Arkham City Part 14: Freeze Tag

By Shamus
on Apr 27, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

Dr. Freeze has set up shop in the old Gotham City Police Department. He’s got his weapons back and he’s wearing his suit. Batman hands over the blood and Freeze sticks it into a machine that looks like a centrifuge but is actually a space magic science machine. The cure appears in less time than it takes to make toast. I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised to discover the cure comes in the form of blue science juice.

Before Batman went crawling around under Arkham City playing Tomb Raider for three hours, these two had agreed that Batman would get some blood from Ra’s, and Freeze would use it to synthesize a cure. But now that he’s holding the cure in his hand, Freeze wants to use it to negotiate with Batman.

That’s actually kind of reasonable. Freeze is a supervillain, he doesn’t like Batman, and he’s not really getting anything out of this deal.

Joker has kidnapped Nora, Freeze’s frozen wife. Freeze wants Batman to rescue her. Again, this is reasonable. If Freeze storms the place and starts killing Joker’s guys, one of them might hurt Nora. Or she might be hurt in the battle. Or they might threaten to hurt her and he’d have no choice but to retreat. But Batman? This is the perfect job for him. He can slip in, pacify the guards, and secure Nora’s cryogenic container.

FIGHT ME. FIGHT ME IRL.

Hey Freeze. I don`t want to tell you your business or anything, but have you considered whipping up a batch of Blue Science Juice for your popsicle wife? I seems to solve all other science problems pretty well.

Hey Freeze. I don`t want to tell you your business or anything, but have you considered whipping up a batch of Blue Science Juice for your popsicle wife? I seems to solve all other science problems pretty well.

The problem is that this scene requires Freeze to behave like an idiot. He destroys half the supply of cure, and throws the other half into a safe. He says Batman can’t have it until Nora is rescued. Batman refuses, and so Freeze… tries to kill him?

  1. Freeze ought to know that Batman doesn’t need motivation to rescue Nora. He’s done it before. Saving innocents is kind of his thing, even if they’re perpetually frozen innocents.
  2. Freeze ought to know that you can’t bully Batman like this.
  3. Freeze ought to realize that Batman has a better chance at saving Nora if he’s at full strength. Why make him do it while he’s dying? That doesn’t help herThen again, Freeze does ask Batman how he’s feeling before he makes his demand. It’s not until Batman throws out the swagger that Freeze decides he’s probably fit enough to rescue Nora..
  4. Barring that, Freeze ought to realize that if he kills Batman, there won’t be anyone left to save Nora. The best hope for her is to let Batman do his thing.

But I guess if Freeze had common sense he wouldn’t have dedicated so much energy into schemes that always end with a supersize order of of Bat-fist.

Batman doesn’t help his cause. Rather than trying to reason with Freeze, he lays on the “You don’t want to test me” bravado, which isn’t persuasive and which is likely to provoke an attack because, after all, this guy is a ruthless supervillain.

So they’re both stupid and they’re both having a fight that runs counter to their goals.

Oh, that’s cold, man.

Do not test me, Batman. I went the the Harrison Ford School of Firmly Pointing at Things.

Do not test me, Batman. I went the the Harrison Ford School of Firmly Pointing at Things.

Batman can’t stand up to a direct assault. Freeze does a lot of damage and his ice blasts can stagger Batman. If you charge directly at him, you’ll just get blasted in the face. Instead you need to skulk around and ambush him. It’s a stealth boss fight.

This encounter often makes people’s lists of Best Boss Battles Ever and such. I’ll agree that it’s a brilliant bit of game design. I always look forward to this fight in my play-throughsAlthough it’s a bit annoying in New Game+ on Hard Difficulty. In that case, you have to use basically every single ambush trick in the game, and I always find myself near the end feeling like I’m out of tricks. Some of the ambush techniques are a bit obscure.. Although, it’s got a pretty serious flaw that can ruin the whole thing for some first-time players.

