There are a lot of sidequests in Arkham City. The odd thing is that there doesn’t seem to be a good time to do them. If you try to do them right away then Batman will be missing a few required gadgets because the story hasn’t granted them yet. But if you wait too long, then Batman gets poisoned and it feels silly to ignore that in favor of screwing around punching out a bunch of nutjobs who are already in jail.
But like I keep saying: This game was designed gameplay first. It’s more important to have a variety of side-activities available for the player to explore rather than support the illusion of urgency they’re trying to sell in the main plot.
This point in the game is where I usually abandon the main story and start messing around with the side missions. The section where you hunt down Ra’s Al Ghul is long, linear, heavy on cutscenes, and once you enter you’re locked in until you finish up.
So let’s talk about these diverting villains you need to track down…
I can`t wait to punch this smug bastard in the face. Which is a shame, because I`m going to have to do a lot of waiting.
I’m really conflicted on the Riddler. On one hand, I think this is a brilliant adaptation and portrayal of the character. Building all of the item-gathering, door-opening, and secret-finding around his need to outsmart Batman was the perfect way to integrate the Riddler with gameplay. I love his design, I love the voice actor, and the resolution to his quest is really satisfying.
The idea is that Riddler has a bunch of hostages, and he’ll kill them if Batman doesn’t do his puzzles. The vast majority of this task involves collecting these glowing green question marks scattered around Arkham City. Once you get enough, Riddler will give you the location of one of the hostages, and Batman will have to navigate an obstacle course of navigation and door-opening puzzles to save them. At the end Batman tracks down Riddler’s lair. I don’t want to spoil how it ends, but I’ll give you a tiny hint: Fist.
It’s a fun quest with a few good moments in it, and offers an ongoing project to work on when you want a break from the main story.
On the other hand…
This quest is a complete chore that ruins the look of drowned Gotham.
Oh look. An obvious trophy that`s just out of reach. I guess I`ll use the grapnel hook to grab it. This is exactly as intellectually stimulating as the last fifty times I did this puzzle.
There’s just too much. There are too many damn items to collect, too many secrets to track down, and too much busywork to get to the end of it. I’ve done the Riddler quest multiple times, and even using a guide it easily takes far more time than the main story. It wouldn’t be so bad if the puzzles were interesting, but in most cases collecting a Riddler trophy involves solving a puzzle you’ve done a dozen times already.
You need 440 Riddler secrets to complete his quest, and the vast majority of them feel like busywork designed to eat time. You’ll come across a random question mark in the open world, hiding behind some obstacle. “FINALLY! A worthy puzzle!” You’ll blow ten minutes trying to figure out how you could possibly access this deviously placed thing. Sooner or later you’ll give up because it seems impossible. Later in the game Batman will unlock a new tool and you’ll return to the trophy in question and realize this “puzzle” wasn’t a puzzle at all. With the tool, it’s so trivial it’s insulting. And there are a dozen other trophies out there “hidden” using the same “puzzle”. So it wastes your time enticing you with a puzzle you can’t solve, but once you can solve it, it’s boring and trivial. That’s all of the downside of having a puzzle and none of the benefit!
There are so many that they completely clutter the landscape, dotting the rooftops with a pervasive blanket of red and green lights. It makes the supposedly ruined city look too alive. Without all of this crap, the few lights in Gotham would really pop. I know this, because the city looks so much more interesting once you’ve done all the puzzles and the trophies are gone and all of the lights on the various trophy cages are off.
Rather than having 440 trophies of busywork, I’d rather they just had (say) 44 that were interesting to collect.
The 90`s called. They want their "everything is stupid and edgy and adult except not really adult at all" back.
I haven’t read a Batman comic in a quarter century, so the Arkham series was the first time I’d ever heard of this guy. He’s a serial killer. His only gimmick is that he prefers to stab people to death, and after doing so he carves a tally mark into his own skin. He’s got this intense, unhinged way of talking like he’s busy jerking off to the idea of shanking people.
When he first showed up in the story I thought, “Who is this ridiculous edgelord supreme? He sounds like a 90’s leftover.” And yep. I was right.
His story is good, if a bit blunt. He calls various pay phones around Arkham City. Batman has to race to get to the next phone in time. If Batman doesn’t make it, Zsasz will murder his hostage (game over) and if Batman does make it, then Zsasz will tell Batman what drove him to make murder his hobby. This is done in sections. Each phone call lasts for a minute or so, and by the time you’ve done them all you’ve got the character’s backstory.
This is actually pretty clever. The Lazy Game Developer approach to this is:
We should put races in our Superhero game. But how?
Let’s just put flags on the rooftops. When the player touches one, they have to fly through a bunch of glowing rings or some shit.
Yeah! Let’s also make no effort to integrate it with the fiction of our world!
But here they found a way to make a “race” that actually works in the context of this world. This feels much more natural than the more brute-force racetracks Riddler gives you in Arkham Knight.
While I’m not crazy about the character, I do enjoy the writing here. Zsasz is doing this to try and make a connection. He’s always trying to assign meaning to things. Batman obviously doesn’t give a shit and is only listening so he can play the phone-trace minigame to locate Zsasz.
