Tag Archive: red hood


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.

Sorry for the lateness for this week’s Pullbox. Our big reveal for NFL Blitz this week forced a lot of people’s responsibilities to be pushed back some, including mine, and so I’m still in the process of catching up on everything. Never fear though as it was another solid week in comics as we’re seeing the return of H.A.M.M.E.R. storyline ramp up in the Avengers, Fear Itself finally came to an end and ANOTHER Marvel event has started with The Fearless. Meanwhile, we also saw the end of Uncanny X-Men so a lot was going on with Marvel to compete for my spotlight. DC continues to be strong with several new titles and a surprising new Indie comic makes it into the Pullbox this week. So here’s this week’s Pullbox!

1) Marvel – Avengers #18: With Fear Itself wrapping up this week, we also are starting to see the comics revolving around its fallout. This comic is one of those fallout comics, but also details an unseen figure from several of the most recent Marvel events. All this while Captain America has a mandatory Avengers meeting in Avengers Mansion since Avengers Tower is nothing but a pile of rubble now. You could see some lineup changes here after this while also you have the groundwork being laid more importantly for the return of the Dark Avengers, which was immensely popular its first time around. This is just continuing to build up the foundation to make Norman Osborn one of the biggest bad guys in the Marvel universe once again while also allowing what has been a revolving door of heroes on the Avengers roster to settle down with all the other events going on in the Marvel universe. The Thing is doubting himself and his involvement with the team after Fear Itself, Beast is working on leaving to be with Wolverine and the new school in Westchester, and Iron Man is poor. Like really poor. So he’s not sure how much help he can be right now as he tries to get his affairs back in order. All in all, this is a key issue to the future of the Avengers and is a better read than the major Marvel event books that came out this week so I highly recommend it.

2) Marvel – Uncanny X-Men #544: The final issue in this official volume of the Uncanny X-Men, more or less details once again who is going where, whether they are staying in San Francisco with Cyclops, or going with Wolverine back to Westchester. It also finds a way to work in a classic villain who has been laying low and has obvious interests in this split amongst the X-Men standbys, the one and only Nathaniel Essex, best known as Mr. Sinister. As everyone’s personalities are highlighted and you get to see how this affects everyone on an individual basis, you also see the groundwork for the two new monthlies that will come out of this and I personally am looking forward to seeing how each new team will do as this harkens back to the X-Men Blue Team and X-Men Gold Team of my early childhood. A must read for any and every X-Men fan, there is a reason why this is the best thing going on in comics right now and this issue sums it up well in the matter of a single issue.

3) DC – Red Hood and the Outlaws #2: After the mysterious cliffhanger of the first issue, this continues to be one of the best comics of the DC New 52 because of the tremendous team dynamic between Roy Harper, Starfire, and Jason Todd. After giving people who may be unaware of how Jason Todd came back from the dead a brief catch up/origin story, we learn what all the mysteriousness of the last issue was all about and got into some awesome action where the banter of the team was no complimented by how they fought together against some undead martial arts masters. We also see Starfire in sexy clothing again, which for me is just full of win. Really though, this is probably the best written comic DC has right now and I love the art work and am happy to have this as a part of my Pullbox. Now if we could just get Justice League and half of the rest of the New 52 up to this level and DC might be able to fight back a little better against all these ridiculous Marvel events.

4) DC – Nightwing #2: What had started off at a decent clip in the first issue has amped up tremendously in this issue as it seems everyone knows now who Nightwing really is! A blast from Dick Grayson’s past comes back to surprise everyone, especially Dick, but this new assassin who is meant to take him down has the biggest surprise of all. The assassin known only as Saiko uncovers Dick’s biggest secrets and looks to send them with him to the grave. A lot of great action, a ton of surprises that really push Dick Grayson’s character forward, and a new villain that reminds me of an old Nightwing villain in some ways named Lady Vic has me really enjoying everything about this comic. I can’t wait to see what happens next as both Batman and Nightwing is centering right now around the idea that Dick Grayson is the most dangerous man in Gotham somehow. It’s a story line we haven’t really seen probably since the Bruce Wayne: Murderer story from a decade ago and it will be interesting to see how the characters work their way out of it. To me, this was an easy addition to the Pullbox.

5) IDW – 30 Days of Night #1: Picking up where the tremendous graphic novel of a few years ago left off and capitalizing on the success of the movie by the same name, this new monthly from IDW gives people what they should want, horrific, blood-thirsty vampires tearing people to shreds. Now though, the vamps from the graphic novel and movie have moved southward to warmer pastures than Barrow, Alaska, and are looking to take out the people who know of those events and are working feverishly to keep their presence a secret still to the larger world. I will say that I am a huge fan of vampires being the monsters that they are supposed to be and not the stuff you see in that True Blood or Twilight crap and that’s exactly what this comic will be and I know that because it did not get off to a slow start. You had people getting torn apart about midway through the book and it just didn’t stop. My only concern with this comic is that I’m not a fan of this particular art style, but that’s my personal tastes and my enjoyment of seeing people’s jugulars ripped out overcomes that any day of the week. If you’re looking for a new good horror related comic, then look at this book.

