Arkham City Part 19: Wonder Tower

By Shamus
on Jun 1, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

We’re nearly to the end of this series and I still haven’t talked about the stealth encounters. I’ve been waiting until now because the best stealth encounter in the game takes place pretty close to the worst one and I thought they’d make for a good contrast.

Stealth Encounter

It`s easy for us to see Batman, but in the fiction of the game he`s supposedly hiding in the dark and foes can`t normally see him up here.

It`s easy for us to see Batman, but in the fiction of the game he`s supposedly hiding in the dark and foes can`t normally see him up here.

A really good stealth encounter is one where you’re constantly having to observe enemy patterns and change your approach in response to enemy action. A bad one is where you crouch in the same spot for a long time and wait for the mindless AI to walk into your ambush.

Batman games are really good at providing the kind of dynamic behavior that makes for good encounters:

  1. You have regular guys with guns, who can make short work of Batman if he gets spotted.
  2. There’s sometimes a guy carrying a signal jammer. This blocks Batman’s connection to the Bat-computer, which means detective vision doesn’t work, which means he can no longer see through walls. Having one on the field is a pretty big handicap.
  3. Sometimes there are guys with mines. You want to take them out quickly because if left unchecked they’ll put mines all over and you won’t be able to move around on the ground. Mines do serious damage, stunlock you for a couple of seconds, and alert your foes. Blundering into one is one of the most dangerous mistakes you can make in a stealth encounter.
  4. Late in the game you’ll start running into snipers. Unlike the nearsighted goons that can’t see more than ten meters, these guys can spot you from the other side of the arena. Which means you need to keep track of where they are (they move around occasionally) and stay out of their sights. Also, unlike regular goons they don’t pause and announce that they’ve spotted you before they begin shooting. If you blunder in front of them, they will tag you for huge damage, stunlock you for a couple of seconds, and announce your position to everyone else.
  5. Sometimes there’s a guy with nightvision goggles, which means he can see Batman perched in the rafters and give away his position to the other mooks. (Of course, it’s easy for the player to see the rafters, but in the fiction of the game it’s supposedly too dark to see what’s going on up there.)
  6. Sometimes there’s a mook with a hostage. If he personally spots Batman, he shoots the hostage and you get a game over.

The guy in the middle is using night vision goggles to scan the gargoyle directly overhead, but I`m not on that one. Yet.

The guy in the middle is using night vision goggles to scan the gargoyle directly overhead, but I`m not on that one. Yet.

This isn’t like most stealth games, where you simply memorize patrol patterns to slip by. There’s a good bit of unpredictability to their behavior. You have to wait for an opening, move into position, neutralize the vulnerable foe, and then retreat before the rest of them converge on the position. If things are going well you might try to ambush a second one in the resulting confusion. Afterwards, the field has changed and everyone is doing something different.

Batman is durable enough to get away with making a few blunders. If you max out his armor upgrades, you can get shot an unreasonable number of times before you wind up at the game over screen. But like the brawling mechanics, the fun isn’t in making it through, but in making it through like Batman.

This is a good example of a game that actually benefits from checkpoint saves. If you bungle an ambush and end up with everyone shooting you, then yes, you can run away, hide, and try again. But you might not want to. Maybe you want to ghost this room. In which case it’s easy to reset to the last checkpoint, which can take you back to the moment you entered with room. Like Hotline Miami, the retry cost is basically zeroExcept for the stupid loading screen, which should be unnecessary. It’s not long, but it has no reason to exist at all..

When you enter the zone, you can often hear the goons laughing about “The Bat” and fantasizing about how awesome it’ll be when they kill him. If you can pick these guys off one by one without being spotted, then their fear levels will rise. Eventually they’ll fall apart as a group and start refusing to help each other. The game rewards competent play with a satisfying emotional reaction from your prey. They become paranoid, frightened, and confused. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like Batman in your life, then flawlessly overcoming one of these stealth encounters is the best way to do it.

Lots of games focus on “empowerment” by simply making you able to kill lots of stuff and destroy the environment, but few games focus on the emotional side of empowerment. But in this game the mooks almost go through little character arcs as they go from overconfidence to pants-wetting terror in the space of a few minutes. This is far more “empowering” to me than things like kill-cams, destroyable environments, and gore effects. Those things are cool too, but I can’t think of any other game that delivers this same sort of emotional empowerment to accompany the visceral empowerment.

