Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight, Part 7 - The Root of the Problem

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

Part 6: Ivy and Harley

As hard as it was to suffer through fear toxin-induced hallucinations of the horrific death of Jason Todd, the real-life situation back at the quarantine cells was even more dire. Robin had brought the first two Joker patients back to their cells as we defeated them, while I scouted out our next adversaries. But before we could return the unconscious Johnny Charisma to custody, we were waylaid by Harley Quinn. Robin did a nice job of distracting the Joker's former sidekick while I swooped in for the takedown assist. But when we returned with the incapacitated villains, we were met with a disturbing sight: the other two patients who were contaminated with Joker's TITAN-infected blood, Christina Bell and Albert King, had been shot dead! And the perpetrator of this heinous act was none other than the fourth Joker patient, mild mannered Henry Adams!

Allow me to clarify the implications of what we just witnessed. I had drawn two conclusions from my work with the infected Joker patients. Since three of the four patients with Joker's blood in them started developing Joker-like attributes - green hair, white skin, homicidal tendencies, and a flare for the dramatic - I deduced that Joker's blood somehow made him who he was, and thus that anyone with Joker's blood in them would eventually BECOME just like Joker. The second conclusion was admittedly more of an assumption than a deduction, and it involved the fourth Joker patient, Henry Adams. I assumed that his lack of symptoms meant that he was somehow immune to the transformation brought along by Joker's blood, and thus that we could use something in him to pinpoint a cure. Seeing what had happened to Henry, seemingly before our eyes, disproved the second conclusion, while putting a big fat QED next to the first.

Henry explained to me that Joker's blood had indeed been affecting him from the start, but that he was able to hide the mental and physical signs from Robin and me - which is why neither of us suspected that it was Henry who sabotaged our computer systems and allowed Harley to enter the facility. He assumed - perhaps rightly so - that his ability to manipulate the Joker disease inside him meant that he was more highly evolved than the other three patients, and he considered their elimination to be "purifying the gene pool." But as Henry executed the unconscious Johnny Charisma right in front of me, something fascinating and terrifying happened. It seems that the little bit of Joker inside me was just as outraged at this senseless loss of life as the Batman part of me, and for a moment, I let the murderous rage take hold. My fists clenched, my teeth gnashed together... and my eyes turned a sickening Joker-green. This change wasn't lost on Henry, who at that moment realized that I was the fifth and by far most highly-evolved Joker patient. Then in true service of evolution, he turned the gun on himself and fired.

This change wasn't lost on Robin either, who all of a sudden realized who the fifth cell was meant for. Harley was inconsolable having lost four more versions of her beloved Mistah J., and after Robin easily locked her in a cell, he tried to convince me to submit to the same fate. His reasoning was sound: even if I successfully stopped Scarecrow, I would still eventually become a version of the Joker too powerful for anyone to stop. I considered his proposal briefly; Tim Drake was a well-trained and capable crime fighter who might very well have what it takes to stop a villainous plot of this magnitude on his own. But then I remembered what happened to Jason Todd, or as the Joker put it in the video he took of Jason's death, "what happens when you drag your friends into this little game of ours," and I realized that I could not put my friend and partner at risk again. This was my battle and I had to see it through to the end. So I pretended to acquiesce, but at the last minute pulled the old switcheroo and threw Robin into the cell.

Seeing as Tim was safely locked away, I figured this would be a good time to tell him what happened to Barbara. I knew it wouldn't make his imprisonment any easier to handle, but at least he wasn't in a position to act out of emotion and put himself in danger. But relating the night's events to Robin brought to mind a message I saw scrawled across the wall of the Clock Tower when I was investigating Oracle's capture by the Arkham Knight: "This is what happens when you drag your friends into this little game of ours." That's right, it was the same phrase used by Joker when he shot Jason Todd. The only people who could have heard Joker utter that phrase were the members of my team who watched the video... and Jason Todd himself, moments before his death. IF he was in fact killed in that old abandoned wing of Arkham Asylum where the Joker had held him captive. Wasn't the fact that he died as a result of that gunshot wound more of an assumption than a deduction?

