Showing posts with label Joker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joker. Show all posts

Batman: Arkham Knight review

"You have failed this city," said no one ever to Batman because he's Batman.
"Be the Batman." Rocksteady Studios' marketing campaign for its third - and allegedly final - Batman game recognizes just how much people loved being the Dark Knight in the other Arkham games. From the jaw-droppingly badass combat to the sheer awe experienced while gliding around an immersive Gotham City, the developer knows fans love stepping in the Caped Crusader's dark boots. Rocksteady also knows fans have incredibly high expectations for their latest project since the previous installments raised the bar for comic book video games. Thankfully, Batman: Arkham Knight is epic, appropriately moving, and full of fun.

The game's story really leaves an impression when it's focusing on delving deep into Batman's mind. Sure, this has been the focus countless times before and we all know the basics about who the Dark Knight is and what made him undergo such a drastic change, but that doesn't stop Rocksteady Studios from giving us brilliant and creative insight into the iconic hero. For example, when we're reminded of the death of Batman's parents yet again (for the gazillionth time), the scene swiftly goes in a different direction instead of trying to find new ways to make it emotionally powerful. The ending of Arkham City should be a big deal and thankfully it isn't ignored or just glossed over. The adventure's easily at its strongest when it focuses on Batman's psyche and how that event has not only impacted him, but also how others view him. Luckily for us, focusing on Batman's mentality is pretty frequent and there's some unforgettable sequences as the main story gets closer and closer to its end. 
Spoiler alert: unfortunately, the Arkham Knight isn't Condiment King.
While I am impressed by the amount of love Scarecrow receives - I sincerely thought he'd be a secondary villain who's cast aside halfway through - the whole mystery surrounding the Arkham Knight is telegraphed pretty heavily. When Batman does finally discover who's behind the mask, it isn't nearly as compelling as it could have been and there isn't any major follow-up. There was a lot of potential there and once the reveal is made, it feels like one of the weaker points of the story. I wouldn't say it's bad, but it just isn't nearly as gripping or moving as it could have been. Also, for such a narrative-driven franchise, it is disappointing the final ending is so sudden and leaves so many questions. The desire to make gamers speculate is perfectly fine (I have 3 theories), but for that to be the final end (presumably) is a bummer. Perhaps that'll be fleshed out in the DLC, but having to pay extra money to fully appreciate an ending seems like a greedy decision. That said, considering the handling of Batman and a few other points (which I won't spoil, obviously), there's much more to this story than the identity of the Arkham Knight. All in all, I believe the story's strengths outweigh the material that's just okay.

Overall, the voice acting is solid. Hearing Kevin Conroy as the Dark Knight and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn is going to make any Batman fan feel all kinds of happy on the inside. There's plenty of dialogue that's pure fan service, too. Some of it is a little heavy-handed, but I'll admit it still made me smile. Despite having some bratty dialogue, Troy Baker's performance as the Arkham Knight does an effective job making you understand the characters blend of hatred, sadness, and confidence. John Noble's perfect as Scarecrow, delivering lines that match the villain's eerie appearance and his dark mission. Aside from a few of Poison Ivy's lines (and can someone please get her a new outfit?), it felt like a fair amount of characters have their chance to steal some of the spotlight and some have the opportunity to effectively land powerful material - a few bits of dialogue with Jim Gordon (Jonathan Banks) and Tim Drake (Matthew Mercer) immediately comes to mind. I have no shame in admitting I was shocked and emotionally moved at least twice during the journey as well. I'd love to elaborate about the few parts that left me stunned, but since it's an enormous spoiler, I'll just have to bite my tongue. 

