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Review: Batman: Arkham Knight

Welcome Michael to the Graphic Policy team! Can’t wait for him to help flesh out our video game coverage and that starts now! – the Management

Batman Arkham Knight Cover ArtIt’s rare for people to pick up a superhero video game title, as a majority of the games are pretty terrible (Anyone remember how awful Superman 64 was? Blocked it out from your memory? I wouldn’t blame you). With how severe people have been burned in the past by spending $60 on a game that felt like it was made at the last-minute, a stigma was created with superheroes and video games. If there was a title released, not only was it awful, but you could bet there was usually a developer behind it trying to promote a TV show, toy line or movie to fit alongside it. On the off-chance that someone saw that title in your house, you usually had to rely on the excuse that a relative gave it to you for your birthday, and that you didn’t actually want it in the first place. Never has loving a superhero brought me as much shame as it did among video game fans…

Like Rocky after getting beaten several times, the developers at Rocksteady put on their walkmans, cranked up Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger and were determined to make a superhero title worthy of owning (I have no evidence of this, but this is how I like to imagine it). Needless to say, their conquest was successful! In 2009 Batman: Arkham Asylum was released, and not only was it amazing, but the bar for a Batman game was set so high that only Rocksteady themselves could surpass it! (Sorry WB Montreal) With an emphasis on stealth, hand-to-hand combat, and a wide variety of gadgets at your disposal, Batman: Arkham Asylum provided a true first-hand experience to what being Batman was really like.

553e34670056aLet’s fast-forward to 2015 with their latest and final installment in their trilogy, Batman: Arkham Knight. With an emphasis on making everything bigger and better than before, Rocksteady did their best to pull out all the stops to make this the best Batman title they could. With a much larger map, more gadgets to utilize, and new and bigger threats around every corner, Batman: Arkham Knight is no doubt the fullest Batman ever released.

The game spans over 3 large islands within Gotham City, with criminals running wild as the rest of Gotham is evacuated for fear of Scarecrows attempt at terrorism. While Batman tries to save his city, there is another menace who appears to teams up with Scarecrow, referring to himself as The Arkham Knight. With a powerful army at their disposal, it’s up to Batman to save the city with his trusty Batmobile/Bat-tank and a few of his allies.

The story, as with most of the Rocksteady’s titles, starts out promising and then slowly gets convoluted as there is simply way too much going on. Each and every super villain has the need to try to take over Gotham to prove that they deserve to stand on top, except for the Riddler (Everyone knows he’s too cool for teamwork). What honestly shocks me is that none of these villains seem to care about Scarecrow’s threat to plunge Gotham City into a living hell with his new toxin, so much as run their crooked businesses normally. While the main story focuses mostly on the Arkham Knight and Scarecrow teaming up to overtake your city, fans may forget that Scarecrow is even in the game, because you only see him a handful of times. The story generally focuses on the Arkham Knight and his feud with Batman, and it’s pretty obvious who the Knight is if you’re familiar with Batman at all. I did enjoy the sections with the special guest of the game (no spoilers!). With a somewhat tired ending that just feels forced, fans really get the impression that this is Rocksteady’s final installment with the series, and that they’re officially done with Batman. With how difficult it was to actually get the PC version established, I don’t blame them. (Sorry PC players!) With a super secret ending for completing 100% of the game, fans are shown that there will be no more Batman, from this developer at least…

With every new installment to a series, the one thing people really hope for is improvements on graphics, especially when a series crosses over to a newer and better platform. This title doesn’t fail to impress as Rocksteady truly gives everything a major upgrade in the fashion department, making it truly breathtaking game to look at. Arkham Knight‘s environment is the largest of the three titles, spanning over 3 islands that each stand larger than Arkham City. With the ability to either glide or drive through the city, there’s a lot for players to take in.

54e504c0956d7I would have loved to have given this a solid 9 or 10 because of how amazing these Batman titles usually play, but the one thing that stands as the bane of your existence is the highly anticipated Batmobile… With shaky controls (at best) and several missions actually focusing on you driving your car around Gotham or mazes, I’ve more often crashed into walls, flipped my car over or blown up than I’ve actually stopped crime. With Rocksteady allowing the Batmobile to crash through most objects and building corners, it’s a wonder there was even a Gotham left to save after all was said and done. While it was difficult to learn at first, I did find it enjoyable once I got used to the controls. Though it did take a while.

