Time here for a rare foray into games, something I always mean to write about but rarely ever do. That should change with Bioshock Infinite, a game I intend to gush recklessly over once I finish it, but for now here’s stuff on the news that a new Batman game has been announced. Called Arkham:Origins, it’s a prequel to Rocksteady’s previous efforts. I’m not pleased about that. Not pleased at all.
Rocksteady nailed it. I don’t know how, but they did. They managed to do the unthinkable and totally nail a Batman game. They managed to somehow appease lovers of the comics, the cartoons and the Christopher Nolan films all at once, and then bundled it into a package that developers have been aping ever since. Sleeping Dogs was just the latest in a growing line of games to pinch Rocksteady’s combat formula, refined and re-worked to button-mashing, combo-stringing, heart-pounding perfection in Arkham City.
Arkham City was so perfect a gaming representation of The Dark Knight that I wouldn’t be surprised if the licence goes cold for a while after Rocksteady’s tenure is over. Arkham City was a platform to even bigger, unimaginably bold things though. So much was teased throughout the game and so many experiments in gameplay were so wildly successful. The Metroid-stylings of Arkham Asylum were gone and now open-world Batman was proven possible. Surely now the natural step was outside of Arkham and into the whole of Gotham, after all they’d already succeeded in that more limited playground, how could they fail now?
By going back to an origin story, that’s how.
When you say Batman origin story people think Year One and they think of wonderful things. But Frank Miller’s Batman and Rocksteady’s are very different things with very different stories, and that difference should be respected. Rocksteady has created a unique canon of its own, a blending of the Animated series of the 90s with the Nolan adventures of the last decade, and by going back to the start of it all I fear they risk abandoning that. To me it’s a slap in the face after all those beautifully laid out plans that Arkham City left for us. That narrative they crafted over two games has, to all intents and purposes, been dropped. We won’t –
– see a Gotham, and a Bat, with no Joker. We won’t find out what’s really going on with Harley’s ovaries (hint: They have Joker sperm in them, or someone else’s?!). We won’t see a grizzled Wayne ravaged by his brush with death and extended imprisonment. We won’t see a Gotham recovering from effective ghetto-isation under the all too coercive watch of its Mayor.
We won’t see any of the things we want to see is what I’m trying to get at. We won’t get answers to any of the questions that Rocksteady raised. Instead, we get to find out how Bruce Wayne became Batman *SPOILER HIS PARENT’S GOT SHOT*. Again. We get to retread the single most common story in the Dark Knight’s canon when there is an infinitely more interesting and original one sitting ready-made.
In my eyes we may as well not even be getting a story; for all their talent there’s pretty much nothing they can do to revolutionise this tale. They built on the foundation of loyalty to canon and admirable dedication to the comics, in the process they’ve dug themselves a hole they can’t get out of without blowing it up. And they’re doing it on hallowed ground. Arguably the most sacred spot in comic history is Bruce Wayne watching Mommy and Daddy get gunned down because he didn’t want to watch the goddamned Mask of Zorro, and it wasn’t even the brilliantly average modern one. Damn kids.
I don’t doubt that the core gameplay will remain stellar, and I have total confidence in Rocksteady to craft a brilliant virtual Gotham, but as far as I can tell, Arkham Origins has nowhere to go but down.