Spoilers! Big, bouncing spoilers for Arkham Knight up ahead! If you haven’t played the game yet, or if you don’t want anything ruined for you, go read another article now. Seriously, we’re dealing with the big one here.

Alright, this time it’s another bit on how the most recent Batman game failed my expectations, and I realise that I’m sounding pretty down on a game that was actually really good. There were only two major problems with it: the quality of the PC release, and the identity of the Arkham Knight himself.

For those of you who haven’t been following the news, the Arkham Knight was a character invented for this game by Rocksteady themselves, a sort of evil reflection of Batman who wears an Iron Man-style suit with a vague militaristic theme, and has some sort of grudge against Bats himself. A key part of the main story is the big question, “Who is the Arkham Knight,” and sure enough we find out about this mystery figure in the final third of the game.

You want to know who it is? You sure? Last chance to back out.

Alright, it’s Jason Todd. And suddenly the history of Batman has to be repeated because most people won’t know who the hell that is.

Basically, there have been three people who have held the position of Robin. The first one was Dick Grayson, an acrobat who had his family murdered or something. He went on to become Nightwing, probably because people kept making fun of the Robin costume and Batman was being the joyless that prat he is.

Then we had Jason Todd, who gets killed by the Joker (except that he didn’t), and he was a bit violent and kind of a wanker. No great loss there, I think. There’s something kind of embarrassing about a snot-nosed brat acting like the Punisher and trying to be all gritty and dark. Oh, shut up, training bra. Go watch Scooby-Doo and we’ll let you play with the big boys if you’re very good.

And now we have Tim Drake, who pretty much got the job because he briefly met Grayson one time and managed to work out who Batman was. Sounds like a circuitous route, but I guess Starbucks wasn’t hiring.

Anyway, Todd is back. I mean, he’s around in the comics too, as the vigilante Red Hood, but this is set before that, and Todd is revealed to have been secretly left alive. He’s imprisoned in an unused wing of Arkham Asylum, tortured by the Joker and made to hate Batman, whom he thought had abandoned him. After burning letters into his face and generally having a good time hitting him with anything he could find, Joker then sets him lose, whereupon little Jason spends several years training his own army and getting billions of dollars. No, I don’t know where he got the cash, put your hand down.

Knight 2

Holy uncomfortable helmet, Batman!

Anyway, Jason returns in a mech suit, calls himself the Arkham Knight and sets up a big plan with his new buddy Scarecrow to torment Gotham for some contrived reason I couldn’t quite work out, all so that he can kill Batman.

Wait, can’t you just go and beat him up? Jason seems pretty reluctant to get involved with Scarecrow’s plan at all, and keeps breaking away from the schedule in order to go kill Bruce Wayne. There also doesn’t seem to be any reason to hide his identity, but he does anyway. Surely knowing that his old sidekick is trying to kill him would hurt Batman more? For a guy who’s spent years working out his revenge, he’s missed some rather obvious points. Or maybe he just read the script and knew how to pace the story.

I’ll be honest, I’m not impressed with this reveal, for a number of reasons. First of all, Todd had no presence in the games up until this point. He wasn’t mentioned until this instalment, having basically been considered ancient history until now. When he was brought up in an off-handed way it became immediately clear that he was the Knight, to the extent where I wondered if they were trying to bluff me. It seemed a little too obvious, you know what I mean? Surely Rocksteady can write a better set-up than this?

No, it turns out that they can’t, but there’s other stuff that’s iffy too.

The developers claimed that the Arkham Knight was a completely original character, for one thing. And whilst the design of the suit is certainly new, I think it was a little cheap to say he’s a fresh concept when the guy inside the costume has been around since 1983. I guess if you stretch the logic somewhat then it’s not quite a lie, but I still think it’s also not the truth. If I wear Groucho Marx glasses and a fez, it’s not quite right to say that I’m an entirely new citizen. Maybe they’re playing on the dual-identity of the character and we’re supposed to view him as a new man, but I don’t care much for these metaphorical shenanigans.

The problem was that among die-hard fans, Todd was a very early suspect and considered one of the most likely entities to be dwelling behind the helmet. And whilst I understand the writers trying to lure us away from the reality by stating that it’s a fresh concept, it ends up diminishing the reveal of the character.

See, we like to have all the clues to hand when we look at a mystery. We want a fair examination of the facts, so that we can grin at the eventual revelation and see how every fitted together. But giving false information… Well, that’s just cheating. Especially if it’s fake info given in an actual interview, and not in the game itself – that’s sacred ground, isn’t it? You can’t just trick the fans before we’ve even bought the game, we’re assuming that everything said to the press has been honest. I don’t think we should have to study your PR campaign to work out when you’ve been sniggering behind your hand or not.

