Batman Arkham City: Nitpicks

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jan 10, 2012

Filed under: Batman 104 comments


At some point I’ll have a column discussing the Riddler quests, but in the meantime I want to pick apart the story at a few points. I realize you can’t really hold a seventy-year-old comic book hero to quite the same standard that you might use for, say, a taut political thriller. Batman doesn’t kill people. Joker is crazy in a very specific sort of way. The world is filled with hundreds of meatheads who are still willing to face Batman in a brawl and take orders from treacherous supervillains who would kill them for giggles. And so on. We accept a long list of ideas without question when we sign on for an adventure with this guy, and if it were otherwise then this wouldn’t be a Batman story.

So, given that we are in a Batman world, there are still a few points I want to haggle over. These aren’t really plot holes, but more like quibbles over a few thematic elements or character behaviors. The story stumbled at these points for me, and I wanted to go over those for no particular reason. Actually, I CAN’T STOP MYSELF. I MUST NITPICK. SOMEONE HELP ME.


I realize that comics have their share of ridiculous techno-babble, but the conversation with Dr. Freeze was still pretty painful. He says (roughly) that he has a cure for the toxin, but it breaks down in the host’s bloodstream too fast. It needs a restorative element, but the enzyme needs time to bond to human DNA. This will take decades. Gah. Just typing that out scorched a few neurons. I know I’m sort of railing against problems that are endemic to comic books, but I can’t help it. I guess this is why I can’t read comics, despite the fact that I love superhero myths.

This would have been a lot better if they’d said less. Freeze had a image of a molecule there. He just needed to say, “This is what I need, but I don’t know how to synthesize it.” Then Batman could say he’s seen it before, and off we go. The techno-babble here sounds like, “Your car’s exhaust manifold has ruptured. I’ll need special gasoline to repair it, but that gas evaporates instantly at room temperature so we need to use a clock radio to synthesize a new kind of windshield wiper fluid.” Sometimes leaving it unexplained is better, particularly when the answer ends up being, “use an unexplained magical healing fluid” anyway.


I thought the moment where Batman was pinned under debris and had to be rescued by Catwoman was a bit lame. Oh, I’m okay with the idea of her coming to save him, but it felt a bit forced and contrived to me. After winning the fight, Batman gets pinned under random falling rubble? And then Joker – who has just been beaten up twice and is still feeling jaunty – attempts to kill him, even though the Joker never really wants to KILL Batman. (And yes, it’s actually you-know-who, but still. I don’t think this fits the motivations of either party.) Then Talia saunters in like she’s been off-stage, waiting for her cue. She offers the Joker the Lazarus pit (why?) instead of trying to kick his ass. It’s obvious she’s not really offering him the pit, so why did she bring it up and what is she trying to accomplish? Then she walks off with Joker without stopping to help Batman. It’s obvious she expects Batman to follow her, but it should be obvious to her that he can’t. What is this woman thinking?

Batman is hit with a slab of concrete. It’s light enough that it doesn’t kill (or even injure!) him on impact, yet it’s too heavy to be lifted with his free arm. He never makes any effort to employ any of his tools to free himself until Catwoman shows up. So the rubble was exactly heavy enough to pin Batman without killing him, it was too heavy for his arm / bat-hook, but was light enough that the two of them could lift it together. To paraphrase a famous nitpicker, that is a very specific amount of heavy.

I dislike this sequence because it robs the player of their victory with an act of randomness, and makes Joker seem sort of bungling in the process. I think a better approach would be this:

Before the fight, Joker has three doors, in the style of Let’s Make a Deal. Joker tries to get Batman to pick a door. Batman, always the straight man, wants nothing to do with it and refuses to play. So Joker picks for him, complaining how Batman is never any fun. He opens door #1 to reveal: The bad guys that you fight in this set-piece.

Once Batman beats those guys down, he picks up the Joker and beats on him a bit more. Joker seems to acquiesce, and says, “You win Batman. Door number 2 it is.” Door #2 opens to reveal the vial of cure on a pedestal. Batman tosses him aside and goes for the vial, only to have a comical metal cage dropped over him. Batman does the predictable bravado thing, promising that this cage won’t stop him.

The Joker plays his final card:

Joker: “Do you want to see what was behind door number three? I’ll show you if you say please.”

Batman: “Give up Joker. I’m done playing your games.”

Joker: Close enough! (Pushes a button.)

Door #3 opens, and we see Talia is chained up. There’s a throwaway line to explain that she came here to stop Joker herself. Batman becomes enraged at this. He reaches down to lift his cage away, and electricity shoots through it. A sign on top lights up: JOY BUZZER.

The Joker laughs and makes a few awful, obvious electricity puns. Batman collapses. The gameplay mechanics have already established that Batman can’t destroy or use his tools on electrified iron bars, so this trap shouldn’t feel like a cheat to the player.

My version gets rid of the messy event that steals victory from the player through random chance, and supports the notion of a clever, scheming Joker. It puts Talia where the plot needs her without the contrived entrance. It keeps the vial of cure in play in the player’s mind and shows that the vial is still full, thus acting as another subtle hint as to what’s REALLY going on. This gets rid of the incongruous image of the Joker preparing to stab Batman once he’s down, and instead shows Joker is still coming up with new ways to grief Batman. And finally, this puts Batman into a position where he will need to be rescued by Catwoman, but will plausibly be able to continue on once she frees him.