Wonder Tower

I can wait here for someone to get close enough to ambush. Or I can wait on the balcony to ambush somebody. Or I can wait in the other vent. This section doesn`t take skill, it takes time.

I can wait here for someone to get close enough to ambush. Or I can wait on the balcony to ambush somebody. Or I can wait in the other vent. This section doesn`t take skill, it takes time.

And now we come to the stealth section at the top of Wonder Tower. This is the big finale. You finally arrive to settle things with Hugo Strange, and most of the things that make the previous encounters so enjoyable are gone.

Let’s start with the good stuff: The room is a circular observation deck. It was originally a spot for tourists. Now there’s a sealed control room in the center, where Dr. Strange is pacing around and directing the action. Along the outside are balconies with a spectacular view of Arkham City. Instead of the Tyger guards falling apart emotionally, it’s Hugo Strange himself who becomes increasingly angry, frustrated, and eventually dismayed at the inability of his forces to stop “The Batman”. It brings drama and characterization into the nuts and bolts mechanical parts of the game.

My problem is that this is probably the least interesting stealth encounter in the entire gameAside from the tutorial ones, I guess.. It’s hard, but not in a good way. You just don’t get that many options here. The vents aren’t connected to each other, so while you can use them to hide you can’t really use them to get around. There aren’t any places to hide in the ceiling, which means you can’t sit above the room and survey the territory. The lights are on in the room, which means you can’t really move around inside. You can travel outside by swinging along around the edge, but guys don’t go out there so you’re kind of leaving the encounter area. The few available hiding places inside are just behind boring crates (why is this room full of crates?) where the camera will aim itself in unhelpful directions. If you’re spotted, you generally only have one viable place to go.

This is a beautiful room, but since your movement is so restricted you probably won`t get a feel for it until AFTER you`ve put all the mooks down for a nap.

This is a beautiful room, but since your movement is so restricted you probably won`t get a feel for it until AFTER you`ve put all the mooks down for a nap.

Since the lights are on, there’s no need for the guys with night vision goggles. The room is small, so there aren’t snipers. There’s no signal jammer. There’s no hostage. I can’t remember if there’s a mine layer or not, but given the space you don’t spend much time skulking around, so mines aren’t going to hinder you all that much. The environment is simple, the foes are simple, and your options are few.

In the best encounters of the game, it feels like you’re juggling a dozen ever-changing variables to put yourself in the right place at the right time. Here, it feels like you’re groping around and trying to find the one viable route the designer intended.

The Strange Conclusion

You have not won, Batman! You have merely met all of your goals while preventing me from achieving... shit. That`s what winning is, isn`t it?

You have not won, Batman! You have merely met all of your goals while preventing me from achieving... shit. That`s what winning is, isn`t it?

As Batman tears through his defenses, his guards, and his tower, Hugo Strange keeps insisting that “You have not won.” Eventually it becomes clear that he’s trying to convince himself more than Batman. It’s a good moment, although it would have so much more punch if we’d spent more time with this plot. From what the story has shown us so far, Batman could easily have come up here eleven hours ago and stopped Protocol 10 before Hugo set his plans in motion.

Once Batman breaches Strange’s inner sanctum, Hugo’s plan is over. Once Batman is inside Hugo’s control room, Oracle is able to get all of the Tyger Guards and gunships to withdraw. Strange doesn’t want to let go of his dreams, and he’s still monologuing when Ra’s Al Ghul stabs him from just off-camera, as villains do in these kinds of stories.

This is where we get the big reveal that Ra’s was the one who financed Arkham City and manipulated Gotham’s politics to make the whole thing possibleBeing 600 years old, Ra’s Al Ghul has kind of an Illuminati thing going on.. This was Hugo Strange’s audition for Ra’s Al Ghul’s job leading the League of Assassins, and Ra’s executed him for his failure. (Did the League not have any openings in middle management? Maybe Hugo isn’t ready for the top spot, but after all that money it seems a shame to just murder him. I dunno. Maybe this is why nobody ever hired me to run an assassination business. I’m probably too soft-hearted.)

I’m nitpicking and poking fun here, but this is actually a really tense scene and a fun reveal. Unlike the plot with the Joker toxin, the events of the story are clear, the various character motivations are comprehensible, the plot threads are all properly tied up at the end, and it’s not plagued by awkward structure and fridge logic. Hugo had a discernible plan and Batman stopped it.

