TIME Video Games

Watch the First Trailer for the New Minecraft: Story Mode

The adventure game's all-star cast reunites two former Goonies, among others

When Minecraft developer Mojang weirdly joined hands with Telltale Games to metamorphose the sandbox blockbuster into a choose-your-own-adventure in December 2014, I wasn’t sure what to think. Okay, I suppose “Is nothing sacred?” probably went through my head once or twice. Minecraft is about our stories after all, the ones we make up as we play. Foisting a narrative structure on a sprawling toy box makes as much sense as putting Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgård on a Navy boat fighting aliens and calling it Battleship.

That’s if you’re a cynic, anyway. Better things can and do happen — like The Lego Movie, or most of Telltales Games’ oeuvre to date, notably its takes on The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Back to the Future.

So here’s our first trailer for Minecraft: Story Mode, unveiled this weekend at Minecon in London. Make of it what you will; the voice list’s pretty A-caliber. That’s Patton Oswalt playing Jesse, the game’s de facto blockhead savior, joined by Ashley Johnson (Ellie in The Last of Us). The game also stars Corey Feldman, Dave Fennoy, Martha Plimpton, Scott Porter, Brian Posehn, Paul Reubens and Billy West.

The choice-driven Minecraft yarn will unfurl over five episodes and includes locations familiar to Minecraft buffs, like the Nether, Farlands and the End. The first episode should be out later this year for PC and Mac, current and last-gen consoles (excluding Nintendo), iOS and Android.

TIME Video Games

The Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Replica Won’t Work With These Phones

Bethesda

Anything over 6 inches is a no-go

The Fallout 4 limited edition, honking big, bona fide replica Pip-Boy won’t work with the iPhone 6 Plus, in case you’re rocking Apple’s 6.22-by-3.06-inch phablet.

Mind you, Fallout developer Bethesda’s $120 not-so-smartwatch, modeled after the gigantic arm-computer players wear in the series, still looks like something a Ghostbuster might strap on — the antithesis of fashion feng shui, but kind of cool anyway. It’s for diehard fans of the upcoming post-apocalyptic free-for-all, which is to say, probably not you.

But even if you are secretly jonesing to cosplay one of the game’s survivors, you’ll need a phone smaller than 6 inches to get the thing to actually do something recognizably Pip-Boy-like via Bethesda’s companion iOS and Android app. The list of compatible smartphones includes all models of the iPhone from 4 until the iPhone 6. You can apparently insert foam to jury-rig a snug fit for other devices, but the top-end size to jam a phone into the Pip-Boy’s frame is 6 inches. That, among others, means no to the Huawei Ascend Mate 7, no to the Nokia Lumia 1520, and definitely no to Sony’s monstrous Xperia Z Ultra.

The Pip-Boy is essentially a green-screen gauntlet, an old-school IBM mainframe screen you clap to your arm. In the game, it’s the interface to all the fiddly roleplaying minutia like characters stats and inventory. It’s also a pretty slick portable radio, say you want to listen to the Ink Spots croon something ironic as you probe the game’s post-nuclear mutant-scape. The limited edition replica version is mostly fan service most likely to grace display shelving. But if you really want your second screen experience served on your forearm (and you managed to snag one of the things before they sold out), bear in mind it’s not phablet-friendly.

TIME Video Games

Watch What Happens When Mario’s Creator Meets the Muppets

Take a peek behind The Jim Henson Company's studio doors with Nintendo video games luminary Shigeru Miyamoto.

Did you catch Nintendo’s zany puppet-filled E3 showcase? Were you left wondering whether those were just slick Nintendo-fashioned Muppet knockoffs or the real thing?

The video above lays the question to rest. In it, Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto confabs with The Jim Henson Company chairman and Muppets maven Brian Henson, and tours the company’s historic Charlie Chaplin Studios headquarters. (Yep, that’s Mr. Miyamoto grabbing a shot of Kermit with his smartphone.)