The ending is the part where it all felt wrong for me. First, one small issue: I felt like we needed some kind of justification for why Joker didn’t take the cure the moment he acquired it. The dude is crazy, but he always has a goal. Just throwing a “I didn’t trust Dr. Popsicle, so I wanted to see you try the cure first” would have smoothed this right out. Again, small point, and you can get away with this sort of thing when it come to the Joker, who probably would be willing to die of blood toxins if he thought he could turn it into a good prank.

But the biggest problem I had with the game was how they handled the death of the Joker. Or rather, how Batman responded to it. Now, I understand that Mark Hamill was done with the part. Maybe some will argue that you can’t kill off the Joker like this, and instead the part should have passed to another voice actor. Let us set that debate aside for the moment. Let’s talk about how Batman behaved.

At the start of the game, Batman was comfortable with the idea that both he and Joker would die of the toxin. He wasn’t willing to take action until Joker told him that the toxin was also in the blood supply of the Gotham city hospital. If Batman didn’t act, then “hundreds” would die. This motivated him to seek the cure.

Later, Batman was willing to let hundreds of prisoners die in order to save his girlfriend. So, his girlfriend is worth more than hundreds of prisoners. And hundreds of innocents are worth more than the Joker. So far so good. But then at the end when Joker dies, Batman scoops up his body and carries him out of Arkham City with apparent dignity and reverence – thus leaving his dead girlfriend on the ground back at the theater. Batman doesn’t scoop up any of the cure off the floor in hopes of making more, or just to try and save one or two people. In fact, he chugged half of the available cure himself, and was apparently saving the other half for Joker. The infected people in Gotham? I guess they died. Batman never gave them a second thought. Neither did anyone else.

Heck, Batman didn’t even need the cure yet. He was still in pretty good shape and probably had a few hours left. He had no idea how much of the blue potion he needed to heal him. Maybe it would last longer if administered intravenously? Maybe you only needed a drop or two? Maybe we should experiment a bit and see if we can save a few of the people who (according to Robin at the halfway point of the game) should be dropping dead when morning comes? Nah. Just chug half of this impossible-to-replicate formula.

Instead of giving Joker a proper send-off, it felt like they undermined Batman as a character. All along these games have been building this driven, noble, incorruptible version of the Batman, a guy who just wants to save lives. All lives. All the time. At any cost. Now at the end he’s suddenly just a crazy person that cares more for a mass murderer than for the love of his life, and cares more about saving his own skin than the lives of innocents. This is messed up even by the standards of a Frank Miller grim & gritty, ultra-dark Knight, and runs really counter to the Batman we’ve come to know in these Arkham games. This doesn’t feel like a character twist – it feels like the writers forgot.


From The Archives:

104 thoughts on “Batman Arkham City: Nitpicks

  1. N/A says:

    Mm, I disagree on a few points.

    First, Talia offered Joker the Lazarus pit because it’s an obvious thing-that-will-appeal-to-Joker. Talia isn’t a scheming mastermind like, say, Ra’s is supposed to be. She’s not quite a dunce, but she’s not up to figuring out something that will surely appeal to Joker (who is, remember, CRAZY), so she goes for something that would appeal to ANYBODY: Immortality.

    Second, Batman knows what the cure requires now. He knows what Freeze’s cure looks like, he’s taken samples of Lazarus, and he knows where to get more. If nothing else, there’s more Lazarus in Wonder City besides the Pit. He can synthesize more cure for the infected civilians- but he and Joker are the most urgent cases. Joker pumped way more than small samples of his blood into Bats if that blood bag is anything to go by, and it’s doubtful that anybody else has been running, jumping, punching and grapnelling their way through Arkham City, worsening their condition. The other people have time. Bats and Joker don’t.

    Next, Talia almost certainly isn’t going to stay dead for long. Ra’s is a mastermind with functionally-limitless resources, and a talent for resurrecting himself. He almost certainly has secondary Lazarus Pits, and he has an ARMY OF NINJAS to retrieve his and Talia’s bodies for revival. Batman is intimately aware of the fact that for these people, death is an inconvenience at best.

    So, these things established, the only corpse in the situation (aside from various people knifed in alleyways by henchmen, or blown up with rockets, which Batman has already done his best to stop) is… Joker. Joker is the guy that Batman tried to save, and simply failed.

    1. Shamus says:

      If I understood the final sequence, that was the Lazarus pit that Clayface fell into, was burned up, and had a power transformer dropped into. For those of us who only played the game and don’t know that the pit is actually a franchise, it seems like its magic is gone.

      Even if he’s pretty sure that Talia will come back later, leaving her corpse on the floor to parade Joker around goes against what we’ve been shown so far. It’s cold, creepy, and un-heroic.

      And while we can contrive a dozen different ways that Batman might save the sick in Gotham, that’s not the same as having the issue addressed in-game. That was a major plot element and a big part of what was motivating Batman, and leaving it out makes it feel like either Batman, or the writers, simply forgot.

      Like I said, thematic failures. Even if there are bits of Bat-lore to make this work, it didn’t work for me as I watched it unfold.

      1. N/A says:

        RE: The Pit. I guess? From my perspective, once the game presents the fact that Ra’s is supposed to be smart and has functionally limitless resources (as implied when he points out that he supplied Strange with limitless resources), the notion that he has a backup Pit or three just seems self-evident. The game doesn’t have to spell it out, because it follows on naturally from the information that IS presented. I mean, why WOULDN’T he have a backup Pit?

