After a successful run at the box office and on video game consoles the past few years, Batman remains one of the most popular comic book characters in modern culture. While heroes like Superman and Spider-Man get plenty of adoration from fans both young and old, Batman is especially well-loved – because, unlike alien beings or meta-humans, the Caped Crusader is a normal guy (albeit very rich and well-trained) that puts his life on the line to protect the innocent. For that reason, he’s relatable in a way that certain other heroes will never be – making it even more fun to imagine what it might be like inside his Batsuit.
Following years of downright bad video games based on comic book characters (with a few notable exceptions), Rocksteady Studios surprised players with Batman: Arkham Asylum – an unparalleled superhero experience that captured the spirit of the character, his villains, and his skill set. The formula has evolved since that time, as two more Arkham series games hit retails shelves (Batman: Arkham City and Batman: Arkham Origins), each one providing fresh gadgets and a bigger sandbox for exploration; however, according to a new interview with Rocksteady, the developer is pulling out all the stops for their final installment Batman: Arkham Knight.
Recently, Rocksteady Studios manager, Guy Perkins, reflected on the Arkham video game series – as well as how prior titles have influenced and inspired his team to create the biggest and best Batman simulator yet.
NOTE: The remained of this post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Batman: Arkham City and Batman: Arkham Origins.
You can check out the full interview over at IGN but we’ve collected the most interesting highlights below.
Speaking about the Arkham Knight story, Perkins asserts that the death of the Joker in Arkham City left a power vacuum, setting the stage for a better organized group of criminals around Gotham. Perkins also highlights that Scarecrow is actually the main evildoer this round villain (the Big Bad) – adding further questions to the mystery of who might be behind the Arkham Knight armor.
“The death of the Joker at the end of Arkham City has created a different world for the criminals of Arkham Knight. He’s not there to disrupt the things they’re doing, so you have to imagine a world where he’s not there and not causing that chaos. They can get organised, work together and offer a more formidable challenge. He’s at the peak of his powers, but without his nemesis there to cock things up for everyone else then they get the chance to be a bit stronger, a bit braver and do things differently. Joker going was a challenge, but we left Scarecrow out of Arkham City for a reason so he’s back in as the big bad and it’s great for us to bring him back. He has so many iconic moments in the first game, to have him back as the Big Bad is really cool. He’s a great mirror for Batman, as they both use fear as a weapon of choice. There’s a dichotomy there. Then working with DC to bring the Arkham Knight to life has been amazing. We were super excited and it’s been a huge honour for us to do something this big.
As indicated, Arkham Knight will be the first game in the series that does not center-on a battle between Batman and the Joker. Despite heavy emphasis on Black Mask and Deathstroke in the Arkham Origins marketing, the Warner Bros. Games Montréal title featured the Joker in a starring – much more than many players had been expecting. In fact, the Joker “introduction” in Arkham Origins was a major factor in why the game received mostly positive reviews – even though it didn’t do as much to raise the bar above Arkham City. For that reason, it will be interesting to see if Rocksteady can effectively utilize other villains to fill those big (clown) shoes in Arkham Knight.
One way the team hopes to up-the-ante is with the iconic Batmobile – which has been seen but never playable before in the series. Still, Perkins maintains that they didn’t just shove the vehicle onto Gotham’s streets – the Batmobile is a key piece in creating a bigger world and story for players to navigate.
“The big thing that was always missing for us was the Batmobile. It was always missing but wouldn’t have worked in Asylum or City, so to build an open-world around that was crucial. The narrative is still very defined, though, there’s definite acts that you clearly understand as you go through Arkham Knight. We’ve been conscious to create a rich story that’s interesting for newcomers and for fans alike. You can go off and do your side quests when you like, but it’s still a linear story in the sense that it has a beginning, middle and end.”
As Bat-purists debate whether or not the Batmobile should be armed with machine guns and a cannon, there’s no doubt that the Arkham Knight vehicle looks like it should provide a fun way to get around Gotham – as well as, according to Perkins, a key layer in their “Be the Batman” experience. No doubt, some gamers have begun to feel Arkham series fatigue. Each game has built-upon prior titles with little variation in the core gameplay – especially free-flow combat. Nevertheless, it’s hard to fault Rocksteady for attempting to refine the format in the hopes of providing gamers with the “ultimate” Batman simulator.
“If people walk away thinking this is the ultimate Batman simulator, then our job is complete. We gave them Gotham City, we gave them Batman at the height of his powers and we gave them the Batmobile. I think those three elements come together to make a great game. If people go away feeling like it was awesome, we’ve done a good job.”
Warner Bros. Entertainment claims Arkham Knight will be the last entry in the series but strong sales for each chapter makes it hard to believe they won’t be motivated to continue with the franchise in some form after Arkham Knight.
Either way, even with a delay into 2015, it sounds as though Rocksteady intends to cap-off their three installments with a solid entry. As Perkins states, Arkham Knight will present players with a Batman at the height of his powers – including one of his best toys. We’ll have to wait to find out where the series will go in the future but there’s plenty of reason to be excited that the next installment will be the full realization of Rocksteady’s original efforts to put players inside the cape and cowl.
Batman: Arkham Knight will be released on June 2, 2015 for the PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Follow Ben on Twitter @benkendrick.