Tag Archive: riddler

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.

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: October 9, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed LEGO Batman for the Xbox 360.

Originally Published: June 7, 2010, on NationalLampoon.com, Lundberg.me, and SportsRev.TV

This week I review Joker’s Asylum II: The Riddler and Red Dead Redemption. My hot chick pick of the week this week is Brittany Fuchs.

The Return of King Tut

Originally Published: April 12, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com) and Lundberg.me

I usually like to use my column here as a chance to inform people and maybe entertain at the same time. I usually like to use my column as a force of good. I also usually don’t have the clarity of mind when driven to such a rage by bonehead maneuvers by the powers-that-be to properly channel it into a semi-coherent comic book rant. This article goes against that norm, though.

The powers-that-be in this case happens to be DC Comics, which also happened to be the subject of my last semi-coherent comic book rant after they killed off Batman.

Even with the death of the Dark Knight well behind us and being about one-third of the way through the “Battle for the Cowl” story arc, DC still has several titles that deal with the Dark Knight by using the spin that these are simply excerpts from Batman’s greatest case files (after all, Batman kept meticulous records). These titles are the Batman/Superman crossover and Batman: Confidential.

For the most part, I’ve enjoyed these titles as you see interesting spins on Batman’s first team-up with Superman against Lex Luthor or a different take on the Joker’s origin story. However, recently I’ve been noticing a trend becoming quite clear after the events of the recent 3-issue story arc in Batman: Confidential.

This trend is the integration of long-forgotten villains or villains introduced through non-comic book media into the comic canon.

The most recent example is the villain King Tut. For those who are not familiar with the many forms of Batman in the media through the years, King Tut is a villain who never appeared in the comics, but was a fabricated villain for Adam West’s 1966 Batman series. Victor Goodman was an archeologist obsessed with the legends of King Tut. While moving part of his King Tut exhibit into the Gotham Museum of History, an Egyptian urn was dropped on his head and when he awakened, he imagined himself as the ancient Egyptian ruler (As was the motif for the show, the villain was always played by a celebrated actor or actress; in this case, the split personality archeologist Victor Goodman was played by Victor Buono). WHAM!

The obviously bad idea that, 43 years after King Tut’s appearance in the campy TV show, the brass at DC felt it was a good idea to bring this character into the comic storyline is a clear sign of desperation in terms of writing. It symbolizes a lack of confidence in their planned re-launch (when they bring the Dark Knight back sometime within the next six months) that they are adding campy 60s villains to one of the most celebrated rouges’ galleries in comics. ZZZAP!

The next thing you know, we’ll be seeing Vincent Price’s “Egghead” character (a man with an egg-shaped head, pale complexion, and an obsession with poultry embryos) or Roddy McDowell’s “Bookworm” (a really ticked-off librarian and a Riddler knockoff) with his “Book-Mobile” causing Batman and Robin about as much difficulty as they did in the 60s (also, both never in the comics). BONK!

“What about characters that did appear in the comics and the TV show?” you ask. What? Like False-Face (master of disguise character), who only made one appearance in the comics (Batman #113, February, 1958; a bad year of villainy for the Dark Knight as it was also the year Calendar Man made his infamous debut) before people said he was nothing more than a toned-down Clayface? (False-Face would be re-imagined again when the animated series Batman Beyond used him as an international spy, but he failed there, too) He was used in the TV show only because he was a jewel-thief and not a murderer which played better for 1966’s primetime audiences and his costumes were easier to construct using the technology for the time (he was played by Malachi Thorne of Star Trek fame and nearly sued the producers of Batman for refusing to put his name in the credits in order to sell the illusion that False-Face could be ANYONE; in the end they settled on his name appearing in the end credits of the last part of his two-part arc). BAM!

If Louie the Lilac (played by Milton Berle, a gangster obsessed with lilacs and the color purple; basically a cheap Joker knock-off because Berle refused to wear any heavy make-up for a different character) makes an appearance, I may have to swear off Batman comics like I did with Spider-Man after his most recent re-launch. OOF!

To prove my point, with the “Battle for the Cowl” re-launch effort underway, old one-shot villains are re-emerging for no reason whatsoever. Jane Doe, Adam Bomb, Anarchy…do any of these names ring a bell? No? Of course not! They are being dragged out of obscurity and into the limelight for no reason except for DC to show you how much they’ve screwed up over the past 70 years and that maybe you can hope they’ll just kill them off in one fell swoop and promise to do better in the next 70. KER-SPLASH!

And let’s not forget Composite Superman who only appeared in a two-part arc in June and July of 1964 before his recent return in Batman/Superman a couple of months ago (basically a Bizarro rip-off that is one-half Batman and one-half Superman). One of the worst concepts ever, but DC brought him back for a one-shot story. THWOCK!

I love the history of comics. I love where comics have come from to where they are today. I understand why the characters in the 60s, no matter what the medium, no matter the level of success or failure, are important. That is why I am so furious that it seems that DC feels the need to try to re-justify a time period long since past by re-introducing these characters and re-working them for modern audiences into a canon they no longer fit into. POW!

The Joker has lasted 70 years for a reason. Clayface wasn’t an original villain, but he has proved to be one of the most popular even 50 years later. There are reasons why some characters fail and some succeed and these reasons usually translate over time so there is no reason to believe that a character that failed in the 50s and 60s will translate to today even with some re-tooling. When DC makes major plot decisions like this, all I see is the tarnishing of my memories of the 1960s Batman and the watering down of modern Batman stories. It is unnecessary and, as tacky and campy as the 1960s Batman was, moves like these are even more so.

-Ray Carsillo