Tag Archive: bane


The joke’s on us

Fandom. It’s a weird little concept, but it can add color to so many different elements of our lives. For me, my fandom centers mostly on Batman—and has since I was a little boy watching Adam West in reruns of the campy ’60 TV series. After that, I worshipped Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. And now, I still swear up and down that Batman: The Animated Series is one of the greatest cartoons of all time. To this day, I adorn my apartment with Batman paraphernalia.

All of this makes reviewing a game like Batman: Arkham Origins a potentially enjoyable or maddening endeavor, however, because my lifelong obsession has me feel the highs and lows more than a casual observer might. And, at points, Arkham Origins goes very low.

The story is a simple one. The Caped Crusader has been cleaning up the streets of Gotham City for just about two years now, but just as we learned in the movies with Batman Begins, when you introduce an element like Batman into the world, there’s bound to be escalation—an evil to counterbalance the good that he represents. In Arkham Origins, the world’s eight best assassins have come to Gotham to try to collect a $50 million bounty that mob boss Black Mask has put on the Bat’s head. And when you get that many criminal elements converging on a sprawling urban center, “escalation” might not even begin to describe it.

This script is a brilliant breakdown of how everyone in the Arkhamverse reacts to this growing conflict when it first happens—and how Batman finally begins to transition from urban myth into a hero in the limelight. Though the story may start off a bit slow, once it hits its stride around the midway point, the twists and turns are worthy of any Batman story we’ve seen in print or on a TV/movie screen before. Dooma Wendschuh and Corey May—best known for their work on Ubisoft franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia—have proven themselves adept at handling the Dark Knight as much as any comic-book writer. And Christopher Drake (a veteran of several animated Batman films) delivers a chilling soundtrack, highlighted by some truly creepy Christmas-themed music, that sets the tone for a classic Batman adventure.

But there’s a lot more to a game than just the plot and atmosphere. Even though Warner Bros. Montreal took Arkham Asylum and Arkham City developer Rocksteady’s basic framework for much of Arkham Origins, it’s clear they wanted to put their own stamp on the franchise—but in the process, they’ve sullied several cornerstone elements from the first two Arkham games.

The first huge disappointment comes in the form of the boss battles. The game’s already scraping the bottom of the barrel with its many C-list villains, but Warner Bros. Montreal does most of them no favors from escaping that label. For every great boss encounter, there’s a horrible, pointless one that makes you question the character’s presence in the game in the first place. And even though the game touts eight assassins, not all of them are actually woven into the story. Instead, they’re relegated to side-mission status—but some of these conflicts are actually better than the story-related ones. It makes you wonder why Warner Bros. Montreal didn’t just trim the number of assassins down in order to deliver the consistent quality of encounters that players expect.

The biggest mistakes are found in the gameplay, though. The highly touted Detective mode crime reconstructor turns out to be a dud, since there are fewer than a dozen instances that you actually use it—and most of those are during the story. It’s an interesting idea that I would’ve loved to have seen more fully fleshed out, but at least the new Detective mode works.

The same can’t be said for combat, due to two of the new gadgets in Batman’s arsenal. The first, the Remote Claw, throws a tightrope between two points, allowing Batman to cross large gaps not normally traversable by the Batclaw. This gadget can also throw objects in the environment at thugs—or even slam two baddies together by attaching to both of them.

But when you give the Remote Claw its two upgrades via the new XP system, you can spam your attacks to make the stealth-based predator rooms far easier than they should be. At that point, you can use the Remote Claw to actually string up three thugs to gargoyles from a distance, never leaving the room’s opening perch, and whittling down the numbers from a daunting six to eight gun-touting thugs to a much more manageable three to five.

This is also a good time to mention that the AI in these rooms seems to have taken a step back from previous entries. You can easily lure all the henchmen in the room back to a gargoyle with a suspended thug, cut down the strung-up one with a Batarang, swing around the room, and string up a new thug to the same gargoyle. I could do this with an entire room, whereas in previous games, not every foe would go to these same spots over and over—they’d catch on to the trick sooner or later. Instead, now I have a pile of eight bodies in one location, which makes it very easy for the janitor to clean up after Batman leaves all the bad guys huddled together.

The second gadget in question breaks the other key gameplay element: hand-to-hand combat. When you get the Electrocutioner’s Shock Gloves, you can throw out any semblance of strategy. You see, the Shock Gloves are unblockable. So, when you activate them, instead of having to balance your attack against shield foes, armored enemies, and stun-baton thugs and actually strategize how to keep your combos going, you can just whale on them with the Shock Gloves for easy massive combos and no longer worry about performing cape stuns or dodges and attacking from behind. What was previously an intricate fighting system becomes a standard button-masher when using the Shock Gloves.