I`m sorry professor Strange, but we are no longer hiring.

I`m sorry professor Strange, but we are no longer hiring.

With his dying breath, Strange orders the computer to execute “Protocol 11”, which blows up the top of Wonder Tower. At the last second, Batman dives out the window, dragging Ra’s Al Ghul with him to safety. Unable to suffer the indignity of being saved by Batman, Ra’s attacks Batman on the way down. Batman slips away, which leaves Ra’s to plummet all the way to the bottom of the tower alone. He lands directly on the gates of Arkham City, impaled on the stylized “A” of the prison’s logo.

It’s a great finale. Both villains were undone by their own bloodlust and hubris, and both died in symbolic ways. Hugo perished in his tower, dying pretty much the same death he’d planned for his inmates. Ra’s died again (he does this often) but never got Batman to compromise on his “no killing” principle. Batman defeated both of them physically, intellectually, and morally. He proved once again that despite all his violence, deep down he’s motivated not by cruelty or hate, but by a fundamental belief in the value of human life. He risked his life to save an enemy, and fought to save the lives of the criminals he’d been pummeling all night. This version of Batman isn’t violent because he enjoys it, he’s violent because in this world it’s a necessary compromise to save lives.

It’s a brilliant ending to the story. The only problem is that it’s not the end of the story. We have another chapter to get through, and it makes for a far less satisfying conclusion.

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Footnotes:

[1] Except for the stupid loading screen, which should be unnecessary. It’s not long, but it has no reason to exist at all.

[2] Aside from the tutorial ones, I guess.

[3] Being 600 years old, Ra’s Al Ghul has kind of an Illuminati thing going on.


202020201There are now 81 comments. Almost a hundred!

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  1. Durican says:

    It’s a similar problem with the Batman movies where they stuff in multiple villains and want to give each one a memorable final showdown in line with their personal plot arcs, but then queue them up over the lasts twenty minutes of the movie.

    The Dark Knight is not my favourite Batman movie, but I don’t mind admitting it’s probably the best one to date. Even so, the climax with Two-Face feels uncomfortably pasted-on after the brilliant showdown with the Joker. I really wish they’d have kept the entire Two-Face arc for the third movie. Having the Dark Knight versus the fallen White Knight for the third movie would’ve been far preferably to me than yet another Knightfall adaption

    • C.J.Geringer says:

      True, the first one had the same problem. The scarecrow could have had his own movie, but is reduced to a throw-away.

      • Syal says:

        I think spoiler tags here just because other people are using them: Two Face’s encounter might have been more fitting if it had been with only Gordon, while Batman dealt with the Joker. Climactic showdowns are a hero’s moment of triumph, as much or more than a villain’s final defeat. Stacking triumphs on the same hero doesn’t work any better than stacking defeats on the same villain.

        I think Scarecrow needed more closure in the first movie than he got, but he did make a nice implied-time-skip lead-in for the second one.

        • Nessus says:

          I like this idea (for Two-Face’s ending). Those two had their own sub-plot conflict running throughout the movie, and the ending in the movie was already the culmination of that, so that would make way more dramatic sense.

          I suppose the problem was that Batman’s interaction with Two-Face pretty much ends the moment Harvey gets burned. It makes sense for the plot to fork there to become Bat v Joker and Gordon v 2Face running in parallel, but I guess it was a bridge too far to have Two-Face exist and die without ever facing Batman.

          Scarecrow… his issue is that he’s kind always been perceived as a someone who doesn’t really lend himself to being the big bad outside of simple single-issue type stories, so it’s kind of traditional for him to be a backup/mook villain to someone else when it comes to more complex stories. Plus his shtick (poisoning people) kinda overlaps with the Joker’s, so at this point it’s hard to have a plot about foiling a heist or plan to gas a bunch of Gotham without it feeling trite (which was already true when Batman Begins came out, TBH).

          Which is not to say that’s how it HAS to be, but I think the way to make a whole movie with just him as the villain would be to maybe reinvent him a little. I could imagine a movie where we see a research professor go slowly mad with obsession, doing increasingly disturbing experiments ’till he eventually crosses the Stanford Prison Experiment threshold and gets fired. Then disappears for a while, and eventually some poor sod shows up at Gotham PD with a tale of having escaped being held captive by some kind of Jigsaw/Human Centipede type madman.