That’s also pioneering Zelda and Mario collaborator Takashi Tezuka as well as Nintendo Senior Product Marketing Manager Bill Trinen accompanying Mr. Miyamoto on the tour. It sounds like Nintendo reached out to The Henson Company when it was pulling its idea for the E3 video together. The Henson Company then built the puppet likenesses of Nintendo’s executive team (including Mr. Miyamoto) as well as their elaborate Star Fox analogues. And Nintendo asked Brian Henson himself to sit in ther director’s chair:

Also of interest, it seems The Henson Company gave Mr. Miyamoto a rare award back in 2008 (they’ve only handed out 15 total) for, as Mr. Miyamoto describes it speaking to Brian Henson, “all the games [he] made for children and helping them to dream different dreams.”

“We gave them out to who we thought were the most imaginative people in the world,” says Henson.

“Even now I have it in the center of my room,” says Mr. Miyamoto.

TIME Video Games

Don’t Expect Batman: Arkham Knight To Work Well on PC Any Time Soon

The game was yanked from store shelves last week, and won't return until sometime this fall

Don’t expect the crippled PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight to run as smoothly as its console brethren for some time.

Game publisher Warner Bros. released the first of presumably several patches to come over the weekend, addressing several crucial issues. But the game’s community manager admits the work ahead is “significant,” writing:

[Developer] Rocksteady is leading our team of developers and partners as we work on the PC performance issues that players have been encountering. The work is significant and while we are making good progress on improving performance, it will take some time to ensure that we get the right fixes in place.

The PC version of Rocksteady’s sprawling Arkham finale arrived in tandem with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions last week. But while the game works near flawlessly on both consoles, it was so catastrophically broken on the PC that Warner Bros. yanked the game from online and retail shelves altogether—an all but unheard of move in the triple-A gaming space.

Read more: 5 Things I Absolutely Love in Batman: Arkham Knight

The game remains unavailable for purchase on digital download service Steam, with a message stating that “Batman: Arkham Knight will be available on SteamOS, Linux and Mac in Fall 2015.” For all those who managed to buy a copy before sales were suspended (and thus still able to play the game), the first patch rectifies a design oversight that prevented players from upping a frame rate cap, fixes various bugs and crashes, and smooths out performance-related issues. You can read the complete fix list here.

The community spokesperson adds that Rocksteady will “continue to make interim patches available to address issues for those still playing the game on PC.”

TIME Video Games

Why Destiny Players Are So Mad About Red Bull

Bungie

Bottoms up, Guardian

Remember that old Red Bull slogan “Red Bull gives you wings”? Well now Red Bull gives you an exclusive quest in Activision’s Destiny, too.

The kicker: you have to buy specially detailed cans of the $2 to $3 popular caffeine, taurine, B-group vitamins and alpine spring water concoction. (You don’t have to drink it, of course.)

The quest, according to Red Bull’s marketing site, is “a never-before-seen, multi-stage mission in The Taken King that will test the speed and strategic abilities of Destiny players in new ways.” The Taken King is developer Bungie’s third expansion for the game, unveiled earlier this month at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles and due out September 15.

The cans will also include bonus XP (experience points) to “help players prepare for the epic quest,” says Red Bull, adding that the marketing push “leverage themes of speed, tenacity and strategy inspired by the energy drink.” Let’s think about the subtext for a moment: buying an energy drink makes you a better killing machine with the athletic output of a person in a chair pushing buttons. The medium is the message!

The bonus XP, which basically ups your XP grabs for a limited period of time, can be redeemed and used from July 1. The new quest itself should be available on or around The Taken King‘s release date.

Destiny, developed by an iconic studio (Marathon and Halo‘s creators) and mega-hyped by one of the largest game publishers in the world, started out as a slightly better than average shooter last fall. It has since, inch by grinding inch, developed into a pretty good one. It’s also sold a bazillion copies, with substantially more registered users (in the vicinity of 16 million) than World of Warcraft when we were at peak World of Warcraft (about 12 million). The Taken King is thus poised to be a major event by forces of numbers alone.