Of course, these gadgets—like everything in Batman’s arsenal—are wholly optional, so if you want to avoid using them to give yourself a more authentic experience, that’s entirely up to you. But, should you choose to use them, they’re clearly overpowered.

Now, I mentioned the new XP system before, and this is actually an addition that works pretty well. It makes every fight and action Batman takes mean something, since you’re constantly working toward leveling up and unlocking new abilities. It also does a better job breaking down how you get XP than what we’ve seen in previous games.

There’s another addition called The Dark Knight System, however, that’s irritating and locks some useful items behind it. In all, 60 specific tasks fall under being Gotham’s protector, thugs’ worst nightmare, being the best vigilante possible, and working toward becoming the world’s greatest detective. Each branch has 15 items in it, but only by completing each item in order can you unlock the next one, with rewards being given at different levels (like the Sonic Shock Batarang). I just couldn’t help but wonder why I needed to do the tasks in order, considering how hard the later ones are; if you accidentally pulled off task No. 14 while still on task No. 12, you’re out of luck and need to do it again. This is incredibly frustrating, especially because it’s an interesting idea that falls flat in execution.

Speaking of frustrations, glitches abound in Origins. This stuff could be patched at a later date, I suppose, but plenty of technical issues hindered my experience—and even forced me to restart many checkpoints. Thugs would suddenly start to hover 10 feet off the ground, so I’d have to do a dive attack from a higher perch to knock them off whatever invisible box they were standing on.

The controls froze up in several instances, preventing me from hurting any of the bad guys—but, interestingly enough, they couldn’t hurt me, either, which forced a checkpoint restart. Other times, I looked to Batclaw up to a higher point, and I got the RB button prompt to do so—but I instead launched across the room in the opposite direction.

And, of course, Arkham Origins also includes your standard bugs like the camera getting stuck on corners. Finally, there’s my personal favorite, lag and screen tearing in the open world. Not a lot of it, but enough to be a nuisance—and the frequency definitely spikes later in the game as more thugs are on the streets. Sure, it’s not like any of this is foreign to games, but it’s also stuff I didn’t see in the previous games.

Arkham Origins also includes something else we didn’t see in the previous games: versus multiplayer. Heck, I didn’t even know about it until I got the game. This is another example of an interesting idea from Warner Bros. Montreal that’s horribly executed—and completely unnecessary.

Eight players are split into three teams: three players on the Joker’s team, three on Bane’s, and the other two play as Batman and Robin (who doesn’t appear in the story at all). If you play as a Joker or Bane henchman, the game takes on a third-person-shooter viewpoint where you try to kill everyone on the other team. Each team has 25 respawns, and when these are exhausted for one side, the other team wins.

Besides kills, you can also capture three points in the environment. With each capture, the opposing team loses a reinforcement. Batman and Robin’s objective, then, is to perform stealth takedowns—like in the predator rooms—on as many thugs as possible in the hopes of filling up an intimidation meter in order for them to win. If they get shot and die, though, the meter is depleted. Players can also race to become their team’s inspirational boss midway through the match, bringing the Joker or Bane onto the field and giving one team a decided advantage, since most of Bane and the Joker’s powers are one-hit kills. What’s more, you can’t be Batman and Robin two matches in a row, since a randomizer selects who’ll don the cape and cowl after each match.

Just typing that made my head hurt. There’s way too much going on in any of these matches, and the term “clusterf***” came to mind frequently during my playtime. The shooting controls feel way too loose, the maps are far too small for Batman and Robin to ever be truly effective, and their stealth techniques are nearly impossible to pull off throughout an entire match because it’s so hard to predict human nature. Plus, they’re completely negated as long as teams stick together, since Batman and Robin can only take one guy down at a time. The two partner players will often immediately turn their guns on Batman and Robin as soon as something happens, since many of the takedowns also take far too long to complete.

But my biggest complaint about this mode is that Batman is the last character who needs a multiplayer component in his game, and I fear something like this could lead to co-op with Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl down the line.

The addition of multiplayer shows where this game went wrong: from the get-go. Instead of trying to appeal to the core Batman audience, it feels like WB and DC rushed this game out the door in order to try to maintain the accepted two-year development cycle that’s become a standard for most franchises in order to maintain the widest audience possible.