          Basically take the character away from the “guy who does heists only with fear gas” thing, and more in a “Batman a la Thomas Harris” direction.

          TDK Bonus #1: courtroom drama with a pre-Two-Face Dent having trouble prosecuting Crane, because it’s almost impossible to figure out what part of his surviving victims’ testimony is true and which parts were hallucinations.

          TDK Bonus #2 Batman consulting Crane in prison like Hannibal Lector.

          • Syal says:

            I think the way to make a whole movie with just him as the villain would be to maybe reinvent him a little.

            My introduction to the character was through Batman Begins, and I think he could have been the Big Bad with Falcone as the second string.

          • silver Harloe says:

            I suppose the problem was that Batman’s interaction with Two-Face pretty much ends the moment Harvey gets burned. It makes sense for the plot to fork there to become Bat v Joker and Gordon v 2Face running in parallel, but I guess it was a bridge too far to have Two-Face exist and die without ever facing Batman.

            I dunno. I think it would have been pretty subversive and possibly awesome if the scene where Joker converts Harvey into Two-Face with the awesome speech about chaos with the gun-to-Joker’s-head coin flip was the very last we saw of Two Face in the film, leaving him as a dangling thread for part three.

            • Nessus says:

              That would indeed have been better. Though it does present some issues regarding Bruce’s arc of considering Batman to be only a temporary measure, looking for the legal system in the form of Harvey to recover to the point where he wasn’t needed anymore.

              Two-Face’s rampage and Batman taking the fall for him to preserve public faith in the legal system while it’s still very shaky is kinda the “Empire Strikes Back” point in the trilogy. In order to finish things, you’d need to have a whole rising arc where Gotham gets over Harvey and things finally sort out enough that Batman can retire.

              …Unless of course you want to ditch that whole element and have Batman keep batmaning forever (no, sit down, Val, I wasn’t talking about you). I expect there’s plenty who’d want just that, but IMO that arc/concept of Batman being a short-term gig of Bruce and Gotham sorting out their demons together fits perfectly with the Nolanverse’s style, so I like it.

        • Lachlan the Mad says:

          I find it deeply, deeply strange that Jonathan Crane kept coming back in the Nolan Batman movies. He didn’t play a big part in either of them, he doesn’t use the Scarecrow name, and honestly the guy’s face is as forgettable as the first movie he was in, so most people probably missed it. But he’s one of the gangsters selling drugs in the fake-batmen scene early in Dark Knight, and he runs Bane’s “courthouse” in Rises.

          This seems to be pretty weird from a tone perspective, very contrary to the dark and dreary Gotham that Nolan is apparently trying to create. Quite frankly any time the films make a callback to Batman Begins is a mistake, which is why Rises was terrible (because it’s nothing but callbacks). Maybe Nolan is trying to establish a bit more of a Joker-immunity universe, thumbing his nose at earlier superhero films where the villains would always die at the end (e.g. the Spider-Man trilogy)?

          • Syal says:

            Second one worked as showing that Batman’s been cleaning up loose ends between movies.

            Third one, I think folks said the criminal court in the comics was led by the Joker, but that was after Heath Ledger had died. So it was a choice between recasting Joker, using Scarecrow, or introducing a new villain just for that one segment.

          • Durican says:

            Crane kept coming back beacuse Nolan is in love with Gilian Murphy’s face.

            So am I come to think of it. Those gorgeous shining eyes, man.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I can’t think of any other game that delivers this same sort of emotional empowerment to accompany the visceral empowerment.

    Mark,of the ninja.You should play it,if you havent already.

    • Bubble181 says:

      Also: Shadow of Mordor, though of course, that’s in large part Arkham-in-LOTR anyway.

      • Taellosse says:

        I enjoyed Shadow of Mordor, but its skill with stealth is much, MUCH less than that of the Arkham games. Like the combat, it apes the forms of Arkham’s gameplay loop, but imperfectly and without true understanding about what makes it work.

        I think part of it is because there’s almost no part of SoM that isn’t just loose in the open world. That means there’s very few crafted stealth sequences, aside from the handful of special side quests done to upgrade your knife. In contrast, while you CAN use stealth takedowns while wandering Arkham City (and, to a lesser extent, the Asylum in the first game, or Gotham in Knight, the mechanics really shine during the (usually interior) sequences designed around it explicitly. There’s much less time spent inside in SoM, and even when you are, the comparatively more limited range of movement options (you can only move quickly to above-ground points if there is an enemy in line of sight there) restricts your evasion abilities quite a bit if you are spotted.

