Tag Archive: harley quinn


Here is the best cosplay I saw at New York ComicCon 2015 and in only 90 seconds!

Knightfall

Editor’s Note: Because of the issues I had with the story, I will be referencing several major reveals from the game, as well as the prior game’s ending. If you wish to remain spoiler free, consider yourself warned. 

Whenever a modern, story-driven action game transforms into a successful series, particularly a trilogy, it starts to suffer from Star Wars syndrome. The middle game is always the best, and all the prequels aren’t nearly as good as the originals. We’ve seen this with Gears of War, God of War, and even Uncharted. Well, we can now add one more trilogy to that list: the Batman: Arkham games.

That’s not to say that Batman: Arkham Knight is an awful game. It’s just inferior to its predecessors (except for prequel Arkham Origins). Instead of bringing everything to a natural conclusion and tying up all the loose ends it left open from previous games, it tries to cram too many new conflicts into this final title in an attempt to needlessly raise the stakes—which were plenty high enough as they were. The results feel like a narrative mess, and I think a large part of this is the result of developer Rocksteady writing the script in-house instead of having it done by a veteran Batman scribe like Paul Dini, who also happened to pen both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.

Taking elements from some of the more epic Batman stories over the past three decades from various forms of media—including Death of the Family, Death in the Family, Under the Red Hood, and Batman Beyond: Return of the JokerBatman: Arkham Knight sees the Scarecrow filling the criminal void left by the Joker nearly a year after his demise in Arkham City. With his most potent Fear Toxin formula yet, Scarecrow threatens to detonate a bomb that would blanket the entire Eastern Seaboard in the stuff, sending every man, woman, and child into a state or perpetual terror.

This, in and of itself, would’ve been a fine conclusion for the Arkham series, revolving around Batman having to constantly overcome his fears. Also along for the ride, however, is the Arkham Knight—a “new” character whose identity Batman fans should easily be able to deduce based on his taunting dialogue and how well he knows the Dark Knight. But even those who don’t immediately uncover the Arkham Knight’s identity will surely notice the cavalcade of clues, because Rocksteady wanted to make sure they really spelled it out before the big reveal.

Easily the worst narrative decision stems from the fact that Rocksteady and/or Warner Bros. wasn’t brave enough to make a Batman game that didn’t feature the Joker as a major player, though. For some reason, the Joker’s spirit lives on inside of Batman and several other of Gotham’s less fortunate citizens through his contaminated blood (I guess that cure in Arkham City wasn’t good enough), and Joker’s personality is trying to assert itself over those bodies in an attempt to cheat death. As time goes on and they become weaker, the Joker’s personality emerges more and more.

At that point, even as a comic book fan, it was too much. To have three major villains vying for attention in your main story—one in an incorporeal form—left a bad taste in my mouth. At the very least, the game’s ending felt like a fitting conclusion to the series, but I just wish it weren’t such a mess of an adventure getting to that point.

Instead of trying to shoehorn so many foes into the main story, maybe Rocksteady could’ve just added more side villains to allow the primary plot a chance to breathe. Those that are included—referred to as “Gotham’s Most Wanted” in-game, since you have to actually drag them back to GCPD after defeating them—provide a nice respite from the muck that is the main narrative. I could’ve easily done with more, especially Hush, Man-Bat, and Deacon Blackfire—or at least some longer missions involving them. The game does feature more than a dozen side missions in total built around a double-digit amount of classic Batman rivals, which helps to take some of the focus off of Scarecrow, Joker, and Arkham Knight. It’s a testament to the size of the world that it never felt like any of Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery encroached on each other’s turf, and I still had to search long and hard at times to uncover my next set of clues.

That’s definitely one of Rocksteady’s most impressive achievements with Arkham Knight. Gotham City is absolutely massive and comes alive like never before. Whether it’s ACE Chemicals, Port Adams, the GCPD, or Wayne Tower, the game includes every building and street that Bat-fans want to see, and you can seamlessly explore them all with no loading times while you hunt down your enemies as Batman.

Plus, Detective Mode has been expanded to help you on those hunts. With new elements like deep-tissue analysis on murder victims, security camera footage reviews, and fingerprint reconstruction, along with the addition of crime scene reconstruction from Arkham Origins, prowling Gotham for clues is as rewarding as ever.

