Rocksteady's bleak and dangerous comic world has been given fresh life by its Photo Mode.
All screens captured by the author
The more I play of Batman: Arkham Knight, the more I like it. After completing the game's main storyline, I'm now swooping over the moonlit streets of Gotham City, solving the hundreds of riddles and puzzles left everywhere by a very OCD Riddler. I find myself admiring the exquisite care taken in the construction of this city. As developer Rocksteady's Arkham series universe started in media res, with Bruce Wayne already Batman, the city's details are often world-building in nature: supplying backstory and broadening the Arkham universe by commandeering elements from other depictions of Batman. It makes sense because, after all, by the time we reach Arkham Knight, the purportedly final game in Rocksteady's trilogy (as it stands, at least), Batman is supposed to have been assaulting mentally ill people in Gotham for over a decade. (I actually overheard this factoid while listening in on a conversation between two street thugs, before I landed on one and broke both arms of the other.)
My appreciation for the minutia painstakingly crafted into Arkham Knight has only grown after a Photo Mode was added to the PS4 version through a recent update. I find myself walking around the city, as the Dark Knight and taking pretty photos, including carefully orchestrated selfies, while ignoring the looters trying to break into, say, a pawnshop. Photo Mode allows you to pause the game and move the camera around the frozen figures in the frame, in an effect not unlike those notable sequences in The Matrix. You can also adjust the depth of field and exposure and apply filters a la Instagram—although here the filters bear names such as "Robin," "The Killing Joke," and "Crusader."
There are worlds within worlds to discover in the three islands that make up Gotham City. Here is some of what I found.
The Wayne Enterprises Buildings Reveal the Truth
The Ryker Heights district on Founder's Island is home to many high-rise corporate buildings, including the Wayne International Plaza (not to be confused with Wayne Tower). Despite the fact that Batman loves to creep about in the shadows about as much as a puppy loves to roll in a pile of freshly raked leaves, his penchant for theatricality actually leaves him, ultimately, severely lacking in subtlety. And so, before the main entrance of the Wayne International Plaza, Bruce Wayne has erected a statue of a nude girl with batwings.
Even more tellingly, at the other big Wayne Enterprises building, Wayne Tower over on Miagani Island, the Wayne Enterprises logo glowing against the sides of the adjacent balconies, actually forms a bat symbol.
The American Indian Heritage of Miagani Island
As the Riddler puts it as he taunts you: "There are still riddles to be solved on Miagani Island, Batman, which is named for the tribe who lived in Gotham in pre-colonial times. They worshipped bats, you know. Idiots."
This is why the Miagani Botanical Gardens makes use of a bat motif.
This Miagani Tribe's influence can be felt elsewhere in Gotham, such as through the faces with Native American features carved into several buildings throughout Gotham, including on the facade of the GCPD building.
The Miagani mythology includes a devil bat called Barbatos, who has evidently been incorporated into Gotham architecture as a gargoyle.
In perhaps a bit of commentary on the part of the game's creators, Bruce Wayne's office, standing dominant over Miagani Island which, again, is named after the fictional native tribe that use to live there, features a prominent painting of what appears to be Columbus landing in the New World. Here Batman wears the "New 52" suit, which up until very recently was the contemporary suit depicted in the comics.
Chinatown and Japanese Batmen
One of the most spectacular looking neighborhoods is Chinatown, on Bleake Island, which includes Osamu Tower. This is another building owned by a superhero, and named after The Batman of Japan, Jiro Osamu. For a brief period in the comics, Batman had been trying to start "Batman Incorporated," franchising out the Batman persona to qualified candidates in other countries. The Batman of Japan's secret identity, Jiro Osamu, is an amalgam of the real-life manga creators Osamu Tezuka and Jiro Kuwata. Kuwata wrote and drew a Batman manga series in Japan in the 1960s. The Japanese Kanji on Osamu Tower simply reads "tower."
While we're on Japan, it's worth mentioning that Arkham Knight also includes access to the free "Anime Batman" costume, which is based on one segment of the compilation film Gotham Knight. The film is made up of visuals by a variety of Japanese animators who each put their own spin on the batsuit. The Anime Batman costume includes a neck shield and a slightly different arrangement of the bat ears.
The Anime Batman's cape has a different cut, which can be seen while gliding.
Arkham Knight's opening sequence places you in Pauli's Diner, likely a pun on Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini, who co-created Harley Quinn.
Everything you look at here foreshadows events to come, from the newspapers, the conversations taking place at each table, the ads pinned to the walls, and the music that comes on the jukebox if you wait around long enough. Even the Halloween display has a scarecrow (the namesake of one of the game's main villains) and bats.
If you listen in to the conversation held at one of the tables, you'll hear the backstory of Christina Bell, who went insane after a miscarriage and a blood transfusion, and killed a bunch of men in a boardroom with a knife: "The best part of breaking the glass ceiling," Christina Bell is quoted as saying by the woman sitting at the table, "is playing with the shards."
The detailing goes down even to the text in the menus, which feature full descriptions of the food on offer.
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Batman's Gotham Bases
The Shakespeare busts that Batman uses to conceal or reveal the true nature of his clock tower and Wayne Tower bases are based on the bust Batman used to reveal the entrance to the Batcave in the 1960s TV series.
In the picture above, Batman uses one of the busts while wearing the "Batman of Zur-En-Arrh" costume, another freebie made available the same day as the Photo Mode.
The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh originally appeared in 1958. He's a Batman of a different planet, inspired by observing the earth Batman. In modern comics, he's an alternate, more brash personality hidden within Batman's psyche.
Oracle was Batgirl before being paralyzed by the Joker. In Oracle's clock tower HQ, there is a bookcase with a miniature version of the nude batwinged girl from the front of Wayne International Plaza standing on it. If Batman uses the Remote Hacking Device, the bookcase opens up to reveal a secret closet with Batgirl's costume.
Batman also has a base at the abandoned Panessa Studios with a variety of film sets. It looks like the director died making the western because there is a skeleton in the director's chair on top of the fake jail.
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Pretty Dolls Parlor
No spoilers, but the Pretty Dolls Parlor in Ryker Heights, may or may not be a front for a supervillain, with whom Batman may or may not have to engage in hand-to-hand combat in a torture chamber in the basement with very lovely lighting.
In a massive crossover event called Flashpoint, in which the timeline of the DC Universe was altered, young Bruce Wayne was killed by a mugger in Crime Alley rather than his parents. As a result his father, Thomas Wayne, became a very lethal, two-gunned incarnation of the Batman. Bruce's mother, Martha, driven insane by the death of her child, became the Joker. The red-eyed, Thomas Wayne version of the Batman suit is available as an alternate skin.
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