Arkham City Part 12: Arkham Sidequest

By Shamus Posted Thursday Apr 13, 2017

Filed under: Batman 67 comments

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…

The Riddler

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 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.
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.

Victor Zsasz

The 90's called. They want their "everything is stupid and edgy and adult except not really adult at all" back.
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.
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.

Mad Hatter

And we haven't even gotten to the weird part yet.
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...
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?
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.



[1] 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.

From The Archives:

67 thoughts on “Arkham City Part 12: Arkham Sidequest

  1. Scampi says:

    He's just a dude who shoots people with a bank expression on his face.

    Isn’t this supposed to be a “blank expression”?
    Just saying

    Also: Thanks for this series…you doomed me to replay the entire game. And not enough: After it bugged out late in the game, I have to replay it in its entirety for a second time…not that I consider it a punishment, but it takes some serious time.

    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?

    Well…not that I think the designers put that much thought in it, but if Deadshot got ordered to kill both Batman AND Bruce Wayne, he a) would find his target no matter which of both he got to encounter and b) would not be able to find both (unless, of course, he killed “Batman” first and took of his mask…Batman seems to be his #1 on the list, if I remember correctly, so he would be unsuccessful in tracking down batman IF he got to Bruce Wayne first?), thereby still be on the search for Batman when Protocol 10 begins. This way it would also eliminate him, I guess.
    Still, of course, your point stands that everyone in the prison is going to be killed anyways, so…he can successfully sidetrack Batman to prevent him from discovering the secret behind Protocol 10 in time? Whatever the explanation is, I agree it’s never adressed properly, if it exists at all inside OR outside the game.

    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.

    Also: I feel reminded of “Cube”…anyone else?

    1. Bropocalypse says:

      It could be a bank expression, if it recreates the dead bored eyes of a security guard.

      1. Syal says:

        They ought to call him “Bankshot”, am I right?

        1. TheJungerLudendorff says:

          Maybe he’s got dollar signs in his eyes?

    2. Trevel says:

      My best theory is that Deadshot wasn’t in prison, so this was a ruse to get him in for Protocol 10. And to distract Batman while other things are going on — really, it’s win/win.

    3. Joe Informatico says:

      This whole game is…remember Scaramanga? The bad guy in The Man With the Golden Gun? It’s all some rich psycho’s entertainment.

    4. Lachlan the Mad says:

      Now, I’m going off memory and could be totally wrong here, but I believe the kill list has a note on it which says “Payment will be delivered when all targets are dead.” I thus presumed that Strange deliberately put both Batman and Bruce Wayne on the kill list to screw Deadshot over. After all, if Deadshot kills Batman, he’s going to spend the rest of the night failing to find Bruce Wayne, so even if he gets out of the prison before Strange kills everybody, he can’t claim payment for his services. Of course, if he takes Batman’s mask off, then Strange probably won’t get away with it…

  2. Bropocalypse says:

    Bane’s skeleton actually retracts into his chest, where it operates the controls on the flesh-tank that this iteration of him has become.

  3. Christopher says:

    I have a soft spot for the Mad Hatter. Mind control is normally an annoying ability to write a plot around. The villain can make anyone do anything, not out of any motivation the characters themselves have, but just because it’s his ability. That just kills drama for me, so I normally hate it.

    But in Batman TAS, he only ever used his ability(He has invented a thing he puts on hats that make the people who wear them obey him) on random bystanders. It’s a good way to make huge crowds of people follow him and act weirdly, and have Batman not want to just punch their lights out. The one exception is the episode where he put it on Batman, and the whole episode is Bruce Wayne trapped in a reality where he gets everything he wished for, with the intent that he’d stay in the dream forever and leave Hatter alone.

    Using him for this weird tea party scene and then a dreamscape mook fight is pretty good, although I wish they had done some more Scarecrow weirdness while they were in there.

    1. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

      This is something that makes Batman easy to adapt. His colorful Rogues Gallery actually likes to play games with him. Like that’s already a thing they’ve done with the character for decades.

      Like half his Rogues Gallery is a bunch of deranged game designers.