Combat remains the high point of the Arkham series here, though. The smooth, free-flowing battles return, meaning that you’ll pull off 50-hit combos with regularity, but the game also adds new throw counters that help with crowd control, and instant environmental takedowns that can immediately remove the toughest thugs from a fight. Arkham Knight even offers special missions where you’ll team up with Robin, Nightwing, or Catwoman and can take control of them mid-fight instead of Batman as seamlessly as you do a counter, or perform team-up moves for some truly epic action. With these added nuances to combat, no encounter ever plays out the same way twice.

Predator Room combat has also seen a drastic improvement. The new Fear Takedowns allow you to remove as many as five enemies from the field at once when you’re fully upgraded. This will have you planning out your knockouts well in advance in an attempt to get enemies to bunch up together so you can swoop in and wipe them out in a single flourish. New devices like the Disruptor also lend a hand in planning strategy before jumping into the fray, since its special bolts will jam any gun—and, when upgraded, it can even short out enemy drones.

I wish that every element of Arkham Knight’s gameplay were so stellar. On the whole, all of these additions and improvements almost make you forget about the muddled plot. Then you get in the Batmobile. This was one of Rocksteady’s most touted features leading up to the game’s launch, and at times, the Batmobile is everything it was supposed to be: a dual threat fast enough to chase down fleeing enemies that still packs enough firepower in combat mode to take on dozens of Arkham Knight drones. The Batmobile even helps with ground combat by unleashing rubber bullets that incapacitate enemies in the streets.

But Arkham Knight relies on Batman’s ride far too often—and in far too many missions. The car’s deficiencies easily become evident, and it’s revealed to be one of the least enjoyable aspects of the game. I get that it’s supposed to be this monstrous vehicle, but trying to control the Batmobile in pursuit mode is a chore; it pinballs all over the road. Even after putting 30 hours into the game, with more than half of them in that damn car, I still never felt like I was in complete control.

And the Batmobile’s tank mode is even worse. While it features a strafe ability, I still felt like I was a sitting duck most of the time during an enemy missile lock-on, since the strafe only moves you a short distance in a particular direction. Then you have to try to dance between the two Batmobile forms to sneak up on certain tanks. They wanted me to be stealthy? In the Batmobile?! I just wanted to hang up the cape and cowl at that point.

The problems don’t stop with the Batmobile gameplay, though: Arkham Knight includes its fair share of bugs. I played on Xbox One and didn’t experience all the glitches that make the PC version unplayable, but the Batmobile still fell through the world in several instances where I had to drive up walls. And the bugs weren’t limited to the car, either. Several times I had to restart checkpoints when necessary button prompts wouldn’t appear, and I couldn’t advance unless I reloaded.

As much as I loved Arkham City and Arkham Asylum, Arkham Knight is nothing short of a disappointment. Two things are clear: Sefton Hill and his team of writers pale in comparison to Paul Dini, and Rocksteady should stay as far away from car combat as possible in the future. The excellent gameplay foundations, however, still shine. The fighting, side content, and stealth are as polished as ever, and considering the massive world fans have to explore here, they should still find something to enjoy with Arkham Knight, even if it’s not the conclusion we all hoped for.

Developer: Rocksteady Studio • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 06.23.15
6.5
The main story is a convoluted mess, and the Batmobile gameplay is a serious detractor on the fun factor—especially since the Dark Knight is forced to use this clunky vehicle far too often. The combat outside of the car is better than ever, though, so exploring the game’s bountiful side content remains a bright spot in an overall disappointing conclusion to the Arkham franchise.
The Good The combat might be better than ever, the world is absolutely massive, and the story provides a fitting end to the Batman of the Arkhamverse.
The Bad There’s too much reliance on the Batmobile, the Joker aspects are unnecessary, and the game has a fair amount of glitches.
The Ugly Every Batman fan will be able to guess the identity of the Arkham Knight from his dialogue long before the big reveal.
Batman: Arkham Knight is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the benefit of this review.

The Dark Knight returns

Everyone who knows me understands that I am one of the biggest Batman fans around. I spit out comic book storyline recaps like they were scripture and swear by all things The Dark Knight. So, when Warner Bros. announced Batman: Arkham Knight—and the return of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City developer Rocksteady to the franchise—my elation could hardly be contained.  My feelings of ecstasy only intensified, however, when I was finally allowed to see a half-hour of the game at GDC last week.

