“You are 27 years old!”
That was my mother’s reaction in a recent conversation when I told her I had taken off a day of work in order to spend it playing Batman: Arkham Knight after its release, the unsaid subtext being, “You are a goddamn adult.” I know my mom, and she was trying to be funny and give me a good ribbing, but the joke’s on her because I never have nor ever will be an adult if my binders of Darkwing Duck spec scripts have anything to say about it.
To say that I’m excited for Arkham Knight is akin to saying Alex Jones is insane: such a blatant understatement that you are being actively stupid for pointing it out. I have been anxiously awaiting this game for a year and a half. I sat by helplessly as its original release date of 10/14/14 was pushed back to June of 2015. I watched every trailer and gameplay video they put out, each one taunting me with images of that which I could not yet obtain. At this point my body is nothing more than a collection of anxiety and nervous ticks. I’m watching Sophie’s Choice on a loop just to try and keep my energy level in check. It’s sort of working.
I love video games, but it’s rare that I get this jacked up in anticipation of one. The Arkham games are just special. When the first game in the series, Arkham Asylum, came out in 2009, it was a gift from the gods. Batman games had been made before, but this was the first time a game felt singular to the world of Gotham. Most previous games used Batman as wallpaper over what was otherwise generic beat-’em-ups. Not this time. The game play was designed around how Batman would actually operate.
Yes, there was lots of martial arts and beating the shit out of cronies, but also a lot of stealth and hiding in the shadows, sneaking around in ventilation shafts, and using all the tools at your disposal to cause fear and panic in your enemies. Plus, there was an exceptional plot that wouldn’t have felt out of place among the best Batman storylines. For the first time, you could actually feel like Batman.
When Arkham City came out two years later, it managed to move the bar even higher with a larger and more dynamic world, and an even more impressive story (especially the incredible ending). Even 2013’s much criticized Arkham: Origins is still a pretty good game. Its only real crime is failing to live up to two of the most incredible games to come out in recent memory (which makes sense, since developer Rocksteady took a break to focus on Arkham Knight). Had it been the first game released in the franchise, I’d venture to guess its reception would have been much more positive.
Arkham Knight will be the concluding chapter of this series, and with all the goodwill it has built up, I have every expectation that it will be amazing. Which of course means that if it is a letdown the disappointment will be all the more excruciating. That fear has kept me up almost as much as my excitement. Arkham Knight is poised to be even bigger and more epic than any of the previous games, which means if they aren’t careful, this final installment could end up becoming bloated and get crushed under its own weight.
Not to mention, Paul Dini, a veteran of Batman: The Animated Series and a co-writer of the first two Arkham outings, did not return to help pen this final installment. That’s actually a big deal, and the biggest thing that nags away in the back of my mind.
But then I look at the trailers. I look at how awesomely terrifying Scarecrow looks, the bad-assery of driving around in the Batmobile, and HOLY SHIT YOU CAN TEAM UP AND DO SUPER COMBOS WITH NIGHTWING. There is just too much eye candy here for me to let any misgivings get in the way of my Hype Train.
The good news is that there is little time left to agonize. At midnight this evening, I’ll be back in Gotham playacting as the Caped Crusader and we will find out if Rocksteady was able to stick the landing with this landmark franchise. Stay tuned.