The trouble is, one of Destiny’s weaknesses is that it’s partly a game about doing the same thing over and over. Singular content is thus paramount. Maybe the new Red Bull mission turns out to be tedious rehash. Or maybe it’s totally fantastic. No one knows. But if it’s the latter, I suspect you’re going to have some pretty peeved players.

Is this the future DLC-ification of “leveraged” non-gaming IP? Is the future of nickel-and-dime gaming additives the subsidization of not-universally-beloved corporate mega-brands throughout the food, automotive, banking and big box retail industries?

To be fair, given Red Bull’s move into eSports in recent years — specifically its Red Bull Battlegrounds competition — the deal seems less out of left field than slightly irritating. In the world of inexplicable corporate gaming team-ups, this one has at least that connection to fall back on. And if you’d rather sidestep the Red Bull deal entirely, it sounds like the quest may be available after an exclusivity period that’ll run from September 18 to December 31.

TIME Video Games

Movie Theaters Are Turning Into Video Game Arcades to Make More Money

Full frame of movie audience wearing special 3D gl
J. R. Eyerman—The LIFE Picture Collection/Gett ull frame of movie audience wearing special 3D glasses to view film Bwana Devil which was shot with new natural vision 3 dimensional technology.

Imagine playing games with a few dozen of your closest friends

A few years ago, an old-school video games arcade called Rusty Quarters in Minneapolis closed its doors for good. I knew about it through a local close friend, who’d regale me with tales of the place’s retro pleasures: Centipede, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Jr., Joust, Ms. Pac-Man — “Our childhood,” as one of the owners put it in a 2013 Indiegogo pitch to keep the biz afloat.

I never got a chance to visit Rusty Quarters before it shuttered, and I’ve long recognized that the days of plunking quarter (or tokens) into imposing cabinets housing tube screens with vector graphics and devoted system boards are mostly well behind us. But the L.A. Times has an interesting piece up Wednesday about a theater-related gaming push that could fulfill a related longterm (and as yet unfulfilled) dream I’ve nurtured for decades.

Imagine playing Minecraft on a movie screen. And not just you playing by yourself in a dim lit theater, but you alongside dozens of other players, collaborating in realtime by way of laptops operated from the comfort of cozy theater seats.

Despite the annual record-breaking revenue figures you hear trotted out when blockbusters like The Avengers 2 or Guardians of the Galaxy arrive, movie theater attendance has plummeted over the past decade, reports the Times. That’s partially why ticket and concession prices are going up. What else to do with all those warehouses of multistory screened cinematic entertainment, then? Supplement with video games, of course.

The Times reports that some theaters are turning to video games, among other non-movie events, to get more people in the building. On the gaming front, think League of Legends, a popular online real-time strategy game (and mega-popular e-sports entry) in which teams attempt to destroy each others’ bases and champions by deftly plying elaborate offensive and defensive tactics.

My dream was always to play a game like Super Mario 64 on a screen the size of a small building, but therein lies a paradox: some of the most amazing single-player experiences would by definition be too indulgent to justify, contradicting the financial imperative to fill up the house. But multiplayer experiences like Minecraft, or League of Legends? It sounds like the sky’s the limit, and if the concept fires the imagination of gamers attracted by the more immediately social, face-to-face, event-style experience of “theatergaming,” maybe even coming soon to a theater near you.

TIME Video Games

3 Tips to Actually Enjoy Batman: Arkham Knight on PC

They're pretty basic, and won't provide the comprehensive relief PC players deserve, but they're all we've got until publisher Warner Bros. fixes its mess

Having trouble getting the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight running optimally? You don’t say.

