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Opinion: The Badmobile, or Why You Might Not Like Batman's Car in Batman: Arkham Knight
Post by Joaby @ 11:11am 02/07/15 | Comments
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.
Read more about Batman: Arkham Knight on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!



Latest Comments
Khel
Posted 01:44pm 02/7/15
Yeah, square for brake is pretty awful when every other car game ever uses left and right trigger for accelerate and brake. I'm constantly transforming into a tank when I'm trying to stop or drift around a tight corner. I didn't realise you could actually remap the controls though, might have to look at that.

So far though I'm finding that Batmobile to definitely be the weakest part of the game. Arkham City very rarely, if ever, annoyed or frustrated me but even only a few hours into Arkham Knight and I've been consistently frustrated by the stupid car s***. It also sucks cos one of the hands-down coolest parts of Arkham City was flying your way accross the city and grapple boosting and all that, now its like "Here, have a car instead, we decided instead of focusing on really unique methods of traversal we'll just do what every other open world game does".
eski
Posted 01:57pm 02/7/15
I don't really mind the batmobile, it's not inherently a bad thing and it does pretty well for what it is. In a lot of other games it would probably be fine.

The problem in Arkham Knight is that I REALLY like playing as Batman. Pretty much all of the main and side missions I've done as him so far have been incredibly fun, but when they funnel me into the Batmobile missions the game stops feeling great and just becomes ok.

I'm not sure that the game would be better if they removed the batmobile, I have a feeling that breaking up the pacing of the game like this is making me enjoy the batman sequences that much more. Arkham Knight is a great game, and despite finding the batmobile sequences a little tedious, it doesn't really spoil my overall appreciation of the game.

PS - yeah, the square/X for brake thing is quite bizarre, and I think they knew that, hence the option to change the controls. I really don't understand why they didn't just map it to left trigger and be done. Is there any point in controlling the game where the trigger becomes a problem?
Joaby
Posted 02:24pm 02/7/15
I didn't realise you could actually remap the controls though, might have to look at that.

It's not so much 'remapping' as switching to toggle mode. The game is so weird about a whole lot of things, I loved it to pieces by the time I finished it but there's definitely a feeling that it might have been released a little undercooked. Anyway, you won't find it in "controls", you'll find the toggle in "Game Options" alongside a bunch of other controller focused options.

I think ultimately it just seemed like the Batmobile introduced more issues than it solved. You're definitely right that it broke up sequences as Batman, but I wonder if they could have done that via Robin and Nightwing instead, having you flit around doing their side stuff maybe?
ravn0s
Posted 03:25pm 02/7/15
the batmobile is definitely the worst aspect of the game and is far too prevalent and forced imo. things that would have only taken batman to do in previous games now somehow require a damn tank to do it. they stupidly designed the whole game around it when it should only be a cool gadget you can use every now and then. also, whoever thought of the tank battles is an a******.
trog
Posted 11:15am 03/7/15
I feel like I am likely to feel the way ravn0s does about it from what I've read. I like the idea of it as a gimmicky thing you can muck around in but it sounds like a decent chunk of the game is built around it and you're forced to stick with it to get through it?

I'm less worried about the handling (on a PC it'll be mouse and keyboard anyway) but don't want to get stuck doing a bunch of dumb races or something just to get to the next stage.
Joaby
Posted 02:28pm 03/7/15
For the main story it's mostly just idiotic tank battles that hold progress to ransom. "Stealth" missions in the batmobile feel super, duper dumb.
Khel
Posted 02:57pm 03/7/15
Theres no spectacle to the tank battles like there is to the hand-to-hand combat bits. My brother had never seen the game before, and he was watching me fight a bunch of thugs and he loved the combat, not even playing it, just watching it. I hate to use the term, but it can be quite cinematic to watch, with the different camera angles and slow-mo and the bone crunching sounds that make the finishers seem even more brutal. Thats been amped up even more now with stuff like the context-sensitive environmental takedowns and such, makes it quite entertaining even just as a spectator.

The tank battles though, they're so generic, and theres none of those epic moments that look badass or make you feel like a badass like you get in the hand-to-hand combat. Which is a real shame, because that for me was always the biggest strength of the Arkham games, they just made you feel like the ultimate badass. No matter how many times I had got into a fight, it always felt satisfying. Sometimes even if I had no reason to I'd just jump down into a big group of guys purely to beat them up because beating them up was fun.
ravn0s
Posted 07:06pm 03/7/15
I'm less worried about the handling (on a PC it'll be mouse and keyboard anyway) but don't want to get stuck doing a bunch of dumb races or something just to get to the next stage.


the races and chases are only available in side missions which are entirely optional. however, there are many, many annoying tank battles throughout the main story.
infi
Posted 07:24pm 03/7/15
the batmobile is good because it creates a new dimension of problem solving in what could otherwise become repetitive gameplay
Khel
Posted 12:16am 04/7/15
They should have added a new dimension of problem solving to Batman then, instead of tacking on something else that cheapens the experience. I mean, shooting things with guns isn't really a very interesting form of 'problem solving', it dumbs down the whole tone of the game. For all its flaws, Arkham Origins did at least one really cool thing and that was adding the crime scene investigation angle to Batman. That imo was the right way to create a new dimension of problem solving, because it made you feel more like Batman and made the character feel cooler. After him being so resourceful and ingenuitive in the first few games, it just feels dumb to now have him resorting to blowing s*** up in a tankmobile.
ravn0s
Posted 09:06pm 04/7/15
just 100% finished the game. i had fun but overall it was pretty disappointing. i loved the combat, scale of the city and how they handled Spoiler:
the joker
. story was so-so. hated the batmobile especially the 3 (1 was a side mission) damn batmobile boss fights. argh! as for the identity of the arkham knight, Spoiler:
everyone called it when the game was first announced. rocksteady are big fat liars!


i wouldn't bother to 100% the game unless you're a completionist. i suggest watching the knightfall ending on yt.

how i would rank the series:

asylum > origins > city = knight

last edited by ravn0s at 21:06:18 04/Jul/15
Joaby
Posted 10:54am 05/7/15
Woaaah you'd put origins over City!? And you'd put City next to Knight?

