By James Hilton
Rocksteady proved one thing with the Arkham series: first, that it was possible to create a superhero themed game that was good; and second, that Rocksteady itself was capable of producing something good.
Indeed, Batman: Arkham City remains among my top three favorite games, not solely because I’m endeared to Batman, but because it perfectly blended linear narrative and open-world exploration. The plot was thrilling and flowed consistently and was complemented by even pacing, while still allowing for free roam exploration that didn’t overwhelm and dilute the plot.
In all, it was a superb game, and moreover, it was an excellent sequel, a feat that doesn’t always happen in the gaming ‘verse.
Naturally, I’ve been steeped in eager anticipation for the inevitable third installment ever since, but early rumors and here-say appear to spell doom for Arkham 3 before it’s even been announced.
So, why will the final chapter of the Arkham franchise probably suck?
Silver-aged Era Prequel
Early reports seem to indicate that the next installment of the series won’t be a sequel at all, but a prequel reflecting the Silver Age of the Batman comics (ranging from about the mid-50s to the early 70s).
Not only is this simply an awful idea all around, but I feel like the sole reason they’re gearing a prequel in this direction is to incorporate members of the Justice League into the fray and build hype for the film adaptation they’re still Hell-bent on producing.
Furthermore, a prequel would completely subvert all the side quest content that was setting up potential story arcs for a sequel, such as the emergence of Hush, Azrael’s prophecy, and the discovery of Scarecrow’s secret cache of new fear toxin. With all this tantalizing set-up for future stories, it’s disappointing to think that none of it will come to fruition.
Most disappointing of all is the fact that the developers appear to want to depict the first encounter between Batman and The Joker, which is a tad impossible considering that there will be…
No Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill, who has voiced The Joker in animation for over two decades, made it clear that he’d be retiring from his token role as the Clown Prince of Crime, presumably so he turn his attention to playing Luke Skywalker again. Arkham City served as his grande finale, and his departure from Batman lore was finalized with The Joker’s death at Arkham City’s climax.
Do the developers intend to replace Mark Hamill; that is, to depict The Joker without his signature voice actor? Who could possibly rise to such a role? John DiMaggio? Billy West? Wayne Knight??
For this reason alone, a prequel should be avoided, because Mark Hamill’s performance as The Joker simply can’t be topped. I suppose when the tantalizing notion of turning a buck enters a video game writer’s fertile mind they’ll be willing to spin a story in any direction, regardless of the integrity of the plot.
Rocksteady foregoing involvement with the next installment surely spells doom for the franchise. When games change hands midway through a series it doesn’t exactly bode well for the story.
Moreover, head writer Paul Dini announced that he’d be moving on to other projects, leaving Arkham 3 bereft of its leading creative team member. Without its original developer and head writer, it’s a wonder they think that another installment will even be worth the effort — oh wait: money.
Likely Next Gen-centric
With the launch of the Xbox 720 and PS4 all but immanent, it would not be surprising if many upcoming games will be released exclusively for the new consoles to force conformity among the gaming community and guarantee profit for the next generation of systems. After all, we live in a world where the iPhone 5 S will hit shelves before the 5 has even had a chance to collect dust on the store shelves.
The point is, I’ll probably be forced to purchase an entirely new freaking system if I want to play Arkham 3. Although, with all the negativity surrounding initial rumors of the game, there’s a very good chance I won’t play it at all.
I do hope I’m wrong, but in my experience creative integrity appears to be an attribute sorely lacking in today’s industrious world. Sadly, a fantastic set of games being butchered at the onset of the final act is injustice any day of the week.