The Arkham games have delivered the quintessential Batman experience to fans of the Dark Knight and gamers around the world. With one of the most fluid combat engines in gaming to the thrilling predator modes, the Arkham games have delivered 2 strong games that are that perfect balance between challenging gameplay and easy to use controls.
It is with little surprise then that Rocksteady’s third and final entry into the series (Arkham Origins was WB Montreal) is one of the most anticipated games of this year. Arkham City was such a refined sequel it is hard to see how any new mechanic improve the already excellent game mechanics. One new mechanic that has potential to unbalance is the Fear Takedown.
The Fear Takedown requires the build-up of a three stage energy bar (presumably filled by performing stealth take downs). The number of bars filled corresponds to the number of enemies it can be used on. Given an unsuspecting enemy, by performing a single press of a series of take downs can be chained together. Provided the player has enough energy left time will freeze allowing the player to target their next victim. This will continue until the energy is depleted or an enemy is able to kill you.
This is effectively a one button multi-takedown move where it does not matter if the enemies are spaced apart and requires very little pre planning. The concern is that this will make Arkham Knight an easier and hence far less enjoyable experience.
This is something that unfortunately happened to the Spider-Man game series.
Spider-Man 2 on the Playstation 2 and Xbox is arguably one of the greatest superheroe games of all time. Similar to the way the Arkham Games have captured the feeling of being Batman, web swinging through the streets of New York allowed players to step into the shoes of everyone’s favourite web head.
A next-gen console and 8 years later and we arrive at The Amazing Spider-Man and the woeful web-rush mechanic. This mechanic allows players to freeze time, point to where you want to go and the game will take you there.
The incredible momentum that was captured in the previous games was lost in favour of a mechanic that made it virtually impossible to mess up. In many examples, if there is no risk of failure there is no satisfaction in success.
The Arkham Games have been consistently praised for their satisfying predator mode. These sections require meticulous planning in order to isolate each thug and take them down. Being seen is likely to result in game over, given that it only takes a few shots to kill batman. Each takedown finishes with the player desperately looking round hoping no one saw them, then zipping up to a gargoyle for the next target.
With the inclusion of a mechanic that allows multiple thugs to be taken down with one button where are all those elements that make predator mode fun?
However, one game where a multi-takedown stealth mechanic is actually well implemented is Splinter Cell Blacklist.
Improving on the revamped mechanics of Splinter Cell Conviction in almost every way, Blacklist built upon the Execute takedown introduced in Conviction.
Similar to the Fear Takedown, Execute can only be used on 3 enemies at once prompting some action packed visuals as the takedown occurs. This brings an exciting level of fluidity to stealth gameplay, despite making the game far easier. Although this mechanic is turned off in higher difficulties it is a fun addition that makes the otherwise methodical gameplay a far more action pack event; something that the Splinter Cell series has otherwise been lacking.
There is a key difference between this mechanic and the one coming in Arkham Knight. The Execute mechanic requires planning. Players had to tag their enemies, scout out the room and then find the best position to attack from. If there was a fourth enemy in the room and the move was activated the player would most likely end up dead. The move cannot be cancelled and so requires thorough scouting out of the area before being performed. There is risk.
In contrast, the Fear Takedown requires no pre planning. It can be activated on any unaware enemy, yet after each take down the game freezes allowing players to choose the next target and assess the situation. Players can then either take down their next target or cancel the move and grapple away from danger. There is no risk.
Until gamers actually get their hands on a copy it is difficult to get a full understanding of how the Fear Takedown mechanic will affect the overall gameplay. Rocksteady have delivered two outstanding games that will go down as some of the best superhero games of all time. As a Batman fan and a gaming fan, the Arkham series has been a joy to experience. Here’s hoping Arkham Knight continues their good work.