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What we want to see in a new Batman video game, and what we don’t

WB Games Montreal — the studio behind prequel game Batman: Arkham Origins — has been teasing players recently with clues that appear to point to a new Batman video game. It has been nearly five years since the launch of Batman: Arkham Knight, with only Arkham VR to tide fans over. A tweet ordering followers to “Capture the Knight” in September 2019 was followed by another in January 2020 with the same message, and all signs point to another Batman game being in development.

What that being the case, we began wondering: What should go in the next Batman game, and what shouldn’t go in it? Here is what we’re hoping to see and not see in the next Batman game from Warner Bros.

Get rid of the Joker

Image used with permission by copyright holder

This is a pretty essential component — or lack thereof — considering how the Batman: Arkham series had progressed over the years. Despite the Joker dying in 2011’s Batman: Arkham City, he appeared as a hallucination to Bruce Wayne over the course of Arkham Knight. He also emerged as the true villain behind the events of Arkham Origins rather than Black Mask. What was supposed to elicit shocks was instead met with groans.

Batman has other enemies who can be the star of the show, and the next game would be better if it didn’t include the Joker at all. There is nothing left for that character to do in this game’s universe, other than hog the spotlight.

Better Detective Mode

The Detective Mode investigations have been a staple of the series since Arkham Asylum, and they help to break up the action that is otherwise heavily focused on traversal, stealth, and beat-‘em-up combat.

However, more could be done to make this mode engaging than rewinding time and examining trails of blood. Incorporating elements of L.A. Noire, such as viewing objects from multiple angles and interrogating bad guys with multiple options, could help to make you really feel like the world’s greatest detective.

Keep the combat system

Batman Arkham Knight: Brutal Combat Gameplay - Free Roam Showcase - Vol.7

Batman: Arkham Asylum’s excellent combat system focused heavily on counterattacking and managing large groups of enemies with evasive maneuvers, and its style was copied by several other Warner Bros. games, including Mad Max and Middle-earth: Shadow of War. As other franchises have started moving away from this approach, such as Assassin’s Creed, it could be tempting to do the same for Batman.

But this would be a mistake. The Arkham games’ focus on acrobatic maneuvers and beating up a dozen low-level goons at a time made you truly feel like a martial arts mater. Getting rid of this for roleplaying mechanics or Souls-style stamina management means not being able to re-create that feeling.

Let us explore outside Gotham

We’ve been limited to different regions of Gotham City itself for the Arkham series thus far, and while that has still led to varied environments because of the games’ different structures, it’s still technically the same city. We wouldn’t want to leave Gotham for the entirety of a Batman game, but why not make things a little more interesting by heading to Metropolis, Blüdhaven, or Smallville?

We could make things even crazier, too. DC Comics is no stranger to stories set in outer space. Could Batman’s mission take him aboard a shuttle or a space station in order to eliminate a plotting enemy? We don’t see why it couldn’t happen!

Include playable villains

Rocksteady Games

We’ve gotten to play as Catwoman and a handful of other villainous or anti-hero characters thus far in the series, but we’d love a section of the new Batman game to include the ability to play as true villains causing chaos in Gotham. It certainly appears that WB Montreal is working on a Court of Owls game, which would mean playing as characters who aren’t as well-known among the mainstream audience.

There’s nothing wrong with that, however – did the average moviegoer know who the Guardians of the Galaxy were before the Marvel film release? No, and that didn’t stop it from being a smash-hit with nearly everyone.

Release on next-generation systems only

The Batman: Arkham games were technical powerhouses when they released, with the notable exception of WB Montreal’s own Arkham Origins, as it came out for Xbox 360 and PS3 just weeks before the Xbox One and PS4 were set to launch. It wasn’t a bad-looking game, but it likely would have been much more impressive had it been released for the newer systems.

Warner Bros. obviously wants to attract as large an audience as possible, but it should launch the games only on Xbox Series X and PS5, alongside PC, in order to deliver the most impressive experience possible. That not only means higher resolution and crisper visuals, but a smoother framerate and more interactive environments.

Keep the world a reasonable size

Batman: Arkham City
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The power of next-generation systems could mean a much larger game world. That would be a mistake. The Batman: Arkham games aren’t the largest around, but they make good use of the space in the city and are varied enough to be exciting from the beginning of the story to the end. Making the world bigger for the sake of making it bigger would only create frustration in getting from point to point, potentially ruining the pacing.

Instead, if it were to focus on a few different areas, such as Gotham and Metropolis, this problem would seemingly take care of itself. Just because Assassin’s Creed and Ghost Recon can never be satisfied with their worlds doesn’t mean Batman has to suffer the same fate.

Let everyone experience the final ending

Batman: Arkham Knight featured some storytelling issues and some rough edges, but its main problem was how it approached the game’s “true” ending. In order to see what happened to Bruce Wayne, albeit in an ambiguous way, you have to complete every single Riddler puzzle. It can take dozens of hours after you’ve beaten the main storyline.

No one likes that. It is intended to pad the game and reward “completionists,” but a trophy or achievement can do the same thing. Have one ending, possibly with an after-credits sequence, and let everyone who finished the game see the full story.

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Gabe Gurwin
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Gabe Gurwin has been playing games since 1997, beginning with the N64 and the Super Nintendo. He began his journalism career…
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