Good Grief: Bad Endings – Batman Arkham Asylum
Picture this: you have dedicated several hours to your latest gaming endeavor. Each battle has been getting harder; each step has put you that much closer to that final battle, just you versus your nemesis. You come to that ending, expecting it to be the culmination of all the time you have put into the game. Then it happens: a lackluster battle against a boss weaker than many of the ones you have already faced. The game ends, and you find yourself staring at the screen in disbelief, trying to convince yourself that really could not have been the end.
Sound familiar? If you have beaten many of the more popular games recently, you probably can identify with this all too well. It seems to be a growing trend among modern video games; everything builds up to this climax that just falls seriously short of what you were expecting, and you are left with this empty feeling. It may not actually ruin the game experience for you, but it definitely leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Just how bad of a trend has this become? Bad enough that we have decided here are Everyday Gamers to do a series of Good Grief articles on endings that just don’t quite cut it. In the inaugural article, I will be looking a phenomenal game that had a less than phenomenal ending: Batman Arkham Asylum.
WARNING: There is no way to do this article without spoilers. If you have not beaten this game and do not want to know how it ends, stop reading now.
This Looks Promising
Batman Arkham Asylum is an absolutely magnificent game. It is the first game centering on the Dark Knight that manages to really give you the feeling as playing as the Bat. The fighting, the stealth, the gadgets…they all just feel right.
The boss battles outshine them all, however. Whether you are trying to keep Bane from breaking you in half, making as little noise as possible to avoid Killer Croc, fighting the giant mutated plants of Poison Ivy or dealing with Scarecrow’s fear toxin, you cannot help but marvel at the job Rocksteady did in bringing these iconic villains to life. You also find yourself anticipating the ultimate showdown, knowing that behind all of this mayhem is the number one enemy of the Bat, that killer clown Joker.
The lead into the battle against Joker is promising. After beating his goons, including the ones hopped up on the Titan drug, Joker pops down from his perch and hits you with the drug itself. He watches intently as you start to transform, but the indomintable will of the mighty Batman is able to keep the effects of this toxin at bay. Depressed, Joker injects himself with a huge dose of the drug, and you are left wondering just how messed up this final battle will be.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
At first, it looks like the game is going to deliver on that epic battle. A disfigured, massive Joker breaks through to the roof of Arkham, dragging a broken Bat with him. He plays to the news helicopters, telling them he is going to give them the story of a lifetime: the death of Batman. The battle starts, and it becomes pretty obvious that your normal way of dealing with Titan enhanced enemies just is not going to work.
And then, completely inexplicably, Joker jumps up to a second level and starts calling in his goons to do his fighting for him. What follows is the by now all to familiar formula of punch, counter, stun and throw as you fight a bunch of thugs while your true nemesis throws in the occasional bomb or other distraction. While you are finishing these lackeys off, Joker becomes enthralled with his audience of news copters, giving you the chance to use your Bat-Claw to pull him down to your level, where he gets his mutated, claw-like hands stuck in the roof just long enough for you to do some real damage. He then breaks free, attacks you directly a few times, and jumps up to the next level again, calling in more goons! Sure, there may be some with knives, some with tazers and a few trying to get to the guns up near where Joker is standing, but it just feels so repetitious.
This Has to Be a Bad Joke, Right?
So you get through the second wave, you pull Joker down, and guess what? Lather, rinse and repeat. He jumps up again, and again you are left dealing with cronies. Who cares if there is a Titan enhanced thug or two in this group. You have gone through this game anticipating a knock down, drag out battle with Batman’s arch rival, not a royal rumble with a group of flunkies.
Thankfully, the third time you pull down Joker and hammer away is a charm. While the cut scene showing Batman applying the explosive gel to his fist and hitting Joker head on to take him down is impressive, it does not make up for what was a much less than stellar final battle.
So what could Rocksteady have done differently? Maybe they could have had you diving out of the way of a rampaging Joker, trying to find ways to draw him into traps that would let you fight him. Maybe they could have had you affected by the Titan formula, giving you the opportunity to face off against a mutated Joker on even ground seeing which giant would win. There are any number of ways the game designers could have made this battle an epic one. The one they chose just did not succeed.
Now the ending of Batman Arkham Asylum does not take away from the fact that this is a great game. If you are in anyway a fan of the Dark Knight, you have to play this game. Just don’t expect the ending to really deliver the showdown it appears to be building toward.
Unfortunately, that is the one thing this game just does not deliver.