The following is a little spoilery (discusses a character who hasn't appeared in trailers), so skip this paragraph if you don't want any spoilers! Seriously, scroll down. Okay, I'll assume they're gone. So, for everyone else, I just want to say Mark Hamill's performance as the Joker manages to still be completely chilling and captivating. As someone who thought the franchise gave him a too much attention, I'm really impressed by the way the Clown Prince of Crime is handled in this one. I of course won't say how he plays a role, but it's a great way to enhance our emotional connection to Batman and it provides a little more twisted and clever humor. Speaking of humor, I absolutely love the conversations random criminals have as you explore the city. There's some seriously funny dialogue in there, especially after completing the main story.
Dual team takedowns aren't common but they're worth the wait.
Whether it's through secondary missions or the main story, there's a whole lot of characters from Batman's mythos in here. From characters who lack depth yet provide entertaining challenges (Firefly, the pyromaniac who loves to be repetitive about burning the city) to Man-Bat's tragic tale, it truly feels like a crowded and fleshed-out city. Catwoman, who's limited to being Riddler's hostage for a very long period of time, even jokes that she's there just to serve as Bruce's motivation. While not all of the characters are incorporated well (Poison Ivy's story makes sense, but it's a bit too out there for my taste), the opportunity to play as some of them or interact with others in the city is still satisfying. To top it off, there's even a fan-favorite brought in once the conflict with Scarecrow and Arkham Knight is completed! At the time of writing this, I haven't fought the villain yet and his dialogue does sometimes feel out of character (they don't seem as confident and intimidating as they should be), but I hear when you do face them, it's with the Batmobile. If true, that's a real shame because there's already so much vehicle combat and this individual has the chance to offer a difficult boss battle that requires a variety of melee attacks, gadgets, and stealth. Yes, the vehicle fight could be fun - there's one boss battle with the Batmobile that had me feeling an overwhelming sense of urgency and it was a nice change of pace - but using this villain for a tank vs. tank scenario seems like a complete waste of the character's talents.
To no one's surprise, controlling Batman in combat and stealth segments is such a rush. His melee abilities remain badass, fluid, and easy to use. Now there's something called "Fear Takedown" and using it honestly never gets old. They want you to feel like you're Batman and this is the perfect addition to making you feel like you're a gifted, imposing, and swift vigilante. Gadgets remain a joy to utilize in combat and they come in handy since enemies now have medics - characters capable of reviving downed enemies and even giving the recovered foes electric charges. Just like in the previous games, few things in the adventure are more satisfying than stalking criminals and having them walk right into your traps. Thanks to a few cameos, there's also the addition of dual team takedowns. When fighting alongside Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin, or even the Batmobile, Batman can join forces with his ally (or vehicle) to dish out an attack that'll immediately incapacitate the fiend - there's even one boss fight which relies on this. 

While there are several boss battles to enjoy and you can tell when you're nearing the end because the game will throw larger and larger hordes of enemies at you, I'm glad the final run of the main mission decides to focus purely on story and character instead of a potentially repetitive boss battle. There's plenty of combat to find and there's plenty more when the story with Scarecrow and Arkham Knight reaches its end, so the decision to deliver an imaginative way to sell the story is hugely appreciated. It really is a great way to really capitalize on all of the buildup.
Now just $50,000 per month. 0% APR for up to 5 days, too!
Seeing as the Batmobile is the franchise's big new feature, the vehicle obviously plays a pretty substantial role. As expected, speeding through the elaborate city is exciting and surprisingly enough, it's used to make some puzzles even more interesting. The combat mechanics are solid and they do give the game more variety, but when the regular melee combat, predator scenarios, and detective elements are all so good, I can't help but feel like they went a little overboard with the amount of times you need to fight waves of tank drones. As entertaining as obliterating overwhelming amounts of enemy vehicles may be, using Batman to glide below the cloudy skies or stalk henchmen is way more thrilling.

The visuals are stunning. They did a tremendous job creating a fitting atmosphere for Gotham and I've yet to get tired of staring at all that the city has to offer as I perch on a rooftop or race to my next objective. There's just so much variety sprinkled throughout the city and the framerate never took a noticeable drop (while using a PS4). It really is impressive just how much attention went into crafting this place and filling it with easter eggs. There are so many times I found myself simply rotating the camera around Batman so I could admire the view. 

The score plays an equally big part in pulling you into this fictional city. It's downright epic at times - sometimes even overshadowing what's going on - and there's one track that felt beautiful and tragic at the same time. I believe the first time it plays is when Batman's doing something especially heroic and putting himself in a fatal situation. Even though you know he's not going to die that early in the game (totally not a spoiler), it still manages to give the scene so much more weight.