With bated bat-breath I watched as Rocksteady devs showed us what they’d been working on as their first project for the new generation of consoles (and PC). The Scarecrow threatens Gotham with a WMD that would flood the streets with a new, highly potent brand of his trademark fear toxin. After evacuating millions of people out of Gotham, all that remains is a skeleton police force, the criminals who want to take advantage of the mayhem, and the Batman.  But Batman isn’t alone in the shadows. In addition to Rogues Gallery mainstays like Two-Face, Penguin, and Riddler, a new villain, the Arkham Knight, emerges.

Although Rocksteady isn’t divulging too much info about the Arkham Knight himself just yet, we do know a couple of facts. First, he’s a brand new character, and he’s making his DC Universe debut in the game. We can see from pictures that he brandishes a large pistol and has taken on a motif similar to Batman’s (pointy ears, chest plate). His “anti-Batman” description also gives him an air that reminds me of the comic book villains Wrath and Prometheus. Whoever he is under that mask, we saw him get the drop on Batman during the demo, so I’m sure he’ll be quite the adversary over the course of the game.

After running through the basic plot points, we finally got to see Batman in action once again. New-gen tech has allowed for a bevy of upgrades and we got to see many of them in action. The biggest change is how Batman gets around. We finally get to drive the Batmobile. A major gameplay pillar this go around, the Batmobile is essential in helping Batman navigate a world that is 20 times larger than Arkham Asylum. But, as brand marketing producer Dax Ginn told us, the Batmobile isn’t the whole game.

“We wanted to be very confident and sure that we didn’t add the Batmobile and it suddenly just felt like a driving game or a driving bolt-on. That was something that was really, really important to us,” Ginn explains. “So, we’ve integrated Batman’s abilities and the Batmobile’s abilities, so that it very much feels like it’s a man and his machine, the integration between the two. You can eject out of the Batmobile to gain insane height, and that sort of augmentation of Batman’s gliding ability is the perfect example of how the Batmobile complements Batman’s features. There’s a lot more the Batmobile can do, but the way Batman gets into the Batmobile, gets out of the Batmobile—those things have really been designed to feel very natural and very organic.”

And from what he showed us, the Batmobile did seem to be more of a complement than the entire experience. In one segment, it launched the Caped Crusader into the night sky allowing Batman to effortlessly glide onto the roof of the building he needed to infiltrate. When Batman was ready to move onto his next objective across town, with a single button press, the Batmobile came roaring around a corner and Batman dropped into the driver’s seat, seamlessly, as Batman then raced off to his next destination. The player was in control the entire time. But between these segments there was still plenty of gliding, fighting, and case solving for the Dark Knight to do.

Also, it should be noted the Batmobile could be used for more than just catapults and driving around town. There are car-chase sequences where Batman can fire debilitating missiles to stop runaway criminals and even Riddler rooms dedicated solely to pushing the Batmobile—and your reflexes—to the limit.

“The role [Riddler] had in Arkham City, he’s more of an engineer. Very physical, constantly covered in a layer of grime, and so we wanted to think about what he would do next, where would he take the motivations he had in the previous game,” Dax says. “Integrating that with the Batmobile was an interesting design choice because he can achieve so much, even just as one guy, but it really comes down to the focus we put on the Batmobile. Driving through Gotham feels incredible, but there’s so much that it can do that the Riddler caves give us an opportunity to design puzzles that are specifically there to push the Batmobile to it’s limits, so we can really give gamers the opportunity to experience the Batmobile in all of its insane facets, not just driving incredibly quickly on the flat. You can drive up walls, drive on the ceilings, but that’s not so easy to do in the open world of the city. But the Riddler circuits can be anything, so that’s where it really starts to get fun and interesting.”

So, yes, the Batmobile can drive up walls. It is confirmed. I saw it do so, and it was amazing. But Batman’s car isn’t the only thing that’s tricked out in Arkham Knight. Gotham’s Guardian has a few new tools as well. In combat, Batman can now utilize the environment, like smashing a thug’s head through a car window, to get instant knockouts.  He can also finally use his gadgets while gliding to get even more of a drop on unsuspecting ne’er-do-wells. And speaking of gliding, the precision while doing so has been increased so Batman can even do 180-degree turns midflight.