The image is too desaturated to tell for sure, but it looks like he had his Deadshot costume on UNDER his prison oranges, superhero-style.
Look at this idiot. He’s just a guy that shoots people. That’s his whole gimmick. He’s an assassin and he’s a really good shot. No super-science. He’s not wearing a colored leotard. He doesn’t have a goofy gimmick. He’s not insane. He’s not trying to take over the city / world / tri-state area. He’s just a dude who shoots people with a blank expression on his face. Obviously this boring nobody is another 90’s refugee. His character design probably began and ended with “evil Punisher”. He doesn’t even…
Hang on. Deadshot pre-dates the 90’s? So maybe he was devised in the post-Watchmen era after Alan Moore…
No? Maybe the early 80’s when publishers were trying to shake things up?
No? He first appeared in June 1950?!? As a guy with a revolver, a top hat, and a tuxedo? Huh. That’s really something. I stand corrected.
I don’t know what he’s like in the comicsWikipedia suggests he’s mostly in the supporting cast of team-up comics. And of course he was played by Will Smith in the 2016 Suicide Squad movie. but here in Arkham City games he’s a nice diversion from the main freaks. His sidequest offers a lot of investigation-style gameplay. The detective mode stuff is pretty shallow, but I enjoy it from a thematic sense. Hearing Batman narrate his thinking while you scan for clues is a pretty good way to make exposition feel like gameplay.
My only problem with Deadshot is that his assassination targets make no sense. He’s supposed to hunt around Arkham City, track down some political enemies of Hugo Strange, and kill them. A lot of the people on the list are guys who helped build Arkham City, and now that they’re done Strange is covering his tracks. The problem is that the entire point of Protocol 10 is to murder every single inmate. Why did Hugo Strange hire this world-class assassin to murder a bunch of guys who were going to die before morning anyway? This is expensive, and would no doubt create more problems than it solves.
Also, Deadshot has both Batman and Bruce Wayne on his kill list. Strange knows they’re the same person. Did Strange make this odd request? Did someone else hire Deadshot? Why is Strange paying twice to have Deadshot kill the same guy? Then again, maybe Strange figures he won’t need to pay at all, since Protocol 10 ought to kill everyone. But then why hire him in the first place?
Bah. Whatever. It’s a fun sidequest.
And we haven`t even gotten to the weird part yet.
I like how the game messes with you here. There’s apparently a supply drop from the Batwing. Alfred tells you they’ve managed to synthesize the cure you’re looking for. Of course, Alfred doesn’t have the information or the resources to make the cure and this makes no sense, but you’re going to collect the cure anyway because this is a videogame and you’re a trained monkey who chases down waypoint markers.
But no. This cure isn’t from Alfred. This is actually some sort of hypnosis hocus-pocus from the Mad Hatter. Batman injects the “cure” and passes out.
Times Batman has been knocked unconscious so far this evening: 4
What follows is a psychedelic journey into madness as the Mad Hatter tries to control Batman and (spoiler) gets himself punched in the face for his trouble.
Allow me to tell you about all my evil plans...
In the comics, the Hush plot is a long and complex story that ran from 2002 to 2003. I won’t try to relay it here. (Read the linked Wikipedia article if you want the details.) There’s no way you could do that plot justice in a little sidequest like this. Instead, this story just borrows a name and a couple of ideas.
The angle here is that Thomas Elliot is yet another insane but extremely capable mastermind with a terrible grudge and too much free time. Batman’s world seems to be overflowing with these types. He’s mad at Bruce Wayne for things that aren’t worth getting into. He murders a bunch of dudes that have Bruce Wayne-ish features, steals their faces, and then uses the face parts in facial reconstruction surgery to turn himself into an exact copy of Bruce Wayne. (It doesn’t explain how he perfectly copies Wayne’s voice and fingerprints, though.)
“Hush” is technically the name of the plot and not the man himself, but fans don’t want to talk about a supervillain named “Thomas”, so Hush has become his moniker rather than the name of his “screw over Bruce Wayne” scheme.
The quest has Batman investigating the faceless corpses to track down Hush. When you get to the end where Batman confronts him, he enacts an escape plan and slips out of Gotham. I think he’s the only villain to escape justice in Arkham City. This plot actually gets a payoff in Arkham Knight.
I suppose I should point this out just so you don’t think I missed it: Hush spent all of those months and years carefully studying Bruce Wayne’s face and voice so that he could make an exact copy. And then he finds himself standing two paces away from Batman, hearing that same voice and looking at the bottom half of this ultra-familiar face. And the light never comes on?
And the Rest…
Okay, I get that Venom makes your muscles really big, but what happened to give your skeleton those proportions?
Bane, Azrael, and a few other freaks round out the list of sidequests and puzzles. I don’t have anything to say about these stories other than yes, they exist and they have some good moments in them.
 Wikipedia suggests he’s mostly in the supporting cast of team-up comics. And of course he was played by Will Smith in the 2016 Suicide Squad movie.