        I’ll grant you the point about the civilians, though. They rather sidelined that only shortly after Joker mentioned it, when you’d think it would be something Bats would keep coming back to.

        1. Sagretti says:

          If I remember my Batman correctly, Lazarus Pits are naturally occurring phenomenon that can be found across the world, so the Gotham one is definitely not the only one. Of course, I can’t remember the “rules” for using them, so it might take too long to get Ra’s or Talia to another one.

        2. Amsus says:

          Interesting discussion, though as i see it the failure of that particular bit is that joker was carried of in a cutscene. Had you as the player been allowed to lift joker up and solemnly carry his body out of Arkham city it would have been powerful. Walking out the door into the streets, the thugs all lined up to beat you but shocked frozen by the sight of jokers dead body. Walking through a parting sea of thugs in silence only punctuated by scattered quiet disbelieving remarks, through the gate and out into the streets of Gotham as the screen fades slowly to black. Maybe it’s just me but i feel an opportunity was missed here, and the medium wasn’t used to it’s full potential.

          1. Merle says:

            You know, that sounds similar to a certain sequence in Bastion; if you’ve played the game through, you’ll probably know the one I’m talking about.

            Judging by how I reacted to that scene in a cartoony game like Bastion, I think you’re spot-on that it would have been incredibly powerful for the player to carry Joker out of the city personally, rather than seeing it in a cutscene.

        3. Maldeus says:

          A Lazarus Pit seems like exactly the kind of resource that would be finite for a villain who has otherwise infinite resources. Sort of like the special sun-making material from Spider-Man 2, Harry Osborn controls pretty much the entire world’s supply but that still gives him just enough for one sun machine and one slightly bigger sun machine. The United States spent is entire Vibranium supply on Captain America’s shield, so while a villain might show up with Vibranium gadgets of his own, he won’t be arming his mooks with the thing. Etc. Was it ever explicitly stated there are a bunch of Lazarus Pits lying around? Because if not, I don’t really see why the player could reasonably be expected assume there’s even one other Pit in the world to be controlled.

          1. Merle says:

            I’d like to point out Batman’s line after the skydive; he doesn’t say “the Lazarus Pit”, he says “a Lazarus Pit”.

      2. Lame Brain says:

        My take on the ending was, I think, exactly what the developers intended. Batman has a WAY deeper relationship with Joker than he does with Talia or with a faceless mob of civilians… As long as there has been a Batman, there has been Joker opposing him. Then Joker dies, finally burning out on his own crazy, and it hits Batman harder than he expected it to.

        That wasn’t Joker that Batman was giving a reverent goodbye to, that was a part of Batman’s own inner-identity.

        As far as the Batman + Talia relationship angle, based on the lore available in the game I would say that Batman is definatly the love of Talia’s life, but Batman’s feelings for her are… complicated.

        1. davro says:

          I’m with you on that. Maybe this means I’m a little too forgetful to make a good superhero, but I sure wasn’t thinking about Talia or hundreds of innocents at that point. The death of the Joker is a Big Damn Deal in this franchise. Joker defines Batman as much as the murder of his parents or anything else (I’ve always loved whenever they play on the mutual interdependence angles between Bats and villains). I found it entirely appropriate and in character for Batman to drop everything else and attend to this essentially “holy shit he really died this time” death.

        2. Klay F. says:

          Here’s my issue with that though. I’m not really saying you’re wrong, this is just an honest question that I don’t know the answer to. Is that really the way Batman feels about Joker? Or is it the way the audience feels about Joker that is then projected onto Batman?

          I for one have never seen any evidence (in the comics or otherwise) to assume that the way Batman regards Joker is the same way the audience regards him.

      3. Hitch says:

        I haven’t played the game, so I don’t know what the actual setting is like at the end of the game. But if Talia’s body is out of sight, Batman’s been through it enough times to know that no matter how quickly he runs over to where she fell to see if there’s any hope, the ninjas will have already carried her off to be resurrected and he’ll be pointlessly staring at an empty patch of pavement… again.

  2. Malcolm says:

    “a taught political thriller”


    1. Shamus says:

      Wow. What the HELL was I doing there?


      1. Jata says:

        “Joker is crazy is a very specific sort of way”

        should be “Joker is crazy in a very specific sort of way”

        Malcom beat me to the other one :-)

      2. Chuck Henebry says:

        Or, even better, “a fraught political thriller.”

        1. Shamus says:

          A taunt polemical troller!

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            Slow clap.
            Though Batman could probably stand more scrutiny than taunt polemical trollers.

  3. X2Eliah says:

    One specific point reminds of “rocks fall, everyone dies” :| But that whole ‘pinned under very specific weight’ thing i pretty common in the cartoons, at least.

    1. Sumanai says:

      And video games.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        The alternative is awesome. Batman is pinned, and you can’t lift the rubble! Do a mini quest with Cat Woman to go find a car jack or a winch or some helpful mooks!
        Afterwords Batman can use his detective vision to count his own broken bones.

        1. Sumanai says:

          Or, or something more sensible happens like a cage drops on him. There’s always another option around the corner when writing, acting like it’s “100% realism or fun” is silly.

          1. Jonn says:

            They needed something Batman could get out of offscreen, since used copies don’t get the Catwoman campaign. He can’t get out of a cage.