City is one of my favourite games of all time lol
Khel
Posted 07:42pm 05/7/15
Did you put them back to front or something? Or did you really think city was equal was equal worst of the series? City was the best one for me
infi
Posted 08:40pm 05/7/15
yeah arkham city is by far the best
Meddek
Posted 07:36am 08/7/15
I haven't finished this game yet about 50%, I did get a jump scare when the Spoiler:
winged bat creature jumped at me when I came over the ledge and then I laughed my pants of when the Joker did the same thing
Khel
Posted 10:20am 08/7/15
Haha yeah Meddek, I just found him the other night too and that made me jump too, totally wasn't expecting it.

I changed that battle mode to toggle, that made a pretty big difference. Actually get to use triggers as accelerator and brake now, and triggers as the two weapons in battle mode. F*** knows why that isn't the default though, makes so much more sense.
Vash
Posted 03:27pm 08/7/15
getting lots of bugs in this game.
Every time i enter battle mode, holding right mouse button, it forces me to reverse. only happens in battle mode, and theres no binding conflicts. urghh
Khel
Posted 04:03pm 08/7/15
Have you turned on that battle mode toggle setting? On PS4, thats pretty much what it does, it changes the trigger that used to do battle mode back into brake/reverse and makes battle mode an on/off toggle assigned to a different button.
Vash
Posted 04:50pm 08/7/15
i dont have toggle yet. i hear it comes later
Audi
Posted 11:24pm 08/7/15
I'm only 4 hrs in but have been enjoying the car stuff. May well get sick of it though, will report back.
Vash
Posted 11:28pm 08/7/15
well even with toggle the controls are stuffed. back to waiting for another patch.
Audi
Posted 05:58pm 09/7/15
Controls on PC are fine. This a controller issue?
Vash
Posted 10:17pm 09/7/15
Im using keyboard/mouse. Randomly, the movement keys get stuck. batman will move backwards constantly. Battle mode seems to trigger it. frustrating.
infi
Posted 10:21pm 09/7/15
Controls on PC are fine. This a controller issue?


controls are fine for me on PC too. great game.
Khel
Posted 10:11am 10/7/15
The Batmobile is annoying me less as I play it more, but I dunno if thats cos its getting better or its just stockholm's syndrome. Theres been a few moments though where it felt like the Batmobile really fitted and actually improved a section of gameplay, like Spoiler:
chasing Firefly
but I still wish they hadn't tried to shoehorn it into everything everywhere.
ravn0s
Posted 11:50am 10/7/15
the boss battles are such a huge let down in this game. of the 5 main storyline boss fights, 3 of them are in the batmobile. there's also 3 side mission bosses and 2 of them involve the batmobile.

i was so pissed after the deathstroke battle especially since the battle in origins was so bad ass.
Audi
Posted 11:58am 10/7/15
Not having that bug Vash.
Meddek
Posted 08:22pm 11/7/15
Okay I just finished the story line tonight, love the game to bits and I enjoyed the way the story just flowed... but holy f***en s*** balls c*** the Batmobile fights after Spoiler:
Poison Ivy
I threw my controller down more times than I can count they were frustrating and almost a button mashing event, towards the end the Batmobile was just used too much I love driving it around and don't mind chasing villains but the tank battles were so frustrating.
ravn0s
Posted 11:13pm 11/7/15
the tank battles are why i would recommend sticking with mouse and keyboard if you're playing on PC.
Khel
Posted 01:34pm 12/7/15
I found the second riddler track to be far easier than the first one, since it was really just plain driving and drifting. All the jumps and driving up walls and s*** in the first one is what made it awful, that's when the batmobile felt like it was at its worst
infi
Posted 01:39pm 12/7/15
yeah the first was tricky the second was routine.
Audi
Posted 04:19pm 12/7/15
I found the second riddler track to be far easier than the first one, since it was really just plain driving and drifting. All the jumps and driving up walls and s*** in the first one is what made it awful, that's when the batmobile felt like it was at its worst


Pasted it first time, only be about a second though.
Khel
Posted 11:39pm 24/7/15
The tank battle challenges are really making me hate this game, what piece of s*** ever designed this and thought it would be fun.
Enska
Posted 09:51am 25/7/15
I'm not finding them to be too painful, are you making sure to use your thrusters constantly? no thrusters makes batman very sad.
Khel
Posted 12:04pm 25/7/15
Yeah, it's really just that slumdog billionaire challenge and that untouchable one where you need to not get hit for 6 minutes. Both of them were making me pull my hair out and swear profusely at the tv. I even dreamed about the untouchable one when I went to bed :(
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