Despite the change of hands from the lauded Rocksteady Studios to brand new development studio Warner Bros Games Montréal, fans of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City have plenty of reasons to feel confident about the upcoming prequel Batman: Arkham Origins. Featuring a younger Bruce Wayne in the second year of his vigilante career as Batman, Arkham Origins brings back the stealth and combat abilities of the previous game and pits its hero against a succession of master assassins, including Copperhead, the Electrocutioner and Firefly.
Batman’s most classic nemesis, the Joker, also stars in both the singleplayer and multiplayer modes of the game, as well as in upcoming 3DS title Batman: Arkham Origins – Blackgate. Just as Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy has been replaced by Roger Craig Smith, there’s also been a casting change for the Joker as Troy Baker (The Last of Us) takes over the role formerly filled by Mark Hamill. Since Hamill won a BAFTA for his performance in Arkham City and many gamers tend to be wary of casting changes, Baker has some clown-sized shoes to fill and a lot of people to impress.
Speaking on a panel at NYCC this weekend, creative director Eric Holmes revealed that he’d sent Baker masses of Joker material from all sorts of different sources in order to have him prove his readiness for the role. One of the pieces that he sent over was Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s one-shot graphic novel “The Killing Joke” and, after being asked to recite an example, Baker looked up one of the monologues on his phone and delivered it to the crowd.
Not only was the reading impressive enough to earn Baker a standing ovation from the crowd (the laugh is particularly chilling), it’s also a great match for Hamill’s portrayal of the character in the previous games; listening to Baker’s performance in the gameplay videos and trailers for Arkham Origins, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Hamill hadn’t left the series at all.
Baker is currently one of the most prominent video game voice actors around, having recently played the roles of Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite and Joel in The Last of Us. He also has strong ties to comic book franchises thanks to his regular role as Hawkeye in animated series Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, and as both Hawkeye and Loki in the upcoming game LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.
Even for comic book fans who aren’t planning to play Arkham Origins, it’s great to hear this monologue in particular read by such a skilled actor. For those who are, hopefully this will settle any fears that the change of the voice behind the Joker will be a detriment to the game.
Batman: Arkham Origins will be available on PC, PS3, Wii U and Xbox 360 on October 25, 2013.