Since I pre-ordered my copy for the Playstation 4, I had immediate access to the Harley Quinn, Red Hood, and Scarecrow missions. Harley Quinn's is the most elaborate mission and it includes exploring, predator sequences, melee fighting, and a boss battle. I didn't keep track of the time, but it was likely 10-15 minutes long at most. Playing as Quinn is pretty fun, especially since she has the ability to go into a frenzy which increases her speed and allows her to knock people out with one swift and oh-so-harsh combo. She may be lighthearted, but her extra vision mode reminds you just how frightening and unpredictable she can be. I imagine fans of a certain Robin won't be too pleased with the mission's outcome, though! 

As for Red Hood, the former Robin has 3 challenges: a direct brawl, a predator scenario, and a boss battle (Black Mask). The ability to use his twin pistols is a blast - totally unintentional pun - and his snarky responses are amusing, so this Jason Todd fan (I just lost some of you, didn't I?) is very pleased. Just like with Quinn, his content only took about 10-15 minutes, but their fighting styles are noticeably different. 

The Scarecrow missions are just 3 races followed by boss battles (while you're still in the Batmobile). Each race takes roughly a few minutes (assuming you aren't a total disaster at driving) and the boss sequence is just a few more. While the scenery and challenges a giant Scarecrow throws your way are cool, nothing is really done to make each race feel different than the other one. The only noticeable variation is the track. Aside from that, it's the same obstacles and the fight against the giant Scarecrow never undergoes significant changes. Unless you really love driving, it's unfortunately repetitive and doesn't seem to be as creative as it could have been. 
I believe I can Batman. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
It's a shame there isn't much replay value with the DLC - why can't I use Harley Quinn or Red Hood in other challenges? - but if you really love these characters and can afford it, then it's worth experiencing. Based on this, I can only assume Batgirl's upcoming story mission will also be 10-15 minutes long. Considering her role in the game, I'm very motivated to see her beat up a ton of bad guys. Here's hoping the extra content in the season pass justifies the whopping $40 price tag. I'm hoping it includes more combat and predator challenges, because as far as I can tell, there's only 4 of each (and they have pre-assigned characters!) yet there's at least 12 Batmobile challenges. Not cool.

Look, I'll be complete honest here: I've got a bit of Bat bias going on. Not only is he one of my favorite DC heroes, but I really, really enjoyed Rocksteady's Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. If you didn't spend a bunch of hours having a good time with those games or don't care all that much for the Dark Knight's world, then this one obviously just isn't for you - the fan service will be lost on you and feeling unstoppable in a Batmobile isn't going to suddenly win you over. However, if you even kind of consider yourself a Batman fan and like the previous games - even just a little bit - then I absolutely recommend playing Arkham Knight. It's a must-buy if you loved the previous games and a rental for casual fans. Sure, a key story element didn't blow me away and that feels like a missed opportunity, but this game is one hell of a ride. Whether you want to think that's a terrible Batmobile pun is entirely up to you.

For the "too long; didn't read" crowd:
+Fighting and exploring as Batman.
+A ton of focus on Batman's psyche.
+The graphics and the way Gotham is brought to life.
+Lots of fan service.
+Voice acting.
+Scarecrow's role.
+Plenty of content.
+Epic score.
+/- Batmobile's fun but plays too big of a role.
-Arkham Knight's story.
-Only 4 combat and 4 predator challenges. Characters pre-assigned, too.
-Final ending leaves way too many questions.

Bane's Best Battles

The man who broke the Bat will face-off with Bruce Wayne on the big screen this July, and now is the perfect time to do your homework by diving into the villain's extensive comic book history. Bane's dark and brilliant mind will make Batman's life a nightmare in director Christopher Nolan's final Batman film, but it's his sheer strength and skill that will prove to be Wayne's ultimate obstacle. Bane is infamous for duking it out with the Dark Knight, but Batman is hardly the only man to get slugged in the face a few times by the villain. Grab some popcorn and enjoy the craziness as I review Bane's best battles.