      So the game designer gets to use that excuse to design games to subject Batman to. Joker, Mad Hatter, and Riddler especially are all perfect for this. Really the Riddler is a bit wasted in this regard because in the comics he comes up with stuff a lot more imaginative than just “find the trophy.” Which means I’m reluctantly forced to defend the infuriating Riddler Race tracks from Arkham Knight, as they’re actually the most Riddler thing that appears in the game series.

      But what would have been even more Riddler is to have to solve actual Riddles to find the trophies. It could be something a little like what Batman did in Arkham Origins where he had to find a thing to find the locations of more of Riddlers stuff. Only instead of beating up one of Riddlers goons, have him solve a Riddle.

      Maybe I’m forgetting something.

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        There ARE actual riddles in the list of Riddler challenges. Basically, Riddler asks a riddle over your com link, then you have to find the thing that matches the solve to that riddle and take a picture of it. It’s a bit fiddly to where it doesn’t always recognize you’ve solved them, but still, it’s a good implementation of the idea I think.

        1. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

          Oh yeah. Duh. In the very first game too. I remember Spoiler Warning had a funny moment sussing out the Riddler dialog by intentionally playing dumb.

          1. Viktor says:

            Asylum really got the Riddler challenges right(other than the “line up the question mark ones” that never triggered correctly). Lots of different types, some really clever ones, not an excessive amount, and you could do a decent chunk while playing the main game. The sequels just screwed up, as always.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Except the riddles in asylum were really finicky,often not working because you were 1 degree off when scanning.The sequel fixed that.And I enjoyed riddler stuff much more in city.

              1. Baron Tanks says:

                I love the riddles in all the Batman games but I do think they over killed here on the amount of m. I love the Arkham games and when city came out I was in a real games completionist phase, where only difficulty stopped me but the amount of chores never did. But city was too stuffed with content and was one of the games that broke me out of this habit. And then the ubisoft games firmly put it to bed permanently.

      2. Taellosse says:

        Nah, you don’t have to defend the dumb race tracks in Knight for the Riddler’s sake. They’re really not much like the kind of thing Riddler normally puts Batman through, because Riddler is usually pretty contemptuous of Batman’s non-brainy skills. He calls Batman a thug when he uses his physical strength and speed, credits his “toys” when he relies on gadgets (which, we must remember, Batman often has designed and built himself). Riddler’s overriding goal is to prove himself smarter than “the world’s greatest detective” – everything else is irrelevant. So crafting obstacles that rely on a tricked out car and fast reflexes to overcome is very much not Riddler’s style at all. Frankly, I think the races are the least Riddler thing about the challenges in Knight. Most of the rest of his stuff is middling to clever (there’ fewer repetitive puzzles that rely on a specific tool like Shamus describes here, for one. And those that do typically do still require some thought and planning to solve even with the right gear).

    2. Alkadius93 says:

      Personally, I always felt that Hugo Strange considered Deadshot as a criminal (he is one, after all) and so needed him in Arkham City during Protocol 10. Since Deadshot wasn’t in prison at the time, Hugo hires him to assassinate a list of targets, which include Batman and Bruce Wayne.
      Whether Deadshot succeeds or not, Hugo’s probably banking on the fact that he won’t be able to get all this done by the end of the night, at which point Protocol 10 occurs, and bye-bye Deadshot!

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And of course he was played by Will Smith in the 2016 Suicide Squad movie.

    And he was played much better by Michael Rowe in the arrow tv show.

    1. Scampi says:

      I grant you my full agreement.

    2. Vermander says:

      Except he has that CW issue of looking way too young and handsome for the character he was playing. My wife loves the Berlanti-verse and I always tease her about how everyone on those shows seems to be a former model or a Broadway star (which is probably why she likes those shows).

      1. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

        This is a big part of why I don’t watch a lot of the live action tv stuff for either DC or Marvel. The people are too pretty and that same thinking seems to go into everything else.

        The writing seems to assume their audience has no patience for comic book conventions and lacks the mental capacity to follow techno jargon. Like if someone uses a term like “USB drive” someone will say “Whoa Poindexter, could you say that again in normal people speak?”

        And it really doesn’t help when a line like that is coming from the mouth of a 20 year old model I’m supposed to believe is an attorney or a Pullitzer prize winning journalist. I’m already making a big leap here.

