Tag Archive: jason todd


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.

Under the Red Hood

Originally Published: July 27, 2010, on Collider.com and PlayerAffinity.com

It was one of the most controversial decisions in the history of comics. Back in September of 1988, DC Comics opened up a 24 hour vote where fans would decide the fate of Jason Todd, the second Robin in the famed Batman canon. By less than a 100 votes, fans decided that Batman would not make it in time to save Jason from the clutches of the Joker and thus complete the now legendary “A Death in the Family” story arc. Flash forward 20 years now (about four or five in the actual DC Universe) and DC decided to find a way to bring Jason back. Batman: Under the Red Hood is the story of how Batman’s greatest failure comes back to haunt him in ways he never could have imagined.

The comic story arc was originally written by Judd Winick and so it was only natural for DC Animation to approach Winick to rework his story into a screenplay. That was an easy decision. The difficult part was going to be having Winick actual trim down years of comic pages into something that could be told in a 75 minute movie.

There were some obvious reworks that needed to be had, like the summarization of 20 years of guilt on Batman’s part into a simple monologue in the Bat-Wing, but there were others that fans might come to question. Like the complete removal of Tim Drake as the third Robin and nothing more than a cryptic reference late in the movie to Barbara Gordon (the original Batgirl). Removing Tim Drake took away the great confrontations that the prodigal son Jason Todd had with the latest Boy Wonder and is something that fans would probably have liked to have seen.

Aside from this, many of the reworks were necessary to tell the story of the return of Jason Todd as efficiently as possible. There would have been no way to explain how the events of Infinite Crisis and Superboy Prime were what brought Jason back from the dead without making another new movie, so it was written off as being Ra’s Al Ghul and his Lazarus Pit. Also, to show every hit Jason did against the Black Mask as he began to move up in the underworld ranks would have taken an extra hour, so only showing a couple got the point across as well as moved the story along at a good pace. And for those out there who were not familiar with the “A Death in the Family” arc, there are plenty of flashbacks to fill in the remaining blanks of the Batman canon.

So, the story is about as true to the source material as it could be when being crammed into 75 minutes of animation, but what about the actual movie itself? I say it is absolutely brilliant. I still wish DC Animation would stop adapting raw source material and come up with some original stories again like in the Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond days, but for what it is, Batman: Under the Red Hood is a great telling of a landmark Batman story.

The animation is crisp and really jumps off the screen on Blu-Ray. For the most part, the voice acting is top of the line and although most Batman: The Animated Series fans would wish that Kevin Conroy was voicing the Dark Knight, Bruce Greenwood does an admirable job stepping into the role. Add in voice acting veteran John Dimaggio playing possibly the best Joker since Mark Hamill (a possible future replacement once Hamill permanently hangs up his acid spraying flower?) and Jensen Ackles wonderfully portraying the rage and raw emotion Jason Todd is always emitting, and almost everyone involved did a great job bringing these characters to life for this story. The only character portrayal I question was the Black Mask and how he was made out more to be a stereotypical Italian mafia boss instead of the criminal mastermind and psychopath who has come to haunt Batman time and again. I understand he was more of a plot device here to help set-up the final confrontation, but the character deserved more respect than what it was shown.

As always with these straight to Blu-Ray/DVD movies, there are plenty of bonus features to make the buy even more worthwhile and Batman: Under the Red Hood does not disappoint. Included on the disc are four episodes featuring Robin from Batman: The Animated Series, as well as two short documentaries detailing both the creation of the character of Robin and the infamous 1988 vote that sent Jason Todd to his doom. Throw in a preview of the next DC Animated feature, Batman/Superman Apocalypse, and a short bonus cartoon about Jonah Hex, based on a story by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, that is as brilliantly done as the main feature itself, and you have nearly three hours of bonus content that will make any DC Universe fanboy work a nice groove into their couch to watch this great package.

When all is said and done, any and every Batman fan will enjoy this portrayal of Jason Todd and his story as he has been reworked back into the DC Universe. Great action, superb voice acting, and tremendous storytelling make this a must have for fans of the Dark Knight. Batman: Under the Red Hood is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Batman: Under the Red Hood gets 9 out of 10.

-Ray Carsillo