Joaby is back with another opinion piece -- one that many of you will likely agree with. Read on or watch for what he has to say...
Watch Joaby's video on the Batmobile and why he doesn't like it above
So, The Badmobile.
Look, the Batmobile has issues. It controls weird because it has perpetual forward momentum and no clearly defined braking point. That is to say, it's too easy to transition from forward to backwards by hitting the square button, which, by the way, is an insane button to have as your brake/reverse combo. You can change controls in the Game Options (not the Controls menu) and the pursuit form of your vehicle controls a little better afterwards, but it becomes awkward in tight areas (an important factor in some boss fights).
I get that there needs to be a button so the player can switch between driving and hovertank modes, but I only get it in the sense that I understand the need for it within the context of how the game currently exists. What I'm saying is - the need for the vehicle to switch modes is a completely made up problem, one created by and for Batman: Arkham Knight. So, if it's completely manufactured then it should have been created in a manner that isn't... craptastic.
So yeah, you might not like the Batmobile because functionally it's not as good as it could be. But what if it's more than just that? What if the Batmobile not only failed to add anything to the game, what if it detracted from the experience as well? What if the Batmobile's existence in Batman: Arkham Knight makes the game worse?
It adds very little. Batman is a capable superhero with just the cape on his back and the cowl on his noggin, and the half racecar/tank machine doesn't bring anything to the table to change that. I did some tests, and travel between the islands of Gotham as Batman on foot (so to speak) is just as quick as in vehicle. That's because Batman gets to take the path 'as the Bat flies', ignoring bridges and flying in a straight path.
What it adds the most is in the game's puzzle elements, where Batman is forced to use his new toy to solve simplistic puzzles or remote control destroy some obstacles. But this is, again, a scenario where the Batmobile is used to solve problems which wouldn't exist if the Batmobile didn't exist. It's almost poetic, if you think about it. One of the common criticisms/meta commentaries regarding the Caped Crusader is the idea that the costumed villains of Gotham wouldn't exist if Batman himself didn't. The idea is that Bruce Wayne donning the cowl escalated the crime scenario, and so to keep the natural order of things, to preserve the city's criminal ecosystem, the villains needed to raise the stakes as well. Essentially, the supervillains Batman fights wouldn't exist if Batman himself didn't.
But that's all a bit existential for a piece about a car with bat decals.
So it's not better for transporting Batpeople, and the things it's good for wouldn't exist without it, so we've established that it doesn't add anything to the game. But what does it subtract, exactly?
Batman: Arkham City was my favourite game of 2011. It was my Game of the Year. The court of public opinion holds other games in higher stead, but for me Rocksteady's open-world superhero game was a brilliant game with no real peer.
From beginning until end it did what every good one-shot comic should -- it explored and studied a character to allow us to understand him better. In the way that many licence based videogames often do, Arkham City borrowed heavily from surrounding lore to create a story that is extremely familiar for fans who've absorbed all of it. But Paul Dini didn't stop there, and that's what makes Arkham City so great -- Dini used the well-worn storylines of Batman tales past as a backing track to do something completely different. It was like he sampled successful beats from Batman's history to create an all new and utterly brilliant composition.
Dini doesn't get all the credit, however. From the moment the game begins, Arkham City locks the player into being the Batman. The game has you begin in the shoes of billionaire Bruce Wayne, locked in Arkham City under false pretenses and forced to deal with captivity in a hostile area.
It would be an intimidating beginning if the tone of the game were different. In any other game, a tuxedoed man being thrust into a massive prison might be of the horror genre. But Bruce Wayne has a secret, one shared between him and the player -- he's Batman. And because you walk a few hundred metres in Bruce's shoes, his inevitable transition into Cape and Cowl stick with you that much more. What I loved about Batman: Arkham City was that it wanted to make you Batman. That way, everything that happened in the story mattered that much more to you.
So, uh, what does this have to do with the Batmobile?
The Batmobile separates you from Batman. Arkham Knight does a lot of things that separate you from Batman in ways I'm not a fan of, but they're palatable in small doses. Putting you in the shoes of Catwoman or Nightwing the way they did in Arkham City is one of those odd things that makes you appreciate being Batman more. Taking away control to show Batman walking places or grabbing people (with no input from the player) is less successful, even if it is important for the narrative.
But you spend so much time in the Batmobile, and the controls for the machine are so different that it feels like its own character. You're not Batman in the Batmobile, you're simply the Batmobile.
It's not just me who thinks this. The Riddler specifically concocts puzzles for Batman in Arkham Knight, and in his main questline those riddles are split down the middle -- half involve Batmobile puzzles, half involve Batman puzzles. There's a clear delineation between these puzzles and - shock horror - the Batman puzzles are actual puzzles, while the Batmobile puzzles are just races half the time.
That's another thing about the Batmobile -- I didn't enjoy using it, and so suddenly I began examining incongruous elements of the game world more. Like, we've all collectively accepted that everyone in Batman's world is more resilient than normal, right? Batman knocks people unconscious and just straight up ignores the recovery position, despite the fact that they're invariably properly K-Od. Floppy, on the ground, unconscious for minutes K-Od. But Batman never beats himself up about the deaths he caused due to negligence. We've all collectively internalised that people can cop more of a beating in Batman's world.
But the Batmobile, I drive that around and I have to wonder. That thing has to weigh at least 20 tonnes, right? And it's powered by a jet engine? I did some maths (bad maths, but maths anyway) and a conservative estimate has the Batmobile travelling at at least 95 km/h (60mph for you Americans). I'm not saying the Batmobile would vapourise people, but regardless of their resilience they wouldn't be getting back up after being side-swiped by it. Batman's "I never kill" thing is harder to swallow when he instigates a head-on collision with a small sedan and then drives away like it's nothing.
Not to mention the drones. The way Arkham Knight forces you into drone battles is awful, but it's made worse when you realise Batman would be basically boned if said unmanned drones simply included a seating area for a soldier. The soldier doesn't even have to do anything. Batman's stupid tankcar dies from a handful of blasts from the drones, so if Batman's own moral code prevented him from blowing said drones up (due to the existence of a single human hostage within) he'd be basically screwed.
Narratively the drones are idiotic. In gameplay terms they create a tedious shooting mini-game in a series otherwise praised for its fantastic combat. They exist solely to give the Batmobile a purpose, they suck and they make the game a little worse.
The Batmobile detracts from the game experience, it has bad controls and it introduces gameplay elements that aren't great solely to justify its existence.
There you have it. I think the Batmobile is bad, and those are my reasons why. Before I wrap up, I want to reflect on something about games criticism. All of the above represents my experience with the game, not anyone elses. I use definitive language and an aggressive tone, but I'm not saying only my viewpoint is correct or that anyone who likes something I dislike is wrong or dumb or whatever. All I want to do is show off a cool new game while giving you something to think about.
With that in mind, Batman: Arkham Knight is a great game, one I really enjoyed. I finished it yesterday and I loved almost all of it. The way they characterise Gotham is wonderful, drawing deep inspiration on Burton's Neon/Gothic architecture to create a beautifully colourful yet dark world for Batman to explore. Despite my criticisms of the Batmobile, I whole-heartedly believe Batman: Arkham Knight is worth buying -- though of course, not if you're only playing games on PC.