This was my first major clue as to the identity of the Arkham Knight, but I didn't have time to follow up on it just now, as I still had to help Poison Ivy revive her tree, so that she could produce enough of her anti-fear toxin spore to save the city. While using the sonar attachment on the Batmobile to locate the roots, Pamela Isley informed me that the tree for which I was searching was sacred to the ancient Miagani people, who called her Aiyana, meaning "eternal bloom." {So I guess Miagani is supposed to be a Native American name, which actually makes more sense than Italian, given the pre-immigration history of real life New York.} Once I gained access to the excavation tunnels for the planned Gotham Subway extension and revealed the roots with a sonar blast, Ivy proved that the tree's name was accurate.

Using her ability to genetically modify plants on a molecular level, Poison Ivy caused the ancient tree to explode out of the ground and grow several stories tall. It was so powerful that one of the branches was able to wrap itself completely around the Batmobile and bring it up to the surface, eliminating the need for a return journey. But all this seismic activity also drew the attention of the Arkham Knight, who deployed a militia company on a nearby rooftop to attack the tree with RPG's and heavy machine gun fire before Ivy was able to strengthen her protective bark enough to protect it. I grappled up to the roof and dealt with the enemy force while Ivy's tree hardened. But before I had any time to savor this small victory, Scarecrow detonated the Cloudburst...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight, Part 6 - Ivy and Harley

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

Part 5: Gunrunners and Airships

Only now, after Scarecrow made his daring escape with the Cloudburst device and I was left staring at a gaping hole in the airship's fuselage, did the villains release the location of their hostage, Barbara Gordon. They probably just wanted to prevent me from following their helicopter, but I had no choice: I had to save Oracle. It turns out she was locked in his penthouse in Chinatown, the same place from which I rescued Poison Ivy. I watched helplessly as gas flooded the room and abject terror took over the heart of my ally. Apparently the fearsome visage I cultivate to strike fear into the hearts of my enemies was too much for Barbara to handle, drawing her to the gun that Scarecrow had left on the table in the room with her. When her shots at me took no effect due to the bullet proof glass, she turned the gun to her temple. As she pulled the trigger, my Joker hallucination drifted between us and mimicked the suicidal act on himself. When he passed, only Oracle's lifeless body was left in the room.

It was perhaps the hardest thing I had to watch in my crime fighting career - in person at least; I can think of a certain videotape sent to me by Joker regarding another former member of my team that was decidedly more disturbing. However, seeing Barbara in that isolation chamber gave me an idea stemming back to seeing Poison Ivy in that same chamber earlier in the night: Ivy was immune to Scarecrow's toxin! If I could enlist her help to somehow use that immunity to save the city, we might be able to foil Scarecrow's plan before he even got the Cloudburst online. Of course getting Ivy's cooperation was not a sure thing by any means. Poison Ivy is definitely "mono Green" to take a phrase from the popular trading card game Magic: The Gathering, and looking at the color wheel, my two colors (Blue and Black, obvi) are in direct opposition to Green. But Gotham City's only hope depended on us putting aside our differences.

It was surprisingly easy for me to appeal to Pamela's sensibilities, rather than making empty threats: I just brought up the simple fact that if Crane was able to release his toxin, the results would not be good for plant life throughout the city. Not only would all the humans be too overcome with fear to take care of them, but the massive chemical cloud would likely block out sunlight and even rainfall. After that little talk, Ivy readily revealed that she had developed a spore to counteract the fear toxin, but that she couldn't produce enough for the whole city on her own. On her request, I took her to the Botanical Gardens so she could cast Speak with Plants on some of the old growth trees there to enlist their help (since she's apparently a Druid from Dungeons & Dragons now...). The trees were in bad shape after decades of pollution and construction, but luckily Lucius Fox had developed a sonar attachment for the Batmobile, which would allow me to locate the roots so that Ivy could revive them.

I gave Ivy the Bat Phone that was previously in Commissioner Gordon's possession, and she majestically sealed herself inside the trunk of her tree. Meanwhile, I took the Batmobile into the secure parking area below Wayne Tower to pick up Lucius's newest invention, but no sooner did I arrive on what I thought was my home turf, than I was attacked by a squadron of drone tanks. I don't know if the Arkham Knight tracked me here or if he somehow knew that this was a base of operations of mine - which wouldn't surprise me, considering he knew that Barbara would be in the clock tower. I pondered this and other mysteries (or rather, had Alfred look into them) as I methodically eliminated the drone threat, picked up my new upgrade, then locked the building down.