And by asking Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker to impersonate former Batman and Joker actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill—instead of having them do their own takes on the characters—I think WB and DC are scared of upsetting an already precarious status quo that sees Marvel thumping them in almost every single media endeavor. Even though Smith and Baker do a stellar job for 90 percent of the game, that other 10 percent—where they sound like they’re struggling to get in the spirit of Conroy and Hamill—shatters the immersion. It’s so jarring, it’s like if I were watching Christopher Walken in Batman Returns, and then suddenly, Jay Mohr is there in his place instead. But the only reason why you’d have them do impersonations in the first place is because you’re scared the casual fanbase won’t be able handle change of any sort. You make a game for the lowest common denominator—the kind of player who needs multiplayer.

But most Batman fans are better than that. It goes back to that fandom thing: The diehards are amazingly in tune with their favorite characters and everything going on with them. To my knowledge, there wasn’t a huge clamoring for multiplayer. And there wasn’t a change in voice actors because WB felt they needed “younger-sounding versions” of these characters—especially because they got everyone else from the previous games to reprise their roles.

This all leads to my main problem with Batman: Arkham Origins: It’s nothing more than a stopgap game to keep Batman fresh in the minds of the casual consumer. With Rocksteady hard at work on whatever they’re doing for next-gen, whether it’s the Batman game we want that picks up right after Arkham City (and hopefully follows Hush) or some other DC-related property (there’s always rumors of them taking a crack at Superman), Warner Bros. felt they had to put something out there. In order to not rock the boat even further, they even figured out a way to work the Joker back in with the idea of a prequel.

At its core, despite the flaws, there’s a decent Batman game here, since it still has the basic mechanics of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. But the game could’ve been so much more if WB Montreal had really tried to carry the series forward instead of trying to do their own impersonation. And at least then—if this effort had been in the name of wrapping up the series on this console generation with a truly magnificent bang—they could be forgiven a little for all the things they broke when it comes to gameplay. Instead, it feels like they cut corners, slapped a Christmastime coat of paint on Rocksteady’s previous framework, built a second island that looks strikingly similar to the first, and hoped that making a couple of references to the previous games would keep the fanbase satisfied. Because of all this, the game falls short of the lofty expectations established by the first two Arkham games—and my expectations as a lifelong Batman fan.

Developer: Warner Bros. Montreal • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 10.25.13
6.5
Batman: Arkham Origins is a massive step back from Rocksteady’s Arkham efforts due to countless technical problems, poor gadget balancing, and a needless addition of versus multiplayer.
The Good The story, atmosphere, and music are all worthy of the Arkham series.
The Bad Many of the new elements Warner Bros. Montreal introduces are wholly unnecessary—or ruin Rocksteady’s cornerstone elements.
The Ugly The lack of faith WB and DC has in its fanbase.
Batman: Arkham Origins is available on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

Stop reading my mind, Ed Boon!

I am, admittedly, a creature of habit. I spend 6.8 percent of my day thinking of friends and loved ones, 9.4 percent of my day thinking about what I’m going to eat for lunch and dinner, and the remaining 83.8 percent of my day thinking about comic-book “What Ifs?” Would Bane be able to go toe-to-toe with Solomon Grundy? Could Green Arrow ever stand up to Superman? Could Shazam, Earth’s Mightiest Mortal, strike down Ares? Could Nightwing surpass his teacher and beat down Batman? Now, NetherRealm Studios has provided me with an outlet for my musings that’s so perfect, so tailor-made for geeks like me, that there’s only one possible explanation: Ed Boon is psychic.

Potential clairvoyance aside, Injustice: Gods Among Us looks to answer many of those questions that I ponder daily by taking 24 of the DC Universe’s most infamous heroes and villains and pitting them against each other in a 2.5D fighter. Building off the foundation of NetherRealm’s last outing, the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, Injustice offers a bevy of modes that provide more depth than most other fighters in both its single player and multiplayer menus.

Being the massive comic-book fan that I am, I was initially drawn to the single-player story mode. We open with the revelation that the Joker has committed the unthinkable—he’s detonated a nuke in Metropolis, annihilating the entire populace, including everyone that Superman knows and loves. We then follow the fallout from this horrendous incident as Superman is pushed past a line he never knew existed.

The story unfolds across nearly 50 fights and a handful of minigames—ranging from button-prompt challenges and “Test Your Might”-style button-mashing marathons—through a dozen chapters, each marked by the player taking the helm of a new hero or villain. These are linked together then by gorgeous cutscenes that set the stage for a conflict of the most epic proportions, all as Injustice’s story hits notes reminiscent of some of DC’s most thrilling comic arcs from days gone by. And it even finds an interesting way to explain how the likes of the Joker and Batman can so easily go against Superman and Green Lantern.