For reasons unclear to all save actual PC owners, sadly accustomed to studios releasing unfinished versions of games that work just fine on consoles, the PC version of Arkham Knight has all sorts of problems. Low-res textures, sluggish frame rates, and a cache-related glitch Kotaku claims can prompt the game to delete itself.

To Rocksteady’s credit, the studio’s Arkham community manager has acknowledged complaints are coming from enough people to warrant the following PC support forum disclaimer:

We’re aware that some users are reporting performance issues with the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight. This is something that Rocksteady takes very seriously. We are working closely with our external PC development partner to make sure these issues get resolved as quickly as possible.

Note the part about an “external PC development partner.” Translation: Warner Bros. outsourced the PC port. There’s nothing wrong with that in principle, but in this case the disparity between platforms looms large: I can confirm that the PlayStation 4 version, which I’ve had for a while now (reviewed here), was blemish-free from start to finish, and I’m seeing the same reports from Xbox One owners.

If you’re stuck playing the PC version, the following fixes may mitigate some of the issues until Rocksteady (and that “external PC development partner”) gets a patch or three out to rectify the situation.

Update your graphics card drivers

Self-evident, but worth a double-check in case you hadn’t seen that both AMD and Nvidia released updated Arkham Knight-optimized drivers on Monday, June 22. Players have reportedly been experiencing performance issues on both GPU manufacturers’ hardware.

Tweak a simple game file to unlock the frame rate

For some reason, Arkham Knight for PC shipped locked at 30 frames per second. I prefer 30 fps for my own reasons (don’t bother arguing!). But options are our friends, so here’s how to unshackle the frame rate:

Locate the game configuration folder (C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Batman Arkham Knight\BmGame\Config\), then open the following file in a text editor:

BmSystemSettings.ini

Scan for the line “MaxFPS=30″ then change “30” to whatever you’d like the frame rate cap to be.

Ix-nay the intro movies

The intro movie plays every time you launch the game, whether you button-mash or no. To fix this and get the game’s menu screen to load promptly after you’ve watched the intro, navigate to the game’s movie folder (C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Batman Arkham Knight\BMGame\Movies) and locate the following files:

Intro_BM3Logo_fire.usm
nv_logo.usm

Slap new extensions on the end (after .USM), say something like .BAK, so you can easily find and restore everything if you change your mind down the road.

TIME Video Games

The Best Part of Sony’s New 1TB PlayStation 4 Isn’t the Hard Drive

The new PlayStation 4s include notable under the hood (as well as on-the-hood) changes

Answering Microsoft’s recently unveiled 1TB Xbox One with a refresh of its own, Sony has announced a new 1TB “Ultimate Player Edition” PlayStation 4, as well as revised 500GB model.

But the best part about the new PlayStation systems isn’t the extra storage space.

Unlike Microsoft’s Alcatraz-like Xbox 360 and One game systems, both Sony’s PlayStation 3 and 4 game consoles have been user upgradeable from the start, allowing owners to pop in new off-the-shelf hard drives at leisure. Thus if you already own a PlayStation 4, there’s no storage-related reason to buy a completely new console when you can just grab a much less expensive hard drive, then follow Sony’s own official installation instructions.

But the real reason to take note of the new models is that they’ll also be roughly one-tenth lighter and consume slightly less power than the original 500GB PlayStation 4. That, and if you find the current model’s fingerprint-magnetic glossy hard drive cover irritating, the new models—available in either “glacier white” or “jet black”—will come with a “grainy” matte finish across their entire exterior.

No word on prices yet, but Sony PlayStation Europe says the new 1TB model will be available on July 15 in Europe. Sony Japan says that the new 500GB models will be available in Japan by the end of this month, followed in sequence (though without specific timetables) by the rest of the world.

TIME e3 2015

These Are the 10 Most Promising Games of E3 2015

Check out our picks for the most intriguing game shown at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo

They’re not the most popular games of this year’s show. Neither Doom nor Fallout 4 are on this list, nor game franchise all-stars like Star Wars: Battlefront, Just Cause 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 or Uncharted 4. You can read about that stuff anywhere.