VS Batman,  Detective Comics #701
Allied with the legendary Ra's al Ghul, Bane returns to Gotham City and has an unforgettable fight with Batman on the docks. The two narrowly escape an explosion and have a contest of skill along the water, countering and blocking the powerful strikes that fly back and forth. Bane's able to finally gain the edge when he dodges a few batarangs and then connects with a swift jump quick. In true villain fashion, Bane tries to take his time with Wayne, attempting to slowly drown his longtime enemy. Batman remembers the death of his parents (for the millionth time) and overcomes Bane, landing a few brutal hits and eventually dropping him with a kick. Bane stumbles onto a piece of debris and floats away as Batman stands victorious.

VS Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Batman: Bane
Picking up directly after the events of Detective Comics #701, Bane - exhausted and floating on debris - floats into the path of a ship. Like the boss that he is, Bane hops and on-board and takes over the place with ease. But this isn't your every day ship! It turns out the vessel is carrying nuclear supplies, and Bane wants to use the vehicle as a bomb. Batman won't have any of that nuclear nonsense, but the original Robin, Dick Grayson, busts onto the scene first. Not once but twice Bane proves that, in a direct match consisting of purely physical might and skill, Nightwing doesn't stand much of a chance against the powerhouse. An elbow to the face hurts, but Bane's verbal insult must have hurt a lot more. "But you are not the Batman.  So to me, you are nothing!" Don't worry, Grayson, pappa Wayne drops in to save the day. He smacks Bane around for a bit and manages to prevent the nuclear attack on Gotham. It's just another example of why the hero deserves the title "the Goddamn Batman."

VS Batman, Detective Comics #736
Bane leaps into Gotham City during the events of "No Man's Land" and he's dead-set on claiming what he believes to be his territory. But just like every other time, the Dark Knight stands in his way. The two slug it out in the slushy sewers and Bane manages to elude Wayne with an explosive. The two meet face-to-face shortly after in a warehouse, and so begins an awesomely destructive bout between the two. They smash one another across the room and both land their fair share of painful strikes, but Batman lands a devastating combo to Bane's face in the end. Still standing and ready for more, Bane tells Batman he has an ace up his sleeve: keep fighting and risk losing, or go defuse dynamite he planted under a Nun's soup kitchen.  Naturally, Batman leaves. (You're such a crafty fellow, Bane.) The only thing that would make this fight any better is if Mike Deodato Jr illustrated it. Oh, wait...

VS Azrael (Jean Paul Valley), Azrael #36-40
Azrael beat Bane to a pulp in "Knightfall" after he forced to foe to suffer withdrawal from venom, and Bane isn't one to forgive and forget. When Bane resurfaces, Jean-Paul Valley tells Batman he's up to the task. Bane claims he no longer needs the drug and considers it a weakness, but that's not stopping him from selling it to a small army. And so begins a few fantastic and must read fights between Azrael and Bane. Bane quickly takes the first fight against an injured JPV, but the second is absolutely brutal. The two duke it out along the cliffs, and when JPV distracts Bane with a case of venom, it allows him to send the two flying off a cliff. Both combatants slowly rise, but it's Azrael who delivers the final strike. Round three picks up shortly later, but an aftershock causes Bane to bump his head and, in turn, lose the battle. These 5 issues are something every Bane fan should read at least once.

VS Man-Bat, Gotham Underground #1
Bane has a thing for humiliating some of Batman's lamer enemies.  He tortured Penguin during the end of Secret Six, brutalized Killer Croc twice, and now he drops Man-Bat with literally no effort. This well-known Bat foe has the appearance of something fierce, but it's nothing Bane can't overcome by creating a fist and sending it via first class delivery to Man-Bat's face. Better luck next time, Man-Bat.

VS Killer Croc, Batman #489 & Detective Comics #660
Killer Croc (Waylon Jones) is a villain that is written all over the place in regards to power levels. One day he's a force that requires a small amount of explosives to take down, and the next an unarmed Harvey Dent can embarrass him. But during "Knightfall," Croc proved he was able to hold his own against Jean-Paul Valley and Robin. The duo could barely hurt him, but then big daddy Bane stepped in. He took some venom and completely wrecked Croc. He smacked him around, broke his arm, and then booted him into a pile of stuffed animals, leaving the green villain broken and helpless. The line "You're too ugly to hit" was just icing on the harsh cake. But that was just round 2. After taking down Robin, Bane found himself in the sewers... Killer Croc's territory. Despite the home field advantage, Bane still gets the jump on Waylon, but Croc manages to destroy Bane's venom supply. Unfortunately for him, this doesn't even the odds nearly as much as he had hoped it would. Bane further injures Croc's broken arm and proves that even without venom his uppercuts are more than enough to put a hurting on Croc. The two go back and forth before tumbling into the water below and become separated. Bane has a great track record against the Bat family and their villains, but he should be grateful he's never had to face Deathstroke or Deadshot. That would certainly not end well for The Dark Knight Rises villain.