Batman: Arkham Knight is looking great—but with only a small taste of the full game so far, I’m eager to see if Rocksteady’s plans indeed pan out. Still, if there’s anyone I trust to make a Batman game, it’s them, so I have faith they’ll be able to deliver on their promises of the best Arkham game yet. Knowing the care and detail that came off in this demo, it’s hard not to believe they’ll come through for Bat-fans everywhere in the end.

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.

Holy rusted armor, Batman!

For me, Batman: Arkham City was one of the crowning achievements of this console generation—never mind just 2011. So, when I heard it was being ported to the Wii U for the system’s launch (13 months after its initial release, mind you), I certainly understood why. But when I went hands-on with the new Armored Edition at this year’s E3, I was disappointed with the Wii U “innovations”—it seemed Nintendo loyalists wouldn’t get nearly the same smooth experience I had when I first played the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. I understood that a 15-minute demo wouldn’t be nearly enough time to pass final judgment on this one, though—especially as it was my first experience with the Wii U, period.

Flash-forward five months later, and I’ve been playing the Wii U incessantly along with my fellow EGM cohorts. And though some of my fears have been assuaged—and some of the new features have even impressed me—several new problems that have arisen that make Batman: Arkham City—Armored Edition the clearly inferior version of this phenomenal game.

The first flaw that you’ll notice rather quickly is glitches that were never present before—audio suddenly cutting in and out and weird shadows in cutscenes that make many characters look unnatural. In fact, the very look of the game as a whole has almost a waxy quality to it now, where you wonder if it actually takes full advantage of the Wii U’s HD. Maybe some of this odd look is just Batman’s new cheap suit of armor, which leads us to another major problem in all the gimmicks that have been tacked on in order to try to sell this version of the game: the B.A.T. system.

With the B.A.T. system, Batman can absorb the kinetic energy thrown around in battle and then channel it into enhanced strength. The problem is that this redesign makes the game far too easy. Fights where you had to strategize who you’d take out first—as thugs came at you with knives, shields, stun batons, and all other manner of weaponry—are now nullified, as the B.A.T. system makes it so that every enemy can now be taken down in only a couple of hits.

The next problem comes via the Wii U’s GamePad controller and the touchscreen features that have been added. The hopes were that by adding your inventory screen and minimap to the controller, it would create a more fluid experience. Instead, it does the exact opposite. The controller’s minimap is less detailed and harder to read than if you were pausing the game and looking at it on a normal-sized TV screen. It also fails to streamline the experience in any way, as you’re still interrupting the game to look down at the screen and set waypoints, level Batman up, or change gadgets—and now you’re doing it with Batman in the open, vulnerable to the dangers of the living, breathing environment of Arkham City. This again deters the strategy offered in the original version.

One way to escape this problem is by playing the entire game on the Wii U GamePad tablet, should you wish to use your TV for something else. I do applaud the fact that there’s no lag or choppiness, but playing the game on the controller’s tiny screen—which is of a worse quality than what you’d get with an iPad, iPhone, or even the PS Vita—only makes the visuals look even more muddy and unappealing.

The final shortcoming with Armored Edition also involves the Wii U controller. Having to hold it up and move it around to scan areas in Detective mode or to pilot my remote-controlled Batarang had me grinding my teeth at times while also grinding the poorly placed controller joysticks. Also, the cheesy effect of having Alfred talk through the controller became tiresome quickly, as the audio quality is so poor on the small speakers. It all felt like unnecessary proof-of-concept mechanics that again were much smoother and simpler on other systems.

Now, I’ve really honed in on the negative aspects I found with this port, but this isn’t to say the game is broken and completely unplayable. Gamers who don’t have the muscle memory of playing the game on Xbox 360 or PS3 will likely more readily adapt to the controller, and the core elements that made Batman: Arkham City so great are still present. The enthralling story, the classic DC characters, and even all the DLC is bundled onto the disc so that once you beat the main story, you can go back and play Harley Quinn’s Revenge or use Nightwing, Robin, or Catwoman on their challenge maps. The combat system that allowed Batman to showcase his bevy of martial-arts maneuvers is also still available, should you choose to ignore the B.A.T. feature.

But, like many of the ports that are coming to the Wii U long after their initial release, there’s really no positive reason for you to look into this port if you’ve played it before on other consoles; this is simply a dumbed-down version for the Nintendo hardcore. I legitimately feel bad that they get this bastardized version of Batman: Arkham City—they’ll never know how great this game was in its perfectly polished original form.