The tank mode in the game is also another necessity as you have to fight several other tanks in the game. The targeting system is only subpar, so often times I would actually miss when I would think otherwise, resulting in my death. I made the mistake of upgrading my suit and gadgets before my car, thinking that I would go through the majority of the game as Batman, not the Bat-tank. Never have I been more wrong…

The times fighting as Batman are the reason this section received the positive score it has. With a heavy focus on combat and stealth, and a great mixture of gadget use and new kinds of takedown attacks, Rocksteady really outdid themselves with the physical combat. The newest feature, and by far my favorite, that’s provided with the new armor is the Fear-Multi Takedown. What this does is it allows Batman to get a surprise attack on a group, and causes the whole area to slow down and panic, so you can control your camera and attack your next victim at super high speeds. This feature gives fans real insight into how Batman fights using fear as an element, and it’s the best thing the game has going for it. The only downside to this is that it’s not easy to pull off when you want to, so much as when the game wants you to.

The other new feature that Rocksteady added into this game was Co-op fighting. While it’s not multiplayer (which would have been amazing), the feature allows players to fight like a true dynamic duo, but unfortunately it didn’t actually happen very often. This serves as somewhat of a letdown considering how high they were trying to sell it during advertisements. So unless you’re interested in only playing the one VR Mission that features this, you won’t be seeing much of Batman teaming up. We all know Batman prefers to be a lone wolf anyways.

Arkham Knight is also the first game to allow you to utilize gadgets in your combos. You build up a combo meter through flawless execution and then use that combo meter to unleash gadget attacks to takedown enemies. While this sounds like an excellent feature in the game, and everyone knows this is what Batman does, I often found myself being unable to use it. With the combo meter instantly getting taken down the moment you suffer any type of attack, it was a rare occasion to use one of these gadget attacks successfully. With Batman constantly fighting hordes of enemies, it’s rather difficult to do anything other than punch or counter, so inputting other button commands would often result in taking a hit and losing the chance.

The sidequests in the game were considerably more exciting than the actual campaign. They allow you to feel like the Dark Knight as you take down some of Gotham’s fiercest foes. While some of these stories are shorter than others, they give players a chance to explore through Gotham, learn some of its history, and solve crimes. The only downside to all of this, is that if you’re doing these alongside the main scenario, you’re often cut off from being able to continue until you progress further through the main campaign.

The Riddler missions in this game are also more exciting as they go beyond just finding trophies like in the previous titles. The challenges come in the format of solving riddles, puzzles, finding easter eggs, scanning your surroundings for question mark shaped footprints, and even race tracks. Rocksteady really outdid themselves this time around with how much there is to find in the game. For a title at nearly 50GB, you can expect quite a few Easter Eggs to find through riddle hunting. The motivation to finish the Riddler segment is strong too, because once you complete the main scenario, Riddler bugs you about finishing his riddles every 5 minutes or so. Never has punching someone in the face been so fantastic…

As with every Batman title from the trilogy, the game is very story heavy, so while the game is amazing to play the first time around, the re-playability factor isn’t high. I’d prefer to take a long break before diving into the game again, even if the difficulty is increased with New Game Plus. With nothing extra besides a slightly altered intro cutscene, there isn’t anything new to the game that we wouldn’t have seen before.

Nothing would have pleased me more than to give this game a 10/10 solely on the fact that I’m a huge Batman fan, but the game has a lot that stands against it. With several of the new features seeming like more of a hassle than exciting, or just overall lacking, this game just feels like it could have been so much better. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I just know it could have been better. At least it’s Kevin Conroy voicing Batman. That man could narrate my life. I would definitely avoid the DLC Season Pass bundle at the moment as it’s an additional $40 with only one segment, and a few extra costumes. That money could be used towards another title or several comics with better stories.

Story: 6 Graphics: 9 Gameplay: 7.5 Sidequests: 8 Re-playability: 5 Overall Score: 7.5

Played on the Playstation 4

SDCC 2015: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer

Debuting at San Diego Comic-Con, Zack Snyder‘s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is in theaters March 25, 2016.

Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem this August

1000518597BRDLEFOOPT_78d653The Dark Knight isn’t seeking tricks or treats when Gotham City’s most lethal villains take to the streets on Halloween night in the newest DC Comics animated film – Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem.  Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment, the original movie arrives from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on August 18, 2015 for a $19.98 SRP, and via Digital HD on August 4.

It’s Halloween night in Gotham City and Scarecrow, Clayface, Silver Banshee and Solomon Grundy have hit the streets to stir up trouble! Batman is on the trail of the city’s spookiest villains while, further complicating matters, the clown prince of crime himself, The Joker, is ruling over this mysterious crew of misfit criminals. It’s up to the Dark Knight to stop this gruesome gang before they unleash “digital laughter,” a computer virus that’s part of a diabolical plan to jeopardize all of Gotham City’s vital technology. Batman, Green Arrow, Cyborg, Nightwing and Red Robin must combine forces to battle these baddies and save the city.

The stellar voice cast features Roger Craig Smith (Batman: Arkham Origins) as Batman, Troy Baker (Batman: Assault on Arkham) as Joker, Khary Payton (Teen Titans Go!) as Cyborg, Chris Diamantopoulos (Episodes, Silicon Valley) as Green Arrow, Will Friedle (Batman Beyond, Boy Meets World) as Nightwing, Yuri Lowenthal (Ben 10) as Red Robin, Kari Wuhrer (Sharknado 2, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths) as Silver Banshee, Fred Tatasciore (LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham) as Solomon Grundy, Brian T. Delaney (Mad, Halo 3 & 4) as Scarecrow, Dave B. Mitchell (World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor) as Clayface, Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2) as Gogo Shoto, and Alastair Duncan (Mass Effect games, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) reprising his The Batman TV series role as Alfred.

Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem DVD contains the following special features:

  • GOTHAM 2030: Designing a Future World – The artistic team responsible for bringing this future Gotham City to life will take you on an exploration of their creative process, from their earliest concept sketches through the final eye-popping landscapes. Welcome to a Gotham City of tomorrow!
  • Ten shorts from the popular DC Nation collection, including “SHAZAM! Courage,” “SHAZAM! Wisdom,” “SHAZAM! Stamina,” “Green Arrow: Onomotopoeia-Bot,” “Green Arrow: Brick,” “Green Arrow: Cupid,” “Deadman: Deadman Catch,” “Animal Man vs. Captain Cold,” “Animal Man vs. Black Manta” and “Riddler: Riddle Me This!”

LEGO DC Super Heroes – Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom!

LEGO_JL_DOOM_BD_OSLV_3D_1000524019-2DC Comics and LEGO fans can rejoice as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment and The LEGO Group release their next animated feature, LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom! on Blu-rayT Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD on August 25, 2015. The Blu-ray and DVD releases will include an exclusive Trickster LEGO Minifigure, while supplies last.

Crime is on the run as the newly formed Justice League keeps Metropolis safe and this makes evil genius Lex Luthor very unhappy. Together with Black Manta, Sinestro and a gang of ruthless recruits, Lex builds his own league and declares them the Legion of Doom. With this super powered team of terror and a plan to attack the top-secret government site, Area 52, can Lex finally be on the verge of victory? Sound the “Trouble Alert” and get ready for the bricks to fly when Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League face off against the world’s greatest Super-Villains! It’s the next all-new original movie from LEGO and DC Comics.

The cast of LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom!  features some of the top voiceover artists in the industry, led by Justice League heroes Troy Baker (Batman), Nolan North (Superman), Josh Keaton (Green Lantern), Khary Payton (Cyborg), James Arnold Taylor (The Flash) and Grey Griffin (Wonder Woman, Lois Lane). The Legion of Doom includes Mark Hamill (Trickster, Sinestro), John DiMaggio (Lex Luthor, Joker), Kevin Michael Richardson (Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Black Manta), Tom Kenny (Penguin), Cree Summer (Cheetah) and Tony Todd (Darkseid). Dee Bradley Baker is both hero and villain as Martian Manhunter and Man-Bat.

LEGO® DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom! Special Features include:

  • Featurette – “Click, Zap, Boom! Creating the Sound Design” – This fun documentary goes behind the scenes with the talented sound design and foley team to explore how LEGO® sounds are created live on stage and then edited into the final movie.