      • Carlos García says:

        Time to remember that video about SoM’s combat.
        I don’t know if they’ve patched it and it’s not somehow challenging, but I remember picking it up during a Steam sale and getting a refund because it was no challenging at all. It was so easy to live through encounters than the last thing I did was trying to get killed and that was the first task I found hard to achieve.

    • John says:

      Mark of the Ninja is undoubtedly good. I’d say that the difference between it and what Shamus is describing here is that the enemies in Mark of the Ninja do not have group dynamics. They don’t really interact with each other (outside of a small number of scripted bits) except to discover each other’s corpses or unconscious bodies. Nor do they have a continuum of emotional states. They’re either terrified or they aren’t. That said, I’d still rather play Mark of the Ninja than any of the Arkham games.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        except to discover each other’s corpses or unconscious bodies.

        And to shoot one another when they think you are there.

        • John says:

          That’s just the terrified state, not an interaction. Terrified guards will periodically fire their guns whether anything (you, another guard) is there or not.

        • Joe Informatico says:

          I don’t think I’ve had a more visceral thrill than the time I strung up a dead guard, had another one freak out when the lightning illuminated his crucified buddy, whereupon he fired off his rifle and killed three more of his comrades.

    • Dev Null says:

      Now you’ve totally got me picturing a game about a ninja named Mark…

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I would have to say I get the same feeling from the Alien and Predator sections of the AVP games

      • Nate Winchester says:

        Am I seriously the only person in the world that has played Predator: Concrete Jungle? Seriously, it’s the most kickass Yautja simulator ever. In one playthrough, I activated my cloak, moved behind a street preacher, and beheaded him in front of a crowd causing them to all scream and run terrified. It’s a great PS2 game for those who want to play the Arkham games in mortal kombat mode but it’s a lot more stealth sections than outright combat.

        Man I need to find a copy again and see if I can get an emulator running on my computer…

        • RichardW says:

          *Wristblades shoot up*
          Here!

          Concrete Jungle plays great with the PCSX2 emulator. It’s actually one of the few PS2 games I had zero issues playing on PC emulated.

          I wouldn’t say it’s aged super well, even at the time it was a *very* repetitive game, with several sections that just took the piss in terms of difficulty. That said, they did get a lot of the little details right and give you the most comprehensive arsenal a Predator’s ever had to play with in a game. And yeah there’s definitely some good moments of kickassery in there.

          My favourite feature was definitely vocal mimicry, using that to lure enemies or open voice-coded door locks was so cool that even future games ripped it off.

          So despite its problems I do have a soft spot for Concrete Jungle and wish they’d have done another solo Predator game in that style, or any solo Predator games at all for that matter, AVP 2010 doesn’t technically count and neither does that mobile crap.

          • Nate Winchester says:

            I’m just thrilled to find another Yautja brother! *salute*

            Yeah I wish it was more popular just so the industry would learn from it and give us more sandboxy games involving these characters. (like could you imagine a GTA style game where you are Robocop hunting down the crooks?) Plus it’s hilarious to me to see some people complain about games when I would see that old one answer many of those complaints. Don’t get me wrong, the AvP FPS could be great at times, but I never felt more like the Predator than I did in that game.

            took the piss in terms of difficulty

            You mean they went too hard or too easy? I’ll admit that was a game I thought pretty challenging but it was one I didn’t mind the setbacks. There was just something hilarious and satisfying about carrying around a dude by his head to smash it against a retina scanner later.

            Thx for the recommendation, I’ll definitely focus on getting the PS2 version again then.

  3. Darren says:

    Really looking forward to the conclusion to this series, because I agree that the ending of Arkham City is kind of a mess. Albeit a pretty fun mess; I generally like the boss fights in this game, which makes Arkham Knight’s almost complete lack of boss fights one more step backward for the series.

  4. Writiosity says:

    If you can pick these guys off one by one without being spotted, then their fear levels will rise. Eventually they’ll fall apart as a group and start refusing to help each other. The game rewards competent play with a satisfying emotional reaction from your prey. They become paranoid, frightened, and confused.

    Contrast to Fallout 4, where you can stealth around an encampment of raiders, killing them one by one without being spotted… and they’ll still be taunting and saying stupid crap like ‘Oh I’ll find you!’, when in reality they should be falling apart and running in fear.