The other thing that made it eye-rollingly obvious was that part of the pre-order DLC for Arkham Knight was the “Red Hood” pack. As mentioned before, Red Hood is the title that Jason takes when he returns from the dead, and this just made his presence even more likely. It would have been like Darth Vader wearing a “world’s best dad” barbeque apron in The Empire Strikes Back.

The end result of all this was a vague sense of disappointment and frustration from the fans who’d been engaged in the mystery. To those who didn’t know the comic lore, it seemed like Todd had been thrown in at the last minute to fill the gap. To those who were aware of the history, it confirmed one of the first suspicions they’d had and came across as too easy.

I wasn’t impressed either, not least because I could think of several characters who could’ve worked as the Arkham Knight without disappointment. My personal preference was Barbara Gordon, aka The Oracle, aka Batgirl, who I think would’ve been almost perfect, if they’d just tweaked a few details.

Think about it. The Arkham Knight is only assumed to be male because of that voice distortion gizmo he’s got in his helmet. Imagine the reveal, hearing that electronic growl slowly revert to the calm, younger voice of the Oracle, and seeing Batman’s face turn to shock as he realises he’s been betrayed. She also has the motivation, losing the use of her legs because Batman let the Joker live one too many times, a disability that the Arkham Knight suit could have been built to cancel out. Another possible twist that would have made sense.

Actual Knight

You might have everybody else fooled, but I’ve got my eye on you…

Like the Knight, she’s a technical genius with an intimate knowledge of Bruce Wayne and access to money and resources – Bruce’s money and resources, more specifically. It would’ve been a chilling moment for him to return to the Clock Tower and discover pieces of his old suits had been combined and altered to make this new one. On top of which, remember that all the information he obtains about this new foe comes from her. It would be fun to watch him get lured around by this cuckoo in the nest, feeding him a false trail of breadcrumbs.

There’s other good reasons why it should have been Barbara. She’s had a strong presence in all the games, so the impact would have been at its highest, unlike Todd who meant little to the series. Her death is faked halfway through the story, so she would’ve had free reign to orchestrate her plans as the Knight from that point on, and she’s had a lifetime of practicing acrobatics and combat as Batgirl. It was almost a perfect match.

I do think this would’ve been the better option. Admittedly, it still wouldn’t fit with the “entirely new character” smokescreen that Rocksteady threw up, but I think we’ve just got to put that one to the side for now. Exactly what original characters could’ve been in there, Quincy Sharp? That pudgy old man wouldn’t have been very impressive to watch, not to the mention the fact that I wouldn’t have cared at all if it had been. No, it had to be an established character so that they could have some emotional weight. It’s just a shame that the writers couldn’t admit it to our face.

Despite all of this, Batman: Arkham Knight is still a great game and worth your time. Just not on the PC. By the way, how’s that coming?

Arkham Knight Delay

… Fine. I can wait.


You’ve probably seen that old Simpsons episode, the one where Homer ends up trying to jump an enormous chasm on a skateboard and it all goes horribly wrong. Falling short by several metres, his fall is thankfully broken by a jutting piece of jagged rock. And another. And another. By the time he’s halfway down he’s hit more stones than a miner with good work ethic, and they just keep coming. When he finally reaches the bottom he’s a bruised and bloodied mess, beaten into submission and needing to be taken off by an ambulance

I was reminded of that episode by the horror surrounding Arkham Knight on the PC this week. Every time it looked like that game had ballsed up as much as it was going to, it was suddenly struck by another rock and it all starts over again.

Let me be clear here – I’m referring to both the game as it ran on my computer, and to the general management strategy of Rocksteady Studios and Warner Brothers. They’ve all committed the kind of errors that need a bloody ocean of Tippex to even think about cancelling out.

I should probably explain to those who aren’t in the know. Batman: Arkham Knight, the highly anticipated conclusion to the critically beloved Arkham Series, came out three days ago. It was, by all accounts, a very good game, at least according to those who played it on the PS4 and the Xbox One. Not that those who bought it for their computer would know, because on that platform it’s unplayable.

That’s not an exaggeration. For most who downloaded it off Steam, the framerate was so poor and the game so riddled with glitches that it’s essentially unusable. I bought it myself, determined to see what the fuss was about, and it’s pretty bad. I have a high-end gaming laptop, and even on the lowest settings it still found a way to chug, still managed to fuck up everything it tried to do. I even downloaded a specialised driver that the game recommended, and it didn’t do anything to help. Eventually I got it to the level where I could basically play it (though it still resembled a slideshow at times and never actually looked good) and decided to power through, cataloguing every error and fault I could see.


