Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

It makes a sort of sense with EVO 2015 coming up in just 12 days, but next week will see the release of three fighting games. Skullgirls will get another chance in the arena when Skullgirls 2nd Encore hits PlayStation 4, while PC gets Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm and Battle Fantasia -Revised Edition- on Tuesday. Those looking to compete in a different sort of arena can try out Rocket League, which arrives on PlayStation 4 as a free PlayStation Plus offering. Check out the full list of releases below.

PC

  • Rocket League (download)
  • Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm (download)
  • Battle Fantasia -Revised Edition- (download)
  • Worms World Party Remastered (download)
  • The Amber Throne (download)
  • Knee Deep (download)
  • Prompt (download)
  • Fragile Ball (download)
  • TIMEframe (download)
  • Shred! Downhill Mountain Biking (download)
  • Gunpowder (download)
  • Cosmophony (download)
  • Traverser (download)
  • Trove (download - free-to-play)
  • How to Take Off Your Mask (download)
  • Spectra (download)
  • Mactabilis (download)
  • Hordelicious (download)
  • Monster Truck Destruction (download)
  • Mystery Maze Of Balthasar Castle (download)

PlayStation 4

  • Skullgirls 2nd Encore (download)
  • Rocket League (download - free for PlayStation Plus)
  • Pnuema: Breath of Life (download)
  • Toro (download)
  • Arcade Archives Exerion (download)

Xbox One

  • Spectra: 8bit Racing (download)

Xbox 360

  • None

PlayStation 3

  • None

Wii U

  • None

Vita

  • Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions (download)
  • Nekoburo Catsblock (download)

Nintendo 3DS

  • None
Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

While Skullgirls is set to release on PlayStation 4 and Vita next week, development on the game is rapidly coming to a close. That means it's time for developer Lab Zero Games to move on to its next project, which it revealed on Thursday just before Anime Expo 2015. The studio is going from the fighting game arena to the realm of RPGs with a new game called Indivisible.

Indivisible is an action-RPG that follows a girl named Ajna, who has developed strange powers. As she travels the world to discover the truth behind her powers, she'll meet up with new characters and earn new abilities to help her across new environments. The game is described as combining elements of Valkyria Profile and Super Metroid, while implementing southeast Asian mythology.

The familiar Skullgirls art style will be on full display, which can be seen in the debut trailer below. More information on Indivisible is expected soon.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Earlier this week, Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune revealed a tease for a whole new game that is basically a Mega Man game, but cannot be called a Mega Man game for legal reasons. While Mighty No. 9 pays homage to the main series, however, Red Ash appears to be inspired by Mega Man Legends. During a panel this morning from Anime Expo in Los Angeles, Infanue and producer Eiko Tanaka officially revealed the game's Kickstarter.

To help hammer home the 'Legends' connection, the project will be led by Inafune, as well as art director Kazushi and director Masahiro Yasuma, both key members of the original Mega Man Legends production team. The Kickstarter page also points to a special collaboration with Tanaka's Japanese animation house, Studio 4°C, which will work on Red Ash's anime story. That one actually has its own separate Kickstarter page.

Red Ash is a third-person episodic action-adventure game that takes place on a desolate planet that's been devastated by the Robot World War. The remnants of humanity were able to rebuild through Lost Technology, a precious resource hunted by those known as Delvers. The current situation sees the floating city of KalKanon on a crash course with the city of Great Slope. Great Slope plans to prevent this by firing off a massive cannon called the Peacemaker, but the Bones Agency, led by a young girl named Call C. Bones, are seeking to take the KalKanon treasure from its underbelly before the Peacemaker can fire its shot. It'll be up to the main character, the teenage boy Beck, to stop KalKanon's freefall and make off with the treasure in the process, while discovering its secrets.

Inafune and company are hoping to introduce some distinct elements to Red Ash, including the idea of bargaining between partners, pirate-style. Beck can also forage dungeons for loot that can be used to pay for upgrades to his abilities.

The Red Ash Kickstarter is seeking $800,000 for the first three episodes. Two more additional episodes will be released if the project reaches $1.3 million. There is an early estimated release date of July 2017. Developer Comcept currently has two other projects in development: the aforementioned Mighty No. 9 and the Xbox One exclusive ReCore, which is being developed in conjunction with Armature Studio.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

It's been a big weekend for Minecraft already. In addition to Telltale unveiling the first trailer for Minecraft: Story Mode, Mojang has pulled the curtain back on the Windows 10 version of Minecraft, simply titled Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition.

While Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition will share many features with current versions of Minecraft, Mojang points out in the announcement post that it will include a slew of extras, some of which are pulled from the mobile Minecraft: Pocket Edition. The game will allow for eight-player local and online play, which can be played with either Windows 10 Edition players or Pocket Edition players (via a future update). The game will also include multiple control schemes, as well as the ability to record clips via GameDVR.

Those that want to participate in the beta version of Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition can jump in for a discounted $10 entry fee. However, those that already own the PC version of Minecraft can participate at no extra charge. Anyone that jumps into the beta will get the full version of the game when it releases. The Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition beta begins on July 29.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Telltale Games and Mojang have released the first official trailer of Minecraft: Story Mode as well as new details surrounding the game.

Minecraft: Story Mode will play as Jesse, who is voiced by Patton Oswalt, as he leads his group of friends to discover the truth behind their favorite group of heroes called The Order of the Stone. The order is comprised of four adventurers who have slayed an Ender Dragon: Warrior, Redstone Engineer, Griefer, and Architect. When Jesse and his friends attend EnderCon, they a powerful terror is unleashed and it’s up to them to find The Order of the Stone if they have any chance to save the world from oblivion.

The season of Minecraft: Story Mode will include some big-name celebrity voices. In addition to Patton Oswalt, the game will have Billy West, Paul Reubens, Corey Feldman, Dave Fennoy, Brian Posehn, Ashley Johnson, Scott Porter, and Martha Plimpton.

Minecraft: Story Mode was first announced back in December 2014, although up until today, details surrounding the game were scarce. The game is expected to be released in 2015.

Shacknews - Nathaniel Hohl

I recently wrote an opinion piece in which I discussed Valve’s attempts to introduce paid mods to Steam and outlined potential solutions for making paid mods work. The piece only covered a few scenarios, but it caught the eye of Andrew Moussa, the CEO and one of the co-founders of Sprked, a new online service that seeks to implement paid mods in a way that will make both modders and players happy. It’s a tall order, as Valve learned, but judging by the way in which Sprked allows modders to make money off of their creations, it could theoretically work if implemented correctly.

Appealing to the Masses

If you’ve ever heard of or used the online service Patreon, Sprked functions in a very similar manner while focusing specifically on PC mods. Modders who start a campaign on Sprked don’t promote an individual mod (although they can), but are instead are encouraged to show off the full breadth of their modding capabilities. While a Sprked modder’s mods are free, fans of the modder’s work can “subscribe” to their Sprked campaign at various monthly payment tiers (determined by the modder) with each tier granting specific perks much like a Kickstarter campaign. For example, a modder might have a campaign with a $1 per month tier that grants subscribers a personal thank you message, a $5 per month tier that adds their name into a mod’s credits, a $10 per month tier that grants early access to an upcoming mod, and so forth.

This system has a much better chance of working than Valve’s system because it incentivizes users to subscribe to campaigns without forcing them to. You can still play a mod featured in a campaign for free, but supporting the mod’s creator allows them to continue making them while unlocking some cool perks. Since modders on Sprked receive 95% of the funds generated through their campaigns, you can also rest assured that your money is primarily benefiting the modder and not some third-party company.

The campaign structure used in Sprked can be tweaked to fit an individual modder’s unique parameters. For example, if a modder would rather ask for donations on a per-mod or per-game basis instead of per-month, they can do so. Modders also have full control over the kinds of rewards they offer. Physical rewards such as personalized post cards, social rewards such as access to exclusive livestreams or Google Hangouts, in-game rewards such as skins or items, these are just some of the many different rewards modders can use to entice interested fans into subscribing.

An Uphill Battle

As great as the idea behind Sprked sounds, it isn’t without its challenges. The simple fact that it’s a service associated with the hot-button issue of paid mods means there will likely always be a fair number of people thumbing their noses at it. Plus, there’s a lot of room for abuse on both sides of the service’s userbase. Devious users could “troll” modders by making large fraudulent payments, either with a stolen credit card or by disputing the charge with their bank. Since modders are directly responsible for providing all of their campaign’s perks, it would be very easy for a modder to promise a perk, hit a rough financial patch, and then be unable to fulfill those promises. According to the Sprked terms of use, modders are legally bound to provide perks as promised but it’s up to individual modders and their fans to figure out a solution if the modder can’t deliver (refunds, alternate perks, etc.)

