Thursday, July 16, 2015

Gotham City Burning

"Alfred. Where did I park my car!?"
This week on PopMatters, I search for a sense of place in Batman: Arkham Knight and spend most of my time in California.

Despite my disappointment with Gotham City as a place, I am actually finding a lot to like in Arkham Knight. The combination-based combat has always been strong in this series and I suspect anyone who puts in a concerted effort can overcome any encounter with incredible finesse. The occasional opportunity to team up with a Bat-ally is always a joy to watch and each of their fighting styles seems fresh and flashy.

Standing above all else though is Mark Hamill's performance as the Joker (or figment of the Joker at least). Hamill is, as always, stellar and Rocksteady is trying to squeeze every last drop of weirdness and frivolity from the character. His constant jabs at Batman offer humor and interesting insight into the psychology of a man who dresses up as a bat. Batman has always been more of an interesting character when he's just teetering on the edge of sanity. Rocksteady pushes him closer to that border every time the Joker shows up to pry into the man (and the player) behind the mask.

Besides a disappointing exploration of Gotham City, the vehicle gameplay is the most offensive portion of Arkham Knight. I think for some fans of the DC hero, the Batmobile is so iconic that it creates instant joy. I am more of a lurk-in-the-shadows kind of admirer of the Bat, so when they ask me to get inside a tank and zoom around the city my eyes glaze over with boredom. The whole experience would be better if Rocksteady wasn't trying so damn hard to put me behind the steering wheel.

Here in California, we spend enough time on the roads. I prefer my cities from above.

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