Format: PS4, PC, XBOX One
Developer: Rocksteady, DC Games
Batman: Arkham Knight is the definitive last game of the Arkham series. Since Rocksteady has already released three of the Batman games, (I’m also counting Arkham Origins, even though it was disappointing), the hype surrounding this game was huge and with the teaser trailers that were available I was excited to play this game.
Let’s start with the technical details. The gameplay is fun and a huge improvement from the other games. The music is great, the ambiance, graphics and side missions were creative and fun to do. The use of the Batmobile is by far the most entertaining aspect of the game for me other than the team ups with the other members of the bat family. However, the main story, while it had a lot of strong points and elements, there were a lot of issues with it.
While I can praise this game for the many improvements that they have made and fixed from Arkham Asylum, Arkham City and Arkham Origins, there are many issues and problems that I have with this game. The biggest is the elephant in the room.
I do understand that the Arkham Story arc of the Batman lore isn’t canonical to the comics and continuity, however, the way that the female characters are treated is horrific. The following explanation is a spoiler and a trigger warning for violence against women. Please consider this, however, this is something that needs to be read and discussed. With the recent GamerGate issue and the lack of representation of women in video games, this could have been a chance for Rocksteady and DC Comics to step up to the plate and create a game that respects its female and male fans.
I was wrong and I expected too much from them. I expected more from DC and Rocksteady. Mainly because I grew up reading Batman and watching everything and anything Batman related, but I especially loved the female characters in the Batman universe. They were so interesting, multifaceted, and different.
I did not see these characters treated with the dignity and respect they deserved. These characters were damseled, killed and in one case, Batman was forced to relive one of these characters’ most traumatizing and violent moments of her life. I have separated them in three sections so that you can get a better idea of what I’m talking about.
Catwoman’s issue is not as bad as some of the others, however, I need to note that she is a victimized by The Riddler. She went to meet him for a job offer and he kidnaps her and puts a bomb collar around her neck. He contacts Batman and tells him that he has to work with her to free her and defeat him.
A couple of things:
First and foremost, there have been very few, keyword being few, instances in which Batman had to rescue Catwoman. More often than not they work together and team up on many cases together. She is rarely damseled and if she is, she rescues herself and gets herself out of trouble. In this context of the game, she is damseled and she is a “reward” for Batman after he solves the puzzles.
Secondly, this is all levels of messed up and when the Joker points out and makes a joke of the fact that she got herself kidnapped (even though he is victim blaming her) she is not the first female character in this game to be in this situation.
You would think at this point and after making this game for 6 or 7 years, they could have put clothing on Ivy. I get that part of her power is seducing men but her outfit design from Batman: The Animated Series works too! Anyway in the beginning of the game, Poison Ivy is damseled in the beginning of the game and then rescued by Batman, but then she is put in her containment cell by Batman. It isn’t until near the beginning of the end of the game in which Batman teams up with Ivy to stop Scarecrow’s cloudburst toxin. While she saves Gotham, she dies in the process. Poison Ivy doesn’t and hasn’t died in the comics so why was her death necessary in this game? This is an example of “fridging.” For those unfamiliar with this trope, I have provided a useful link here. However, this does not compare to how this game treats Oracle aka Barbara Gordon, former Batgirl.
Oh god where do I begin?
By far, she is one of the most interesting characters in the Batman universe. After Joker shot her, paralyzing her from the waist down, she refused to be out of the fight. She decided to put her computer and technical skills to use and help Batman. Even though she is disabled she is portrayed as intelligent, complicated, practical and she has agency and power.
This game takes all of that away from her. Oracle’s treatment in this game is the most vile and disgusting thing I have witnessed in this recent decade and I have seen a lot of messed up stuff. Oracle gets kidnapped by the Arkham Knight. Then Batman, who has been gassed by Scarecrow, sees Oracle get shot by the Joker (a callback to The Killing Joke). While I need to give credit to the developers for cleaning up that scene from the original comic, it is still disturbing. The scene in the game has Joker shoot Barbara and then it lingers for about 30 seconds as Batman and the player watches Barbara bleed and suffer through her wound.
It gets worse.
Later on when Batman goes to save her, he finds her in Scarecrow’s safe house. He gasses her in the chamber and tries to shoot Batman, but then she turns the gun on herself and shoots herself. However, later on in the game, it is revealed that she is alive, however, Scarecrow pushes her off the building and Batman saves her.
Here is the thing that pisses me off the most. Batman also saw these similar scenes with Jason Todd, the second Robin. He was tortured brutally by the Joker and shot by him, however, almost all of it happened off screen compared to Barbara. So apparently showing a man being tortured is not okay, but it’s okay to show a woman being tortured again and again.
That is the most sexist bullshit I have ever witnessed in my life. The way these characters were treated makes me re-evaluate why I’m a fan of Batman in the first place. What is even more disappointing to me is that the only female character that has any form of agency and power is Harley Quinn.
Sadly, that’s not saying much since she is abused constantly by Joker in the other games and is a victim herself and gets defeated easily by Batman in Arkham Knight. Even though her power is short-lived, it is a little bit refreshing. What is even more soul crushing and extremely hypocritical of DC is they recently launched a line with Mattel for 6-12 old girls to get into their characters and comics called DC Superhero Girls.
DC Comics, how the hell do you expect little girls to get into these characters and to become fans when you have alienated a huge chunk of the adult female fans with this game?! Tad bit hypocritical isn’t it? Even worse, more girls will become more hesitant to express their love of the DC fandom when they feel that a comic book company does not respect them at all and see them as consumers that crave realistic, empowering, diverse and humanizing female characters.
What the fuck DC and especially Warner Brothers and Rocksteady? How could you do this to your female and male fans? I expected better and we expected better.
I’m not sure if there is really anyway to fix this honestly. I’m not sure if I will be able to invest in Batman as much as I have up until recently. I have been patient and hopeful that this game would feature more female protagonists that kick ass that Batman can work with, considering the recent growing pains and backlash that the video game industry has received due to the lack of diversity and representation of women and other little represented groups.
But no, I have been let down again.
Despite all of the positive reviews that this game has received, very few have taken the time to point out these issues. Giving this game a 9 out of 10 seems a bit hypocritical of me, but I do recognize a well done game, despite is obvious problems. In the famous words of Anita Sarkeesian “You can enjoy a piece of media and still criticize it at the same time.”
I’m not sure I can do that this time. I don’t think Batman could make this any better for me.