Let’s talk about what works:

  1. Batman has tons of ambushing techniques at his disposal. He can pounce from above. He can pounce from under a floor vent. He can sneak up behind someone. He can hang from the ceiling. He can crash through a wooden wall and grab them. He can glide-kick them. He can plant explosives on the ground and knock them down. He can put explosives on a weak wall and shatter the wall to knock them down. The thing is, Batman must ambush Freeze several timesVaries by difficulty level. By default it’s five. and he can never use the same trick twice. This makes it interesting, and not just “use the one trick over and over again until you win”.
  2. No QTEs. No “Press B to dodge, Press X to backflip, now Press Y to oops you messed up. Now start over.” You do have to push the punch button over and over. But you do it to punch him in the face. The game doesn’t have Batman doing stunts and moves that aren’t part of the normal game.
  3. No mook closets. Freeze is a loner, and the fight reflects that. The game designer didn’t feel the need to dump a squad of “Freeze Goons” on us after each ambush.
  4. No cutscenes. Sometimes games let you do the repetitive gameplay stuff and then they finish off the fight with a big cutscene where they make it look “cool” by taking control away from you. Not here. You fight him in gameplay, and you defeat him in gameplay. There’s no cutscene until after you’ve beaten him.

It looks good. It feels good. It’s interesting. It’s different. It’s thematically appropriate. There are many ways to do the fight. The fight is resolved in gameplay and not a movie.

Yes, this is a really great fight and more game designers should be trying to do this sort of thing.

HOWEVER…

Freeze is too powerful. Punches won`t work on him. I`ll have to resort to my backup weapon: SURPRISE PUNCHES!

Freeze is too powerful. Punches won`t work on him. I`ll have to resort to my backup weapon: SURPRISE PUNCHES!

The major problem with this section is that the game hasn’t made sure you’re prepared for it.

The two most expedient ways of dealing with foes in this game is to sneak up behind them, and to ambush them while hanging from the ceiling. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s fun.

A lot of the other ambush techniques are kind of situational. You can crash through a wooden wall to take someone down, but that depends on them being on the other side of the wall when you’re in the right position. What’s likely is that you’ll stand there for five minutes waiting for a sucker to come along, then get bored and go back to hanging from the ceiling. You can sneak out into the open to place some explosive gel where guys will walk, but if you can do that then you can just as easily skip the gel and choke them out from behind, which is both faster and quieter. You can noisily pounce on someone from above, or you can wait for them to pass by and then silently drop down behind them.

And all of these are riskier and more difficult than attacking from the ceiling. When you’re up on a perch, you can see the entire room. They can’t see you. You’ve got mobility. You’ve got awareness. You can take them out with no risk of being randomly spotted and shot. If you do get spotted, it’s easy to zip around until they lose track of you.

Ceiling attacks are simply the most expedient way of handling stealth sections, and they have always been available to the player until this very moment.

In the Freeze fight, there isn’t anywhere on the ceiling where Batman can perch. If you’ve been relying on ceiling attacks because they’re easy and fun, then you suddenly find yourself in a fight where your main ambush tool is gone.

Nope!

Each ambushing trick only works once. In this shot I`ve already ambushed Freeze out of the floor vent, so as soon as he recovered he filled the vents with ice. That deprives me of an ambush technique, but also a hiding spot. I`ve never STAYED in the vent to see what would happen if you were in there when it was iced. Conjecture: I`ll bet Batman automatically pops out.

Each ambushing trick only works once. In this shot I`ve already ambushed Freeze out of the floor vent, so as soon as he recovered he filled the vents with ice. That deprives me of an ambush technique, but also a hiding spot. I`ve never STAYED in the vent to see what would happen if you were in there when it was iced. Conjecture: I`ll bet Batman automatically pops out.

Also, your most common escape technique is not available. Up until now the player has probably relied on reflexively jabbing the “grapnel” button when they get into trouble and zipping up into the darkness. If that’s how you’ve been playing then you’ll likely have to keep pausing the fight to look up the alternate methods and figure out how they work.

“Well, Shamus, it serves them right! if the player had learned all of the techniques then they wouldn’t be stuck!”

True, but that means the game is punishing them for doing what was most convenient and fun. They had no way of knowing they would need all of those other techniques.

This could have been easily fixed by simply removing the ceiling vantage points from a couple of the stealth encounter areas. That would have forced the player to explore some of the other techniques. Then by the time they got to Freeze, they would be more well-rounded and able to adapt.