The Batmobile – terror of villains, monsters, and PC framerates alike.

By the end of this process I had cramp in my writing hand. It’s a horrible mess. Aside from the constant framerate issues, there were the usual suspects to back it up. The game crashed a couple of times when I went to a new area, the  positioning of enemies often warped when I wanted to do takedowns, and anything involving the Batmobile, gliding, or combat – the three main mechanics of the game – made it freak out and cause the framerate to fall even lower. Not to mention a couple of other problems that were so absurd that they were almost funny.

For example, dialogue is spoken at a consistent rate, but the game is unable to handle something as complicated as one character moving their lips, and starts to slow down the visuals so it doesn’t explode. This usually means that after a character has finished their sentence, they still flap their mouths at the person they’re talking to for a few moments, making wildly emotive gestures in awkward silence, until the other person decides to interrupt just to put them out of their misery, only to do it themselves. This wasn’t a rare thing, mind you, it happened for all the dialogue that wasn’t in CGI cutscenes, and there’s a lot of that.

Another one that made me laugh was when Commissioner Gordon walked purposefully across the room in a highly dramatic scene, only for his gunbelt to bob behind him in perfect unison like it was auditioning for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It took the tension out of the moment, but I think it was worth it. It’s about the only thing that was.

It’s sad, because the game itself seems to be really good. The brief moments of functionality I managed to grab were genuinely enjoyable, and there’s a horror-based sequence near the end that was one of the most chilling moments I’ve witnessed in a video game in years, not to mention a phenomenal moment where you have to navigate around a major villain without being spotted as he… Well, I won’t spoil it for you. I’m incredibly happy to say that the game worked on those moments, but it’s not enough to be worth buying it. Not that you can buy it anymore.

You see, at time of writing there’s been quite a bit of scandal around the whole thing. Quite rightly so – if a major product is sold in an unusable state, people should get pissed off. It should be a scandal. Immediately the game was hammered to death on Steam, where reviews currently put it at thirty-two percent positivity.

Thirty-two percent! Aliens: Colonial Marines is on fifty-four, and that game’s a load of dishonest wank. Things were not looking good. And then the companies really went and put their foot in it.


Guess she played the PC port of the game too, judging by that reaction.

Weirdly, they’d actually done it twelve hours before the game was even out, but somebody noticed and made a note of it. And then they got the word out, and EVERYBODY noticed. Half a day before the game was playable, they very sneakily altered the required specifications for the game without saying anything about why. They also mentioned something that people might want to have known before:

“There are some known issues with the performance of Batman: Arkham Knight for PC owners using AMD graphics cards. We are working closely with AMD to rectify these issues as quickly as possible and will provide updates here as they become available. We thank you for your patience in this matter.”

“Issues” is the right word. Whilst it was buggy for most, the game was unplayable for those who were unlucky enough to have older AMD graphics cards. I’m sure they might have wanted to know that, but by that point they were already downloading the thing.

It became even worse with an update later on, this time all about the various computer specifications you’d need to run it in “greater” detail. The final straw was when they told us the recommended specs, the ones that would cause the game to dry heave with the strain and which weren’t even that good, and then they said the unforgivable.

“The Recommended Spec is intended to deliver an experience on par with the current generation of gaming platforms.”

Now I don’t know about you, but if I fork out over twice the price of a console on a gaming computer, or potentially even more than that, I don’t want to be told that I’m lucky if I can reach the level of a PS4. No way, no how. You don’t get away with it that easily. Let’s forget for the moment that the game has been proven to be less visually detailed on the PC than on the console versions (though I know I won’t), but it’s still inexcusable.

Finally, thankfully, Warner Brothers realised what they had to do this morning.

Arkham Knight Delay

Took your time there, lads. Guess even the evil deities that run triple-A games publishers can understand that it might, just might be bad publicity to be selling a game that doesn’t work.

So who gets the blame for this farce? Well, I doubt it’s Rocksteady’s fault. They’ve gotten a lot of flack, but judging by my knowledge of the games industry, I’d be surprised if they really had a hand in this. It’s more likely that they made a console version as they normally do, and Warner Brothers provided a company afterwards to make a PC port.

Except in this case it was Iron Galaxy Studios who had to do the PC work, or rather, just twelve people from Iron Galaxy. With only eight weeks to do it. Well, hardly surprising then, is it? Especially when we recall that Iron Galaxy aren’t seasoned PC coders, also focused more on console work, and that they helped ruin the launch of Arkham Origins too.