Here’s a look at the games you maybe didn’t see (or see as much of), a.k.a. the ones I’m at least as excited about as any of those others.

  • Beyond Eyes

    Imagine a game that let you guide a 10-year-old girl, who at some point lost her ability to see, through an amorphous, painterly world, a world that forms or dissolves in response to aural cues or interference. Beyond Eyes appears to be an attempt to craft an adventure that may, if successful, in some small but meaningful way manage to convey some of both the travails and epiphanies of experiencing the world absent visible light.

    PC, Mac, Xbox One

    TBD 2015

  • Cuphead

    Cuphead looks like Betty Boop meets a shoot ’em up meets miracle. Over the course of the game, its teacup-noggin protagonists do battle with giant paranormal carrots, boxing frogs, angry birds, queen bees, gambling contraptions and not-so-little mermaids, all staged and immaculately animated in the most astonishing hand drawn and inked, cel-based, and watercolor-painted backdrops in the history of video gaming.

    PC, Xbox One

    TBD 2016

  • Dishonored 2

    This long anticipated sequel to one of the better post-Thief sneakers transpires in a coastal city where you’ll hunt new adversaries, optionally playing as Dishonored‘s original (male) protagonist, or a new one (female) with her own abilities and retro-futura gadgets. Crucially, as in the original, you can experience the entire game, if you so choose, without killing a soul.

    PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

    TBD 2016

  • Firewatch

    Firewatch, “a mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness,” lets you play a volunteer fire lookout officer circa the Yellowstone fires of 1988, “your only emotional lifeline” ongoing chats with an unseen supervisor by handheld radio. It’s anyone’s guess where that goes (Twin Peaks or Always?). But it’s the game’s striking look that’s been grabbing attention: vast, clear-lined, color-saturated backcountry, styled after 1930s National Park Service posters.

    PC, Mac, PlayStation 4

    TBD 2015

  • Horizon Zero Dawn

    Guerrilla Games (the Killzone series) is apparently making a post-post-apocalyptic action-adventure titled Horizon Zero Dawn, which with its cast of robo-dinosaurs and low-tech, archery-adept heroine had me thinking Transformers: Beast Wars meets Vikings.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2016

  • The Last Guardian

    The Last Guardian still exists, thank goodness, and stars a boy (controlled by you) and his giant sphinx-like companion, who both wend their way through vast, precipitous, architectonically elegant backdrops. As in Shadow of the Colossus (by the same director), you can cling to all aspects of your animal companion, clambering around its feathered bulk and guiding it between platforms to help buddy-solve environment-based puzzles.

    PlayStation 4

    TBD 2016

  • Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

    Finally, a Mirror’s Edge sequel…or technically prequel, since it transpires prior to the original game’s events and focuses on the futuristic message-sneaking protagonist’s backstory. The biggest change: instead of executing flawless first-person parkour maneuvers along linear rooftop routes, you’re handed access to a fully traversable, open-world version of the last game’s gorgeous but mostly off-limits alabaster metropolis.

    PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

    February 23

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider

    Microsoft demonstrated a terrifying gameplay slice from this sequel to the 2013 franchise reboot during its E3 showcase. Yes, there’s no way anyone in human history could pull off those kinds of moves, but we’ll doubtless have fun pretending when the game ships this fall—so long, crucially, as developer Crystal Dynamics managed to carry along (and further develop) all of the character-building virtues that consistently elevated the last installment.

    Xbox One, Xbox 360

    November 10

  • Super Mario Maker

    Want to build your own side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. levels? Skin those levels to look like different Mario games, ranging in visual style from the NES’s 8-bit glory days to the Wii U’s slick, 3D, high definition New Super Mario Bros. U? Do all that from the comfort and convenience of the Wii U GamePad? The only catch: you have to first beat your own level at least once, before Nintendo will let you share your level with others online.