The terms of use are also careful to clarify that Sprked isn’t responsible if a modder can’t provide the perks they promised. This means there is more risk involved when subscribing to a modder’s campaign, at least when compared to Valve’s more straightforward system of charging a flat amount for access to a mod, since if the modder and fan can’t reach a resolution, Sprked is under no obligation to step in. In short, while the Sprked campaign system offers freedom and flexibility to both modders and fans, the folks behind Sprked are relying on a baseline level of trust and accountability, which - as Kickstarter has proven - isn’t the most stable foundation.

A Bright, If Uncertain Future

A quick perusal of the current Sprked website shows that the service still has a long way before it can go mainstream. While all of the service’s campaigns are grouped together into broad categories like “Adventure”, “RPG”, and “Sandbox”, there is currently no easy way to find specific modders or games, aside from browsing through all of the categories. A number of mods also appear to be mis-categorized, making it even more difficult to find what you want. Many of the campaigns also contain low-quality images and grammatical errors in their description text, which doesn't exactly encourage investment. These may all be minor, easily-fixable issues, but considering the fact that Sprked is trying to re-introduce a concept that Valve, the undisputed granddaddy of PC gaming, failed to successfully launch, the service definitely has its work cut out.

Even with these issues, Sprked offers a much more user-friendly system than what Valve introduced. When used as intended, the Sprked system benefits all parties without forcing any restrictions, financial or otherwise, on either the modders or the potential subscribers. It will be interesting to see how much Sprked catches on as it gains more media attention (especially if Valve ever tries to re-introduce a paid mod system) but for now, the success or failure of the service rests firmly on the shoulders of Andrew Moussa and the rest of the Sprked team.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

There are still a large number of Batman: Arkham Knight players that are running through that game's main story, but the story is about to expand just a little more. Warner Bros. is preparing to issue the game's first Season Pass content and is kicking off its six months' worth of content with the Batgirl prequel first revealed in May.

Titled "A Matter of Family," the Batgirl DLC will take place before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum, introducing new locations, missions, and side quests. Batgirl will have her own hacking tool to help her get through the world, while she'll also occasionally team up with Robin for some dual-team takedowns. WB Montreal (developer of Batman: Arkham Origins and perhaps the next in line to take the mantle of the Bat) is the team behind this Batgirl content, but the remainder of the Season Pass content will be released under the Rocksteady banner.

Batgirl begins for Season Pass owners on July 14. For those that do not own the Arkham Knight Season Pass, A Matter of Family will be released separately for about $9 on July 21. This Season Pass content will be released for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. No word on when the PC version of the game will get this content, but that particular iteration of the game seems to have its own problems at the moment.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

We're halfway through 2015, so the Shacknews staff has been sharing what we've affectionately nicknamed our "GOTMYs"--Games of the Mid-Year. This year will be top-loaded with big releases in the fall, so we're bound to shift some spots around when it comes to crowning our official winner, but in the meantime here are some of my frontrunners so far.


Box Boy

Who would have thought such an unassuming game would make my list of favorites? Box Boy came out of nowhere for me, and became one of my biggest surprises this year. It's a throwback to the simple mechanics and monochromatic colors of classic Gameboy games, with a simple and ingenious hook. You are Box Boy, a small anthropomorphic box with the power to replicate boxes out of himself to make stacks or patterns.

That's it. That's the whole premise. Box Boy doesn't gain new powers or abilities. Your character at the start is the same as your character at the finish. What follows is a master's class in gameplay iteration, with more than a dozen worlds absolutely bursting with puzzle-platforming challenges that each feel unique. That these mechanics can be used to such an expansive degree really goes to show that we don't always need big budgets and massive worlds. Sometimes a game designer can still surprise us simply by wringing every last drop of potential out of a simple concept.


Batman: Arkham Knight

I have a few reservations about Batman: Arkham Knight. The story reveal of the Arkham Knight's identity frustrated me, the character motivations seem muddled at times, the Batmobile has a tendency to feel forced and overused, and some of the combat scenarios press the crowd control aspect just a hair too far.

On the other hand: Batman.