Oh god, it’s all so obvious now that we know the facts. If I had understood exactly how little care was going into this project, I’d have hidden beneath the bed and kept my PC away from me with a spear and a copy of EA Origins.

Honestly, I suspect that Warner Brothers are the ones to blame. They would have known what this game was like before it was released, they’d have been in charge of finding a group to do the PC work, and they’d also have made the decision not to push back the PC launch until it was ready, something they’ve now been forced to do. I can only suspect that they’re pressuring the developers into taking some of the blame for this, as the big publishers always tend to, so now the prestigious Rocksteady is getting wounded by their efforts too.

Contrary to what you might think, I’m not even angry about all this. Just kind of sad and bitterly unsurprised. You see, I worked something out as I was writing this – that the video game industry is one of the most toxic industries that has even walked the earth. One of the most nasty, the most deceitful, the most uncaring and calculating systems we’ve ever seen.

It used to be better, back in the early days of the PS2. We all knew how it worked then – symbiosis. If a publisher and developer produce a good game, then we will buy it and fund their lifestyle as well as the production for other games. We all kept each other happy and satisfied.

It’s not like that anymore. It’s a sustained conflict, in which they are trying to gouge every penny out of you as fast as they can, before you catch onto the next trick they’re planning. We have to keep watching, keep being wary, because they will do anything they can to us and developers, if it will raise those profit margins. It’s stopped being symbiosis and has become parasitic.

This is the price that is going to have to be paid. In any war, there are casualties. Last year it was Assassin’s Creed and Unity, this year it’s Batman and Arkham Knight, two big sagas that have been inherently damaged by publisher’s attempts to con us. It’s always sad when a beloved franchise takes a bullet, but there’s no way around it, not now. We let them get away with too much, and now they want to see how far they can push it.

Choke a bitch

This would be a good technique to deal with major publishers. Sadly the law stands in our way.

So I’m not angry about that, because this is just the way it is if you want to play games. But I am angry because of something I saw. When I was looking through news sites online, observing people’s reactions to the story, one comment said that we shouldn’t be so hard on Warner Brothers. Everybody makes mistakes now and then.

Fuck you. How dare you make excuses for that kind of behaviour? How dare you try to stop people being angry at such an offensive attempt to rob them? Do you really think that this was a mistake? Do you really think that they didn’t know how horrible this thing was? Do you really think that they were unaware of the product that they were selling?

Bullshit. They knew, of course they knew. They proved it with the update before it was released, it was all damage control. They were hoping we’d suck it up, that we’d sigh and say “well, it’s just one of those things.” They’ve only taken it off Steam because we forced their hand, because we locked all the other doors and told them that this was their only way out. Don’t make excuses for them, don’t tell us to go easy, because these companies don’t respect you.

They really don’t. They made a calculated decision before release, they weighed potential profit in one hand, and your dignity as a consumer and as somebody who might care about the product in the other. And you know what? You were found wanting. You weren’t good enough, your happiness came second to a thirty-five quid profit.

How is it, to know precisely how much they think of you? Thirty-five pounds or less, that’s what you amount to in their eyes. That’s what they think of you. And we all know this, but it’s inexcusable to forgive them for it, to tell us to stop being so mean to the poor little mega-global corporation. I’m not surrendering, and neither should anybody else.

This is the dilemma – I love video games, but I hate the video game industry. It’s partly why I do this site, because I feel that people need to understand how ugly these companies can get if they think they can take your money, how games we care about will suffer if they are permitted to do as they will. Because games often suffer, Arkham Knight suffered just this week. It won’t ever get that stench off it now, it’s too late. I didn’t want it to happen, but it did.

But we need to understand that it’s only when this happens that we can provably point at something and say those six magic words. “Don’t you dare do this again.” If we make apologies for them, it will happen again, because they’ll think that they can do this sort of thing to us, and to this great art form.

Don’t let them get away with, my friends. Love and forgiveness are greatly overrated.


You know how I like to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon? Well, sometimes I like to lie on the sofa with a bar of chocolate and a good book. Other times I like to go for a walk, which reminds me of how much I hate the countryside and the outside world, at which point I go home and head straight for the sofa again, Cadbury bar at the ready. But mostly I think I like leaping from skyscraper to skyscraper, picking up lorries with my bare hands and shooting lasers out of my palms, all done through the power of spandex and suspended disbelief.

Everybody has their own way of relaxing.