But before I had a chance to find the "root" of the problem, I got a call from the secret quarantine cells in the movie studios (where I had Robin working on a cure for the Joker infection). However, the call wasn't from my trusty sidekick, but from Harley Quinn, who had somehow infiltrated the facility! What is it with villains knowing all my secrets tonight!? Harley had a large armed force surrounding the entrance, including a huge brute wielding a Team Fortress-style minigun, but I was able to use a recorded sample of Harley's voice to trick her henchmen into various traps. Using the same method to gain access to the inside of the facility, Robin and I were able to finish off the rest of Harley's goons, but not before she allowed the three infected Joker patients to escape and set up shop in various sound stages throughout the movie studio.

With Tim and I working together, and also receiving technical support from Henry Adams, the one patient who was immune to Joker's blood, we took out the other three Jokers rather easily. Christina Bell surrounded herself with armed henchmen in the haunted house set, Albert King readied himself for an all-out brawl on the western set, and Johnny Charisma made me sit through an agonizing musical performance, which was enough to hold his attention while Robin snuck around the room disarming the various explosive devices he had set up. But the real challenge was that working with Robin brought up some pretty traumatizing fear toxin-induced hallucinations involving Tim Drake's predecessor. For those of you not familiar with this case file, Jason Todd, who became the second Robin after Dick Grayson changed to the Nightwing persona, was captured by Joker and brutally tortured in an abandoned wing of Arkham Asylum. Now that Joker was inside my head, he had no qualms about forcing me to relive the experience - how he broke Jason's mind, turned my friend against me using methods that would make even Ramsay Bolton blush, then put him out of his misery just as he was about to reveal my deepest secret...

This is getting too emotional for me... I have to take a moment to regain my composure before continuing with my story. As long as we're on Spoiler Alert mode: here's Woody Harrelson reacting to Season 5 of Game of Thrones to watch while you wait.

Part 7: The Root of the Problem

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight, Part 5 - Gunrunners and Airships

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

Part 4: Chasing Oracle

Since the Arkham Knight escaped our last encounter, I had no choice but to chase down one of his APC's and interrogate the driver for news of his and Oracle's whereabouts. I've done some screwed up things to people's bones and joints to get information out of them, but the strategy I used on this guy takes the cake: with my boot planted firmly on the soldier's chest, I remotely maneuvered the Batmobile so the rear tire was inches from his face, then revved the engine until he talked. Straight out of an episode of The Sopranos! He quickly gave up that the Arkham Knight had gone to see the Penguin, who was using a dummy company called North Refrigeration to supply guns to the entire city. Hearing that name immediately brought to mind an investigation that Nightwing was conducting in Bl├╝dhaven, so I got in contact with him post haste.

Dick had indeed been investigating North Refrigeration and the types of weapons to which they had access, and his knowledge helped me out first hand in the form of a new gadget he provided: the Disruptor. This helped me even the odds with the armed guards outside Penguin's hideout, and Nightwing helped me remove the less threatening henchmen inside. A slightly more routine interrogation of Oswald C. Cobblepot revealed that the Arkham Knight's next stop in his tour of the city was pharmaceutical magnate Simon Stagg, whose famous airships are an iconic fixture of Gotham's skyline. I had Alfred look up all the information he could find about him while I headed back to Wayne Tower to collect another espionage device from Lucius: the Remote Hacking Device (a much easier and classier name than Cryptographic Sequencer).

From the top of Wayne Tower it was easy to find a spot overlooking the airship (with room enough for my hallucinatory Joker to perch beside me) from which I could dive down and use the RHD to open up a maintenance hatch. It wasn't difficult to find Stagg: he was being loudly worked over by a group of unarmed militia, but he still wasn't giving them the information they wanted. I was hardly surprised that some trained thugs couldn't possibly have the interrogation skills necessary for the job at hand, nor was I surprised that they didn't have the combat skills to take me out once I descended upon them. However once I was alone with Stagg, my interrogation skills were severely hampered by fear toxin: before I could get to the really juicy questions, I saw the bodies of the incapacitated militia members rise up in a zombified state. It was all I could do to keep knocking them down before more of them took their places, but then to my horror, the bodies of the militia soldiers transformed into likenesses of the Joker! And they weren't just floating there, they actually attacked me!