But the story mode barely even scratches the surface of the depth this game offers. If you’re more an old-school arcade ladder fan, then Battles mode offers you plenty of options. Not only is there a classic mode where you get a short cutscene tailored to each character after you best 10 different enemies, but there are dozens of stipulations you can select from to add to your challenge. Want to face off against the whole roster? How about doing it with a single lifebar? Or maybe you want a series of mirror matches? These are just a few of the plethora of other challenges available in Battles mode and that’ll keep this disc warm in your system for hours.

But wait! There’s even more! Continuing to build off that Mortal Kombat foundation I mentioned earlier, Injustice also includes S.T.A.R. Labs, a spandexed twist on Mortal Kombat‘s popular Challenge Tower mode that provides each individual character with 10 unique missions that offer a variety of gameplay situations that deviate from the standard fighter formula—all while still providing a fun and interesting set of challenge parameters.

And if that weren’t enough, you’ve got the local and online multiplayer, with the online offering not only your standard ranked 1-on-1 scenarios, but also King of the Hill, where you can enter a queue in a room of fighters and watch other matches take place, or Survivor, where your lifebar and character selection carries over in each match.

Now, I know what you’re saying. If you’re a fighting-game fan like me, you know that a game could have a story from the likes of Marv Wolfman or Frank Miller and have 100 modes that are as deep and well thought out as the ones I’ve described in Injustice, but if it doesn’t handle well, it’s all for naught. The gameplay itself has to be there, the combos have to flow smoothly, and the fighting can’t get dull or boring.

This happens to be where Injustice shines like the Brightest Day.

The thing that surprised me the most was the removal of the traditional rounds we see in most other fighters. Taking a page out of the comics Injustice is inspired by, most monumental bouts between superhero and villain heavyweights will just continue non-stop. In order to embody this idea, Injustice gives every fighter two lifebars, with only a small pause in the action signifying someone has lost their first life bar and a new “round” is then starting. I admit, I was skeptical of this gimmick, but after only a few fights, it became a natural part of the conflict for me. The old premise of rounds was almost completely wiped from my memory as new strategies formed to take advantage of this inventive new wrinkle.

After putting several more matches in, I didn’t see, but I felt the combos flowing like Aquaman riding the surf, as it was easier than ever to pull off some ridiculously long hit combinations, especially with quicker characters like Harley Quinn or Nightwing. As anyone who’s been pinned against an invisible arena walls until the match is over knows, though, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. To balance this, there are a couple of new ways to counter or interrupt these combos and give you a chance to deliver your own punishing pounding.

The power meter system, another Mortal Kombat element, returns to allow players to pump up their special attacks. A full meter allows for the amazing, over-the-top specials that decimate opponents when they hit, but it also acts as a currency for moves called Clashes. A Clash is when a player decides to initiate a forced confrontation with his opponent and gambles some of his special meter. Depending on how much you gamble and who initiates the Clash, you can instantly cause huge damage to your opponent or heal a large chunk of your lifebar. These Clashes, when used properly, can very easily turn a match if not careful. Several times, my opponent and I were down to less than half of our last lifebars when one of us hit a Clash, regained a third of our health, and were able to ride this late boost to victory.

The most ingenious additions to the gameplay, though, are the interactive environments. Across 15 different levels—most with multiple transitions to different sections of the world—you can interact with the background and drop surprisingly powerful attacks on your opponents that take advantage of your particular character’s natural abilities. Get backed into a corner as Bane? A quick tap of the right bumper will have him pick up a car and smash it over your opponent. Should you be playing as the Flash, though, you’ll simply jump off the car to then get behind your opponent and put them in the corner. Laser cannons, chandeliers, statues, robots, jet engines, and anything else you come across can be used to turn the tide of battle and I still haven’t found them all after literally pouring nearly 30 hours into the game.

When all is said and done, Injustice: Gods Among Us isn’t just another fighting game. It’s the ultimate in fan service and an unmistakable labor of love. This is the kind of game DC fans have been dreaming of seeing their heroes in for a long time. On top of the stellar gameplay and cornucopia of modes, there’s a treasure trove full of unlockables, amazing graphics, and superb audio, with a voice cast pulled from the annals of DC Animation’s greats—even if not all of them are in their traditional roles (i.e., Phil LaMarr as Aquaman). And the only knocks against this entire experience are minor. The load times are obnoxiously long and frequent between each battle, but even that can be forgiven when you see what you can do in the levels and how smooth every single fight is once it starts. A few character move sets have shades of Mortal Kombat leak through like Batman/Scorpion, Raven/Ermac, and Killer Frost/Sub-Zero, but everyone else seems truly and wholly original. And I wish the mirror match clones were more easily discernible as they look exactly the same as you do. I’m really nitpicking there, though. I can’t stress enough how polished this game is in nearly every facet. This is a satisfying, must-have gaming experience on every level.