SUMMARY: Although the core of Batman: Arkham City remains intact, new glitches and tacked-on gimmicks take away from the overall experience enough to make this a clearly inferior version of one of the great games of this generation.

  • THE GOOD: Same great story with all DLC packs already on the disc.
  • THE BAD: New glitches and unnecessary gimmicks make this a worse version than its predecessors.
  • THE UGLY: How the game looks if you play exclusively on the Wii U controller.

SCORE: 7.0

Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition is a Wii U-exclusive version of Batman: Arkham City. 

At SDCC 2012, EGM Reviews Editor Ray Carsillo had a chance to catch up with Mortal Kombat co-creator and creative director for the upcoming Warner Bros. game, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Ed Boon.

Ever seen a clown cry?

SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t finished Batman: Arkham City, major plot spoilers follow.

After the amazing ending of Batman: Arkham City, fans everywhere were left wondering just what would happen now in the dark, gritty, urban nightmare the boys at Rocksteady had cooked up—and had comic fanboys ranting and raving for months. Well, with the new Harley Quinn’s Revenge DLC, players will get a little more light shed on the endgame situation as they once again don the cape and cowl of the Caped Crusader.

Set several days after the end of the main game, Harley Quinn’s Revenge revolves around the Joker’s No. 1 girl looking for vengeance on the man she blames for slaughtering her poor ‘Mistah J’: the Batman. Using the GCPD as bait, Harley hunkers down in the Joker’s hideout from the main game—the Sionis Steel Mill—gives it a feminine flair, and dares Batman to rescue the Gotham pigs from the fryer. Things don’t quite go according to plan for the Dark Knight, though, and Harley manages to get the jump on Bats, leaving it up to Robin to rescue Batman, bring down Harley, and shut down the last villainous bastion of Arkham City once and for all.

Harley Quinn’s Revenge succeeds in doing a lot of things right, and fans of the main Arkham City campaign will immediately be able to jump right in. The DLC maintains the tone and pacing of the main game very well and gives everything a special Harley flair, as you see her thugs dressed in garb to match her traditional red-and-black playing-card jumpsuit; meanwhile, Harley gives herself a slight redesign by dyeing her hair black and donning a widow’s mourning veil.

The story also gives a bit of closure to Harley as a character. Though the DLC’s only two to three hours in length, it does a great job of providing her motivation—and possible future motivation—as well as confirming that the Joker, at least for now, has indeed passed on. It also gives an interesting look at how the Joker’s death is actually affecting Batman—and, in turn, the rest of the Bat-family, planting seeds for some interesting future plotlines.

Plus, Harley Quinn’s Revenge gives Batfans what they’ve wanted for a while—and that’s some gameplay with Robin. In fact, half the DLC sees you controlling the Boy Wonder, and he definitely feels much different than Batman. Aside from a different array of gadgets, Robin’s also a lot quicker than the Caped Crusader, but he also needs to land more hits to take down foes. His bo staff definitely helps even the odds when it comes to ranged attacks, and his bullet shield (which I’d like to think is a small homage to the Adam West/Burt Ward Bullet Shield) provides a novel aspect to working past armed thugs.

The biggest problem with this DLC, though—and it’s most evident when playing as Robin—is the lack of an option to go back out into the glorious open world which most of the main game took place in. The entire DLC is set in and around the Sionis Steel Mill, and you have almost no opportunities to go back and explore, making it feel very linear—and like a completely separate entity from Arkham City. I would’ve loved to have seen some objectives scattered about the city, just to see what Arkham looks like a week after the endgame chaos, but instead, you’re just moving through a small dungeon and typically have to go back over the same areas, as the story forces you to switch back and forth between Batman and Robin as the latter follows the former’s trail.

Still, Harley Quinn’s Revenge does a great job of bringing players back into the universe of Rocksteady’s Batman. The story and characters are just as compelling as before, the combat’s still amazingly tight, and the limited view of the world you get still looks and feels great. The only problem really lies within the linearity of the story, which makes you feel like you’ve taken a step backward and are playing a level from Arkham Asylum instead of Arkham City. Despite this, Batman fans of all shapes and sizes should get this DLC—and revel in Harley’s short time in the spotlight as the main villainess.

SUMMARY:  Harley Quinn’s Revenge is limited in scope compared to the main campaign, but fans of Arkham City should still jump at the chance to play this DLC, which adds two to three hours of original gameplay in Rocksteady’s gorgeously gothic world.