    Wii U

    September 11

  • Unravel

    It’s cute, and yes, too much in gaming gets by on “cute” these days, but Unravel–about a yarn-creature platforming through the world using string from its body to solve physics-related puzzles–looks like more than just a riff on Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Think LittleBigPlanet meets cat’s cradle (the string game) meets silk-spinning, and I think we’re close.

    PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

    TBD

    Read next: This Nintendo Fan Took 800 Hours to Crochet a Giant Replica Super Mario Blanket

    Download TIME’s mobile app for iOS to have your world explained wherever you go

TIME Video Games

5 Things I Absolutely Love in Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman must once more save Gotham from a who's who medley of his worst enemies—including a mysterious new villain dubbed the Arkham Knight

Confession: I don’t like superheroes. Watchmen author Alan Moore once suggested their existence in American culture “might have something to do with a kind of an ingrained American reluctance to engage in confrontation without massive tactical superiority.” Nonetheless, superheroes are now pretty much ubiquitous in our entertainment, and I submit that at some point we’re going to have to grapple with some of the less pleasant particulars of why that’s the case.

But it’s also testament to how well the Arkham games work that the idea of playing a protagonist as sadistic, pretentious, and at times borderline sociopathic as Batman doesn’t really factor when the game plays this well (and if you are a Batman fan, all the better for you). Arkham Knight, which sees Batman square off against old enemies and one new (the eponymous and identity-unknown Arkham Knight) in a vast open-world playground, is developer Rocksteady at the top of its game, expressing a masterful, anted-up understanding of how and why its series finally broke gaming’s “awful superhero tie-in” curse half a decade ago.

Here’s the stuff I liked.

Is the Joker really dead?

I was prepared, upon Arkham Knight‘s announcement years ago, to toss it in the trash if it turned out the Joker’s demise in the last game was just an emotional exploit intended all along to preface another soap opera-worthy resuscitation. (Hey, just because the corporate comics do it doesn’t mean games can’t take the higher ground.)

But no, Rocksteady went and… Okay, I can’t confirm that the Joker is or isn’t in Arkham Knight. That would be telling. But I can tell you this: Rocksteady manages to get you thinking about the question in the cleverest possible way. In fact I’d argue it’s the narrative component in the game that’s pulled off best.

Arkham Knight‘s version of Gotham is a wonderland

No, not in the John Mayer sense, but consider all of the stops pulled and every pipe-blasting key depressed simultaneously. The reimagined version of Batman’s sprawling urban playground, which transpires on three brand new bridge-linked islands—you can see Arkham City and Asylum‘s haunts in the distance, but they’re off limits—is a gloom-fogged goth-tropolis with creepy art nouveau inflections.

Greasy light-source-lit curtains of rain descend from moonlit thunderheads onto commercial rooftops gone to wrack and ruin. Those rooftops crown buildings taller and more granular than ever, with more places to find refuge, more fleshed out internal areas and clever quick-entry grates that thrust you through ductwork mazes, letting you cruise like a missile into (and back out of) buildings.

The Batmobile rules

“Let’s even the odds,” growls Batman at the game’s outset. And so he does, conjuring the game’s taciturn sidekick, a sleek, weaponized behemoth thoughtfully integrated into every aspect of the game. It yanks open grates, lifts heavy cargo, grapples up the sides of buildings, speeds to your location with the touch of a button, and can transform with the pull of a trigger between speedy, straightforward roadster and a strafing, missile-lobbing tank.

You might as well call the game Arkham Ride, because you’ll cover way more ground tearing around in this thing, fully transitioned from Arkham Asylum‘s absurdly tail-finned post-Burton nod, to more of a Nolan-ish tumbler with 360-degree swiveling wheels. It’s an essential companion, whether solving environment puzzles or battling squadrons of the Arkham Knight’s tanks. Worries that the Batmobile would feel like a forced design element were definitely unfounded.