This ambush isn`t going to work. For whatever reason, Batman refuses to do corner ambushes against Freeze.

This ambush isn`t going to work. For whatever reason, Batman refuses to do corner ambushes against Freeze.

The other problem with this fight is that some of the rules change and it’s not clear which things are allowed and which things arbitrarily won’t work. In a normal encounter, you can ambush someone from around a corner. That technique doesn’t work on Freeze. Batarangs bounce off. The gun-disabling gadget doesn’t work. Batman’s shock weapon doesn’t work, but you can electrify the floor in one spot. There aren’t any wooden walls to crash through, so that technique is useless here. It’s totally unclear if a glide-kick is possible until you try it. Explosives on the floor don’t seem to work, but explosives on the wall do.

So some things don’t work the way the player expects and the only way to find out is to try to use them and get shot for your trouble. This can result in a really frustrating fight where you’re not sure what the game expects of you.

Ha! I’ll ambush Freeze around this corner.

(The prompt never appears, so Freeze just walk around the corner and shoots you in the face.)

Shit! I’ll stun him with my cape and escape!

(Zap. Nope.)

I’ll shock him and escape!

(Zap. Nope.)

Ah, my health is really low. I’d better escape to the ceiling!

(Zap. Nope! Also, Game Over. Thanks for playing.)

That’s not a very satisfying way for things to play out. Losing because you messed up is good. Losing because all the rules changed and you don’t know what the new rules are is bad.

Whether you found this fight fun or frustrating depends largely on your playstyle and how much time you spent experimenting with the alternate takedown techniques. But this isn’t really a problem with the fight itself. It’s actually a problem with the previous stealth encounters. Personally, I wouldn’t change the Freeze fight at all. I’d just change the encounter spaces to oblige the player to adapt and mix things up in the earlier sections of the game.

Batman Wins

Batman wins the fight, but really they both kind of lose. While they were chasing each other around like idiots, Harley Quinn snuck in, blew open the safe (from the other side of the wall, where they didn’t see her) and swiped the cure. So when Batman hauls open the safe, he’s greeted by my favorite image in the entire game:

I don`t know if he`s having an off night or what, but Batman sucks.

I don`t know if he`s having an off night or what, but Batman sucks.

I love this. A joker playing card, and a photocopy of a joker playing card used as a sarcastic “Get Well Soon!” greeting. It’s such a fun foreshadowing of the Joker / Clayface reveal.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] Then again, Freeze does ask Batman how he’s feeling before he makes his demand. It’s not until Batman throws out the swagger that Freeze decides he’s probably fit enough to rescue Nora.

[2] Although it’s a bit annoying in New Game+ on Hard Difficulty. In that case, you have to use basically every single ambush trick in the game, and I always find myself near the end feeling like I’m out of tricks. Some of the ambush techniques are a bit obscure.

[3] Varies by difficulty level. By default it’s five.


201737 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. lucky7 says:

    Apologies for the nitpicks, Shamus, but:

    +The Disruptor works. Remember, it was originally built to disable Freeze.

    +The REC also uses magnets along the walls to trap Freeze

    That said, I really enjoyed your essay and agreen with your general point.

  2. Peter Street says:

    I never even noticed the foreshadowing… /facepalm.

    And yes, this is a really fun fight – and I got really frustrated with it first playthrough, for exactly the reasons you list – I wasn’t aware of the other options. That said, the on-screen prompts do help you to choose other options, and Freeze telegraphs his actions (“Oh, I saw you come from the vents… you won’t do that again”)

    Also – you can corner catch him from full-height corners, not from the lower ones. So – doorways, passages, that sort of thing.

  3. Nick says:

    I replayed on the highest difficulty after my initial playthrough, and the Freeze fight is a LOT more aggravating there because you have to use stuff like Hanging on a ledge takedowns due to the sheer number of times you need to get him, a skill that’s so much worse than just punching goons in the face I didn’t even realise it was possible until I looked up a guide.

    I do like the idea of the fight, even if the setup is dumb though.

  4. Hal says:

    If some of your normal tools are disabled, how would you broadcast this to the player?