  • THE GOOD: Combat and story are just as tight as if they shipped with the main game.
  • THE BAD: Lacks the open-world feel of Arkham City.
  • THE UGLY: Harley dying her hair black while mourning.

SCORE: 9.0

Batman: Arkham City—Harley Quinn’s Revenge DLC is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.

“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

Oh, it’ll be a hot one in the ol’ town tonight!

Riddle me this. How do you top one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time while appeasing one of the more rabid comic fan bases to have ever existed. Answer: Batman: Arkham City. At least that’s what the folks at Rocksteady are hoping, but from what I’ve seen in some hands-on demos, I don’t think they have much to worry about now that we’re less than a month away from launch.

So what exactly have they done to make this game so much better than Arkham Asylum? Well, how about more villains, more heroes, a larger open-world, more gadgets, and the return of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker, and Paul Dini as the script writer? And that’s just scratching the surface.

What I first noticed with my hands-on demo though was that I surprisingly started playing as Catwoman. Many people feared this addition when the announcement was made that you would play as her, but after clearing a room full of thugs with her before cracking a safe, rest assured fellow Bat-fans that it feels good. She has a faster and lighter feel compared to how Batman moves while also falling into the same control scheme of mixing attacks with well-timed counters. It also fits in with the early plot of the game as the cat looks to help the bat in his war on Arkham City’s inmates before she is captured by Two-Face.

Once I donned the cape and cowl though, the whole game literally changed in terms of perspective and feel as I was moved to a Gotham rooftop and although some of the guys from Rocksteady were encouraging me to go do mission objectives, I had a spectacular time just gliding from rooftop to rooftop and using my bat-line to pull me up when I miscalculated the length of a gap. When they say this world is five times larger than the last, they meant it as Gotham felt almost intimidating in its size and scale. It was this fear of being consumed by the nooks and crannies of this massive digital megalopolis that I concurred with the prodding of our PR handlers and headed into a building.

It was here that much of the last game began to flood back to me as I perched high above a room filled with Two-Face thugs. As I listened to Big Bad Harv rant and rave, I began planning how I would take down the room full of foes. Once Two-Face had moved on, it was time to make my move and as I leapt from the perch and onto my first victim, I found that a couple of key additions had been added to the combat.

The first is the ability to use items and gadgets without breaking your combat flow at all. Throwing batarangs and detonating small packets of explosive gel to help dictate where I wanted my foes to go so I could get the largest combo possible all while countering, kicking, and punching others in my nearby vicinity made it look like Batman was moving almost like water through the group as every movement made perfect sense and optimized my combat experience like nothing I had ever seen.

The next addition to combat actually came on the side of the low-rank villains I was facing as their A.I. has improved greatly from the last game as they picked up pipes and chairs for weapons and trash can lids or broken car doors for shields. Enemies also would occasionally throw these weapons at you and now Batman could catch them in mid-air and use the item’s momentum to hurl it back to its original chucker or into the face of a different enemy in Batman’s vicinity. All in all, what was already probably the best action/adventure combat system in gaming looks like it took the next step forward and kicked it up a notch.

But I was far from finished as a sniper shot pierced a window and we got to play with Detective Mode once again as Batman begin tracing the trajectory and calculating just who could have fired the shot. We soon tracked down the location and was met by an unexpected fan-favorite, Harley Quinn. She warned Batman to stay out of the Joker’s way as he had big plans for Arkham City.

I was paying more attention to how Harley said things than what she said though. For those who are unaware, this is a rare time where Harley Quinn is being voiced by someone other than Arleen Sorkin. Luckily it is voice over veteran Tara Strong who Batman fans may know better as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl from Batman: The Animated Series or even maybe as Raven from Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans. It was definitely different though as Sorkin’s ditzy but dangerous was replaced by a slightly more serious and seductive tone by Strong. This could work as supposedly with the Joker nearly incapacitated from his high exposure to the Titan formula in the first game, Quinn has had to step up her game for the sake of her ailing puddin’, but hardcore fans might be taken aback at first. Still though, she is in the hands of the man who created her in Paul Dini so I have faith that the character will rise above it all in the end.