    Considering how much effort Bethesda seemingly puts into making the player feel like god, it’s odd that they do this and make the player feel like they’re basically having no effect at all.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      It’s actually a little bit worse than that. Enemies in Arkham games change tactics. They do have set patrol paths at the beginning, but as soon as they realize Batman is in the room, the movement becomes randomized and they never stop looking for him. Furthermore, they start using new tactics, like shooting down the vantage points, walking in pairs back-to-back so you can’t easily pick them off one by one, picking up new guns if theirs have been disabled, etc.

      In Fallout 4, though, as soon as you stay out of sight for enough seconds mooks simply conclude you’ve left the area and resume their carelessness. The game tries to balance this a bit by giving higher-level mooks super senses, so they can hear you moving from half a mile away, even if you’re crouching and walking as slowly as the game allows. It really does a terrible job of a stealth mechanic.

      • Lachlan the Mad says:

        On the other hand, the Arkham games have a pretty huge advantage in this respect; their enemy encounters are strictly scripted. The AI designer knows that there will always be a set number of mooks in any one room, and can set the behaviour routines as they please. Arkham’s mook AI couldn’t deal with a Brotherhood of Steel vertiberd abruptly showing up when half of the mooks are dead.

        • Viktor says:

          I don’t think that level of randomness would be too hard to account for. Yes, it’s more work, but if the Arkham games wanted the ability to have a random chance of a dude mutating due to Titan in the middle of a predator section and start beating his own people while also destroying the environmental elements Batman uses, they could work that into their scripting. The real problem with Bethesda stealth is that they don’t have a good way of understanding what alerted the mooks.
          Realistically, the player infiltrating an enemy base can:
          Run into something, making noise
          Set off a trap
          Kill a dude and have the body found
          Kill a wild animal(rat, wild dog, etc) and have the body found
          Lure a dude into his own trap and have the body found
          Shoot a dude and not kill him
          Get spotted at a distance
          Get spotted up close
          Activate a scripted “they know you’re here” event
          Steal valuables that the mooks then notice are gone
          Open locked areas that should remain closed

          Most of those would produce very different reactions. Some the NPC should put the entire base on high alert for the rest of the night while they search for you, some the NPC should only search for a few minutes, some should involve the whole base searching for a few minutes. Some are impossible to program, period(having mooks detect thieves). Some should result in mooks only traveling in pairs, or permanent guards being placed on certain doors. And then if the player accidentally does 2 or more things to alert the guards, you have to account for that, too. It’s just too much work for a game where stealth isn’t even the focus, as much as I hate to admit it.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          The stealth encounters are scripted,but the fight ones arent.You can often find random crowds of mooks spawning here and there,and they can dynamically respond to you getting near them,grabbing weapons and junk lying around,trying to flank you,gang up on you,etc.So yes,arkhams ai could handle stuff like that.Maybe not the one from asylum,but city and origins one definitely could.

          • Lachlan the Sane says:

            And yet notice how the mooks in street brawls don’t have the same kind of escalating fear responses as the mooks in stealth sections do. Maybe the AI could handle it, but that’d be a tough job of work.

            (I suppose the easiest way to make it work would be to have established ranks of mook, and if you beat up all the mook sergeants then the mook privates would stop fighting, run away, and be susceptible to one-hit KOs? This is pretty standard in Halo and Assassin’s Creed games, among others. Nowhere near as sophisticated as the fear responses in the predator sections but it would add to the whole “criminals fear the batman” dimension).

            • Dreadjaws says:

              “And yet notice how the mooks in street brawls don’t have the same kind of escalating fear responses as the mooks in stealth sections do”

              It’s not very noticeable, but in outside sections some mooks will run from fights when they see you kicking everyone’s ass (particularly if you start using instant takedowns, which look really painful, you can even see their expressions of fear before leaving).

  5. Zekiel says:

    I fully agree with Shamus’ assessment here. The predator sections in the Arkham series really are genuinely amazing, and the emotional reaction of the mooks is one of the big things that makes it work so well.

  6. Zekiel says:

    This finale of Hugo Strange’s* plot really worked for me. I was genuinely shocked when he got killed (I really wasn’t expecting this series to actually kill off anybody); it retroactively made sense of why Ra’s al Ghul just so happened to be in Arkham City; it felt completely appropriate to Ra’s character and goals; and the final sequence with Batman saving Ra’s and then Ra’s trying to kill both of them was both marvellously dramatic and appropriately dramatic, and as a bonus accomplished getting Batman down from the top of Wonder Tower without having to climb down or fade to black :-)

    *I keep wanting to call him Dr Strange, but he’s a different guy apparently?