While I was fighting this battle within, the militia took the opportunity to spirit Stagg away to the other adjacent airship. This led me on a wild goose chase all over THIS airship, since I had to reconstruct Stagg's fingerprints in order to gain access to the other airship. Luckily the Arkham Knight had thrown Stagg around the room during his abduction, which left a series of nicely preserved handprints, which I found by reviewing footage from the security cameras on board the airship. During my search, I also found various research notes from Stagg in which he confirmed that he was working with Scarecrow on both his fear toxin and a project called Cloudburst, but that the two didn't see eye to eye on several aspects of the plan. This was like the failed collaboration between Dr. Young and Joker back at Arkham Asylum all over again!

I found Stagg locked in an experimental quarantine chamber and under the protection of a roomful of armed militia soldiers. These men had the support of a floating drone, but thankfully I could use my RHD to turn the machine on its controllers. Once again I didn't get much of a chance to interrogate Stagg due to fear toxin, but this time it wasn't my reaction that caused trouble, but his. After he told me the bare minimum about Cloudburst - it's a device located in the next room that can greatly increase the dispersal range of gaseous chemicals - Scarecrow flooded his chamber with gas, and Stagg was suddenly very reluctant to be touched. I saved him from the worst of his hallucinations by knocking him out cold, then continued into the Cloudburst chamber - after a quick pep talk from my Joker hallucination - to have my second face-to-face confrontation with the Scarecrow.

But wouldn't you know it, I botched it again, and instead of getting sweet closure for this adventure, all I got was another dose of sweet fear toxin. Scarecrow got his chance to gloat, asking me about my deepest fears ("A city engulfed in fear? Betrayed by those you trust the most?" I half expected him to close with "Me... in a thong!?"). But it wasn't long before my actual deepest fear manifested itself: The Joker's infected blood taking control of me, creating a supervillain with unparalleled mental and physical prowess, plus the brutality to match. The distraction gave Crane enough time to make his daring escape: he stood on the Cloudburst device as one of Arkham Knight's helicopters forcibly removed it from the back of the airship. I guess as far as our epic confrontations go, the third time will have to be the charm...

Part 6: Ivy and Harley

Friday, June 26, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight, Part 4 - Chasing Oracle

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

Part 3: Enter Fear Toxin

After Commissioner Gordon stormed out in anger, I was able to use Oracle's supercomputer to hack into the CCTV cameras surrounding the clock tower to identify her kidnappers. Scrolling through the footage showed the Arkham Knight carrying her out and placing her in his personal transport vehicle. I was also able to scan the custom tires on the vehicle so that I could follow their tracks through Gotham using the Batmobile's sonar function. To make a long story short - I was sidetracked along the way by a subterranean bomb planted by Arkham Knight's forces and I also had to destroy a radio tower that was blocking Alfred from opening the bridge leading to Miagami Island {which I'm assuming is meant to be an Italian name, given the history of actual New York, but it just sounds Japanese to me} - the tire trail ended in a brutal car crash.

Anyone familiar with the underwhelming prequel to Arkham Asylum will recall that I once had the need to investigate crimes all over the city, so I developed technology that allowed me to create a holographic reconstruction of the event of a crime by scanning evidence at the scene. Using this feature, I discovered not only that the driver wasn't wearing his seatbelt, but that Barbara had caused the crash by hitting the driver with pepper spray, then jumping clear before impact. The Arkham Knight survived the crash unscathed and recaptured his prey almost immediately, but not before Oracle managed to crawl away and hide an encryption chip in the rubble. With a little work, the frequencies contained therein would surely allow me to track Arkham Knight's broadcast location. Even when under pressure, members of my organization never cease to amaze me.

I drove over to Wayne Tower to drop the chip with Lucius Fox, but since he's not half as good a cryptography expert as Barbara, it would take him some time to decode the signal. This delay was just as well, since just then I received an urgent message from one of my campiest adversaries, the Riddler. In this message, which was actually projected onto the side of a nearby skyscraper, Nigma revealed that he had captured my sometime ally Catwoman and was going to kill her if I didn't head to the abandoned Pinkney Orphanage and play one of his silly games. I decided I had better comply, since it wouldn't be fair to leave Selena to die, but as I was grappling over there, the strangest thing happened. I was charging up a grapnel boost as usual, but when I hit the side of the building to which I was attached, I was attacked by a grotesque creature, the size of a man, but with the leathery skin and wings of a bat. {I don't know if the timeline of this game is before or after or totally separate from Kirk Langstrom's escapade from the Animated Series, but for us fans, it's pretty clear that we're dealing with Man-Bat!} I filed this information away and continued to the orphanage.