        Its like they want to appeal to everybody except, specifically, comic book nerds.

            1. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

              I needed both of these.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Um,how is that different from superhero comics?Here is a comic nerd.Not very different from the tv show.

          1. Joe Informatico says:

            Look, twenty years ago when they were filming The X-Files in Vancouver, you could find normal-ass, everyday looking people. But two decades of being a showbusiness town means you can now throw a rock down any random street and hit twelve glamorous acting hopefuls.

  5. Phantos says:

    Ah, the perils of making an open-world game.

    The bigger the world, the more stuff you need to put in it. Otherwise, it becomes wasted space.

    The only exception to this I can think of is Shadow of the Colossus, where it’s pretty much a given that the only interactions are with the bosses. If that game had promised something closer to Breath of the Wind or Skyrim, and then there weren’t any encounters with low-level mobs or sidequests it would probably feel like a bait-and-switch.

    This is why I like Arkham City much less than Asylum. It’s bigger, which meant there had to be more stuff to do, which meant there was less time to polish the content that’s there, which means it’s more not-as-good content. But “bigger” sounds impressive during a trailer or an E3 presentation, and nobody wants to make the sequel that’s smaller. So I get the pressure Rocksteady was on.

    Still a shame, though. These games definitely fell into the Assassin’s Creed “More Is Less” problem.

  6. Mersadeon says:

    Huh, I actually missed the Hush sidequest completely. I always thought the part in the church at the start was the only part to it, I never found anything else. Weird.

    1. Neil D says:

      Yeah, unlike the other side missions, there are no quest markers for this one. It depends entirely on you stumbling across his victims in back alleys. If you never find the first one, the mission never even triggers. I think there are three victims, and I believe you have to have passed a certain point in the main story before each of them will show up. Once you’ve collected enough clues, you can track him down to his lair and confront him.

      Like others here, I also just went through a replay after starting this series, and I’m not entirely sure I saw the bit in the church on any of my previous playthroughs. It was a nifty little moment of dramatic irony. “It’s him! Batman, grab him! Get him now! Oh, man…”

    2. lethal_guitar says:

      It is pretty well hidden. I remember having to look up how to complete it, since I couldn’t”‹ find one of the places you need to go to.

  7. Nate Winchester says:

    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?

    Actually part of the backstory is that he does already know Batman is Bruce Wayne.

    1. batti says:

      Only in the comics,

      In AK, Batman surprises him through unmasking which confuses Hush enough so that Batty can disarm him

  8. Darren says:

    I think Deadshot makes the most sense if you consider that Strange’s goal is not just to cover his tracks but kill all the supercriminals of Gotham. Deadshot is an international assassin and presumably the cops weren’t going to be able to bring him in. So hire him to come in and take out a few easy targets and someone you don’t actually expect him to be able to kill (Batman/Bruce Wayne) and he’s walked right into the trap. If you don’t pay him upfront, it’s a free way to add to the high-profile body count.

    The problem with the Riddler really is the sheer quantity of stuff that you are asked to do. 100 in Arkham Asylum was perfect, as you could pick up most of them as you went, with maybe 20 minutes or so of backtracking at the end to mop up. In City, Origins, and especially Knight it becomes an absolute nightmare, even with the addition of combat challenges into the mix (at least in City). I replayed Knight last year and, honestly, it was the Riddler challenge that really brought that game down. Yeah, it has no real boss fights (except for the Riddler himself, oddly) and too much Batmobile, but it has lots of stealth sections and combat encounters and even some environmental puzzles. It’s only hunting through endless nooks and crannies for Riddler stuff that the game comes to a grinding halt.

    1. Scampi says:

      I wanted to write this before, but now that it has come up a second time, I’ll answer here:
      If he was not brought in by whatever force (cops/Tyger Guards), why was he there in the beginning, standing in line with the other criminals…again: if that WAS Deadshot during the intro.
      If it was Deadshot: Why is Batman surprised he is in Arkham City once the mission starts? He should know that, shouldn’t he? I’m not well versed enough in general DC canon to know whether Batman knows Deadshot’s identity, I have to admit.
      If it was not him: Why give him that line about Bruce Wayne being on his list? It would appear awkward for some rando to be granted this kind of spotlight in the game’s intro I believe.
      Also if he was hired by Strange BEFORE entering Arkham City: why have him enter in that prison garb at all? Couldn’t he just enter in any getup?