            1. Sumanai says:

              Some weird goo, where it takes some time for him to free a hand and some anti-goo-batspray?

            2. TGN says:

              I played with the Catwoman DLC so I can’t say for sure, but I assume she still appears as an NPC in the game if you don’t have the DLC. The whole scene in the courthouse near the beginning would make little sense with Catwoman removed entirely.

  4. Nick says:

    Did anyone else think ‘ohcrap, immortal clayface’ at the end?

    1. Lame Brain says:

      *EVIL GRIN*

    2. AyeGill says:

      Yes. When clayface crashed into the pit, my first thought was “OH COME ON. HAVE I NOT HAD ENOUGH BOSSFIGHT ALREADY?”

      1. Methermeneus says:

        Actually, my thought was, “Ohcrap, immortal Clayf- Wait, isn’t Clayface already immortal? What the heck is Lazarus going to do to him?”

        Batman has an unusual number of immortal enemies for a superhero whose (arguably) most important trait is that he is completely mortal. In addition to Clayface (some versions, anyway), R’as ‘al Ghul, and Talia, there’s Poison Ivy (she may have started as a mutated human, but according to the Swamp Thing she’s now a nature elemental, and she’s already come back from the dead without outside assistance at least once), possibly Dr. Freeze (so long as he can keep cold), Solomon Grundy, possibly Scarface (if he truly is the villain, rather than simply falling into the hands of multiple psychopaths calling themselves The Ventriloquist), and possibly Joker (given the random crap he somehow manages to live through, though obviously not in the “Batman Beyond” and Arkham video game continuities). And that’s not even counting general JLA villains like Darkseid and the other gods of Apokolips, Vandal Savage, and Parallax.

        1. ps238principal says:

          As long as DC Comics and its marketing department exists, Batman is immortal.

          1. Maldeus says:

            If Joker counts as immortal just for an apparent incapability to stay dead, Batman must also qualify.

        2. Gordon says:

          Solomon Grundy isn’t a batman villain, though. He’s a Green Lantern villain who, by virtue of age and Batman being so popular, has fought batman a couple of times.

  5. Simon Buchan says:

    Ahh yes, the instant-effect cure intended to be drank, delivered via a… test-tube? I’ve no idea why writers always make their cures this, are they all afraid of needles? Does Mr. Freeze not have a pill or capsule press amongst all that other Generic Medical Equipment? And why, if there are two doses, is it only in one tube? Even if it is best taken orally, and needs to be liquid, and it needs to be so much that a liquid capsule is unfeasible, why would you pick a glass tube, when obviously a less fragile plastic tube or bag would be safer?

    It’s almost like it’s designed for dramatic effect, rather than efficiency…. (To be serious though, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a needle in a game, which doesn’t seem right)

    On the topic of Joker and half the rest of the cast being dead, some large section of Gotham (including many locales of high importance, including the alley where Batman’s parents were killed!) being blown up, and the crazy state the rest of Gotham must be in if Strange could throw the Mayor and billionare Bruce Wayne in prison – Arkham City seems to have a theme of basically destroying it’s originally close to comic-book universe. I wonder if this is just Rocksteady taking the “dark middle act” trope just a little too seriously, or if (as I hope) they’re intending to start wildly diverging their universe. If so, I hope we see more of, for example, Dini’s trademark pathos (a la his Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn) over what currently looks like comic-book-continuity style “blow everything to heck and figure out how we keep going next issue”.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      There are needles in the thing(and those are huge).And in….errr,Im pretty sure there are some,somewhere else as well.

      1. Valence says:

        There’s the big ol’ syringes of liquid mana you’re constantly jabbing into your arm in Bioshock, the adrenaline in Left 4 Dead, syrettes of Magic Orange Juice in Call of Duty. Even though your character is never seen physically injecting themselves, a decent amount of the non-food heal and buff items in the Fallouts are some form of needle. There are plenty of needles in games.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          To be fair the Bioshock example always seemed to wierd me out a bit. I guess I just couldn’t picture giving myself an injection that easily.

          1. Eruanno says:

            I still remember the first time you inject yourself with a plasmid in Bioshock.

            Hand holding up the needle… looking at it… I think: “Wait, you’re not going to…” …twists it a bit, gives it a moment… “Oh please, no-no-no-no” *JABS NEEDLE INTO ARM* “OH GOD WHY”

    2. Mixmastermind says:

      You do Morphine out of syrettes in Far Cry 2.

      1. Michael says:

        Metro 2033 uses syrettes as well, IIRC.

        Also, the gigantic ass steroid needle in Quake 4 during the stroggification scene should probably be mentioned.

    3. Kalil says:

      Um, re: needles, the Scarecrow has them on his fingers.

      1. Matthew says:

        Those things creep me out every time I see them, I always imagine how he uses them…

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Some of those can be waved away as pretty common comic book tropes.Like the weight pinning bats down.Or how he plans to cure the civilians(his blood is now cured,therefore can be used to cure everyone).Or why you only need to drink a random amount of the cure for it to work perfectly.

    As for batman willing to sacrifice bunch of people for talia,he wasnt really batman then,he was the human bruce.And his dialogue at that point was quite good,showing the burden of a man trying to be a role model for everyone,despite his human emotions.

    The only thing that bothered me is that bats took jokers body in the end.I get what they were trying to do,but its just so jarring.Especially after that awesome “It is pretty funny” line.Not to mention that it only strengthens the “batman is gay” thoughts.