Whatever faults it may have, Arkham Knight is building on one of the most rock-solid foundations in recent gaming history. It has created a Batman universe with its own unique tone, borrowing liberally from both the Animated Series and some of the darkest pieces of the Dark Knight's saga. Dropping into a room full of thugs still feels great, edged out only by taking them out one by one as the remaining ones grow increasingly terrified. The feeling of being Batman permeates everything, from the empowerment of his gadgetry to the way every character is certain from the start that he'll get the job done. Even the Batmobile feels great in its best moments--a powerhouse vehicle that outclasses everything the Knight throws at you. It may not be the best Arkham game, but there's no shame in being second place to Asylum.


Splatoon

I intentionally remained in the dark on Splatoon, somewhat turned off by the art style but otherwise ambivalent towards Nintendo's quirky take on the third-person shooter. I really should have known that if Nintendo was going to dip its tentacle in a new genre, it would nail the fundamentals and make something that felt entirely new. 

Splatoon is a shooter, but it isn't. It's a playful experience that mixes arena combat with a Jackson Pollock painting. It finds a way to deemphasize combat and give everyone a chance to contribute to the team. It's gloriously fun and supremely weird. I raised concerns in my review over some odd user-interface choices and a lack of content. The UI remains somewhat awkward, but the summer of free content has already provided plenty of richness to the experience. Games like this remind me why it's never wise to underestimate Nintendo.


The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I haven't finished The Witcher 3. I may never finish The Witcher 3. If we were giving a prize for "most game," it would go to The Witcher 3. I predict this will be a slow burn, the game that I constantly go back to between finishing all other games, possibly right up until the end of the year when we get to our actual GOTY votes. It's just so massive that it's intimidating.

Not so intimidating that I can stay away, however. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with it so far, and though I feel like I'm only scratching the surface, I can already see the depth and breadth of this enormous world that CD Projekt Red created. It swept me up with its characters and personality, and even the smallest of sidequests has a story of its own to tell. I can't wait to finish it (estimate: 2017).


Ori and the Blind Forest

Being a veteran in the games media, I'm prone to navel-gazing discussions of cliches and writing crutches. Games writing is filthy with these, and I was recently pondering a few with a fellow games journalist. He mentioned "tight" as an example, and I had to admit I was guilty of it. The problem, I pointed out, is that the games media hasn't come up with an elegant way to say "this feels like it should feel." So we use shorthand.

Ori and the Blind Forest feels like it should feel. There's an intuitive, ineffable sensation to mechanics so expertly crafted that a game immediately feels not just good, but correct. Nintendo is infamous for finding this hallowed ground consistently, while other platformers tend to be hit-or-miss. Ori is all hit and no miss. In terms of sheer mechanics, it is as close to perfection as any Mario game.

Layered on top of that foundation are a few elements that make it stand out even more. It's composed of a gorgeous 2D world with artwork that appears to live and breathe. The story is emotionally resonant from beginning to end, giving each character its due. It's tough as nails in a way that constantly entices the player to give it just one more try. 

This fall looks packed full of games that are bound to shake up my favorites of the year, but even this far in advance I predict Ori and the Blind Forest will make my top five. I simply can't see five more games coming that will displace such a touching story, harrowing challenge, and yes, "tight" controls.

Shacknews - Steven Wong

WARNING: This article contains major spoilers.

Between the poorly optimized PC release of Batman: Arkham Knight, the tiresome Batmobile gameplay, and some pretty major plot issues, we've been pretty hard on Batman. It's ok, he can take it. After all, he's wearing heavy armor. But seriously, despite all its faults, Arkham Knight is still a game we find ourselves coming back to and see through to the end. Beneath the Batmobile shaped exterior is still an enjoyable Batman game, and here's what makes the Dark Knight's send-off so memorable.

The Suit Makes the Batman

At one point, the Arkham Knight asks whether or not it's actually Batman's skill or the power of the new suit that makes him such a formidable force. The answer to that was kind of settled at the beginning of Arkham City, before Bruce Wayne has a chance to put on his Batman outfit. He doesn't necessarily need bullet proof armor or a belt full of gadgets to crack a few skulls, but they certainly come in handy.

The new Batsuit allows him to move faster while retaining all the features of the previous one. That includes dive bombing people, detective vision, and gliding across the city when you're tired of the Batmobile. It can even allows the Dark Knight to go straight into a takedown right after zipping up a building. But its best feature is the multi-target takedowns, which lets him eliminate a up to five opponents that are standing near each other. It's an invaluable tool when confronting large groups, especially if some are carrying troublesome weapons like shields or shock batons.