Developer: NetherRealm Studios • Publisher: Warner Bros. Int. Ent. • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 04.16.13
9.5
One of the best all-around fighting experiences you’re likely to find—and fans of both DC Comics and Mortal Kombat-style fighters will be blown away by this high-quality brawler of epic proportions.
The Good A story worthy of the comics, near-flawless mechanics, and enough collectibles to make this one of the deepest fighters you’ll ever see.
The Bad Obnoxiously long and frequent load times.
The Ugly Solomon Grundy takes the cake here.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

Hey there, kids! Dr. Ray Carsillo, Associate Professor of Superherolgy here for EGM. Today, we’re going to speculate as to what villains the Dark Knight may face in his upcoming game, Batman: Arkham Origins.

Along with a slew of screenshots, plot information leaked yesterday that Black Mask has called eight of the world’s greatest assassins to Gotham and put a massive bounty on Batman’s head. We know for sure that Deathstroke is, unsurprisingly, one of these assassins from those screens. But who are the other seven? Here are my best candidates for the job:

Deadshot

First Appearance: Batman #59 (June/July 1950)

Real Name: Floyd Lawton

Bio: Originally appearing in Gotham under the guise of helping Batman, Floyd Lawton actually had a grand plan to replace the Caped Crusader and then use the vacuum of costumed do-gooders to establish his own stranglehold on the Gotham underworld. This failed, of course, and when Lawton finally broke out of prison, he decided to become an assassin-for-hire instead. Consistently proving that he never misses, Deadshot quickly becomes one of the best assassins in the world, but frequent marks in Gotham has seen him cross paths many times with Batman over the years. His constant trouble with the law has led to several stints with groups like the Suicide Squad to put his skills to more noble uses while also trying to get shorter jail sentences.

Powers: Expert marksmanship

Why He Might Appear: Having already been part of an Arkham game increases the likelihood of Deadshot appearing. He’s one of the best-known assassins in the Batman mythos, and the huge bounty would play to the character’s more basic traits. Also, if the developers wanted to touch upon his origins, with the Penguin and Black Mask also being seen in screens, there’s a good chance for strong mob undertones to the game. If Deadshot wants a slice of the underworld to himself, this Batman Bounty would prove a perfect excuse for him to come to Gotham and try to weasel his way into one of the premier organizations before starting his own.

Lady Shiva

First Appearance: Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #5 (December 1975)

Real Name: Sandra Woosan (or Wu-San, depending on the writer)

Bio: Born and raised in a shantytown protected by Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins, Lady Shiva grew up around martial arts. After fleeing the village with her sister at a young age to pursue a better life in America, Shiva continued her training into adulthood before being tracked by David Cain, one Ra’s al Ghul’s best assassins. In order to free her mind from restraints she didn’t know she possessed, Cain killed Shiva’s sister. Realizing that Cain was right—that she needed to let go of everything, including her family, to reach her true potential—she entered into the League of Assassins with Cain and bore his offspring. This child would go on to become Cassandra Cain, the second Batgirl (third if you count Betty Kane, but most don’t). After Cassandra was born, Shiva abandoned the girl and continued her quest to reach her full potential, often fighting on both sides of the law to fulfill her personal wishes.

Powers: Martial arts grandmaster, expert in reading body language to predict opponents’ moves

Why She Might Appear: In a game revolving around assassins, the League of Assassins would need some sort of representative. Although I’m sure Ra’s al Ghul will also likely appear somehow, he rarely does his own dirty work and often employs people like Lady Shiva to do it for him. David Cain, Shiva’s lover, is also a possibility but less likely due to his niche status in the Batman mythos.  Therefore, Shiva’s easily the best-known candidate. Her past of both helping and attacking Batman could be an interesting side story—maybe even to set up a trap in the game—since Lady Shiva’s best-known story arc is the one where she helped train Batman back to full strength after Bane broke his back in the Knightfall story arc. On several occasions, though, she’s tried to kill several members of the Bat-Family.

Merlyn

First Appearance: Justice League of America #94 (November 1971)

Real Name: Depending on what media he appears in, Merlyn has a bevy of first names, including Tommy and Malcolm, with Merlyn always serving as his last name.