    2. Arakus says:

      I find it weird that people always say Knight was the worst for Riddler trophies, since it actually had far fewer than City (243 in Knight, 440 in City) and IMO they made most of them more interesting (although the destructible objects and batmobile-scan-plate-thingies absolutely suck).

      1. Darren says:

        It has fewer and they are more interesting overall, but actually finding them is a lot more difficult given the increased size and complexity of the map in Arkham Knight. And given that many of them are more complex and engaging, the sheer number (still over two hundred) means that, rather than appreciating the improvement, the player is exhausted by the effort.

        1. Taellosse says:

          I dunno. There were maybe a dozen or so (excluding the races, which, as part of the Batmobile, sucked automatically) Riddler trophies in Knight I found really frustrating. Yeah, some were hard to track down, but not unreasonably so. Mostly it was the handful that required really finicky win conditions, necessitating many repeated attempts even though I knew the solution. By contrast, the sheer volume of them in City just made a lot of them boring, especially since so many of them were really narrow variations on similar themes, and were really obvious to solve once you had the right tools to do it.

    3. Zekiel says:

      I *really* wish you could toggle the Riddler challenges off in Arkham City since I entirely agree with Shamus that they ruin the look at the city (not something I ever noticed being a problem in Asylum).

      The news that you get to punch Riddler in the face at the end of them is both welcome and frustrating news. In spite of doing my best I never managed to get all the trophies, since some of the flight challenges were just beyond me.

  9. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

    “Who is this ridiculous edgelord supreme? He sounds like a 90's leftover.”

    I know I’ve said it here before but I’ll take every opportunity to say that I hate this about the 90’s. I hate that when I was old enough to have my own money to buy comic books with, that this is and all the Rob Liefeld stuff was what was popular. And then there was even darker stuff like Preacher. The 90’s was the decade of seeing how screwed up and dark we could be.

    Thankfully, Kingdom Come sort of kickstarted the reconstruction. Looks like the writers, especially guys like Mark Waid, hated the Liefeld stuff and couldn’t break away from those tropes fast enough. I think this is why I collected comics into my early thirties, to read the classic comic book stories I’d been denied as a kid.

    1. Zekiel says:

      I found it amusing that in AA Zasaz was used to introduce mechanics a couple of times (predator challenges in general and reverse batarang use, if I recall correctly). Which makes sense since he’s no match for Batman in any way so using him as a tutorial is quite clever.

      I really enjoyed the “run all over the city answering phones” challenge since I love the glide/boost mechanics in City. It’s a nice little reference to Dirty Harry too.

    2. Hal says:

      Say what you will about the quality of the characters that came out of the grimdark 90s, at least they were making new characters. The complaint these days (at least with Marvel) seems to be reimagining the iconic heroes as someone else. Of course, the 90s had some grimdark reimaginings for the iconic heroes, which . . . didn’t exactly go well.

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        They invent new characters almost constantly, they just don’t get off the ground because comic books are 99% sold by star power. At best the writer has to be well-known for it to go anywhere.

    3. Joe Informatico says:

      I take it you’re not familiar with Waid’s creator-owned work, like Empire (What if Not!Doctor Doom won?) and Irredeemable (What if Not!Superman became a total tyrannical monster?).

      There was a lot of crap in the 90s, but Warren Ellis’ runs on Stormwatch and The Authority ruined me for almost all other superhero books for years. Kingdom Come is partly a reaction to The Authority, which might be why I don’t like it very much. (I also don’t care for Alex Ross’ art style–he’s obviously a talented guy, but I’m just not a fan of photorealism in my superhero comics.) For my money, Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is the far superior Silver Age reconstruction.

      1. Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

        At least Irredeemable plays on superhero tropes. The 90’s Dark Age was just throwing out everything and writing stories about GUNS AND BLOOD AND GURLS AND AMBYVIOLENZE

  10. Vermander says:

    Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t like most of the character designs in this game. Every character looks so dirty, grimy, and gruesome, like they’ve stepped out of a horror movie. Even their henchmen are absolutely terrifying (like those bunnymen in the picture above). I have a hard time imagining any of these monsters is actually afraid of Batman. That works fine for the Joker, but I’d prefer to imagine most villains as people who Batman can intimidate.