Sadly, there isn't much in the way of new gadgets, but the Disruptor ends up being an invaluable tool, which allows Batman to sabotage weapons, equipment, and drones. It can be used in combination with the Voice Synthesizer to set up traps, thereby thinning out groups before jumping into the fight.

In any case, Scarecrow has his fear gas, and the Arkham Knight has a private army with trained soldiers and a mess of remote controlled drones. Those should be about enough to take on one guy in a Batsuit.

Friends and Fisticuffs

The signature features of any Arkham game include the hand-to-hand freeflow and the Predator mode, where Batman quietly takes picks off his enemies one at a time. Both received upgrades over the course of the trilogy, mostly in ways to make it more challenging, but the core gameplay has remains more-or-less the same as it is with Arkham Asylum. This is core area where Batman really shines, whether players enjoy jumping straight into the fight, eliciting fear and panic by being a ghost, or a combination of the two.

Although fans might be used to multiple fighting styles in Arkham City, where they could play as Catwoman, Nightwing or Robin in the DLC expansions, Arkham Knight brings the concept up a notch with fight scenes where players can switch perspectives on the fly. If you prefer Catwoman's whip or Nightwing's fast moves over Batman's hard-hitting moves, then you can switch off and wreck enemies as you please. The game even has cooperative takedown moves, which allows the fighting duo to quickly take care of large enemies. It's just a shame that there aren't that many of these fight sequences, and they all take place in isolated areas. The Arkham Knight would his work cut out for him if both Batman and Robin decided to hit a couple Watchtowers and Fortifications together.

As an added bonus, the Harley Quinn DLC provides a short look at the kind of content players can look forward to in the future. We would have liked to see more of the world through her crazed and violently insecure perspective.

Fear Is All In Your Head

The secondary villains in Arkham Knight are seriously downplayed, but that means the primary ones have a chance to really shine. Scarecrow (with great voice acting by John Noble) is creepier than he has ever been. His plan ends up being a little half baked midway through the game, but you've got to hand it to guy, he likes to see things through. When the man wants to bomb a city with fear gas, he finds a way to get it done, whether it makes sense or not.

But really, its Joker that steals the show. Now that the Clown Prince of Crime is no longer stuck scheming over his next prank or dying a slow death, he's free to fully engage with his nemesis. Even better, Joker is all in Batman's head, so he can follow him around, offer up witty commentary, brutally mock his friends, and show up in unexpected places. We even get a glimpse of what Gotham would look like if Joker won, and it's a gloriously chaotic sight. If this really is the last time Mark Hamill does the voice for Joker, then it's a great note to end on.

Plus, it shows that Batman's greatest enemy isn't Arkham Knight, Hush, Scarecrow or any of the other big names in the rogues gallery. It's his inner Joker.

The Line Between Hero and Vigilante

While patrolling the streets of Gotham, you might overhear a conversation where one guard tells another that Batman is actually an agent of the government. Batman allows the police to get around pesky rules like police brutality (Batman breaks a man's arm for no reason), getting search warrants, and other procedural matters. Why else would the police department let a costumed vigilante do whatever he wants? In actuality, the GCPD let's Batman do whatever he wants because they couldn't stop him even if they wanted to.

At one point, Batman saunters into the GCPD's evidence room, shatters a display case, and takes the Electric Bolt Gun from it. As he walks out, the officer in charge of evidence lockup exclaims, "I ain't gonna try to stop him." In a different scene, Cash has a moment of self realization and states, "Who am I kidding? We've all been working for you." It's true. Commissioner Gordon hasn't issued a single command since the evacuation, and it's been Batman who has been hauling in criminals and calling all the shots. It highlights the strange, uneasy, relationship Batman has had with the police all along.

Also, let's not overlook how Batman has a secret prison. More than one, considering the encounter with Hush. There, he holds victims infected with Joker's blood against their will (although the woman might be staying willingly) while Robin tries to find some miraculous cure. Batman even gives Jim Gordon a tour of this illegal prison, and the Commissioner lets him get away with it. He never asks what Batman intends to do with these victims if he never finds a cure. Hold them indefinitely? Turn them over to another prison or asylum, even though they haven't committed any crimes? Luckily, killing the prisoners off prevented Batman from having to make that decision.