Bio: Once known as Merlyn the Magician, he was a world-class archer who fell out of the limelight after one great public archery contest against Green Arrow. Leaving the contest simply as archery rivals, Merlyn appeared many years later as a member of the League of Assassins, charged with killing Batman. Green Arrow prevented the attempt, however, and Merlyn was ousted from the League because of his failure. While at the League of Assassins, Merlyn also had a hand in Cassandra Cain’s training.

Powers: Master tactician, archer, marksman, and hand-to-hand combatant

Why He Might Appear: Even though he’s best known as a Green Arrow antithesis, Merlyn’s recent history has been heavily interwoven with Batman, especially now that he was last seen working with Talia al Ghul again. If the League of Assassins does make its presence known in the game aside from Lady Shiva, Merlyn would make an interesting villain to bring along under the League of Assassins banner. Not to mention it could lead to a Green Arrow cameo, whom DC and Warner Bros. have both been pushing heavily recently.

Prometheus

First Appearance: New Year’s Evil: Prometheus #1 (February 1998)

Real Name: Unknown

Bio: The son of two criminals who traveled the country committing numerous acts of theft and robbery, Prometheus watched from the sidelines as his parents provoked the police—until the cops had no choice but to gun them down in an alley. At that moment, he vowed to take revenge against all forces of “justice” that he might come across.

Powers: Variety of gadgets and weapons, peak human physical and mental ability

Why He Might Appear: Meant to be Batman’s perfect mirror image, Prometheus offers up an interesting battle that we see in many games, where the hero must face him or herself to advance (Dark Link, anyone?). Although Prometheus has a large sum of money due to his parents’ various stashes, he often meddles himself in mob affairs to garner more power. Again, with the mob angle clearly coming into play with Black Mask and Penguin’s respective presences, Prometheus might see this as the perfect time to confront his do-gooder equal while inserting himself into the Gotham underworld scene. Seeing as how all these assassins with underworld ties might possibly appear in the game, this could help introduce other mob bosses as well, like the Great White Shark, Carmine Falcone, Rupert Thorne, or Two-Face to go along with Penguin and Black Mask.

KGBeast

First Appearance: Batman #417 (March 1988)

Real Name: Anatoli Knyazev

Bio: Trained by a secret cell of operatives inside the KGB, the Beast was loyal to the Soviet Union and would do whatever it took to eliminate the targets he was assigned. His first encounter with Batman had KGBeast targeting 10 high-ranking officials inside the U.S. government in the hopes of crippling the “Star Wars” program. The Beast was mostly successful but failed to gun down his final target, then-President Ronald Reagan, after being thwarted by Batman. After this failure and the U.S.S.R. dissolving, KGBeast turned to a more traditional life of crime.

Powers: Prosthetic gun in place of left hand, enhanced physique due to cybernetics, explosives expert, extraordinary hand-to-hand combat skills

Why He Might Appear: The leaked info says that these are the best assassins in the world, and by the time he first met Batman, KGBeast had already successfully assassinated over 200 targets. His unique weapons—and considering the game is set in the past—could allow for KGBeast’s first appearance story to be mostly explored, especially as the game looks to have an open-world feel similar to Arkham City but twice as big. At the very least, it could be an interesting side mission to have high-ranking political figures in town—and Batman having to stop them from being killed by KGBeast.

Bane

First Appearance: Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (January 1993)

Real Name: Unknown

Bio: Born and raised in a prison his entire life, Bane’s natural skills allowed him to survive and later thrive under the harsh conditions. Building up his body in the prison gym and learning as much as he could, Bane quickly dominated everyone in the courtyard to become the unquestioned “king.” Seeing his potential, prison controllers felt he’d be perfect for an experimental drug called Venom. Using his new-found superstrength, Bane escaped his prison home and made a beeline for Gotham City, feeling it his destiny to break the Bat.

Powers: Master of disguise, photographic memory, expert strategist, Venom usage gives him superhuman strength

Why He Might Appear: Bane’s another character who’s already appeared in the Arkham games. If Warner Bros. Montreal decides to tap into a little bit of the Batman: The Animated Series mythos, it would be easy to make Bane an assassin-for-hire type, as well as a mastermind in his own right. This would explain what would bring him to Gotham in the first place, and since his own origins in the Arkhamverse haven’t really been explored, this could be the time to do it. Plus, he’s another big name from the Rogue’s Gallery and could really help complement Penguin and Black Mask. And let’s not forget that Bane is at an all-time high in terms of popularity due to last summer’s The Dark Knight Rises, and seeing him in a more traditional comic-book setting might be just the thing to keep his villainous momentum going.