Speaking of the voice cast though, a superior job was done by all involved so far from what I heard in terms of many of the villains and heroes. Of course, Kevin Conroy, also of B:TAS fame returns to play the Dark Knight and Mark Hamill, in what he has stated as being his last time doing it, returns to play the Joker. On top of this, the hardest working man in video game voiceovers, Nolan North, shocked me when I found out he was playing the Penguin of all characters, but he did an alright job with it. Doing a bit of a cockney accent definitely helped as I don’t think his Nathan Drake voice would have worked here. The Penguin’s dark and twisted design this time around is also something that needs to be seen on a screen to be believed as his classic monocle has been replaced by a beer bottle that was jammed into his face and smoking cigars and cigarettes all those years has left him with an advanced voice box. Beautifully twisted and dark indeed.

I’ve also been really impressed with Maurice LaMarche as Mr. Freeze, best known as The Brain from Pinky and the Brain, Egon in The Real Ghostbusters, and, well, he’s basically had one role or another in every major cartoon of the past thirty years. Although only seeing him in trailers, I wanted to mention what an awesome touch I think Maurice is bringing to the character in the few lines I’ve heard and I thought it was a stroke of genius by the sound guys to make him sound so normal when he has his helmet open, and so mechanical when he closes it up.

With our demo all but done, so many questions were answered, but even more were popping into my head. How deep does the conspiracy go? What does Batman do to disprove to Hugo Strange that he and Bruce Wayne are one and the same? What unannounced villains will rear their head? How will the fights against the likes of Mr. Freeze and the Riddler go down? How will displaced villains like the Penguin from the Iceberg Lounge and Black Mask from Sionis Industries affect the landscape? Will we get to drive the Batmobile?! What will happen to the Joker in the long term?! I’m getting amped up just thinking about it! All I know for sure is that we here at EGM are going to be covering this game like a Kevlar glove with triangular fins so you had better stay tuned to our coverage here for more on this Game of the Year contender. Same Bat-EGMNow.com time, same Bat-EGMNow.com channel!

What are you all looking most forward to about Batman Arkham City? What other questions do you still have about the game? What has you most excited about the game’s release? What unannounced surprises do you think they have in store for us? Let us know with comments below!

Originally Published: May 25, 2011, on Comicvine.com

After a brief respite for the Judgment of Gotham crossover, Gotham City Sirens comes back with a bang as Selina struggles with loyalty issues and Harley is seen helping the Joker turn Arkham into something similar to the Arkham Asylum video game, but gets resistance from an unusual suspect in the new Black Mask, Jeremiah Arkham!

The Good

This marks the beginning of a new story arc for Gotham City Sirens and as previous issues seemed to be spiraling into a valley, this issue looks to be pulling us back towards a peak again. Tons of action and chaos as Harley and Joker survey the carnage they’ve caused around them while torturing the Arkham guards unfortunate enough to cross their path. Throw in some cameos by Clayface and Mr. Zsasz and you’ll have flashback to the Arkham Asylum video game.

The key to this issue though is conflict. Catwoman versus herself as she weighs whether or not she should help Harley out over in Arkham. Ivy versus Harley as the two friends confront each other as Ivy has had it with her love sick puppy spells she goes into when she’s near the Joker. Joker versus Jeremiah Arkham as Arkham has been slowly buying or twisting many of the prison guards to his means and the Joker’s rampage is undoing the plans he put in motion months ago. And, of course, the set up for Batman (Bruce Wayne) versus them all as he lets Catwoman know that cases involving the Joker are his personal responsibility and are not to be handled by Dick. This is a great build up for a new story arc as we’ll see the effects of the previous ones finally play out here in one of Gotham’s grandest stages.

The Bad

The only real negative that seems to come from this comic is the lack of originality. Will every major arc that guides its way through Arkham Asylum and the Joker deal with a giant breakout that causes chaos and riots in the Asylum and force Batman to come inside the haunted padded walls to quell the threat? It just sounds a bit too much like this arc is already getting ready to help build up some more hype for Arkham City along with the five-issue mini-series that is being released as well.

The Verdict

What I thought of as a lack of originality aside, this comic features a lot of action between many different characters and sets the stage for what looks to be a mighty test for both Catwoman and Batman in the future issues. If you haven’t been reading this comic, you might be a little lost since even though it’s technically a new arc, you’re really jumping into a continuation of the last one, but you should be able to catch on quickly enough to still enjoy it.

4.5/5 Stars