Arkham Knight possesses a larger degree of self-awareness than previous games, and often questions Batman's role as the city's protector. All Scarecrow had to do was attack one diner and issue a public threat to cause a complete city evacuation. It illustrates the citizens of Gotham didn't really believe that Batman or the police could stop him. And who could blame them? If Batman is a bigger symbol of law and order than the police, then it might be time to move.

Burning Down the House

Despite whatever faults the game might have, Arkham Knight is still the final game in the trilogy. Being so, the developers are pretty much allowed to do whatever they want with the characters, which includes killing them off. If players didn't know already, they got their first big indication that all bets were off when Oracle (Barbara Gordon) commits suicide in a fear-gas induced panic.

Batman is not afraid of dying, so the only way to raise the stakes is by threatening his allies, and so the body count rises. Although Ivy's mission to track down ancient trees can get really annoying, it is a fantastic sight to watch giant plants rise up from the ground to permanently change Gotham's landscape. Her sacrifice was unexpected, even thought it was in the name of saving plants. Additionally, it provides a fascinating plot twist, because despite all of Batman's efforts and teammates, it ultimately took a super villain to thwart Scarecrow's plans.

We're told from the start of the game that this is how the Batman dies, and we're all bearing witness to the end of a figure who straddles the line between order and chaos, the law and vigilantism. He just happens to wear heavy armor, wields high-tech gadgets, claims to be a pacifist who breaks bones, and drives a tank. With that in mind, the Nightfall Protocol is a nice, big, send-off befitting the Dark Knight.

Shacknews - Steven Wong

WARNING: This article contains major spoilers.

Between the poorly optimized PC release of Batman: Arkham Knight, the tiresome Batmobile gameplay, and some pretty major plot issues, we've been pretty hard on Batman. It's ok, he can take it. After all, he's wearing heavy armor. But seriously, despite all its faults, Arkham Knight is still a game we find ourselves coming back to and see through to the end. Beneath the Batmobile shaped exterior is still an enjoyable Batman game, and here's what makes the Dark Knight's send-off so memorable.

The Suit Makes the Batman

At one point, the Arkham Knight asks whether or not it's actually Batman's skill or the power of the new suit that makes him such a formidable force. The answer to that was kind of settled at the beginning of Arkham City, before Bruce Wayne has a chance to put on his Batman outfit. He doesn't necessarily need bullet proof armor or a belt full of gadgets to crack a few skulls, but they certainly come in handy.

The new Batsuit allows him to move faster while retaining all the features of the previous one. That includes dive bombing people, detective vision, and gliding across the city when you're tired of the Batmobile. It can even allows the Dark Knight to go straight into a takedown right after zipping up a building. But its best feature is the multi-target takedowns, which lets him eliminate a up to five opponents that are standing near each other. It's an invaluable tool when confronting large groups, especially if some are carrying troublesome weapons like shields or shock batons.

Sadly, there isn't much in the way of new gadgets, but the Disruptor ends up being an invaluable tool, which allows Batman to sabotage weapons, equipment, and drones. It can be used in combination with the Voice Synthesizer to set up traps, thereby thinning out groups before jumping into the fight.

In any case, Scarecrow has his fear gas, and the Arkham Knight has a private army with trained soldiers and a mess of remote controlled drones. Those should be about enough to take on one guy in a Batsuit.

Friends and Fisticuffs

The signature features of any Arkham game include the hand-to-hand freeflow and the Predator mode, where Batman quietly takes picks off his enemies one at a time. Both received upgrades over the course of the trilogy, mostly in ways to make it more challenging, but the core gameplay has remains more-or-less the same as it is with Arkham Asylum. This is core area where Batman really shines, whether players enjoy jumping straight into the fight, eliciting fear and panic by being a ghost, or a combination of the two.

Although fans might be used to multiple fighting styles in Arkham City, where they could play as Catwoman, Nightwing or Robin in the DLC expansions, Arkham Knight brings the concept up a notch with fight scenes where players can switch perspectives on the fly. If you prefer Catwoman's whip or Nightwing's fast moves over Batman's hard-hitting moves, then you can switch off and wreck enemies as you please. The game even has cooperative takedown moves, which allows the fighting duo to quickly take care of large enemies. It's just a shame that there aren't that many of these fight sequences, and they all take place in isolated areas. The Arkham Knight would his work cut out for him if both Batman and Robin decided to hit a couple Watchtowers and Fortifications together.