  11. Jack V says:

    I love all of your reviews.

    My first thought when I read that about deadshot was, if Strange really wanted him to kill Batman/Wayne, he’d give him both targets so he killed whichever he found first, and not have to pay for the other one. But “just get him into the prison” makes sense too. I don’t know if the writers had one or other in mind.

    1. Scampi says:

      Seeing the list Batman obtains from Deadshot’s stash, he apparently works in a specific sequence. Whichever of Batman and Bruce Wayne would be in Arkham, Deadshot would be trapped searching for the other.
      His list has Bruce Wayne listed for 3:00, Batman for 3:30. Obviously, Strange has not shared the knowledge of Batman’s identity with him, otherwise this list would not make any sense.
      Assumed Bruce had not dressed up as Batman, if Deadshot might have found him and possibly shot him, he would afterwards fruitlessly look for Batman, who, in this case, would not be found anywhere.
      If Bruce dresses up as Batman, I assume Deadshot will be trapped in the phase before, as he will be unable to locate Bruce Wayne and thereby not able to continue on to performing his hit on Batman.
      Having a list this precisely laid out seems to me like a sign of a very orderly, maybe even compulsive mind. I think, if someone made a list THIS detailed, that someone would meticulously work along it instead of skipping a step just because, well, it didn’t work out as planned.
      The question posed to me is: would Deadshot skip Bruce Wayne to hit Batman at 3:30 or would he keep searching Bruce and shelve the Batman hit for later, after he finished the futile Wayne assignment?

      Anyways, to me it seems as if Strange specifically gave him assignments to be carried out in a specific way so he’d not have a reason to try and leave Arkham City prematurely.

  12. Viktor says:

    Deadshot leads into an interesting point. He showed up in the 50’s and was promptly forgotten until Suicide Squad, which was a book of all these old villains no one cared about so that “One character dies every mission” would be allowed by editorial. Utterly 90’s. But it started late 80’s, and while it was edgy and dark, it wasn’t really grim or gritty. You had some fun characters and some humor, as well as actual arcs, and those chars are what kept people coming back, even with the knowledge that there was a good chance your favorite char would be the one to die this time.

    So why did writers forget how to do that? It seems so basic, but so many writers of the time, and even now, seem to love “Anyone can die, everyone’s a villain”, but they miss the fact that I have to like the char and see them going somewhere before I can give a damn about their great grimdark storyline.

    1. Hal says:

      Does Marvel have an equivalent of the Suicide Squad? I need to see a gritty update of Paste Pot Pete.

      1. Alex says:

        “I need to see a gritty update of Paste Pot Pete.”

        The character actually tried doing that – I’ve got a Spider-Man comic in which he returns under the name “Trapster.”

    2. Mike Andersen says:

      Deadshot’s upgrade from Z-list nobody starts well before Suicide Squad, in the 70s Detective Comics. He’s an excellent example of what a decent costume can do for a villain. His character rehabilitation was part of an arc that did the same for Hugo Strange, and part of a broader push to get the image of Batman well away from the campy Adam West version. Kind of a more creatively successful precursor to the 90s ‘dark ‘n gritty’ stuff.

  13. Zekiel says:

    I do love the Mad Hatter’s sidequest here. It’s short, screwy and you get to punch lots of people in the face. It also feels like the closest this game gets to the Scarecrow sequences which were my favourite bits of AA. (There’s actually an Scarecrow easter egg in this game too, but it doesn’t feature any actual gameplay.)

  14. Hal says:

    It’s kind of funny to me that Deadshot gets included here. He’s not a particularly prominent villain in other DC properties (i.e. cartoons.) Deathstroke makes far more sense to me, given that he has a higher visibility, though he’s usually depicted as a Teen Titans villain.

    He does make a good foil for Batman (master assassin vs. non-lethal hero); it’s kind of funny that Marvel did the same thing with Daredevil/Bullseye.