    You could have Batman monolog (internal or otherwise) that Freeze is too clever/powerful/whatever for techniques X,Y, and Z, and maybe observe the that the ceiling stuff isn’t there, but that really comes off as hamfisted. I’m not sure what other means would be available, besides the existing “Let them try and get shot for their trouble.”

    • Echo Tango says:

      I feel like the better option is to allow all the tools, but then telegraph their disablement when Batman uses them for the first time. i.e. Just like how Mr Freeze ices the vents after you use them on him, do the same for the other tools/techniques.

    • DanMan says:

      Haven’t played it myself, but anything that is context sensitive not being an option is doubly frustrating because you don’t know if it didn’t work or the game just didn’t get the context.

      Something like the corner ambush mentioned could have the prompt appear, but Freeze does something like say “I see you there” then kick you back instead of being stunned would allow players to trust that the mechanics are still there, but they just don’t work on him.

      Just something recognizing that you tried something valid that could have worked, but Freeze has some reason to not be affected by it.

      The game could even start you out in a position that telegraphs one of the techniques you would assume works, then show you it doesn’t, revealing that some things just won’t work.

      • evilmrhenry says:

        I’d suggest combining that with the first time you try one of the disabled techniques, it’s blocked, but Batman doesn’t get hurt, or not hurt enough to matter. That way, you’re not punished for not knowing things you can’t know.

    • Syal says:

      Another hamfisted option is to start the fight with a cutscene where Batman tries those techniques and they fail.

  5. Lachlan the Mad says:

    It’s probably worth pointing out that if you take a really, really long time in the Freeze fight, the game basically gives up and gives you a full list of every possible takedown that will work (I think it’s justified as Alfred completing an analysis of Freeze’s moveset or somesuch?). This solution is obviously stopgap as heck, since it’s just a list of “DO THESE THINGS TO KILL THE BOSS”, but putting it in is probably better than leaving it out. The other problem is that taking this long requires incredibly cautious play. Trying and failing a corner takedown, as in the example in the article, will get you killed and reset the timer.

    • Scampi says:

      Yeah…I remember finding enough ways to defeat him myself in my first playthrough, but whenever I played it later, Freeze’s annoyingly slow walk meant I got the list during the fight as my ambush plans took very long for him to arrive at the place I decided I wanted to trap him…
      I think in later playthoughs it becomes less fun as you already know your ways around the fight but it takes so much time to set up the methods available.

  6. Durican says:

    I feel a more effective way to set up this fight without requiring both Freeze and Batman to act like massive jerks is to take advantage of the fact that Joker knows that Batman is on his way to Freeze long enough in advance that he set up a dozen clown snipers all around the GCPD. Have Joker contact Freeze while Batman is busy dealing with the snipers and offer a deal where Freeze gets his wife back in exchange for the cure. All he has to do is put the cure in the safe and kill Batman and Joker promises his wife delivered safe and sound.

    Obviously Joker can’t be trusted, but blackmailing Freeze into working for him has already been established previously in the story. Freeze completes the cure and puts it in the safe and apologizes to Batman that he has no choice but to kill him in order to save his wife. Boss fight happens as before, Batman wins, Harley steals the cure from the safe during the boss fight, and then afterwards Batman promises he’ll save Freeze’s wife anyway and Freeze apologizes for giving in to Joker’s threats.

  7. Bloodsquirrel says:

    The other problem with the fight (on hard, at least, which is the only way I’ve played it) is that it doesn’t telegraph how many ambushes are needed to beat him, so instead of being able to say “okay, I need to figure out three more takedown techniques that work, let me experiment right off the bat”, you wind up doing the ones that work, *then* finding out that you need to experiment to figure out another one (which is risky). They you die, and all you know is that you need at least one more ambush.

    Conceptually, it’s an awesome fight, but the game definitely needs to train the player better for it.

  8. krellen says:

    The “each trick only works once” thing is a really effective way of driving home that Freeze is brilliant; he is learning very quickly from each mistake. I like that.

    • Durican says:

      I also really liked the justifications for WHY you can’t use the second trick twice. For the environmental takedown he destroys or freezes over the scenery. For the sneak-up-behind takedown he activates a cold steam vent on the back of his armour. But my favourite is the tightrope takedown, where the first time you use it he says out loud “What’s that noise?” and fairly noted it’s a pretty noisy device. Try to use it again and he’ll recognise the sound immediately and retaliate.

