- One of the Arkham series’ most beloved additions was Joker, and getting to play as him in short sections of past games was always a delight.
- After the magnificent Arkham Knight, it seems the Batman-esque games started going pretty downhill, what with Gotham Knights and the live-service Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.
- It would have been quite epic to get a solo Joker game, fully embodying his ideology in an extremely violent and true-to-the-character adaptation.
Of the many revolutionary factors that Batman: Arkham series introduced, Joker’s characterization has to be among the strongest. The maniacal Clown Prince of Crime’s magnificent portrayal gave the iconic character a deserving glow-up. Joker carried Batman: Arkham Knight for me, even though he wasn’t even physically there. If Joker is this fun to watch, imagine the potential of an accurate standalone game featuring the iconic villain.
We caught a few glimpses of how fun it is to play as Joker in games like Arkham Origins, and thus the idea seems viable to be applied to a full game. Instead, after the epic Arkham Knight, we got poor titles like Gotham Knights and the upcoming live-service Suicide Squad. After these weak entries, it would be the perfect opportunity to create an authentic, Arkham-style Joker adventure as a form of recovery.
Joker’s Sections In Past Games Were Always A Treat
When the Caped Crusader entered the video game medium, his archnemesis soon followed suit. Even before the Arkham series, Joker was an exciting part of Batman games. A good example is Batman: Vengeance, a third-person adventure with animated Batman. Mark Hamil reprised his role, and the character was one of the game’s major charms. I still remember the iconic free-fall of Batman trying to save the monster despite his deeds.
Arkham Asylum came and took the world by storm. A revolutionary venture that initiated the magnificent Arkham series and served as an influence for many other games. One of its highlights was the crazy clown in his full glory. Honestly, Joker was one of my prime reasons for falling in love with this series. It was always a treat to watch his trademark maniacal behavior on screen.
What most fans didn’t know was that you could play as the Joker in a few challenge maps in Arkham Asylum. The reason was its exclusivity, as this feature was only available on the PS3 version. With the new Return to Arkham bundle, it’s possible to get it on the Xbox version as well, and mods can help PC players. Although it wasn’t anything revolutionary and not much different in playstyle, it was indeed fun to discover this possibility.
A particularly strong Joker section can be found in Arkham Origins. The most underrated game of the series also possesses a very fascinating portrayal of Joker’s character. We see the beginnings of the character as his twisted mind comes to odds with the Dark Knight. Arkham Origins’ Joker section provides a deeper dive into the psychological condition of the Clown and his mental state and conflict with Batman is explored in quite an interesting way.
What’s more, you are given the ability to control the character and navigate the insides of his mind. This also leads to combat sections, where you can relish the feeling of finally being in control of the other side. Similarly, a small section at the end of Arkham Knight exploring Joker’s initial freedom soon turned to fear is indeed a sight to behold. In the entire game, he is right by your shoulder delivering witty remarks that I believe made the game a whole lot superior. Arkham games would never be the same if it weren’t for Joker.
Last but not least is Joker’s appearance in the Lego games. Although these games are mechanically quite different and not to be replicated in a standalone game, the characterization is something that should be learned from. Lego Batman games and Lego DC Supervillains are perfect examples if you wish to see a different, more humourous side to your favorite characters, and some of this fits well in any iteration of the particular character.
Recent Batman-Themed Projects Have Been Pretty Lackluster
After the Arkham series, we’re seeing Batman-related products taking an awkward direction. The last splendid entry was Batman: Arkham Knight. Although that game had multiple problems like too many forced Batmobile sections, weak boss fights, and a lacking story, the game brought the most refined and fluid gameplay the series had seen, alongside magnificent, unmatched visuals. After this, things started going south.
The next entry was Gotham Knights. Here, Batman is gone and the Bat Family needs to fill those shoes; the idea had potential. Characters with varying gameplay and the ability to play as iconic allies of the Dark Knight. But when the game came out, the hype was thrown right out the window. With a very repetitive objective design, poor story, inferior gameplay, and an obvious visual downgrade, the game was a disappointment.
watched some of the gotham knights gameplay. totally unrelated, isn't it crazy how arkham knight looks for a seven year old game? pic.twitter.com/YGaDLQ4uRx
— BAILEY (@loverboymedia) May 10, 2022
When did Batman ever need to grind for better gear and improve stats before beating up the next band of rogues? It seems his less accomplished allies need to do these needless activities before they can be allowed to proceed. I’m not against the RPG-style progression, but it’s not something that fits here. Next comes the story, and while the game had an interesting premise of solving the mystery of Batman’s death, it did nothing to utilize it and a poor execution created a mess of a plot. Joker’s shoes were too much to fill.
All in all, Gotham Knights failed to live up to its predecessors, but it seems our troubles didn’t stop there. I was truly delighted to hear a Suicide Squad game from Rocksteady, but it soon changed to despair when it was announced to be a live service game. And not just any other live service; an online-only, third-person shooter where everyone uses guns and microtransaction-fueled RPG elements live service.
Although the game has a story mode, you need to be always online to play even in single-player mode, and slow internet or disconnections will surely ruin it. Details about the plot and presence of characters like Joker is yet unknown. Furthermore, after the Arkham series perfected the brawler-style action combat and ingenious stealth sections, Suicide Squad will bring a generic shooter gameplay with janky mechanics.
Characters forget what weapons they specialize in and just pick up guns. Captain Boomerang can’t use “boomerangs”, Harley’s melee arsenal is nowhere to be seen. Is this portrayal justified? I don’t believe it is. Mix in microtransactions and battle pass elements, and you’ve got a predatory live service filled with inaccuracies that learned nothing from Marvel’s Avengers demise rather than the supreme Arkham series experience.
A True Joker Experience Is Bound To Settle Well Among Fans
These lackluster projects have severely disappointed fans of the Arkham series, and the series is in dire need of a strong project. Thus, it’s an ideal time to introduce a true single-player, authentic Joker game with the same amount of care and dedication we saw Arkham Knight’s closing put into embodying the character. There is no denying Joker’s popularity, and a game where you get to control him is bound to be praised by fans.
An appropriate starting point would be to take the Arkham formula and build upon it. The brawler-style combat with counters and fluid combo transition could fit the agile maniac quite well. We’ve seen this work in both Arkham Asylum and Origins, it can be tweaked a little to better fit Joker’s style. In addition, the game can introduce a unique take on the stealth sections.
One thing of integral importance when designing a Joker game is to correctly represent the character. Joker is a reflection of Batman, in both ideology and fighting style, and this should be depicted. For a Joker game, the developer has to go all out and not shy from the display of violence and more mature themes to embody the character’s twisted personality. Holding back will result in an inaccurate portrayal.
This should also be extended to the combat style. We see in Arkham Knight’s last section that when switching to Joker, Batman’s non-lethal weapons are also removed from gameplay, which is an excellent factor. The same should be done for a solo Joker game. It can follow the Arkham series’ mechanics, but the animations should depict the violent, lethal strikes alongside Joker’s updated arsenal designed to kill.
For the plot, there are multiple viable routes, but an origin story would be interesting. It could set the stage to flesh out Joker’s character, explore his origins and the eventual dive into madness, and certainly would be an enticing product. Thus, a Joker game is a much more difficult project and requires a no-holds-barred portrayal to accurately embody the character, and I hope it is at least considered after the two disappointing projects.
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