It seems that Nigma took it personally when I chose not to complete his side mission back at the GCPD, so he made things a little more personal. Upon arriving at the orphanage, I found Catwoman tied to a chair. It was pretty easy to avoid the (what I assumed was) electrified floor and free her from her bonds, but that's when the real fun started. Streaming into the room was a veritable army of anthropomorphic robots - think those little bouncing guys from the Streets of Rage series. With the two of us working together, it didn't take long for Catwoman and I to clear the room, especially since we didn't have to worry about using only non-lethal tactics. After the sparks flew (in more ways than one), Catwoman explained that she met with the Riddler of her own accord (he offered her a job of the cat burgling variety), but he subsequently tricked her and fitted her with an explosive collar that would only be disarmed if I solved 10 increasingly taxing challenges.

I felt bad for the kitty, but she would have to wait for now, since at that moment Lucius informed me that he had tracked the Arkham Knight's forces to the tunnel network underneath the city. On the way there I got a call from Robin, who I had stationed at the secret quarantine cells at the movie studio (where I took Jim Gordon in last episode's flashback) to try and synthesize a cure for the Joker infection in my blood. Now it's important to note that, despite their romantic relationship, I neglected to tell Tim that Barbara had been kidnapped. I needed his attention focused on finding a cure, and if he heard what happened, he was liable to do something rash. I know it wasn't the morally correct thing to do, but in the world of costumed heroes and villains, you don't always have the luxury of taking the ethical high ground. Speaking of the Joker, I should also mention that the fear toxin-induced hallucinations of my former arch nemesis were still following me around, and needless to say, the fragmented part of Joker's psyche was thrilled to keep Robin in the dark.

Infiltrating the Arkham Knight's hideout led to our second face-to-face confrontation, only this time there was no glass between us and he managed to get the drop on me. While I was pinned under his boot and gun, the Knight spouted off some more insider info about my suit - namely that he knew both that it was titanium tri-weave fiber and exactly where it was vulnerable to point blank gunfire (spoiler alert, it's on the sides, just underneath the ribs). He put a bullet there, hoping to weaken me for the barrage of thugs he proceeded to send my way, but luckily I had stored a dose of Bullet Repellant Bat Injection in my utility belt for just such an occasion. I was of course able to stem the tide of incoming assailants, thanks in no small part to a timely assist from the Batmobile, but the Arkham Knight once again escaped, leaving the discovery of his secret identity for another time.

Part 5: Gunrunners and Airships

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight, Part 3- Enter Fear Toxin

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

Part 2: Ace Chemicals

There was no route into the Ace Chemicals facility other than to take the Batmobile back over, blow a hole in a high wall, then use a crane to maneuver a conveniently ramp-shaped piece of metal into place in order to launch myself inside. The inner workings of that facility were cavernous enough to allow me to drive unhampered, which may become important later. At the end of the line, Scarecrow had a cadre of armed thugs systematically loading canisters of chemicals into the central mixing chamber. While taking them all out, I noticed that the Arkham Knight had trained some of his militia members to be medics, with the ability to revive one of their fallen comrades a limited amount of times during each encounter. I guess it was only a matter of time before someone used my zero-body-count policy against me.

Once I cleared the room and confronted Scarecrow, he responded to my threat by threatening to kill Barbara Gordon! My first thought was: How did he know she was working for me? My first action was to get her on Bat-Facetime to warn her, but it appears I was too late, as her feed cut out mid-conversation. It could have just been crappy AT&T service, but at this point I had to assume the worst. And it turns out the worst was that Scarecrow had used the time I had spent conversating to make a quick getaway and lock me in the mixing chamber, with his bomb counting down to explosion. Rather than look for a way out, I went to the computer terminal and immediately started to prepare a neutralizing, hoping that I could synthesize enough to reduce the blast radius while still getting out in time, but resigning myself to a heroic sacrifice for the sake of saving Gotham.

I don't know if you've ever tried it, but moving highly volatile canisters across a room that's about to explode is slow and monotonous work. But it was worth it to hear the computer announce a 25% reduction in the blast radius for each of the first two canisters I was able to prepare. But upon inserting the third canister, I didn't hear the expected 75% reduction in blast radius, but rather a 1,000% INCREASE! I wheeled around to examine the computer, which I was sure had to be malfunctioning, only to find myself face-to-face with a pistol held by... the Joker!

