Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is Batman: Arkham City turning into Spider-Man 3?

I'm going to start this post the way my daughter complisults (compliments then insults) some of her teachers. Here's an example:

I really like my stellar cartography teacher, she's really cool...but (insert insult here). 

Since my daughter is a master of the complisult, I'm going to take her lead and do the same with the upcoming title Batman: Arkham City. Here goes.

I LOVED (and still love) Batman: Arkham Asylum. It's one of my favorite games E-V-A and my personal game of the year for 2009. Two years later I'm still milking every minute I can out of the Game of the Year edition, and not just for the extra 1000 Achievement Points. This summer during Comic-Con I was able to get some hands on time with Arkham City. I even got a personal walkthrough of the demo by Rocksteady's Dax Ginn. So it goes without saying that I can't wait for October 18th when the Dark Knight's latest adventure is released...but, is it possible that Arkham City could turn into the gaming version of Spider-Man 3? Why would I even think this?

I'm concerned that the ever increasing number of villains being announced will dilute the quality of Arkham City ala the last Spidey flick. Contrary to popular belief, too much of a good thing can be bad.

Now before all you fanboys shout "Blashemy!" and try to tie me to a stake and burn me, like the wiccan who possessed Mrs Dursley on True Blood, hear me out. History has shown that media of all types has used an excessive number of characters, or the introduction of unnecessary characters, to cover up plot holes and weaknesses.

Even The Simpsons, the best ensemble cast ever, knows the dangers of 
adding unnecessary additional characters. Just ask Roy here.

Let me give you some examples.

1) Lost - The series started with 14 characters with regular speaking roles. Initially this ensemble cast with an international flavor was heralded as a brilliant way to tell a story from multiple perspectives, but in hindsight it should have been a warning. By the end of the series Lost had rotated 34 different relevant characters in and out of the show, creating a convoluted storyline that only a guy like Stephen Hawking could keep track of.

2) Spider-Man 3 - After two great entries director Sam Raimi turned the Spider-Man franchise into a hot mess. Instead of focusing on the core of what makes Peter Parker interesting, his vulnerability despite being given amazing powers, Spidey was turned into a goth douche who battles too many villains (Venom, Sandman, James Franco's acting) and gets involved in love triangles.

3) Heroes - Yet another ensemble series that had a great first season then quickly turned to garbage with the addition of useless characters (Maya, Alejandro, Monica, Elle, Deanne the deaf cellist, etc.), romantic relationships that didn't fit the premise of the show (Hiro with anyone), and sloppy storylines (A mutant circus? Seriously?!?).

To further illustrate my point, here are some other examples of shows that ran amok by introducing new characters - Cousin Oliver (The Brady Bunch), Scrappy-Doo (Scooby-Doo), Sticks the drummer from Happy Days (a pathetic attempt at diversifying the cast), Mallory's boyfriend Nick (Family Ties), The Great Gazoo (The Flintstones), Leo DiCaprio's character on Growing Pains, Frankie Santana (The A-Team), and a bunch of schmoes that came and went during the last few seasons of That 70's Show, Smallville, and the original Beverly Hills 90210.

Now while you could say, "I don't care about plot. It's not like Call of Duty and Halo are known for their deep storylines." I'd have to disagree with you when it comes to the Batman series. The action in the game is driven by the plot. You do things in Arkham Asylum for a reason, and when a real sense of motivation is combined with great voice acting, a deep combat system, a perfect balance of villains, and the elegant use of Batman's gadget and comic book history, you have a flat out winner.

But, when villain after villain keeps getting added to the Arkham City roster (Mr. Freeze was just announced Monday bringing the new list to 7) and considering that these new villains will be in addition to the five that have been confirmed to return (Joker, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, The Riddler, Poison Ivy) it makes for a crowded lineup. Regardless if the villains will be major or minor players in the game, I'm baffled at how Rocksteady is going to keep all those bad guys relevant.

Now, all that said (here's where I exit out from "complisult" to straight up compliment) I'll be picking up Batman: Arkham City day 1. In fact, I already have my collector's edition paid off at GameStop. Having had some hands on time with AC, I couldn't be more excited. But (there's that word again), don't think for a second that I won't be in full Detective Vision mode with an eye out for one villain too many.

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