Bane vs Catman, Secret Six #35
After learning he's destined to end up in Hell regardless of his actions, Bane takes a moment to reevaluate what's important to him, and the answer is obvious: destroying the Bat. But he already broke Batman's spine, and he realizes that in the long run the crippling move accomplished nothing. Now, Bane wants to destroy Batman by killing his loved ones, a weakness Bane became aware of when he jumped into action to defend his own date. While sharing this idea, Catman tries to reenact how a fight with Batman would go. Bane casually withstands strike after strike, even calling one "dainty" until he decides he has had enough and puts an end to the assault. Almost nonchalantly, Bane catches Catman's fist and crushes it, leaving Catman at his mercy until he completes talking about his plan.

VS Batman, Batman #497
Ah, the infamous moment that put Bane on everyone's radar. The first half of "Knightfall" was all about Bane's elaborate plan to destroy the Caped Crusader. To beat the great detective, Bane forced Wayne through a cruel and unrelenting gauntlet. He created a massive breakout and Batman, already tired from previous events, was now forced to push himself beyond his own limits as he traveled the city and attempted to stop the rampaging threats which included Joker, Scarecrow, Amygdala, and much, much more. When all is said and done, Bane is waiting for Wayne in the comfort of his own mansion. In a futile last effort, the weakened Batman tries to stop the villain, but Bane is simply too much for the severely exhausted Wayne. What ensues is a horrific beating through the mansion and it travels into the batcave. When Bane is finished toying with Batman, he finally lifts Wayne over his head and crushes the detective's spine against his knee. Bane has accomplished what dozens of villains have failed to do for years and years: he broke the Bat. Fret not, Bruce, Jean-Paul puts an equally bad hurting back on Bane for ya.

VS Azrael, Detective Comics #666 & Batman #500

With Bruce Wayne out of commission, Jean-Paul Valley steps up to the plate and puts on the cowl. The old cowl isn't enough for him, though, so Jean-Paul makes some awesome upgrades, including assorted weapons, claws, and armor. The violent hero rushes into action against Bane, but quickly realizes he needs more upgrades. He gets some good slashes and stabs in, but Bane almost chokes him out and eventually Azrael suffers a devastating fall. Next time the two face off, JPV decides to put a few more advantages into his dark take on Batman's costume. 

VS Joker, Detective Comics #740
A physical confrontation between Bane and Joker would have a rather obvious outcome, and Detective Comics #740 shows us just how fun it is to watch Bane slug Joker around. The Clown Prince of Crime tries to distract Bane with banter and pull a weapon, but Bane's too focused to let a mere insult or two faze him.  Instead, he has a grand old time punching Joker in the face numerous times.

VS Batman, Batman: The Dark Knight #6

While I can't say I'm a fan of the New 52 Bane so far, there's no denying the fact that his debut made quite an impact. Bane is now sporting an image similar to the one he often receives in media... and that's a lumbering 'roid head (e.g. Batman: Arkham Asylum, Young Justice, Batman & Robin). Bane reveals he's behind the new toxin/venom that's circulating, and promptly proceeds to put a major hurting on Batman.  Wayne barely escapes with an electric attack, but now we're left waiting to see how it'll conclude in the next issue. My guess? Batman wins, of course. While Bane is clearly being built as a purely physical threat in the new 52 (he displayed no skill  whatsoever, just brute force), he's at least still a genius and claims this venom will further increase his IQ. If he's so smart, why can't he see how ridiculous this new outfit looks?

This article is barely scratching the surface of the many, many times Bane has been in a battle, so if your favorite didn't make the cut, please don't forget to talk about it in the comments section below!