Gotham Knights, the video game that ends with Batman | Games

An the Warner Bros Games studio in Montreal, a 7-foot statue of Batman greets visitors in the lobby. Comics are crammed into every shelf between every desk. And instead of images of lattes and flat whites, the coffee machine proudly displays the bat symbol.

So you might be surprised to learn that the people who work here have actually killed Batman.

For the team behind the new Gotham Knights video game, his murder was the answer to a big question: how do you do something new with a character that has been putting the Joker in jail for 83 years? If you’re thinking that Batman is dead, you’re right. Literally, in this case.

“Yeah, he’s dead,” says creative director Patrick Redding, breaking the news to me at the crime scene. “Like, dead, dead,” he adds.

In this new cooperative game, the cause of Batman’s death is a mystery to unravel. Instead, instead of a Dark Knight, we have a team of four: Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood, and Robin, who must present themselves as Gotham’s new guard to protect the city from petty crime, organized mobs, and supervillains. . You can control and switch between all four as you wish, venturing into the five open-world districts on your Batcycle or swinging through the city with the grappling hook to take on missions. By night you fight crime and collect clues, by day you level up and customize characters in your bell tower headquarters.

The most recent Batman video game, the Arkham series, in which players take control of the caped crusader, enjoyed huge worldwide success, selling over 30 million copies and garnering massive critical acclaim. It’s natural to compare the two, particularly since those games were partially developed by the same studio, but Gotham Knights feels significantly different. You can still play everything alone, switching between characters, but you can also play with friends online.

“Sometimes you tackle a problem, you realize the solution is to remove an important piece and it completely changes the script,” says Redding, of the team’s Joker-like decision to take down the Dark Knight. “Gotham City is still Gotham City, but now there is no Batman who controls it. So what happens? Who fills that void? As soon as you start asking that question, it opens doors.”

Surprisingly, they met little resistance from DC Comics. “No one wants you to kill Batman,” says Fleur Marty, the game’s executive producer, “but they were surprisingly open to the idea.”

Of course, finding a new way to interpret classic characters is nothing new, particularly in the world of comics. One of the most prolific comic book writers, Mark Millar is someone who has tackled it countless times before, and has learned exactly how to bring to life characters entering their ninth decade, like the man who revamped Marvel franchises 20 years ago. years. He’s now a senior studio executive at Netflix, having sold his company Millarworld (which published Kick-Ass and Wanted, among many others) to the giant in 2017. His books were the main inspiration for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from The Avengers to Logan. In his opinion, taking out the world’s most beloved heroes is not only permissible, but cool.

Without Batman to keep him in check… Gotham City. Photograph: WB Games

“Killing off beloved characters is wonderful. Killing the ones you don’t care about is the death of drama,” she says. “Game of Thrones is the perfect example of this. There’s an old editorial edict at Marvel that says we shouldn’t kill off characters because they’re all somebody’s favourites. I couldn’t disagree more. Imagine the Red Wedding where they just had a lovely dinner and went to bed.”

Without Bruce Wayne taking on the bad guys, it’s other DC heroes, the villains and Gotham City itself, a dynamic and interactive city full of citizens, that keep the Knights of Gotham situated in the Batman universe you’d recognize. That’s especially true of the bad guys: a particular highlight is Harley Quinn, who, though she’s not fully reformed, is revealed to have been working with Batman before her disappearance. I follow her mission through the prison, fighting criminals, stealthily taking out guards and looking for clues. It’s appropriately wacky, with a final jailyard fight set to a pop punk version of Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca. It would be like being at home in a Suicide Squad movie.

The team cites the 2012 Court of Owls Batman comic as a specific inspiration for this plot. That series tells the story of Gotham’s secret society and criminal organization, with themes of lineage and family also being explored in this game’s narrative, with its found family of four heroes.

Harley Quinn in Gotham Knights.
A particular highlight…Harley Quinn. Photograph: WB Games

Different creators apply their own treatments to iconic characters all the time, whether in print or on PlayStation. It’s part of the grammar of graphic novels. “You could think of us as another standalone standalone story in that universe of stories,” says Marty.

“We’ve been fortunate to live in a time where comic book characters and concepts have really reached every corner of the mass market. The consumer’s comfort level with the idea of ​​different versions and characters has never been higher – we live in a world where everyone saw Into the Spider-Verse, so they’re not even opposed to that anymore,” adds Redding.

But is there really no chance that Batman has somehow cheated death? Or, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that his friends will bring him back?

“No one believes him, but he’s dead,” says Marty definitively. Oh ok. I guess 83 years is not a losing streak.

Gotham Knights launches on October 21 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

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