  7. Dreadjaws says:

    I’ve always found that last stealth section to be the less satisfying one as well. Playing it is a game of patience rather than skill. You really have very few opportunities and it’s even worse in the challenges, where you have to pass the area while following certain rules and achieving certain objectives. So you have many more things to take care of and look out for but the same limited number of options, or even less.

    Worse, rather than a game of patience it becomes a game of luck, in which you depend on certain mooks to happen to move to a certain place before being able to fulfill a goal. Luring them is not as easy, particularly while playing as any other character than Batman.

  8. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Fary Cry 3/4 also do a stealth mechanics pretty well. It’s something of the same setup, where you have a lot of options, the enemies are more persistent and less keen on going back to predictable patrols while alerted, etc. The AI for hunting you down when you’re sniping will even zero in on you the more shots you fire from one spot.

  9. Christopher says:

    I probably like Batman’s stealth gameplay more than any other stealth gameplay I can think of. It’s real easy to have bad stealth, and they do a good job of keeping it varied and fun.

    On the other hand, I’ve been playing Horizon Zero Dawn lately.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zA266EfcHJk

    Edit: I’m still not sure how exactly to get these to turn up as embedded videos and not links.

  10. Polius says:

    The Ra’s reveal was actually ruined for me by the game early on. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I died while fighting something that should have involved Strange. But during that post-mortem taunt the villain of the moment does, I saw Ra’s taunting me instead. It basically spoiled the whole surprise for me. Not a big deal, but a little disappointing.

    • Nessus says:

      If you get enough of the Riddler extras while working your way down into Wonder City for the first encounter with Ra’s, you get some lore text entries that tell the history of Wonder city. The parallels between what happened there and what’s happening in Arkham City make it REALLY easy to get twigged early to the “twist”.

      That’s what happened to me on my very first playthrough. I paused in Wonder City to read the lore stuff I’d just unlocked, and had a moment of “Oh, that’s kind of a lot like… oh… OH… OMG, that bastard’s totally trying to pull that same shit again right now!”

      When Ra’s showed up at the end there I wasn’t surprised at all, as thanks to those text entries I’d already known he was behind the curtain for half of the game, and was expecting there’d be another showdown with him after Strange.

  11. Hal says:

    That screenshot with Batman and Strange has some really weird perspective things going on. Strange looks like he has enormous hands, like he could grab Batman’s entire arm in one hand.

  12. John says:

    Can anyone who’s played one of the Arkham games explain to me how the Predator sections work? Are you trapped with these goons, unable to proceed to the next area until you eliminate them, or what? It seems like the developers have chosen to include the occasional Predator sections to provide the player with a bit of a break from the default brawler gameplay. Is that right?

    • Lachlan the Mad says:

      Most of them trap you in a room, yes. Usually there’s a good reason why you have to clean out the mooks, with the game giving you some kind of end goal, but there will be times where approaching the door just flashes a “CLEAR ALL MOOKS BEFORE LEAVING ROOM” warning on your screen.

    • CJK says:

      Yeah, basically that, although most of the same strategies are also applicable to mooks in the open world.

      The main thing that distinguishes a “Predator” section is the presence of the Gargoyles above the play area, giving the player vantage points and escape routes. There are stealth sections that don’t have those, but they don’t really play the same way, as Shamus explains in this post.

      Generally they come complete with an objective, often a hostage, to justify why you need to clear the room before proceeding. Occasionally they’re explicitly framed as a challenge devised by Joker.

    • Zekiel says:

      And yes, they are a very distinct alternative to the brawler bits. You can’t deal with more than one or two gun-armed thugs without using stealth (because they shoot you to bits). And generall you can’t use predator tricks on groups of unarmed mooks because they aren’t in the correct environment. Predator sections rely on you having lots of cover, perches to dangle on, vents to hide in etc etc. (Having said that there are a few brawls that begin with you creeping up through vents or whatever so you can take down one or two goons with a stealth takedown before starting the big brawl.)