Check Out the Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad castCheck out the first glimpse of Margot Robbie‘s Harley Quinn, Will Smith‘s Deadshot, Karen Fukuhara‘s Katana (there’s a surprise development!), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje‘s Killer Croc, Jai Courtney‘s Captain Boomerang, Joel Kinnaman‘s Rick Flagg and a few more folks.

Here’s also a look at Will Smith as Deadshot.

Deadshot

Suicide Squad releases on August 5, 2016.

Movie Review: Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts

batman-unlimited-logoSynopsis – Batman, with the help of the Flash, Green Arrow, Nightwing, and Red Robin, has to try to get to the bottom of the mysterious robotic animals attacking Gotham.

My Take – Just when you thought Batman was getting a bit too grim for kids, DC has come out with a much more family friendly version reminding you at time the 70s Super friends animated show. Luckily for us, the film strikes that perfect balance between being kid friendly yet still accessible & enjoyable to adults. It’s a sign of relieve as recent animated films from DC were so extra violent (which I don’t mind most of the times) that this toned down version still retains the fun element. DC has become increasingly more successful at gearing their content towards adults. Whether it is the gritty world of live action The Dark Knight or the even grittier CW show Arrow, it has all been for the grown ups. We ask though, what about the children? We forget that our favorite heroes are essentially adults wearing tights who admittedly don’t always have to be so dark. We were all kids at some point and were enamored with these fictional characters at one point or another. The ensemble cast chosen for this film can be considered to be a strange pairing.

BatmanUnlimited02For the good guys, you got Batman, Red Robin, Night Wing, Flash, and Green Arrow–who, we’d like to point out, is now referred to as Arrow. Two of those characters aren’t exactly straight from the streets of Gotham. It seems that DC is trying to bring these heroes together in different yet interesting ways, maybe even attempting to match Marvel’s ability to mix it up with no one batting an eye. Another pretty obvious reason to include Flash and Arrow is they both have popular television shows currently airing. Add Batman to the mix and you have DC’s most popular characters at the moment. If there is one thing that the shows have made apparent, it is that crossing into each others worlds is possible and will be occurring more often. It also makes sense that Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen would be at the same social gatherings since we all know they are both DC’s resident rich guys. The story is pretty simple, not great; it gives everyone something to do but don’t expect any sort of epic – when Gotham is plagued by mysterious crimes committed by an animal-themed villain squad composed of Silverback, Cheetah, Killer Croc and Man-Bat. Batman and other heroes including, Red Robin, Nightwing, Green Arrow and The Flash must band together to stop The Penguin from unveiling his evil plans. Like most of these animated films, the story is very much self-contained. The story plays out like a mystery that is simple enough for kids but at the same time still complicated enough that you won’t know the end game until, well the end. Each villain here is a good foil for our heroes, offering enough of a push back to be considered threats and having a cybernetic animal army is most certainly helpful. Backtracking to the kid-friendly and adult-enjoyable, it has plenty of laughs in there as well. It focuses on things that should be funny for all fans of these characters. Topped off by the running joke that Nightwing isn’t too fond of the Flash’s shenanigans.

Batman-Unlimited-Animal-Instincts940x400It is very smart in that way, if the Flash and Nightwing actually met, it realistically shows how the duo would react to each other. They are both roughly the same age in the film but are polar opposites in terms of personality. These small interactions between the cast stay true to the characters, thus creating a fun romp that doesn’t feel forced. There is also a lot of action, with very little violence. Now, that is something hard to accomplish, but necessary when trying to create a family friendly Batman film. Each one of our heroes has a specialty that is used in some way like Flash’s speed or Arrow’s archery skills to complete the task at hand. As he himself will let you know, Batman is Batman, so he is a bad ass, which is really nothing new. We older fans have been spoiled by getting so much content constantly geared toward us, with most of the DC animated films being more mature and serious in nature, so I’m happy to see content being created that embraces the fact there are fans of all ages who deserve content they can watch. These characters are versatile enough for lots of different unique approaches that respect them and provide great storytelling while appealing to different sorts of fans and sensibilities — and if you think Batman just can’t be done exceptionally well in a family friendly way and with more sense of humor, then I suggest you take a gander at Batman: The Brave and the Bold and even the old 1960s live-action TV show. On the whole, ‘Batman Unlimited:  Animal Instincts’ is fun-filled watch which aims to excite the child inside you yet respecting your adult age! Another flag of success for DC animated films.