Azrael

First Appearance: Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight (March 2009)

Real Name: Michael Washington Lane

Bio: An ex-cop, Michael Washington Lane is approached by the Order of Purity when the former Azrael went mad and killed an undercover cop. Dressed in holy relics that speak to him—and after undergoing numerous purification rituals by the Order—Lane has lost some of who he once was, but his personal sense of justice is still his primary driving force, which has led him to be both an ally and an adversary to Batman.

Powers: Artificially enhanced physiology, specially armored costume

Why He Might Appear: I chose the more recent incarnation of Azrael—not the original from the early ’90s in Jean-Paul Valley—because Lane is another figure who’s appeared in the Arkham games. It makes sense for this version to be used here, because instead of trying to teach people about two different men as the same character, you create a bit of a new backstory for him in the Arkhamverse. All in all, this would be a lot simpler—and more interesting. Azrael’s always been a character who lives in that gray area and whose methods are too extreme for Batman to use himself; his religious undertones also make him a bit of a lightning-rod character. This could also lead him to believing that Batman is some sort of devil or demon—and that by purging him from the world, he’d be doing his holy duty, instantly providing a bit more depth in terms of character motivation beyond “I want to get rich and famous.” His character’s also susceptible to being easily manipulated—and he has a history with Ra’s al Guhl as well because of this.

What do you folks think of this list? Who do you think should be on here? What non-assassin villains do you think will crop up? Are you excited for Batman: Arkham Origins? Let us know with comments below! 

“Wait’ll they get a load of me…”

Comic book fans are easily some of the most rabid fans out there. Maybe it’s because of the history, maybe it’s the appeal of the characters, maybe it’s because of a lack of social skills developed in their mom’s basement, but whatever the reason, whenever something features comic book characters, the fans tear it apart. Well, good luck finding fault with this one. And trust me, being a fan myself, I tried.

Batman: Arkham City is easily the greatest fan service a comic book game could ever possibly be. Fans who had concerns over how the story line tied together or whether too many villains might be featured, need not concern themselves anymore. The way the story flows and introduces you to Hugo Strange, the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, Deadshot, Zsasz, and all the other villains in Arkham City, could only be described as water it flows so smooth. The game has such a natural plot progression that your biggest problem may be just finding the time to finish it because if you do even a portion of the side quests like where you team up with Bane or simply wish to hunt for a few Riddler trophies then you’re going to be looking at a 40-50 hour experience. That’s almost unheard of for an action/adventure game, but somehow Batman: Arkham City finds a way to keep surprising you to the point where you might just start sitting on the floor so that when you keep dropping your controller it won’t fall as far. The guys at Rocksteady should be applauded for this new Batman universe they have created while also making it still feel like Batman.

Really though the biggest reason why the game is so great comes down to the variety and execution in the game play. There are a plethora of problems for Batman to solve using all of his different gadgets and abilities and unlike in Arkham Asylum where some gadgets were favored more than others, every gadget will get a workout here. Whether expertly trying to pilot your remote-controlled batarang through air ducts too small for Batman to fit through to hit a switch on the other side of a locked gate, to using your grappling hook to pull together platforms to solve tricky Penguin puzzles, every gadget will be pushed to the limit, and not to spoil anything, but there are a lot more gadgets this time around.

The gadgets are also a huge part of combat now, which is another feature that has seen a facelift. Now, via some hot key combos, Batman can whip out his grappling hook, batarangs, and other goodies on the fly and throw them in the face of unsuspecting foes to pull off some really stunning combos like using the grappling hook to pull distant thugs in for a devastating clothesline. Also, aside from the standard punches and counters and these new gadget moves, Batman has new special moves that can take foes out of the fight instantly when his combo gets high enough, catch items thrown at him and throw them back with a well-timed counter, capitalize on the tremendous environment physics to put walls and railings more to his advantage, and even unlock special crowd control moves that can even up the odds on those 30 on 1 fights that you’ll occasionally run into. Basically, if we’ve seen Batman do it in a movie or comic book before, he can do it in the game and few things feel as good as quick grappling an enemy over a banister and hearing him scream for his mommy before being knocked out.

Another aspect of the first game that has been tweaked is the leveling up, RPG elements. You start the game off with a good amount of gadgets and moves, but like in the first game, the further you progress and more stuff you do, the more gadgets and combos you unlock as it goes with the story and then upgrade as you see fit. In the end, most people should have many, if not all of the upgrades, but it does give you some options in just how you would play as Batman in order to help craft a more personal experience.