Every aspect of combat has been improved

And that’s saying something, because no one was complaining. At their core, Arkham battles are about stalking tactical playgrounds with asymmetric conceal or assail points, evaluating before engaging. In Arkham Knight, it’s more nuanced than ever, but without feeling overcomplicated. Rocksteady and Warner Bros. Montreal have been playing a long game of rock-paper-scissors with the series’ tactical battle system, iterating enemy types and behaviors with each installment to revitalize the series’ core virtue without radically rethinking it.

You can now throw thugs as part of a counter, for instance, and you have to stay behind alert enemies when stalking from floor grates, lest they spy you stalking (and if they do, they can detonate thermal charges that cascade through the ventilation system—if you don’t vamoose before they go off, it’s sayonara). And if you’re the silent type, quietly dispatching enemies at leisure, there’s a counter for that as well: enemies can now rouse fallen comrades, so you have to be quick and mindful of patrol trajectories.

Other improvements abound

Batbelt item selection, a hinky multi-tier affair in the prior games that sometimes led to erroneous weapon selection in the helter-skelter of combat, is now a single tier circle, placing everything in immediate, pinpoint reach. Some of the environment puzzles are exceptional, like a sequence that plays out high above Gotham, where you’re basically playing Super Monkey Ball with airship cargo.

Grate scurrying’s been simplified, too, minimizing the old first-person crawl by generalizing movement to broad swathes of a level’s subfloor, which speeds maneuverability. The sheer array of side activities this time, be they Rocksteady’s insidious new Riddler puzzles or the barrage of rogue’s gallery subplots, are almost overwhelming (suffice to say there’s an astonishing amount to do, and that’s before the imminent DLC).

It’s not the final installment in a trilogy

This one’s more a point of clarification than a like/dislike. It’s become an unofficial thing to call the Arkham series a trilogy, I guess because last year’s Batman: Arkham Origins was handled by a different studio. Warner Bros. as yet makes no such distinction, and since Origins was a strong and arguably essential entry in the quartet, it was nice to see Rocksteady scatter subtle references back to Origins‘ events throughout Arkham Knight. What’s more, you can draw a line directly from Arkham Knight‘s satisfying “survey the crime scene for evidence” reconstructive puzzles back to Origins‘ DVR-like “find the next clue” sequences.

And here’s the stuff that didn’t work for me…

Some of the quips fall flat

Like when Batman tells a recurring series ally “I’ve got a feeling,” and the character replies “Yeah, I got a feeling too. Doc gave me some cream and it cleared up in no time.” Yuk-yuk!

The police let all the bad guys go

You know all the work you did the last two games to clean up the psychotic super-villanous riffraff? Yeah, so Gotham City Police had to let all those folks go, because…well, you don’t need me to tell you. Batman’s real superpower, it turns out, is not going totally bat**** crazy having to fight the same opponents over, and over, and over…

Hacking security consoles is still boring

Remember the tedious, thumb-twisty way you had to swivel the gamepad’s thumbsticks to make one of Batman’s gizmos cough up phrases that unlocked doors in the last two games? It’s back! Yes, I suppose it’s better than stopping up the game’s pace by forcing us to work some sort of tortuous Captain Crunch decoder wheel, but it doesn’t feel very Batman-ish when hacking security consoles is just a rote test of finger dexterity.

“Fear” takedowns look cool, but feel like cheats

There’s definitely a strategic, predatory element to lining up two or three enemies and taking them out all almost automatically, and it can certainly help thin out dangerous clusters of thugs. But Arkham Knight‘s new “pinball KO” maneuver feels antithetical to the series’ modus operandi—a stylish cheat code to ease combat masquerading as a new Bat-skill.

A related cheat: team takedowns, where you’re battling a group of enemies aided by one of your sidekicks. It’s a stylish, penatly-free way to switch characters in the midst of battle, but that’s all it is: a tactically shallow freebie KO.

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