Rocksteady’s Arkham series not only revolutionised Batman-based video games, but inspired subsequent major licensed-titles themselves – just take a look at Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (also published by Warner Bros.) and The Amazing Spider-Man to see signs of its influence.
The first entry – 2009’s Arkham Asylum – was an incredible achievement, serving as both the Batman game so many fans had longed for over the years and an ideal stepping-on point for newcomers.
While some of the beat-em-ups and platformers had been fun, the character’s detective skills had been all but ignored (aside from in the PSX’s Batman & Robin, an ambitious but shoddy open-world effort).
After the huge success of Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady outdid themselves with the awesome Arkham City, which transplanted the Bat-action from the claustrophobic confines of the asylum itself to Hugo Strange’s eponymous outdoor prison-district.
For hardcore fans of the character and newcomers alike, Arkham City could still be called the greatest video-game adaptation of Batman’s world so far, filled with countless great moments and demonstrating a real respect for the source material.
Arkham Knight definitely has its fans, but some of the new elements introduced (the Batmobile, for instance) left some players less-impressed than they had been with the previous games.
Rocksteady have concluded their trilogy of Batman games (Arkham Origins, the schedule-gap-filling prequel, was developed by Warner Bros. Games Montreal), which leaves us with a big question: where next for the Caped Crusader in video games? Should Warner Bros. commission more titles based around Batman as the main character, or explore other figures from his world?
Let’s take a look at a few ideas …
Batman: Court of Owls
As anyone familiar with Batman comic books from the past four years or so will know, the character has his fair share of new villains (following DC’s huge ‘New 52’ canon-reboot). The most iconic of his fresh-faced enemies?
The Court of Owls.
This secret society has controlled Gotham City for hundreds of years, with an army of well-trained, lethal assassins (named Talons) at their disposal. Even with Batman’s incredible skills, the Court of Owls are formidable enemies, and have become a huge hit with fans.
A video game based around the Dark Knight’s first encounter with them, or their later clashes, has the potential to be action-packed, dark, and incredibly creepy. It also gives developers an opportunity to produce a Batman game without the Joker rearing his ugly head – something which might not have been done since 2003’s Rise of Sin Tzu.
Batman Beyond is set in a futuristic Gotham City, home to old and new villains alike. Bruce Wayne is no longer Batman – for years, a young man named Terry was the Dark Knight, but the mantle has recently been passed on to someone else (a former Robin).
While Beyond’s Batman featured as an alternate costume in Arkham City, a video game based entirely around the character himself could be great. Not only is the streamlined, full-mask outfit a fantastic visual, but an open-world Gotham of the future would be an awesome playground to explore, with more than just a hint of Blade Runner-inspired design.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is one of the best DC comics-based games ever, boasting fast-paced gameplay, intuitive controls, and beautiful visuals. Each character feels unique, and their distinctive skill-sets are true to their comic-book counterparts – pitting Superman against Doomsday hundreds of feet above Metropolis is always a real thrill, especially when they look, move, and fight just as they should!
However, introducing other DC superheroes into a future Batman game would be a great way to use Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman etc. for more than just their fighting abilities. By teaming Batman with the Justice League in an Arkham-esque game, players could take the character on a wider variety of adventures, across other worlds and times, putting Batman’s abilities as a master tactician to work against such cosmic enemies as Darkseid and Braniac.
While the rest of the League might work best as NPC’s, they could work alongside Batman, providing back-up in puzzles and combat throughout the game, bringing their unique skills to a variety of situations.
With thousands of comics to choose from for inspiration, the development team could really craft something powerful – above and beyond the decent Justice League Heroes game from 2006! With two Justice League movies heading our way in the next decade, the characters will enter the mainstream like never before, and tie-in games (especially on mobile devices) are a certainty.
Without doubt, one of the best aspects of Arkham City was taking on the role of Catwoman. Whether in the Riddler’s Revenge challenges or in the campaign itself, Catwoman is a joy to play as, having a totally different feel from Batman.
Faster, more agile, and frankly more fun, Catwoman helps to keep Arkham City feeling fresh whenever we’re given control over her. Rocksteady managed to make playing as her feel as immersive and engaging as they did with Batman – so it’s a shame there was no spin-off based solely around her.
Could she carry a game by herself? Absolutely – she has many villains to clash against, her own assortment of allies (including Batman himself, as well as Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy), and an awesome range of skills and tools at her disposal.
Putting Catwoman in another open-world Gotham City would be fantastic, especially if she retained her look and feel from Arkham City: scrambling over rooftops and scaling buildings is still terrific fun, so on a broader canvas, there’s plenty of potential.
Still, why not take her outside of Gotham? The comic Catwoman: When In Rome took Selina Kyle to Italy’s capital – not a bad location for a game.
Gotham City Sirens
On the subject of Catwoman, another Batman-related comic that could work brilliantly as a video game is Gotham City Sirens.
Featuring Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy working together, a Gotham City Sirens game would be an ideal way to introduce many players to a wider variety characters from the DC stable, and add more powerful, cool, exciting leading ladies to the medium.
Gameplay could switch from one character to the next, perhaps featuring all three on-screen together, with control flipped via a quick button-press; alternatively, different missions could be based around a specific Siren.
As Catwoman and Harley Quinn use various weapons and close-combat skills, the game could use the FreeFlow fighting system from the Arkham series, while Poison Ivy’s ability to control plants would allow for some bizarre, innovative attacks on enemies (though some environments would restrict her powers somewhat).
No matter which development team ends up working on the next major Batman-based game, no matter whether it stars the man himself or another of his allies, there’s a huge amount of material to draw from, with massive potential for many more amazing adventures.
The Arkham series, and Rocksteady themselves, have given future teams a terrific foundation to build on – so fingers crossed we get more games of such unbelievable quality!
What would your ideal Batman game be? Would you prefer one starring the Dark Knight