Now, for many people, the only real negatives from the first game were the linearity and Detective Mode being used as a crutch. I’m happy to say that both problems have been solved. In order to counter people wanting to stay in Detective Mode, things away from where your focus should be have become more blurred, forcing players to only use it when examining a crime scene, following a blood trail, or when scoping out a room full of thugs. The bright neon lights of Gotham also wreak havoc with Detective Mode really making sure that when you’re outdoors, you take in Gotham in all it’s downtrodden glory. The linearity has also been fixed with the bevy of previously mentioned side missions and having several objectives open at once so that you can solve cases at your own leisure, go explore for Riddler trophies, or just do what I did for the first half-hour I played the game, glide around on my cape and just take in Gotham staples like the Monarch Theater, Ace Chemicals, and Park Row.

Now, one knock might be that there is no co-op multiplayer since if you squint really tightly you might see potential for it, but the character really isn’t built for that, especially in this story. You can already play as other characters to mix things up, which the Catwoman levels are just as fun as the main game and give you a whole new look to Arkham City for the short sections you play as her by the way. But, honestly, Batman is at his best when he is the center of attention and Robin, Nightwing, Oracle, and the rest of the Bat-family are just on the sides providing occasional support from the wings. And Batman and his rogues are the biggest reason why anyone plays this game. Would anyone really play a Nightwing game with him taking on Professor Pyg? The challenge maps return, of course, and trying to work your way up the leaderboards and build the best combo is still fun and choosing different characters there works, but Batman is a loner and so the main vein of this game, which is the campaign, is in all its glory with you just focusing in and playing as Batman.

When all is said and done, throw in the amazing voice acting from Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Maurice LaMarche, Tara Strong, and the rest of the cast, and without giving away the brilliantly written plot (thank you Paul Dini), all I can say is that this is the single greatest comic book game I’ve ever played. It plays so well that I can easily recommend this to anyone without even thinking about it.

SUMMARY: Batman: Arkham City is easily the greatest fan service a comic book game could ever possibly be.

  • THE GOOD: The most comprehensive comic book game I’ve ever played
  • THE BAD: So many “Oh my God!” moments you keep dropping your controller
  • THE UGLY: The seedy underbelly of Gotham all in one spot

SCORE: 10

Secret Six #32 Review

Originally Published: April 6, 2011, on Comicvine.com

The Secret Six confront Ragdoll in hell itself in the hopes of still being able to revive Knockout and go back to the land of the living. Ragdoll though has a few other ideas especially when it comes to the “Get Out of Hell Free” card!

The Good

This depiction of hell is an interesting one and to see everyone’s reaction when Ragdoll reveals they will all end up there gives minor character development to all characters in a matter of a couple of pages. The most telling with this is Bane who nearly breaks down when he argues that he still has an honor code and Ragdoll tells him that men who do what he’s done but have honor codes are used as landfill for the compost heaps in hell.

The humor of the comic is still also evident even though the setting has shifted to the most abominable of places as Ragdoll, Deadshot, and even King Shark have some nice one-liners and banter as the comic progresses and we learn just what happened to Ragdoll when he wished himself to hell.

Couple this with a surprise ending that reveals what has happened to Knockout and if you’ve been reading the Secret Six, now is not the time to stop.

The Bad

Not a lot of action and when it does erupt the pages just seem convoluted with the various foes the Secret Six find themselves up against.

And although the banter is enjoyable at times, the entire comic is really just one long argument between Ragdoll and Scandel as to who should hold the “Get Out of Hell” free card and what has become of Knockout since she came to hell. I would have loved a lot more input from Deadshot and Bane especially after his near breakdown when he learns he is not destined for the pearly gates, but to cross the River Styx instead.

This is also a bad time to jump into the comic since it is the middle part of a three-part arc not to mention there has clearly been a lot of build up to this between Ragdoll, Scandel, and the others.

The Verdict

For the middle part of a three-part arc, I was expecting a bit more action, but the plot was forwarded considerably so hopefully the time for talking is done come part three. I also hope this leads to some issues with Bane down the road and explores his difficulty in accepting his fate.

If you’ve been reading the Secret Six, this is no time to stop now as I’m sure this arc will end explosively next issue and still maintain that spark of humor even in hell, but this is also definitely not the time to be jumping into this comic if you’re looking to add something to your weekly pull list.

Originally Published: December 9, 2010, on Youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Batman: Arkham Asylum for the PS3.