    1. Volvagia says:

      Actually, even if DC never says it, Deadshot was almost certainly reintroduced entirely BECAUSE of Bullseye. Before Bullseye, Deadshot only appeared in TWO ISSUES. One issue of Batman, one issue of Detective Comics. But in December 1977, bam. Deadshot’s back, and pretty much here to stay. Bullseye, for context, was introduced in March 1976.

  15. Syal says:

    Trails in the Sky has my favorite “absolutely not the time” sidequest so far; upon hearing the local orphanage has caught fire, you can start the new sidequest to help an unrelated construction worker find a key he dropped. And sidequests expire quickly in that game so you’re incentivized to find that key before saving children from a burning building. It’s great.

  16. Paul Spooner says:

    Typo: “doesn't so his puzzles”

  17. Decius says:

    I actually like the way Breath of the Wild mixed their puzzle elements, having many open world puzzles that are obvious and many that are explicit “you are now solving a puzzle” shrines.

    The open world combat leaves much to be desired, with a difficultly curve from hell and roughly no way to practice without advancing the curve. And one of the monster types is significantly harder than the final boss sequence, with very little payoff for defeating one (considering that you break more weapons on it than you get from it and you need to grind several out to get the later armor upgrades).

    1. Bropocalypse says:

      Granted I’ve never played BotW but in theory having most of your stuff break in exchange for something valuable isn’t so bad. It’s like having a rather tricky merchant who you pay in blood and broken sticks.

      1. Decius says:

        The equipment loop isn’t very painful, except that the only time your shields take notable damage they or you are destroyed in one missed block.

        The puzzle design is really interesting; the game gives you all the required tools for all the puzzles in the prologue, and almost all of the puzzles have either super obvious solutions or multiple different ways to solve them or both, in addition to not being required to progress.

        The entire game has five mandatory bosses, another 4-8 mandatory quests (depending on how you count) to do the main quest line, and 40+ hours of open world wandering around if you don’t use a guide to find everything.

        One of the shrines made me look up the solution so far, and I could have brute-forced it if I wanted to spend a couple of hours iterating over 5C25 possibilities.

        1. Bropocalypse says:

          So like Skyrim but with puzzles and far less moddable, I take it.

  18. PhoenixUltima says:

    The massive amount of Riddler stuff just killed a lot of City for me. There was just so much of it, and so much of it was time-consuming to collect, that I eventually just decided to skip it all. And that led me to also skip some of the other sidequests, since the Riddler stuff had burned me out so much that I wanted to just stick to the main game and get it over with. I never did the Zsasz stuff, for instance, and I don’t think I even found Hush.

    You know a game’s got problems when approximately 60% of it makes you go “eh, that’s boring and stupid, I don’t wanna play through it”. The only other game I can think of that reaches that level of side-content obnoxiousness is Donkey Kong 64, and “being comparable to DK64” is not a good trait for a game to have.

  19. Muspel says:

    Minor nitpick: Hush is, in fact, the name of the villain in the comics. The storyline is also called that because it’s the arc where the character was introduced.

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      As David Willis has pointed out, Hush is a trash can level Batman villain. He combines like 10 gimmicks that don’t add up to each other. He’s called Hush, for no reason, he’s dressed like a mummy (because surgeon?), but also wears a trenchcoat and is an expert shot (because… why again?). He likes clues and mysteries like the Riddler and uses the “deadly secret” gimmick like the League of Assassins and the Court of Owls.

      Basically, he’s tryhard and shitty.

  20. Benjamin Hilton says:

    My favorite part of the Azrael story was the very begging, ie. the part where you have to notice him. I loved standing on a roof scanning the area and suddenly realizing someone with a very different profile to a mook was watching me. Then flying over to have him promptly vanish and leave behind a cryptic symbol. Sure that repeated is really all his quest is, and like Hush the payoff isn’t until the next game, but still that first mysterious encounter was so memorable for me.

  21. John Beltman says:

    yet another insane but extremely capable mastermind with a terrible grudge and too much free time.

    Bruce Wayne is included in this right?

  22. Slothfulcobra says:

    Funny that you mentioned glowing rings as a dumb side quest, because there literally is a glowing ring side quest.

    There’s some augmented reality obstacle course that Batman puts himself through before he let’s himself use a gliding upgrade.

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