I lean forward in my seat, my thumbs lightly graze the buttons my Xbox 360 controller. Fuck you, Slade. I’m gonna beat you this time. My fists, your face; get ready for a beat down! I say to myself. Batman is there facing a difficult and defiant nemesis: Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke. The fight between them is simply maddening. Batman’s (my) strikes against Slade don’t seem do a goddamn thing, and neither can I properly counter him. And just when I think the battle is getting somewhere, I fuck up a QuickTime event, and this sequence is rife with them. It’s my twelfth or twentieth attempt (I lost track after seven, really), but this time, I tell myself again, I’m going to beat him.
The battle begins and I do everything Batman: Arkham Origins had instructed me to do playing as the Batman, himself. And just as I think I might actually be making progress, I fail…again…for the twelfth or twentieth time.
I bolt upright on the couch. “I hate this fucking game,” I whisper to the television. And then I slump down. “I hate… SLADE,” I hiss-whisper-whimper in total defeat.
My husband looks over at me. (In my blinding rage, I had totally forgotten he was in the room.) “You know what time it is?” he says.
I silently and bitterly turn to meet his eyes. Shit. Yeah, I know, my mind resigns.
“It’s time to quit.”
I look down at my white-knuckled hands that are nearly crushing the controller. “Yeah…quit,” is all I say. I forcefully relax and turn off the game.
But the anger…oh how that anger remains.
Though it occurs more often that I’d care to admit, I hate getting angry at games. Wait…let me rephrase that. I…hate…dicking around with reprehensible game mechanics like, in the case of Batman: Arkham Origins, QTEs and hair-trigger counters. This stuff makes me say things like “Batman: Arkham Origins was a FANTASTIC game with a FANTASTIC story, but it might give you problems if you don’t like QuickTime events.”
Me, I don’t like QuickTime events. This hatred goes way back to my Cookie and Cream days in which me and repeated, timed button presses did not get along. At all. Since then, I have played plenty of games that feature QuickTime movements to varying degrees, from the Prince of Persia to Phantom Hourglass to the Uncharted and Batman games. Never have QTEs caused me to all-out hate a game, but they have given me many a reason to dislike portions of otherwise wonderful games.
As it is the subject of this post, let’s take Batman: Arkham Origins. I picked up this game on sale late last year with the intention of completing it sometime before this summer’s release of Batman: Arkham Knight. Though it took place outside of the Rocksteady’s Batman canon (Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and soon, Arkham Knight) and got some mixed reviews, I still wanted to give it a go. I like the Batman universe, I really liked Arkham City, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend a little more time with the Joker, even if he was the same but different. I finished the game last month, happily with my controller intact, along with most of my sanity. In short, I loved the game. Like, seriously. I think I even liked it even more than Arkham City.
Now when I say that,”I loved the game,” my mind immediately heads to three elements: the story, the depiction of Batman, and the setting. Arkham Origins is all about Batman’s beginnings and concurrently about the rise of criminal activity in Gotham and the GCPD’s role in both stopping it and allowing it to fester to some degree. In the game, “the Batman” is a crazy vigilante with unknown goals. Yes, he’s trying to defeat the bad guys, but he’s creating a hell of a lot of chaos for everyone else in doing so. As far the GCPD is concerned, Batman is little more than a big threat. Now I probably read a little but more into Batman’s background than the game set up, but still, I had a blast playing as the conflicted rather than heroic Batman. I questioned Batman’s true motives at several points and got swept up in his sometimes hellacious search for redemption (and revenge).
As far Arkham Origin’s depiction of Gotham went, it seemed more contained than the Gotham of Arkham City, but it felt large. I often found myself heading off towards a checkpoint, only to be distracted by a tunnel or a passage or something that looked explorable. This didn’t always turn out to be the case (lots of “locked” doors Gotham has), but taking the occasional side route sometimes led to a few goodies. The strange downside to this was that Arkham Origin’s Gotham was easy to get lost in. Despite having a number of major landmarks, I often got confused among all its gloomy pathways and dark buildings. (But this may have been due more to my poor sense of direction rather than flaws in game design. I’ll admit that I turned up the brightness on my TV with the game, because at times it really was too damn dark.)
As entertaining as it was to be the Batman swinging around the ominous Gotham City looking for people to save and thugs to battle, the game failed me at the boss battles, all of which involved QTEs. Overall, Arkham Origin’s fighting scheme is the same as in other Batman games. The right-hand action buttons controls your general move set, combos, and counters, while you access all of Batman’s tools, such as smoke bombs and batarangs, using the left-hand directional pad. It’s all fine and dandy in general street battles where you face a group of enemies. In basic story mode, the game clues you to what you need to do using occasional on-screen pop ups, such as telling you to counter or use a combo. In those cases, the pop-ups are more suggestion than direction. But in the boss battles (and there are number of them throughout the game), the pop-ups become absolute directions that you absolutely must follow without question. After being able to improvise in battles with boss lackeys, having to follow QTEs to a perfect tee in fights with the bosses themselves is a difficult transition to make. And that’s putting it lightly. Frankly, there wasn’t one boss battle in Arkham Origins that didn’t make me curse the high heavens. Even once I came to terms with the boss battle QTEs, I still had a hard time succeeding because of the perfect timing they required. Goddamn if Arkham Origins didn’t make me feel my age as I flailed about trying to evade or counter at the exact right moment. And I couldn’t even tell you what the “exact right” moment was for any QTE because sometimes they worked and often they didn’t. Nothing like being shit on for having terrible reflexes during vague moments of “press these buttons NOW! NOW YOU DUMBASS!”
*feels blood pressure rising*
My god, how I HATE goddamnmotherfuckingsonofabitch QTEs!
*takes deep breath*
I’m really looking forward to Batman: Arkham Knight. I’m hoping for a great story, brilliant, graphics, and plenty of action. I’m sure it will contain QTEs, and I’m sure that I will deal with them in my own special way. And I’m sure that if I develop onset Tourette’s while playing, it’ll be totally worth it.