Overall Rating: 8.2

Director – Butch Lukic
Starring (voices of) – Chris Diamantopoulos, Roger Craig Smith, Travis Willingham
Rated – PG
Run Time – 87 minutes

Batman: Arkham Knight’s “All Who Follow You” Trailer

Coming June 23, 2015, Batman: Arkham Knight is the epic conclusion to the Rocksteady Batman: Arkham Trilogy.

For the first time ever, watch Batman: Arkham Knight’s exciting new “Dual Play” mechanic in action as you switch seamlessly between The Dark Knight and his allies including Robin, Nightwing, and Catwoman in free-flow combat.

With his back against the wall, Batman turns to his closest allies to help him save Gotham City from the clutches of Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight’s army. A familiar face also returns to give The Dark Knight a message he cannot ignore…

DC Comics and Warner Bros. Launch DC Super Hero Girls

DC Super Hero GirlsDC Comics has said for a while they were working on diversifying their line, the beginning of which we saw with the comics that will launch post Convergence. Now, along with Warner Bros., DC has announced a new universe called DC Super Hero Girls that will help “build character and confidence, and empowers girls to discover their true potential.”

The release will be across platforms including digital content, television specials, made-for videos, publishing, toys, apparel and more. The partnerships include Random House Children’s Books, Mattel, and Lego (OMG I want Legos of this!).

The new line is focused on girls age 6-12 and focuses on female superheroes and super villains from the DC Comics universe during their “formative years.” Featuring a completely new artistic style and aesthetic, the line includes teenage versions of DC Comics’ icons such as Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Bumble Bee, Poison Ivy, Katana and many more.

The initial launch will happen in the Fall 2015 and include an “immersive digital experience, original digital content and digital publishing.”

Mattel is helping work on the narrative creation, interactive digital components, and eventually a toy line will launch in 2016. This will include an action figure line, an area usually thought of for boys, and fashion dolls.

Random House will be creating books that help bring the world to life and the first will launch in Spring 2016. There will also be graphic novels from DC Comics.

Finally, Lego will be launching building sets based in this world (seriously can’t wait!).

Congrats to DC and Warner Bros. on this impressive initiative and launch and look forward to see what’s to come!

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Officially Released

After a pirated copy was released online, Warner Bros. has decided to up the release date of the first teaser trailer for next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Originally it was to debut in theaters on Monday where individuals had to sign up to attend. Director Zack Snyder promises that those that do go will still see something special.

Justice League: Gods & Monsters Coming July 28

1000563530BRDBEAUTY_c81d1a96Witness a divergent reality where the Justice League protects the planet – but answers to no one but themselves. Employing methods of intimidation and fear, this Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman deal brute force in the name of justice. From the creative genius of executive producer Bruce Timm and co-producer Alan Burnett comes an original story where the world’s greatest triumvirate of super heroes has distinctly different origins. Superman was not raised by the Kents in Smallville, the Caped Crusader is not Bruce Wayne, and Wonder Woman is not an Amazon warrior of Themyscira. They are as likely the world’s saviors as Earth’s despotic rulers. When a group of famed scientists experience untimely “accidents,” a government task force follows the trail of clues to the Justice League – but is there a more powerful player operating from the shadows? It’s a high stakes game of intrigue, mystery and action that asks the question: How do you serve justice to those above the law?

With a twist on your favorite Justice League characters, this film is full of thrilling new adventures and jam-packed with a celebrity voice cast which includes Michael C. Hall (Dexter) as Batman, Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order, 24) as Superman, Tamara Taylor (Bones) as Wonder Woman, Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds) as Lois Lane, Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter films, Dig) as Lex Luthor and C. Thomas Howell (E.T., Southland) as Dr. Will Magnus.

Sam Liu (Batman: Year One) directed Justice League: Gods & Monsters from an original story by Bruce Timm (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) and Co-Producer Alan Burnett (The Batman), who also wrote the screenplay. Executive Producers are Sam Register and Bruce Timm. Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan are Co-Executive Producers.

Justice League: Gods & Monsters is out July 28 on video and digitally.

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