For most of the character’s existence, Batman has abided by two self-assigned rules: Don’t use guns, and don’t kill folks. But video game developers also follow an important rule, which is that each sequel must be darker and grittier than the game that came before it. (Sequels that fail to observe this practice are called “reboots.”)
All these rules collide in a new trailer for Batman: Arkham Knight, which consists of footage from an “Ace Chemicals Infiltration” mission in Rocksteady’s latest Arkham game. In response to fan complaints that Batman’s penis didn’t seem big enough in earlier games, the developers at Rocksteady have given the hero new, even more violent combat moves, plus a Batmobile that basically turns into a tank—and sleeps two!
With these new toys at his disposal, Batman plays a little fast and loose with his personal rules. During the infiltration, for instance, he appears to kill a guy. Because come on, that thug isn’t going to just get up and walk away after a musclebound freak slams his face into the world’s most hazardous fuse box. We also see Batman shooting guns. Okay, the guns are mounted on the car, and I gather that the tanks he shoots are unmanned, as earlier glimpses of the game included dialogue to explain away this gunfire sequence.
But those thin narrative justifications get at the true inanity of this trailer. Why would you write around the limitations of Batman for the sake of generic let’s-shoot-some-stuff video game pablum? I don’t mean to pretend that The Rules Of Batman are sacred directives. Batman is a good character, though, and not only are his self-imposed limits an essential part of his being, they’re also not terribly restrictive for a storyteller. I mean, if you’re Rocksteady, you have at your disposal a fictional universe where criminals and crimefighters dress up in crazy costumes to execute (or thwart) outlandish schemes in a practically lawless city. One of the very few rules of the world is that the guy in the cape doesn’t use firearms. Almost any idea will work in this setting, just no guns for Batman. Yet we still end up at “Batman: Arkham Knight—now with MORE GUNS!” It’s a disease.