  9. DanMan says:

    I feel like some of this frustration could have been avoided by giving you 1 grapnel point. The game could have given you a reason to start up there, telegraphing the hanging ambush, then let Freeze be immune, but give him a line of dialogue telling you why.

    This would reveal that not all your tricks will work while still giving you a temporary escape avenue. I haven’t played it, but as described above would make me very nervous of trying anything that makes me get close to Freeze. Giving me one way to quickly get away would encourage me to experiment with some of the closer ambush types without causing me to flail using ineffective close combat stun techniques.

    If play testing revealed that the single grapnel point was too easy or something, you could have Freeze disable it at some point in the fight, but it gives you a couple chances to be wrong without being dead/starting over

    • Scampi says:

      If you look, it’s obvious why the gargoyles (?) in the room are inaccessible. They are already frozen. During previous fights in the same room against Penguin’s lackeys, you were able to use them.
      I think it is a rather good cue.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I never encountered any of these problems because I quite enjoyed the predator missions and constantly were trying different things.However,even to me there were a few times in this series when I would suddenly rediscover something that the game introduced once eons ago and then never used.So yeah,a bit more care was needed in some things.

  11. Droid says:

    I remember having to use every takedown method I was aware of, but I don’t think I ever played this game in hard NG+ (just one or the other), so whatever leeway hard NG or normal NG+ give you, that’s exactly the leeway I needed once I knew what to do.

    But I’m almost sure I had the list of all moves when I beat him there and I’m also almost sure that I used ALL the options on the list. So maybe normal NG+ also requires all moves?

    Anyway, getting that window takedown can be really frustrating when Freeze happens to shoot out windows with random shots. I had maybe one quarter of one single broken window left and the game was nice enough to let me do a window takedown with.

  12. King Marth says:

    I’m reminded of one of the stock fights in Adeptus Evangelion v2, a fan-mod for the Dark Heresy 40k roleplaying game for playing Neon Genesis Evangelion, a subversive “how insane would kids actually go if forced to pilot giant robots” anime. The mechanical core of the game is a series of boss fights against aliens, and one of the most memorable is against a nanomachine-swarm-styled enemy. It is slowed down by damage but cannot be defeated by it (unless you drop a nuke on it while it is temporarily dispersed, which has its own problems since you’re assumed to be fighting on your home base) and it becomes immune to weapons that are used to damage it too much. However, becoming immune to each weapon has a cost for the boss and it also can’t choose to avoid developing immunity when damaged enough, so as the fight goes on it loses its means of fighting back the more impervious it becomes.

    The numbers weren’t quite right on that fight either, as players were really grasping at straws to push the last couple of different attack approaches, but I really like this sort of mechanic for facing an adaptable opponent.

  13. It’s not that he didn’t assume Batman wouldn’t help him regardless, it’s that this ensures he helps on his terms. I don’t know whether the comics ever do anything with this, but I’m presuming canon that only Freeze is capable of the research that can lead to a possible cure for his wife, meaning if Nora is to live, her only hope is being returned to Freeze. Thing is, that would mean Batman would be aiding, abetting and participating in multiple felonies. Batman’s morals are grey, but his respect for the law is significantly less so, which means there’s a real risk for Freeze if he trusts Batman to do the right thing over the lawful thing.

  14. SpammyV says:

    At least Doctor Freeze apologizes for wasting your time with a boss battle.

  15. Tizzy says:

    But I guess if Freeze had common sense he wouldn’t have dedicated so much energy into schemes that always end with a supersize order of of Bat-fist.

    The best Batman villains are all touched in the head in some way. No one in their right mind would tangle with the Bat. At least not more than once.