      In my opininon the predator sections are brilliant for two reasons – one becaus ethey provide a completely different style of gameplay from the brawling (which stops it from getting boring) and two because they contribute an enormous amount to making you genuinely feel like Batman :-)

      • Neil D says:

        (Having said that there are a few brawls that begin with you creeping up through vents or whatever so you can take down one or two goons with a stealth takedown before starting the big brawl.)

        Just a nitpick to help illustrate for those who haven’t played it. There are two types of ‘takedowns’ – regular (quick and noisy) and stealth (slower and quieter).

        The type of takedown Zekiel is referring to above is usually one of the first type – Batman bursts unexpectedly from a grate, vent or other hiding place and brutally slams a dude into unconsciousness.

        Stealthier takedowns happen by sneaking up from behind, or by laying in wait around a corner for an approaching goon – in these, Batman springs out and gets a grip around the goon’s mouth/throat, and chokes him out, which takes about five seconds overall. During that time, you are visible and vulnerable. In Asylum, if you were spotted during this time, you were locked in to the animation until it finished, and were very likely to be riddled with bullets. From City onwards, you have the option to interrupt the stealth takedown by turning it into an immediate noisy takedown, which gives you a chance to deal with the new threat or try to escape to the shadows.

        It says a lot about how well they developed these systems that even after a full post by Shamus there are still many interesting aspects and details to be discussed. From the start, the thing Rocksteady did right that made everything else work, is they made you feel like Batman in both brawling and stealth modes.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Are you trapped with these goons

      You arent trapped in there with them,they are trapped in there with you!

      Heres a video of the predator challenges in city.Thats basically how all of them work,with the difference in what tools you have,what tools the mook have,and the room layout.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      It’s a bit more open than that. All “predator” sections (particularly those in the outside areas of the city) can be approached either way, you can use stealth or brawl. The difference is that in predator sections all mooks are armed, so the direct approach is very, very difficult (and in some cases outright impossible). That being said, if you’re very, very good at the game you can defeat everyone by punching.

      Also of note, sometimes you simply can’t proceed to a next section without defeating all enemies whether it’s a predator section or not.

      In any case, I wouldn’t qualify the predator sections as something done merely “to provide the player with a bit of a break from the default brawler gameplay”. They’re a very important part of the gameplay.

  13. Syal says:

    …so uh…

    those mooks Batman knocked out in the stealth section were probably in that explosion, huh.

    …Huh.

    • Zekiel says:

      Do you know I never thought of that….

      Presumably Batman had the supernatural foresight to stick parachutes to each and every unconscious mook and parachute them down to safety before interrogating Strange. Offscreen. Yes.

      • Neil D says:

        I think it just falls under the category of “You can’t save everybody, but you have to save everybody you can.” He didn’t know about the explosives when he dropped the mooks, and there was no time to do anything for them when the time came. All he could do was grab Ra’s and bail.

        But yeah, I’d never really thought about it before either.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Yes definitely. But even if Batman had left them awake on a lower floor, they still would have died because R’as very deliberately gave no warning of what he was going to do. Dead no matter what, basically.

  14. C.J.Geringer says:

    The one reason I liked the final stealth encounter was that Hugo was canonically a “smart guy, and the person with the most resources in Arkhan city.

    So he prepares a place where batman´´’s Stealth and mind games are greatly reduced. the encounter itself is not that fun, but it really showed hugo as someone who is prepared to go toe to toe with batman

    I would also urge everyone who liked Arkhan city to play some predator maps without detective vision, relying only on the other cues the game gives. They became a lot more tense and fun that way. Having to find enemy location and predict reaction without seeing trough walls.

    • Metheos says:

      TVTropes would disagree with you:

      “[Hugo] then enters a small room from where he can be seen from all angles, that has no escape routes, and is controlled by a security panel created by Batman. He leaves his personal guard outside the room where they are vulnerable to Batman, instead of taking them with him to guard the only entrance from the inside, and taking out Batman by sheer force if he ever happened to open the door.”

  15. Scampi says:

    He proved once again that despite all his violence, deep down he’s motivated not by cruelty or hate, but by a fundamental belief in the value of human life. He risked his life to save an enemy, and fought to save the lives of the criminals he’d been pummeling all night.

    Well…it might as well be the other way around: He MIGHT be violent enough to save the only people he believes are worthy of the sufficient pummeling to saturate his bloodlust…but that’s just an unwarranted thesis.;)

  16. thak says:

    Should read: “it feels like you’re juggling a dozen ever-changing variables”

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