    1. AyeGill says:

      You totally don’t need an arbitrary amount for the cure to work. Joker scoops up a small amount from the floor, and it is clearly not enough.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Arbitrary isnt the same as the smallest possible.

    2. Yar Kramer says:

      Yeah … I’m pretty much the same way. I didn’t really even think about any of the various nitpicks here except “it’s Joker who Batman carries out of the theater.” Up until then, my complaints were all about how tedious it was to make your way through the sandbox, and the fact that, because he is a superhero, literally every “quest” is framed in terms of “AAAAAA MUST SAVE LIVES RIGHT NOW,” which was kind of too much pressure for me, even though I knew that in gameplay terms, when you weren’t specifically on the “quest” at that particular moment (i.e. the Zsasz phone-thing), it could wait. (And also because you couldn’t set up a custom destination marker; maybe I’m just spoiled by Saints Row.)

      1. Soylent Dave says:

        You can set up custom destination markers.

        (at least on the xbox version)

    3. Jonn says:

      It’s a reference to the ending of the Killing Joke.

  7. LB says:

    In fairness to the writers, your version involves Batman jumping head-first into an obvious trap. Players would have been just as mad about that, surely.
    (And that they couldn’t just use the batclaw or something to get the fake cure from a safe distance)

    “I felt like we needed some kind of justification for why Joker didn't take the cure the moment he acquired it.”
    Just out of curiosity, when did the Joker actually acquire it?

    1. Shamus says:

      I think I’m a little confused about the timeline over this one. We see the empty safe with two joker cards. Joker taunts you, claiming to have the cure but promising to maybe save you some if you’re good. So did he have it then, or not? Later Talia has it, having stolen it from either Harley or Clayface. I think? I guess I’m not at all clear on who had it after it was stolen, or why it wasn’t immediately brought to Joker.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I think she took it from harley,before she had a chance to give it to the joker.Which is why she is tied up afterwards(harley,not talia).

        1. Shamus says:

          Okay, this works, except that now we don’t have an explanation for why the Joker pretended to be better or why he claimed to have the cure if he thought we had it. Or why he didn’t manage to find Harley, who was tied up inside his own base and surrounded by his own guys?

          I wouldn’t say this part is broken. I’m sure if we work at it we can come up with a sequence that fits. It just feels muddled. When it’s revealed that Talia has it, I didn’t think, “Ah HA!”, but “Really? Hm.”

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Harley was tied up by joker,as a punishment.Or,at least I think thats what happened.

            As for why he pretended to be better,maybe he thought the cure reached batman,and needed to lure him.Or he wanted to hold bats as hostage for talia to come(which kind of happened).Or,like someone has suggested in the previous topic,he was just keeping his minions in line.

            But this is joker,so who knows why he did any of that.

            1. AMRIV says:

              If you listen to the thugs in the elevator shaft they talk about how Joker sent them to look for Harley.

              I had initially just chalked it up to crazy but it seems to make more sense that he legitimately did not know where she was.

          2. Taellosse says:

            I BELIEVE what happened (with the understanding that I finished Arkham City a couple months ago, and I might be hazy on some of the details now) is Harley stole the cure out of the safe, was ambushed by Talia, and went back to Joker empty-handed. Joker learned from her that the cure had been stolen by someone OTHER than Batman (and Harley had no idea who it was), so he gambled that Batman wouldn’t know, thus explaining why Joker pretended to be cured. Meanwhile, he tied Harley up himself as punishment for failure.

            Admittedly a bit convoluted, but that’s how I understood it to have happened.

          3. N/A says:

            The Joker pretended to be better in order to keep his minions in line. Arkham City is a dog-eat-dog situation, and Joker is on the cusp of a major plan. He CANNOT afford to, immediately before launching a major operation, suffer a public and meaningful defeat.

            He didn’t find Harley because Harley is actually tied up in a fairly out-of-the-way spot, from a non-Batman point of view. Remember, most thugs aren’t at the peak of human ability like Batman. They don’t have grapnels or glider capes. They’re muscly guys, but they’re much more limited in terms of where they can go than the player is.

            Further, they’ve got no real reason to look. They’ve got bigger concerns, like when they’re next going to eat, or who’s going to try to kill them next, or trying to make sure their (crazy) boss doesn’t kill them with a 2,000-watt joy buzzer for a reason that only makes sense to him. Exploring the crumbling, dangerous environs of the Steel Mill is not high on their list of priorities.

            Or, alternatively, Harley was tied up by Joker as a punishment for returning without the cure as Daemian suggested.

          4. It was always my impression that Joker tied Harley up as punishment. As for the rest…I guess I’ll go with the consensus above. Works as well as anything else. :P

      2. N/A says:

        Okay, the sequence of events goes like this.
        1: Harley steals the cure. She immediately sets off to bring it to Joker.
        2 Joker jumps the gun by taunting you that he has the cure while Harley is still bringing it to him.
        3: Harley is intercepted en-route to Joker by Talia, who ties Harley up and steals the cure to keep it from Joker.
        4: Talia, already in the area from the theft, arrives at the aftermath of your fight with Clayface-as-Joker and pals.

        This is never explicitly spelled out, mind. You have to piece it together yourself from the sequence of events presented to you, and the fact that Harley is tied up in an out-of-the-way (for the henchmen, but not for you) bit of the Steel Mill.