As an added bonus, the Harley Quinn DLC provides a short look at the kind of content players can look forward to in the future. We would have liked to see more of the world through her crazed and violently insecure perspective.

Fear Is All In Your Head

The secondary villains in Arkham Knight are seriously downplayed, but that means the primary ones have a chance to really shine. Scarecrow (with great voice acting by John Noble) is creepier than he has ever been. His plan ends up being a little half baked midway through the game, but you've got to hand it to guy, he likes to see things through. When the man wants to bomb a city with fear gas, he finds a way to get it done, whether it makes sense or not.

But really, its Joker that steals the show. Now that the Clown Prince of Crime is no longer stuck scheming over his next prank or dying a slow death, he's free to fully engage with his nemesis. Even better, Joker is all in Batman's head, so he can follow him around, offer up witty commentary, brutally mock his friends, and show up in unexpected places. We even get a glimpse of what Gotham would look like if Joker won, and it's a gloriously chaotic sight. If this really is the last time Mark Hamill does the voice for Joker, then it's a great note to end on.

Plus, it shows that Batman's greatest enemy isn't Arkham Knight, Hush, Scarecrow or any of the other big names in the rogues gallery. It's his inner Joker.

The Line Between Hero and Vigilante

While patrolling the streets of Gotham, you might overhear a conversation where one guard tells another that Batman is actually an agent of the government. Batman allows the police to get around pesky rules like police brutality (Batman breaks a man's arm for no reason), getting search warrants, and other procedural matters. Why else would the police department let a costumed vigilante do whatever he wants? In actuality, the GCPD let's Batman do whatever he wants because they couldn't stop him even if they wanted to.

At one point, Batman saunters into the GCPD's evidence room, shatters a display case, and takes the Electric Bolt Gun from it. As he walks out, the officer in charge of evidence lockup exclaims, "I ain't gonna try to stop him." In a different scene, Cash has a moment of self realization and states, "Who am I kidding? We've all been working for you." It's true. Commissioner Gordon hasn't issued a single command since the evacuation, and it's been Batman who has been hauling in criminals and calling all the shots. It highlights the strange, uneasy, relationship Batman has had with the police all along.

Also, let's not overlook how Batman has a secret prison. More than one, considering the encounter with Hush. There, he holds victims infected with Joker's blood against their will (although the woman might be staying willingly) while Robin tries to find some miraculous cure. Batman even gives Jim Gordon a tour of this illegal prison, and the Commissioner lets him get away with it. He never asks what Batman intends to do with these victims if he never finds a cure. Hold them indefinitely? Turn them over to another prison or asylum, even though they haven't committed any crimes? Luckily, killing the prisoners off prevented Batman from having to make that decision.

Arkham Knight possesses a larger degree of self-awareness than previous games, and often questions Batman's role as the city's protector. All Scarecrow had to do was attack one diner and issue a public threat to cause a complete city evacuation. It illustrates the citizens of Gotham didn't really believe that Batman or the police could stop him. And who could blame them? If Batman is a bigger symbol of law and order than the police, then it might be time to move.

Burning Down the House

Despite whatever faults the game might have, Arkham Knight is still the final game in the trilogy. Being so, the developers are pretty much allowed to do whatever they want with the characters, which includes killing them off. If players didn't know already, they got their first big indication that all bets were off when Oracle (Barbara Gordon) commits suicide in a fear-gas induced panic.

Batman is not afraid of dying, so the only way to raise the stakes is by threatening his allies, and so the body count rises. Although Ivy's mission to track down ancient trees can get really annoying, it is a fantastic sight to watch giant plants rise up from the ground to permanently change Gotham's landscape. Her sacrifice was unexpected, even thought it was in the name of saving plants. Additionally, it provides a fascinating plot twist, because despite all of Batman's efforts and teammates, it ultimately took a super villain to thwart Scarecrow's plans.

We're told from the start of the game that this is how the Batman dies, and we're all bearing witness to the end of a figure who straddles the line between order and chaos, the law and vigilantism. He just happens to wear heavy armor, wields high-tech gadgets, claims to be a pacifist who breaks bones, and drives a tank. With that in mind, the Nightfall Protocol is a nice, big, send-off befitting the Dark Knight.

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