I really like the superhero sandbox genre, because if you’re lucky they’ll be some fascinating new take on the whole thing. Running, driving, shooting, occasionally climbing, there are a billion games that offer those kinds of activities, and it’s very rarely new or original.

But playing as a super-powered ponce in tights usually means that driving around in a car is the choice for noobs, when you can always just bounce up into the ozone layer with a single push of your radioactive thighs, and drop down to make a crater in your chosen location. Why use a gun, when you could charge straight at your foe, deflecting his machine-gun fire with your nose, and headbutt him into the next postcode? Why pick a lock, when you could bash it down with single flex of your unrealistic pectoral muscles?

But there’s some things I wish I saw more of in superhero games, things that always seemed like obvious choices to me, points that they so often miss, and we’re going to start with a particular bugbear of mine: what’s the obsession with gliding?

Don’t get me wrong, I guess gliding is vaguely cool, but it always seems so agonisingly close to the more exciting option, that of unrestricted flight. The very few games that allow the player to fly are always really kick-ass, but so many others get all coy when the option is brought up. All the big super-sandboxes contain gliding, yet there would have been nothing wrong with letting us take to the skies that I can see. Let me show you what I mean.

Prototype contained gliding, when there was nothing in the map that would have been ruined by flight. Crackdown 2 opted for gliding, yet another mistake it could add to its roster. Saint’s Row 4, intended to be one of the craziest games in world, only allowed true flying with the “Gat Out Of Hell” stand-alone expansion release, and even then it had to be within the designated areas. And sure, I guess it wouldn’t have made sense for Batman to get that upgrade to his cape in Arkham City, but why not let us get in that fighter jet he has and zoom around in there?


Gliding! It’s like falling, but less interesting.

I think there’s something irritating about gliding, because of the fact that it means you constantly fall short of your destination and break all flow of movement. You know what I mean. Leaping from the Empire State Building to the next skyscraper along is awesome, and even if you miss, you land with a crash and can just bounce back up with the next jump. But if you throw yourself towards it and start to glide, it’s slow and painstaking, breaking any sense of flow, and of course, you’re constantly uncertain if you’ll actually make it there, which makes it all the more infuriating on the times where you don’t.

On the regular occasions where you do fall short of the rooftop, you end up scraping your head against the side of the brickwork for a bit, as you slowly and embarrassingly float down like a discarded piece of paper, cursing the harsh mistress that is gravity and wishing that stupid kid could’ve gotten his own balloon back. What an inspiration to the city you are, masked hero. And now your secret identity is safe even without the mask, because you left most of your face peeled off against the east wall of the Chrysler Building.

OK, it doesn’t have to be flying that you swap it out for, but there’s enough games where you can pretend to be a disinterested kite that I think gliding is something we’re saturated on now. Why not think of something new? 2004’s Spider-Man 2, one of my favourite comic-book games of all time and the first truly brilliant super-sandbox, treated the webslinging as something dynamic, and it really was. It was something you actually had to work at, timing your swings and measuring angles to maintain the fastest speed possible, making it very organic and fun, treating it less like a method of travel and more like an extreme sport.

So movement needs to be as engaging as possible. Don’t just give us sprinter’s legs and a hang-glider before you call it a day, go for something a bit more. But what about combat?

SP 2

Look, I’m sorry you’re getting mugged in an alleyway, but I’m having too much fun!

To my mind, the name of the game here is power fantasy. Fine, sometimes it’s going to be smart to throw something of equivalent strength at the player, such as a giant monster or another berk with superpowers. But individual human enemies should be as easy to take down as a drunk Essex girl in a nightclub, and I can tell you why.

Combat is often at its most fun when we’re fighting vast waves of highly inferior foes, knocking them down until they have a new appreciation for tenpins in a bowling alley. The numbers make up the difference in strength, and of course, no matter how it goes you’re still going to look like a badass, because even if you lose, you’ve downed forty people armed with assault rifles along the way. One of my favourite sequences in Arkham City has you fight infinitely spawning enemies, but they’re all as substantial as water balloons and go down in a single hit. Now that was fun.

But if you drop next to a mugger with an uzi and barely have time to say “What’s all this, then?” before he turns around and reduces you to Swiss cheese, then you’re going to feel a bit ineffectual. Even if you win the game at that power level, the inevitable city-sized boss fight at the end is going to seem a bit silly, when you know deep down that Smackhead-Joe and his brakka-brakka toy could have sorted it out just as well. So keep the player powerful, or at least the most frequently powerful figure with the exception of big bosses. It makes it nice and cathartic.