        I actually really like that. Talia doesn’t boast about it, or dump it on you as exposition. The game expects you to act like Batman, engage your brain and figure it out from the evidence at hand.

  8. Sucal says:

    Batman has a character? I figured he was merely a series of hundreds of near identical clones of bruce wayne, who spend most of their time playboying around the world. The different quirks each writer has can merely be explained by a clone who had spent their time vacationing in a difference place, as to why he can consider one of his villains interesting enough to sleep with one week, and completely brush them off when they try to reform for him another.

    Even explains why he keeps falling for all those traps, because they all keep dying off/running away to their eternal vacation and someone new gets brought in but doesn’t receive a proper briefing.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      We are the batman.Lower your weapons and surrender your bodies.We will add your craziness and your quirkiness to our own.Your minions will adapt to be beaten by us.Resistance is futile.

      1. Dragomok says:

        We are Batman.
        We never forgive, we never forget.
        We are to be expected.

        Riddles or GTFO.

        1. Methermeneus says:

          Scary part? Kinda true now, what with the Batman, Inc. storyline, which, I’m given to understand, was not wiped out by the new continuity.

          1. Sucal says:

            See I’m so awesome my jokes bend reality to my whim, go back in time and create a series just so I look good.

    2. NonEuclideanCat says:

      Batman/Venture Bros. crossover.

    3. ps238principal says:

      I like that idea a LOT more than “Batman, Inc.”

  9. deiseach says:

    Sometimes leaving it unexplained is better, particularly when the answer ends up being, “use an unexplained magical healing fluid” anyway

    I’m reminded of this exchange from season 2 of Red Dwarf:

    Cat [to Rimmer]: What is it?
    Rimmer: It’s a rent in the space-time continuum.
    Cat [to Lister]: What is it?
    Lister: The stasis room freezes time, you know, makes time stand still. So whenever you have a leak, it must preserve whatever it’s leaked into, and it’s leaked into this room.
    Cat [to Rimmer]: What is it?
    Rimmer: It’s singularity, a point in the universe where the normal laws of space and time don’t apply.
    Cat [to Lister]: What is it?
    Lister: It’s a hole back into the past.
    Cat: Oh, a magic door! Well, why didn’t you say?

  10. Al Shiney says:

    By putting in that DMotR link, you have made me want to read through the whole thing from start to finish … for what I believe will be the 4th time. Damn you, Shamus.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      Nevermind the TVTropes link.


  11. “And then Joker ““ who has just been beaten up twice and is still feeling jaunty ““ attempts to kill him, even though the Joker never really wants to KILL Batman.”

    My guess is he just wanted to put a smile on his face.

  12. LurkerAbove says:

    He didn’t need to care the body so gently, but it was important for Batman to take Joker’s body away; it is the same principle as chain of evidence.

    He is telling Gordon and the rest of the police that THIS is Joker’s body. When the inevitable imitators and tricksters surface they can test DNA, they can point to a physical corpse etc. Even if an imposter manages to convince some of the populace, for Gordon et. al. Batman is using his reputation to preemptively say that is definitely not Joker.

    1. Winter says:

      That’s… actually a much better reason than i imagine they came up with.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      A better way to do this would be to tie joker to his belt,then carefully pick up talia,and walk out with her in his hands,and joker dragging on the ground behind him.

    3. John R. says:

      Also, in a setting where Death is Cheap, securing Joker’s body is probably a good idea.

  13. Lame Brain says:

    We need a Trope for a blogger who says something witty that is hyperlinked to TV Tropes.

    1. Scott (Duneyrr) says:

      It should be titled “The Great Pit of Carkoon”

  14. Mark says:

    Between the end of the Clayface fight and the last encounter with Joker, Batman was knocked out by an explosion. I suspect that the body Batman carried out of Arkham City was Clayface pretending to be a dead Joker.

  15. Sean Riley says:

    I find it fascinating, and indicative of the problems the game has, that you’ve now done two columns on it without mentioning its ostensible main villain.

    1. Shamus says:

      Wow. You’re right. His NAME didn’t even come up.

      I see how the game ended up this way. They probably didn’t want ANOTHER all-Joker plot, but we needed to give Mr. Giggles a proper send-off. So Mr. J is the B plot for 90% of the game, and then jumps to the forefront at the very end.

      1. Nic says:

        The Joker plot had some major sticking points, but the Strange plot was distilled 150-proof cliche, with a chaser of disappointment. In the easter egg stories and interview tapes, Strange gets built up as this sadistic genius. Then in the end, his secret plan is super lame, and his downfall is unsatisfying.

        The Riddler steals the stage as the only villain who poses a consistent threat and whose motivation is understandable.

      2. Sean Riley says:

        The problem is that he’s not the B-plot: He’s the A-plot masquerading as a B-plot. From the moment Batman is infected, the race for the cure is the main plot, driving every turn and development.

        The end result is a weird disconnect. The game’s whole point is the open world, and that’s the element Strange speaks to: He’s the creator and the destroyer of Arkham City. Yet he’s a barely-there element, and the weakest of the three most prominent supervillains in the game. (The strongest three being, in order, The Riddler, the Joker, and Strange.)

        I liked Arkham City, but it’s just such a thematic mess of a thing, with too many villains all fighting for time, too many fetch quests ripping you away from the main plot.