There were a lot of issues that I wanted to put on my list this week, but then after reading them I was disappointed and had to fall back onto some old standbys to get me through. So as much as I like to mix it up and try to give a variety of monthlies and one-shots, I ended up picking the next issue in some series’ I’ve already featured because even though I grabbed a couple dozen comics this week, including a lot of DC #1’s, these are my five best overall stories.

1) DC – Red Hood and the Outlaws #1: So this one came a little out of left field for me because I haven’t been the staunchest of Red Hood supporters, but from the get-go this comic sucks you in with a lot of action, throws in some spectacular art of Starfire coming out of the ocean in the middle, and then leaves you with a cliffhanger mystery ending. This comic screams pick me up and I got to love a writer and artist who both agree that the best part of their first issue together was the above panel because it was my favorite as well. My friends and I several years ago came to the conclusion that the three hottest chicks in comics were She-Hulk, Mystique, and Starfire (no particular order) and this comic shows that we were at least correct on that last one for sure.  Seriously though, this comic has such awesome potential and the three characters are such stark contrasts to each other, but play so well together that every page written by Scott Lobdell was a joyous read and combine that with the great art by Kenneth Rocafort and I’m sold on Red Hood and the Outlaws. Only question will be, can they keep it up?

2) DC – Nightwing #1: I think part of the reason why I disliked Dick Grayson so much as Batman was that it stepped out of character for him too much. He was trying to be Bruce Wayne and fill that shadow and just when he might have been starting to turn that corner, he goes back to being Nightwing. After reading this comic though by Kyle Higgins, I can say without a doubt that was where he should always have been. Dick is back to being the jovial, do things his way, screw up with a smile and Higgins’ writing pulls it off as if the character never missed a beat and there was never that year when he was Batman. I also like the prospect of new villains being introduced as it can help Dick to become his own character again much like when he first took the Nightwing mantle. Also loving the Batman Beyond-esque red logo to show that the character has changed somewhat from his time as Batman. Definitely a must pick up as in terms of the Bat-family, it feels like things are starting to get back to normal.

3) Marvel – Uncanny X-Men #543 (Fear Itself Tie-In) – I don’t think there was any way I could not feature this issue after reading it. Colossus has taken the power of Cyttorak away from the Juggernaut, with help from his sister Illyana, in an attempt to weaken the Juggernaut enough in the hopes that fighting magic with magic will be enough to save San Francisco. How Colossus describes his mindset once he is empowered by Cyttorak gives brand new insight into both his character as well as that of the Juggernaut’s after so many years and to see Colossus, the X-Men’s gentle giant some would say (or at least powerhouse), so easily bent to the will of Cyttorak and his hunger for chaos is a sight to behold. This also opens up so many new paths for Colossus and Juggernaut as characters once Fear Itself ends that we could really see the X-Men turned even more on their head with Schism wrapping up soon as well. Once again, this is proof positive why any comics featuring the X-Men are must reads if you’re a Marvel fan.

4) Marvel – Heroes for Hire #12 – I’m going to admit it was a toss-up between this and Daredevil this week as my second Marvel title. I’ll probably get to him next month, but I wanted to feature Heroes for Hire because I feel it’s a book that isn’t getting a lot of love, but is a lot of fun to read. You never know what heroes are going to show up and it offers Marvel a chance to feature several heroes who may have become buried in recent years due to all the major events going on. For example, this issue features Stingray and Silver Sable. Next month though could feature Spider-Man and Big Bertha or Punisher and Squirrel Girl for all we know. And the same goes for villains as it’s also already featured Fantastic Four classic villain Puppet Master in its opening arc. It’s this unpredictability combined with the solid writing to work all these characters in to make this a worthwhile read. And since next issue will be the Fear Itself tie-in, I feel this a good standalone issue to jump onto the series bandwagon if you haven’t already.

5) IDW – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2 – Again, there were some other indie comics that caught my eye this week including some Star Wars titles, but the best book I picked up hands down was the next issue in the new TMNT. We see Raph’s legendary friendship with Casey Jones begin to develop as well as via flashback see how Hob the Cat and the Turtles all mutated. The flashbacks interestingly enough also foreshadowed the appearance of the Foot Clan at some point down the line. We also learn that Raph is suffering from amnesia, and although we can speculate why from the flashbacks, not everything may be as it seems as the other turtles are continuing to look for their lost and wandering brother. I’m really loving the old school art and hard lines seen in most panels and seeing the turtles in their old school universal red bandanas still brings a smile to my face as most people from my generation think of them in the more widely recognized purple, blue, orange, and red that were used to differentiate them beyond just their weapons and fighting styles and you know this move to go old-school has Kevin Eastman written all over it. Any child of the 80s must pick up this book, period.