And finally? Well, I’d quite like to see some cool new powers. That’s a stretch, I know, I don’t think there are many good ones left, certainly not many original ones. It’s a good thing that abilities aren’t copyrighted by superheroes as they’re acquired, or else things could get problematic. “Well Timmy, you were the perfect distance from that lab explosion to gain superpowers, but I’m afraid that the legal team have advised against the standard stuff like flight, strength and laser eyes, so that just leaves you with the ability to turn your bones into jam.”

Actually, whilst it might be a little tricky to think of new abilities at this point, I still think it can be done. Even reskinning the old stuff goes a long way to giving a new sort of feel to a game, just by how it looks and how it affects enemies.

Say if you’re making a water-themed character, why not tweak the dodge function, so instead of him just rolling to one side like everybody else, it has him turn into water, so an attack passes harmlessly through him? That sort of thing can make a big difference. And swapping out generic energy blasts and fireballs for something else more memorable, like a cheese grater beam or a gun that shoots tigers, is the equivalent of a funky signature at the end of a letter. It might not be enough to truly change our opinion of the content, but we will appreciate the individuality of the experience. And superhero games at their best have always been individual, a new experience that really stands out when swinging swords or using firearms inevitably becomes tiring or mundane.

Basically, that’s the lifeblood of a super-sandbox. Originality. Excitement. Something to throw away all preconceptions and focus on the good time you’re about to have, as you take to the skyline and discover that you want powers that you had never even thought of before.

Think about it – who wouldn’t want to play a game where you’re bitten by a radioactive cactus, or exposed to the energy derived from a basket of beach towels? Everybody would be craning their necks to see what was happening. And I’m not saying that I’m planning a game in which you get the proportionate strength and speed of a Kookaburra. Or a game in which you realise that your power to vomit missiles comes from the fact that your father was a Harrier jet. I’m not confirming that at all. But I bet you want to play them. That’s the true power of the innovative super-sandbox, people want the experience, they want to feel super-human.

On an unrelated note, can anybody help me make a Kickstarter account?



Alright, so this one is probably one of few articles where I might actually know what I’m talking about. You see, I’ve always been a comic book geek. I don’t own back catalogues of every issue of Bacon Man, or Mr. Asbestos, or even, god forbid, Squirrel Girl, but I do know a fair bit more than the average punter and have an interest to match. Admittedly, I don’t have a very wide perspective on the industry – my usual tactic is to find one series that suddenly means absolutely everything to me, and read it until my I can no longer think, at least not without a white cloud filled with text appearing above my head.

For this reason, I never really understood Batman in the depth that I’d like to. The absurd amount of history I’d have to catch up with, as well as the prohibitive cost of such an experiment – well, it was generally all enough to keep me too intimidated to approach the series. Kind of appropriate, really.

But I have read a few examples of this ancient franchise, and the one that always sticks with me is the Killing Joke. I won’t spoil much for those who haven’t read it (who really, really, REALLY, should, by the way), but it’s basically about the Joker, and what sticks with me is what Batman tells him at the very beginning, the statement from which the whole story stems – the fact that one day, one of them is going to kill the other. They can both see it coming, in the same way that people falling off cliffs can see the ground coming towards them. Big, lethal, unavoidable. Only a matter of time.

And I think Batman was right. Whilst I don’t believe that the comics industry would ever let the Clown Prince Of Crime die (it’s been tried, and they keep fighting it), we could all see that no matter how this went, it would end in blood.

And in the 2012 game: Batman: Arkham City, it did end that way. The Joker died. THE Joker. Not a copy, not a clone, not a disguise or another character or a parallel universe version, or any of that other nonsense that the comics industry likes to pull. He was killed outright, poisoning himself through a combination of foolishness, ambition and failing to trust Batman to do the right thing. You can’t say it wasn’t fitting.


RIP, Joker. You’re killing angels in Heaven, now.

People were rightly sceptical, usually because games that are adapting or drawing from some larger franchise are always scared of upsetting the status quo. Theories went around, speculating on how “Mister J” pulled off his greatest practical joke ever, faking his own death right before Batman’s eyes. But months went by, DLC was released, and he didn’t come back. In the end, Rocksteady Studios confirmed it – he’s gone. He’s not coming back, he’s not going to be in Arkham Knight.

Perhaps this is all smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that he WILL return triumphant in the final game, which is coming out in less than a month. Maybe it will all come full circle, but it doesn’t have to. The game looks good, it can survive without him in it, if they do it right, but that’s the point. I have a nasty suspicion that my feelings about the Joker’s death at the end of this series aren’t going to be “What a bold direction,” or “Such fascinating implications.” I suspect I’m going to be thinking one thing only.