        Plus, and I know this is weird, but the fact that Batman zips about the rooftops so much just detracted from him for me. It felt more like Spiderman than Batman’s implacable, slow, deliberate walking through hallways that defined his being in Asylum. Small, but for me it mattered a lot.

        1. Jonn says:

          They can’t really promote the Joker plot without seeming like they’re rehashing the first game, or maybe even giving away the twist of Joker “dying”, which certain news sources did anyway. It’s classic misdirection. In fact, Kotaku deliberately did so in an obnoxious, impossible to miss fashion, and then mocked its readers for complaining about the spoiler.

    2. Neil D says:

      That’s a good point, and though I think it’s a significant problem, I don’t think it’s indicative of any more problems than itself. It was really the only place where the story didn’t live up to (or exceed) my expectations.

      It’s not even a spoiler — the very first trailer for the game indicated that Hugo Strange was going to be the main puppeteer, and the fact that he knew Batman’s identity was going to be a big plot point and a major problem for the Dark Knight. Certainly Strange’s influence was felt throughout the game, but the tension they were trying to build around “Protocol 10” just got drowned out by the more immediate threats and tasks (especially if you were taking time to do side quests). And I don’t remember the secret identity thing ever seeming like an imminent threat. They could have gone a lot further with that, and showed just how far Bruce would (and wouldn’t) go to protect his identity.

      On an unrelated note, if I could have changed anything else about the game, I would have liked to see more time given to Robin (and Nightwing, since they went to the trouble of designing a playable character with weapons, gadgets and everything, plus I just really like Nightwing). Having him pop in and out in a single cutscene just seemed like a lot of trouble to go through for very little payoff (and just served to raise the question of how the heck did he even get in and out of there).

      I realize there are those who don’t care for the sidekicks, but I think they could have worked it very similar to what they did with Catwoman in the end-game. “Robin, I need to you to go get [x] from [y], and meet me at the Museum.” Option A), you take control of Robin and go perform that task, which unexpectedly involves you kicking the snot out of, say, Maxie Zeus and when you succeed it jumps back to Batman just after Robin left him; option B), you ignore the Robin quest and carry on with Batman. Either way, when the plotline takes you back to the Museum, Robin shows up and says “Here you go, boss. Ran into some trouble with Maxie Zeus, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”

      Oh well, maybe in the future expansions hinted at by Kevin Conroy.

      1. Bubble181 says:

        There’s already DLC on Steam. Good luck getting it to work, though.

        1. Neil D says:

          I’ve already got the current DLCs, which are just characters, skins, and new challenge maps (not playing this one through Steam, though). I’m talking about actual story expansions.

    3. Wandring says:

      Is the main villain the camera?

  16. Methermeneus says:

    Fun fact: TV Tropes surfing from that first link brought me to a page with an image from DM of the Rings.

  17. rofltehcat says:

    Shamus, the boobieads are back once more:
    which points to

    Thought you might want to know so you can block them.

  18. Abnaxis says:

    I miss when you used to review games that were more than a year old. I have had a chance to play Arkham City yet, so I don’t get to participate :\

    1. Bubble181 says:

      You have to play to be involved? Dang. I think the newest game reviewed here that I’ve played is Oblivion :-P

      1. Abnaxis says:

        If you ever plan to play it you do…’

        After careful consideration I tried to turn my spoiler blinders on and read ahead anyway. I quickly aborted, but the damage is already done…

  19. Jonn says:

    RE: Freeze technobabble. Both men are scientists, and they know it. There’s no one there to Perceptor to, to use a Transformers reference.

    RE: Cat-rescue: The Catwoman campaign isn’t in the used version of the game, so they needed some way for her to save the day that wouldn’t leave a plot hole for people who bought the used game. Which is why the following cutscene, without the Catwoman bit, just shows Batman magically up again, with the implication, but not the statement, that he got out on his own at some point after Joker left. Your version, unfortunately, leaves no explanation for how Batman got out without Selina, unless they actually have a different explanation for people who buy used, or just add a cutscene with Selina showing up, which would be called a Deus Ex Machina since as far as they’re concerned, they haven’t seen her since the start of the game.

    1. Soylent Dave says:

      I think the problem with the technobabble isn’t just that it exists, but that it’s nonsense; if two highly intelligent characters are going to talk about something, it rather spoils the mood if they talk absolute bollocks.

  20. Kuma says:

    I am sorry but even finding the Joker plot and the twist very interesting and well driven, I didn't fully enjoy the game because IMO it is based on a horrible (although funny) twist at the end of the first game: The Joker injecting himself the “poison-that-turns-you-into-a-huge-final-boss-with-too-long-nails”.

    The Joker is crazy, not stupid, and one thing that he has in common with Batman is that none of them want to die; the reasons are simple: in case of Batman because without him Gotham would be lost within hours (and he knows that) and the Joker… well, probably because death is too boring… (That's why I believe that Batman is bluffing -and being cocky- most of the time, and that’s the reason why I prefer the character of the Joker over Batman; because I find him more… credible).

    Anyway, I’m starting to digress…

    The Joker would have never taken the poison, not even when being cornered as he was by the end of the first game, not without knowing that it was 100% secure. Actually he was sure it wasn’t (subjects died short after being injected with the poison a few hours back…) he would have waited for another chance (as he's always done) so he would have never gotten the infection that lead to his death by the end of Arkham City.

