Never mind the Arkhamverse, the only good Batman game is Assassin’s Creed 2
So, the long awaited next foray into the Arkhamverse, Suicide Squad, looks like a pretty miserable experience from what we’ve seen so far. A screenshot doing the rounds on Twitter puts the spotlight on a dreary looking set of stat modifiers that reads like a tech manual for transistors. The fact that it’s a live-service looter shooter with no true single-player mode (‘co-op with bots’ doesn’t count), and the horrifying red flag of requiring a constant internet connection to run, shows just how far Rocksteady has strayed from the light. The light being Arkham “it’s a Metroidvania, actually” Asylum, the solitary jewel in the crown of Batman-themed video games, nestled amongst a litany of, frankly, shite.
I know at this point people will be throwing turnips at me for suggesting that Arkham City isn’t as good as Arkham “did you realise it was a Metroidvania” Asylum, but please rest assured that I’m only suggesting it because it’s true. The last thing Arkham “it’s like a 3D Metroidvania! Wow!” Asylum needed was bloat: and Arkham City, frankly, was where the rot started to set in on that front.
Of course, you can’t blame them. Where else can a video game sequel go from a tight, long night in the worst hospital on earth, other than out into the streets? The only way is “more”. More open world. More of the rogues gallery. More, sigh, hours of gameplay. In fairness to Arkham City, it did often feel like a series of Asylum-style vignettes connected by an overworld hub, but by the fourth game when we’re screaming around a deserted Gotham in Batman’s Car (by popular demand), the magic had entirely unravelled.
And so ended the blip, the aberration, the fever dream of a Good Batman Game, the sort of thing I’d dreamt about since playing the horrid Tim Burton tie-in on the Amiga (it had a cool bit where you turned corners in the Batmobile by grappling lampposts, which we all loved because it was a bit from the film stretched over an entire gameplay sequence, but once you were out of the motor it was crap).
There’s nothing worth going back to the Arkham-verse for. Not even Kevin Conroy making his posthumous final appearance as the character that he arguably did better than anyone else, given how tragic it is that his last turn in the cape will be as part of something so soulless as a Destiny clone based on Suicide Squad, of all bastard things.
But look, Batman’s adaptations beyond the world of comics have always been a very mixed bag. For every Tim Burton’s Batman there’s a Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. And, listen, if you’re going to make me empathise with an orphaned aristocrat, whose sidekick builds gadgets for him to aid in a misguided quest for revenge, at least do it across the beautiful cityscapes of renaissance Italy and not another boring fucking composite of 1970s American urban decline.
If you want a big, bold take on Batman that isn’t shit, you can do a lot worse than playing Assassin’s Creed 2 again. He even has a glider in one bit, which is sort of like the Batwing but without a stupid name. In another mission, he gets to ride around in a renaissance-era tank, which is possibly the nadir of the entire Ezio trilogy, but that’s sort of like the Tumbler, innit? Ezio is essentially Batman with access to nicer tomatoes.
Freed from the dreariness of a rain-slick, darkness-shrouded allegory for Crime Infested New York Or Chicago, liberated from the sexless weirdo billionaire Bruce Wayne, Assassin’s Creed 2 is a Batman adventure with all the tragic backstory and quest for justice you could ask for, but also with sunshine, beautiful architecture, and a bit of shagging. And it isn’t a live-service nonsense that makes me lose the will to live, so I’ll be returning to Florence before I ever set foot in the Arkhamverse again.
We know Ezio probably wouldn’t know what a tomato is, please don’t write in.