“…Was that it?”

Killing the Joker is not forbidden ground, but it is at the very least sacred, so show it some bloody respect. Remember that this is not just some villain who happened to be in the first game. This is a figure who has become so infamous in our culture that he has risen to the level of minor deity. And what was he in his own fictitious world? Insanity given form. If the Grim Reaper is the manifestation of death, then the Joker has ascended to become the manifestation of madness, the true embodiment of it.

It’s a hell of an achievement. Removing such an icon from the world should have consequences, it should feel important, you know what I mean? This wasn’t just a man that died, it was The Joker.

But Arkham City ended too fast to really appreciate that. We don’t see the impact that such a loss has except for a brief bit of DLC about Harley going nuts, and Arkham Origins was just footling around until this next game, the important one, was finished.

But Rocksteady have been so vigorous in their denial that he’s returning, not to mention the fact that he’s gone unmentioned in the advertising campaign for so long, that I can’t help but feel uneasy. Have they forgotten about him? Are there only going to be token references to him before he’s swept under the rug to be replaced by less interesting characters like the Mad Hatter and Catwoman?

Mad Hatter


I’m starting to feel that this is the case, and it feels wrong. Joker is a fascinating figure, the strangely intimate relationship he has with Batman is worth exploring on its own. His death? Well, that’s worthy of its own franchise, but it’s not going to get that much space. It’s got to share now. And the other villains don’t seem very willing to make much room for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some mournful fanboy whining for my favourite characters to come back. I wouldn’t have been bothered if the Joker had just been put back in the Asylum for Arkham Knight, in order to give the other villains time to shine. But they KILLED him. The writer in me feels the need to rebel at how ignored such a fascinating concept is appearing to be. Maybe the final game will do the event justice, but I’m not feeling confident about it.

Demolishing a beautiful building can be acceptable, if you plan to build something better where it stood. It’s risky, but admirable when it comes to intentions. But don’t kick down a palace in order to build a block of tenement flats. And more importantly, just to keep this rather endless metaphor going, don’t forget the foundations you’ve built on.

Preg test

I’m still annoyed that nothing happened, but it’s probably in the hypothetical child’s favour. Who’s his godfather going to be, Killer Croc?

It won’t be the first time Rocksteady have pulled this rubbish. The worst example was what I can only think of as “the pregnancy scare” in the second game. It might’ve been an even more interesting plot device than the Joker’s death itself. It was simple, subtle, clever. As we walk through the hideout shared by the Joker and Harley Quinn, in the corner of one room is a used pregnancy test.

It’s reading positive.

My mind boggled at that. It was such a simple idea, brimming with promise. The Joker, a father? What would he be like in those circumstances? What would the child be like? If Harley Quinn had to choose between them, what would she do? Could Batman ever trust the child when it grew up?

I can almost hear somebody yelling “spoilers,” so let me stop you right there – it’s not a spoiler. At some point after the game, I can only assume that the writers panicked, decided they had bitten off more than they could chew, and hastily tried to fill in the hole they had dug for themselves. In the DLC that takes place several months later, we see the room again, and this time it’s full of pregnancy tests, all reading negative, and the box they come in now has a footnote we hadn’t seen before, stating that you might get the occasional false result and it’s best to be sure.

That sounds smart to me. You know, being certain before you commit to anything. You wouldn’t want to feel really excited and hopeful about something that wasn’t really happening, would you? Because that would be rubbish.


OK, so full disclosure: I haven’t played the Witcher 3. I don’t want to play the Witcher 3. I tried playing the first game in that series, and the combination of a slow story, aggressive interface, and what I can only think of as startlingly boring combat drove me away within hours. Perhaps the second and third games are better, but everybody who recommends them to me has also been a fan of the snooze-fest that was Witcher uno, so I don’t quite trust them enough yet.

But what caught my eye was a bit of news going around – World War Witcher 3 has been given a massive patch to sort out what apparently is a huge amount of bugs, glitches, and general fuck-ups in its code, the kind not seen outside of the genetic structure of the Lannister family.

Witcher Bird


But that can’t be right. Last time I saw Metacritic, “Glitcher 3” (snarf, snarf) was getting nines and tens across the board, people were getting in line just to kiss its feet like it was some disinterested saint. Surely a game as hostile to being played as this one can’t be doing so well?

Alright, let’s consider a game I DO know, and can refer to with confidence: Batman: Arkham Origins. I bought that game on release, I loved its predecessors, I was really excited to start punching badly-dressed villains again. I dragged it into Steam like a fisherman dragging some humongous trout onto the riverbank, only to cut it open and realise that this trout had quite a few parasites going.