    Also, in the the final sequence of Arkham City, the Joker jumps on Batman's back and stabs him in the arm that is holding the GLASS VIAL opened and half empty… Again, this is not the way of thinking of the Joker specially knowing that Batman would never kill him or anyone else deliberately, at least not yet… The joker would have walked in applauding and making some joke about him dying to get some of Batman’s blood, or asking Batman to buy him a drink or something like that…

    As I said, they killed the Joker, and if by any chance there is any other game of Batman (unless a prequel or some Wizard magically resurrecting him – not good), the Joker won't be in it… and what is Batman without the Joker? What other villain can stand to the expectations? Both answers are “nothing” (well… quite, but you get the idea right?)

    I feel like the 2 games were written by a Batman fan (not the comic books but the character itself) and that the writer didn’t try to understand the more-than-doubtful relationship between the 2 characters: neither can exist without the other…

    Maybe it's just because I didn't like that they killed the Joker or the childish and idiotic image they gave of (for me) the best character of the series and one of the best villains ever… but I resist to believe it is just so…

    Ha hi hu he ho…

    1. Emualynk says:

      Considering Paul Dini scripted both games I really doubt he didn’t understood the relationship between the 2 characters.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      I know this is really late and there’s no chance you’re going to read this but… I think it’s pretty obvious YOU are the one who doesn’t know about the characters. In fact, I think all you’re claiming about them is something you’ve picked up from the movie The Dark Knight, and only from part of it.

      Leaving aside the concept of super-sanity, which you clearly are not aware of, as Shamus said, Joker would have no problem dying if he thought he could turn it into a joke. Many times he has been willing to die and to kill Batman. He doesn’t want Batman to die, but he doesn’t resist the urge to kill him because he knows Batman is good enough at his job to survive his attacks.

  21. ACman says:

    Just want to say the new heading font is a little thin. It needs to be wider just for readability sake.

  22. Simplex says:

    My 3 nitpicking cents: When you play Catwoman, Poison Ivy wants to kill you but finally gives you a mission to save her previous plant that (I think) Hugo Strange took. Catwoman finds this plant in the bank and when you interact with it, she… trashes it (not what I expected). After that mission I went to Ivy’s lair to see what happens – I expected Catwomen to be asked aboout the plant and come up with an excuse, maybe even fight Ivy’s mooks again.

    Instead, she completely ignored me. Maybe writers forgot here too?

    1. Simplex says:

      “save her previous plant that”

      I meant, her PRECIOUS plant

    2. Neil D says:

      Ivy should mention it again, at least she did with me. I think in either case (you smash it, or you leave it), the dialogue is the same and Selina implies that Strange destroyed it.

      I also did not expect her to destroy the plant, and reloaded the last checkpoint when it happened. I don’t know why she wouldn’t bring the plant back to Ivy, except that she would have looked silly pouncing and swinging around the city with a flowerpot wedged in her cleavage.

    3. Dreadjaws says:

      I didn’t expect her to trash the plant either. It’s just one of those moments in which the game’s heroes or villains break character. It’s not like they’re BFFs with Ivy, but it’s not like Catwoman’s to piss off a potential ally just for the hell of it.

  23. Ken Zieger says:

    The biggest problem I had with AC was with Freeze. Not the technobabble, but after retrieving Ghul’s blood. The dialogue goes like this: Freeze: Impressive. I didn’t think you would actually return.
    Batman: I’m a man of my word. You should know that by now, Freeze.
    Freeze: Joker has taken my wife. Get her back.
    Batman: Now is not the time for negotiations.
    Freeze *after smashing one vial and locking the other in a safe: Do it or die.
    Major battle ensues. After Batman defeats Freeze, Batman STILL agrees to find Nora Fries.
    WTF were they thinking? The entire set up and battle didn’t fit either characterization presented in game.

    1. Kyte says:

      Because even if Batman refuses to be coerced, he’s still gonna rescue the innocent civilian that Nora Fries happens to be.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      Why wouldn’t he? Batman is forced into battle by Freeze, who wants Batman to find Nora but doesn’t trust he’ll do it without coercion. It’s not because he doesn’t know Batman enough, but because Freeze clearly has trust issues.

      Batman has no intention of abandoning Nora, not only she’s innocent, but her cure is the one thing that might make Freeze stop doing his shtick. Leaving her to die will make Freeze go berserk, blame Batman and be absolutely right.

  24. Merle says:

    I missed this myself, but it’s worth mentioning: after Joker’s death, Talia’s body is gone. Batman doesn’t carry her out because she’s already been spirited away, presumably by more League of Assassins femininjas.

    If you return to the gate where her father fell, his body will be gone as well. I wouldn’t count her or him out from appearing in another game later on.

    Also: as others have mentioned, I don’t think Joker ever actually had the cure in his possession. Harley got it and left the taunting note, then Talia caught her, stole the cure and tied her up. After that point, Joker was claiming to be cured in order to keep his position stable, while thinking that Batman had gotten the cure back somehow.

    On a side note, for a character with very few lines of dialogue in his own right (when not posing as Joker), I loved Clayface. Great boss fight, and he managed to establish his character perfectly in a single line. The role of a lifetime, indeed – what else would appeal to a consummate actor?

    I’m going to need to play through the game again, and try to figure out which lines are Clayface speaking for himself, and which are the real Joker.

  25. Sir Jono says:

    only thing i really found that bad was batman carrying out jokers body like he was his girlfriend.. while she lay dead inside lol

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