  16. Metheos says:

    While I was also frustrated by the needless antagonism of both Freeze and Batman, the element that killed my interest in or respect for the game’s story is Harley stealing the cure from the safe. Harley somehow knew of the safe’s existence and its precise location (from the other side of the wall, no less), guessed that Freeze would put the cure there, brought enough explosives or other equipment to break through the wall (made of what seems like thick stone), and wasn’t cowed by the risk of caving in the wall or (worst of all from her perspective) destroying the cure inside (the same vial that survived whatever Harley did here is eventually destroyed simply by being dropped from waist height), and neither Freeze nor Batman notice any of this. This moment was a big reason why I wasn’t saddened that Paul Dini (the writer for this game) wasn’t brought back for Knight.

    • Duoae says:

      Yeah. I was going to post this too. I hated the contrivance of ‘situational brilliance’ in order to advance the plot.

      Also, Shams, on my mobile device (android) it appears I can no longer unclear striked/spoilered text. Just fyi
      [Edit]scratch that. I now have to manually select the text – which is super annoying on a touch screen device. Is it possible to just have it as a toggle like the footnotes?
      Also, editing the post breaks the editing box outside of the comments section but doesn’t allow you to scroll horizontally back – making it difficult to actuality approve the edit.

  17. Zekiel says:

    Can I just point out the additional ridiculousness that after completing this bossfight, you get an optional sidequest to actually rescue Nora Freeze. So if you choose to complete it you get Batman refusing to rescue Nora in order to get the cure, and then going and doing so anyway.

    Which, sure, Batman’s stubborn and doesn’t want to let a villain get one over on him. But it does seem a bit silly.

    Also: this bossfight is awesome.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      To me that describes batmans character rather well.He will not rescue someone because they are forcing him to,he will rescue someone simply because they are in danger.

  18. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    Arkham Origins ties upgrade points to doing various activities throughout the game. The Predator Challenges part of this teaches you to try every technique, very quickly. My main complaint with this was that it’s a list in order, rather than a large checklist you can complete at your own pace. Meaning if you get stuck on something like the AWFUL doorway takedown, you can lose MULTIPLE chances to progress in the list, for the rest of the game.

  19. Jabrwock says:

    First up, comments section is super narrow for me. Google Chrome.

    I didn’t try the “from below” takedown early on, so I was able to use the tunnel to move around a lot more to setup the other ambushes. It allowed a lot more “oh shit oh shit oh shit” fleeing when an ambush timing was off or I hadn’t set things up just right.

    I agree though, it was frustrating that some ambushes were unavailable “just because”. I think you should have at least gotten some kind of feedback that it wasn’t going to work. Freeze should have telegraphed in some way that he could see you, to give the player time to react with an “oh crap, this isn’t going to work”.

  20. Son of Valhalla says:

    Freeze is one of the greatest movie villains of all time. In the games though, there could’ve been more done to make him better as a character.

  21. Dreadjaws says:

    “The other problem with this fight is that some of the rules change and it’s not clear which things are allowed and which things arbitrarily won’t work. In a normal encounter, you can ambush someone from around a corner. That technique doesn’t work on Freeze. Batarangs bounce off. The gun-disabling gadget doesn’t work. Batman’s shock weapon doesn’t work, but you can electrify the floor in one spot.”

    I’m really confused here. The gun-disabling gadget works perfectly. Once, just like every other method. The shock weapon works as well when used on the wall magnets (though if not directly, it’s because Freeze is armored, and the shock just isn’t powerful enough), and I’m sure that the corner takedown works as well. The problem might be that some of Freeze’s countermeasures might disable more than one ability at a time. For instance, once you attack Freeze from behind once all other sneak attacks get canceled because he detects your presence close by.

    In any case, maybe this game didn’t, but the previous one had booby-trapped gargoyles, which forced you to move around without the use of the grapple gun.

    I’ve said this before, the best way to deal with Freeze’s fight is to have done challenges. Maybe people wait until the game is finished to try them, but that’s a mistake, as they teach you some complementary tactics that you won’t learn in normal gameplay. Maybe that’s a design flaw, I don’t know, I always assumed everyone tried challenges as soon as they became available.

  22. Porecomesis says:

    Given that the number of ambushes required increases with difficulty, I feel it might be fair in the end; at higher difficulty levels, a player should feel pressured to keep all their resources in mind as they go on.

    You are right about how the grapnel and ceiling ambushes overshadow everything, though; they’re simply far too convenient compared to everything else. Yeah, change the prior areas.

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