Let’s be frank, the game was absolutely toxic. It faulted and crashed with clockwork regularity, the frame rate dropped like a cartoon anvil, one bug stopped me completing a side mission altogether, and of course there were clipping issues and all of the other things you can expect from a game that has hasn’t so much been crafted, as it has been coughed up.

In actual fact, that game itself was alright. Not amazing, just vaguely OK. But I don’t remember thinking that at the time. I only remember shouting with rage at a game that had just conned me out of forty pounds. Another reason never to pre-order anything ever, I thought, and don’t think I’m not going to write an article on pre-orders at some point too.

The terrible glitches weren’t even at their worst for me. A friend of mine got three-quarters of the way through the game, at which point it had some sort of panicky stroke and corrupted all his save data, forcing him to begin anew. Then it set his Xbox on fire and attacked his granny with a knife, just to hammer the point home.


You might think that you’re evil, Joker, but have you seen the quality that this game was released in? That’s much worse than murder and theft.

But it didn’t hammer the point home. Nobody remembers the glitches anymore, not really. Nobody brings them up when you talk about Arkham Origins, not unless you remind them. But this seems bizarre to me – how on earth did they truly get away with this? Sending out something of this meagre quality, not to mention a title from such a prestigious series as the Arkham games, it’s inexcusable. It should have clung to their reputation like a permanent bloody stain, not a slight bit of dust for them to brush off at their convenience. It took about a month for Origins to finally get patched to the quality where it could be played, and quite a lot longer after that for it to be properly clean.

And Witcher 3 is apparently just as bad. The site I saw the news of the patch on was followed by a comment section longer than À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu, all of which was messages from players, rightly complaining about the problems they’d been having, some of which sounded pretty game-breaking.

But something tells me that in the long term, nobody will remember these glitches. The Witcher 3 will just deal with them when it feels like it, and the gaming public will just smile and thank CD Projekt Red for being so nice as to sort out its broken title that we paid money for. How generous of them, how thoughtful, when what actually should be happening is that they should get on their hands and knees and apologise, hoping and praying that the public is generous enough to buy whatever DLC and later titles they make.

The surreal thing is that this attitude is limited to games. Imagine if a film was released where the scenes were in the wrong order, or a book was sold that had a dozen pages where the ink had run and made it illegible. Neither would sell a single copy, the people responsible would be fired in a heartbeat. At the very least there would have to be some sort of show of apology. Because that ISN’T acceptable, not at that level. Releasing a broken or ineffectual product is a cheat, it’s a lie. It shouldn’t happen and there is no excuse, bar corporate sabotage by a rival company. They’re not doing you a favour by patching it, they’re trying to pull their career and reputation out of a nose dive.

At least, that would be the case in other media. But there’s something unhealthily submissive about gaming culture. We sit plaintively, hoping for any scraps that the big businesses might throw us, forgetting that we aren’t dependant on them. They’re dependant on us, and it’s about time we reminded them of it, because when they sell you something that malfunctions like Apollo 13 in the hands of a technophobe, they deserve to be called out on it. They don’t respect you enough to give you a working form of the product. And don’t kid yourself, they didn’t miss the fact that it’s filled with glitches. They built the thing, they knew what was coming out.


I prefer the using the road, myself. Or are you scared you’re going to clip straight through it?

So the next time a game is released that’s buggy and sickly and doesn’t want to be played, show it the same feeling – don’t play it. If it’s buggy, don’t buy it. Wait until it’s been patched, wait until it actually works, because that will make the publishers sweat like nothing else in the world. First-week sales mean everything to them, so if you hear that it’s faulty, just wait seven days. If everybody did that, there wouldn’t be any more of this shameful behaviour.

Look at Assassin’s Creed: Unity. That game might have been dreadful, but I kind of like it now, just because it brought us all together against a common enemy. It showed what happens when the industry tries to push too far – it gets pushed right back, by something far stronger than it could ever hope to be. Ubisoft gave in when it realised it couldn’t get away with the unbelievably bad quality of Unity, and had to jump through about fifty hoops just to placate the audience. And even then, the game will be remembered as “the broken one in the series.”

So that’s my advice. Do now what you did then if you see some bug-ridden game. Ignore it. And if you bought it without knowing what it was like, don’t let the developers forget it. Demand your money back, get on their case, threaten to boycott later titles. Because if you wait for bugs to leave, they’ll just start multiplying. But if you stamp on them now, and stamp hard, they’ll think twice before they come back.