Batman Is Over.
It’s widely agreed that Nolan’s interpretation of Batman was one of the best realizations of the character we’ve seen in years. Now that the trilogy has ended however, it seems a break is needed. How do you follow those films? For the current generation, Batman has been done. Things are hazy about his possible involvement with Justice League, though whether we’ll see Joseph Gorden-Levitt take up the mantle or whether they’ll respect Nolan’s wish to keep his filmic universe separate is yet to be seen. For now, at least, it looks like Batman is taking a break from the big screen.
Batman TV series isn’t likely.
The CW President, Mark Pedowitz, works for the company responsible for bringing fellow DC hero, Green Arrow, to the silver screen in the successful series Arrow. When asked about the possibility of a Batman cameo, or even a fully fledged Batman TV series he responded:
“At this time, no. And regarding your next question, regarding is Batman going to make a trip to [Arrow’s] Starling City, they’re not in the same state.” (IGN)
CW are currently looking at bringing Wonder Woman to the masses in Amazon, and are just awaiting a script to see if things will go ahead. They’re already looking for a lead actress so things look like they have momentum.
The next generation of consoles are on their way (probably).
The general assumption is that this is the year we’ll see the two next gen consoles appear from Sony and Microsoft. Whether it’s E3 or a private show, by the end of the year the solid bet is that we’ll know about the new systems, if not have them in our hands. Rocksteady pushed things pretty far in their incredible, open world Arkham City. We’ve seen it running on the first of the next-gem systems, the WiiU but it was just a port.
To really see the advance we’re looking for, it’s to the PS4/Orbis and the Xbox 720/Durango and WiiU proper we must turn. A launch title is out of the options I would guess but if an Arkham game could blow our minds in the first year of the generation, I think it could reach a commercial mass big enough to make it a flagship property for the Batman franchise.
The Arkham franchise has a great reputation.
Coming off the back of two games that showed the world not only how to do a superhero game well, but how to do an open world game just as well. When Arkham Asylum was announced, no one believed it would live up to the final product but Rocksteady knew how to deliver. It would have been easy for them to rest on their laurels and pump out a iterative sequel but they weren’t content, they far surpassed expectations and delivered on one of the greatest games of the generation.
These games already have a brilliant buzz amongst gamers and the hard core community, selling over 8 million copies (very rough estimate from VGchartz, not counting digital sales). Given a fresh start with new hardware, they could become even bigger with their 3rd game.
Now not everything is rosy in the city of Gotham (shocker!) so here are a few cons to the idea:
Market Penetration – Video games just don’t have the pull.
It may be an antiquated view to think video games don’t have a big market and can’t sell gangbusters after this generations explosion in the form of Call of Duty, but the point remains that The Dark Knight Rises grossed over $1 billion. In the last ten years we’ve seen gaming take an incredible leap forward in terms of market share, a trend which is likely to carry on through the next generation of consoles. However, the industry is still young and the big money that is pumped into the film industry just isn’t present in as ample amounts.
The games themselves need to evolve.
Both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were fantastic games, that much is indisputable. However, their structure as a compilation games is something that can’t be sustained. Batman has a huge roster of villains to go up against but many of the are no A listers. Sorry Ratcatcher but you aren’t invited to this party. The level of detail is what makes the games so popular with fans, but it seems like it’s time for a more focused approach.
The time of going through villains at an hourly rate is exhausting the ‘superstitious, cowardly lot’. Rocksteady need to step back and build an experience focusing around one villain, giving the time to fully explore each given avenue instead of brushing past them in a whirl of excitement. They nailed the essence of Batman’s physicality in the games but there remains something missing…
No player is as good at being Batman as Batman is.
The open world style of game is engaging, fun, and liberating. All good things, i wont deny. However at the end of the day Batman is the greatest detective in the world and sorry fans but we can’t compete with that. To fully capture the Batman experience a certain amount of control has to be taken away from the player, or else be watered down to a level in which the user can also complete a puzzle designed to stump the guy who could teach Sherlock a thing or two. As much as I’ve loved the previous two games, I think a more focused, narrative experience could be a interesting route to look at. I’m not saying an entirely linear, Uncharted style experience is necessary but I DO think that style would work a treat.
These are just our two cents though. The games are amazing, and the surrounding circumstances are lining up to allow them the spotlight, but whether they can capitalize on that is yet to be seen. Personally, I would be thrilled if they could as Rocksteady are doing some outstanding work and more Caped Crusader content is always something to look forward to. Until then, I’ll be crying relentlessly into my pillow as I try to dominate these Arkham City challenge maps…
My name is Davi and in between writing here, watching the latest films and playing an healthy (read: unhealthy) amount of video games, I’m at university, studying English. You can find me @DaviLancett on Twitter, Davi_Lancett on Steam or SecksBom-Omb on PSN, feel free to add me!