It was at this point that I knew I was affected by Crane's fear toxin, since the Joker was dead: I saw him die and watched his body become a pile of ashes at the GCPD morgue. But his appearance in my hallucination triggered an involuntary memory into my recall tube: It was that time I invited Commissioner Gordon to my remote quarantine facility not too long ago. I showed him my four "patients" - performer Johnny Charisma, professional boxer Albert King, corporate executive Christina Bell, and harmless retiree Henry Adams. All four received transfusions of Joker's TITAN-infected blood back during the Arkham City affair, and the disease had been altering them, making them look and act more and more like the Joker. Actually, it only affected three of the four patients, Henry Adams was somehow immune to the toxin, which means I would have to use his blood to find a cure.

Important point: I told Commissioner Gordon that five people were infected with Joker's blood, yet I only had four in my custody. It seems perfectly obvious that the the fifth victim is yours truly - I mean, I was the victim of Joker's first blood transfusion towards the beginning of Arkham City, and who knows whether that cure manufactured by Mr. Freeze was 100% effective in ridding it all from my system. Joker's appearance in my fear toxin-addled hallucinations just proved that conclusion. Thankfully the memory/hallucination festivities didn't take much time in the real world and there was still plenty of time to use the Batmobile's power winch to tear down a wall and then use the Batmobile's awesome speed to escape from Ace Chemicals before it went up in flames.

I knew I had a duty to let Commissioner Gordon aid in the the search for his daughter, so I picked him up from the GCPD and sped over to the Clock Tower to look for clues. After clearing away Arkham Knight's drone tanks in the streets surrounding the building and the armed guards he had stationed to guard it, I entered the secret apartment, only to be met with another hallucination: the night Joker singlehandedly transformed Batgirl into Oracle by shooting Barbara Gordon in the spine. I was only shaken out of it by her father's arrival into the room. I knew that I had to use Oracle's super computer to gather enough evidence to track her whereabouts, but I also knew that activating the computer in front of Gordon would reveal her secret identity as my sidekick. But in desperate times like these, sometimes a paradigm shift is necessary. Needless to say, Jim was pissed when he found out Barbara worked for me, throwing down the Bat Phone I had given him in disgust, and leaving to embark on a search himself.

Part 4: Chasing Oracle

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight, Part 2 - Ace Chemicals

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

Part 1: A New Story Begins

Although locking up Poison Ivy at the GCPD did constitute a moral victory, it didn't get me any closer to accomplishing the night's main task: stopping Scarecrow from detonating his fear toxin bomb. The same would be true of any of the three options offered by Aaron Cash with the new Mission Select feature: missing members of a fire crew, an occult unsolved murder, or reports of the Riddler lurking around the train yard. While I like the idea of the side missions being seamlessly integrated into the plot, I decided to stick to the main objective and meet with Oracle to talk about Scarecrow's toxin. Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Oracle (a.k.a. formerly Batgirl) made her hideout at the top of the iconic Clock Tower, with an apartment behind the clock face itself, which transforms into a super computer terminal upon a successful retinal scan. After communicating with her exclusively over radio in our last two adventures, it was nice to finally talk with her face to face.

Barbara had analyzed Scarecrow's fear toxin and broken it down to its component parts, which gave me the idea to search for any chemical reactions that might be a byproduct of the synthesizing process. Oracle could easily handle such a task, but the WayneTech satellites alone were not strong enough to complete the search in time, so I had to repurpose some devices around town: the radio broadcasting antenna at the Panessa Movie Studios and the microwave tower at Falcone Shipping Yard. While these tasks would normally fall under the category of side mission-esque filler, they actually led to some important upgrades. The generator powering the antenna at the studios was damaged, so I had to get the Batmobile up to the roof (shades of that famous scene from Batman Forever) and use the Power Winch feature provided by Lucius Fox to power it up. Meanwhile the microwave tower was guarded by three armed henchmen who couldn't be isolated, so Fox gave me access to a new and improved Bat Suit, one that allows me to move fast enough to take out multiple armed henchmen at once by seamlessly moving between them. Now it's not just the Scarecrow who can harness the power of fear...

Using these antennae in conjunction with the Bat Scanner, we were able to determine that Scarecrow was synthesizing his compound at Ace Chemicals. Now his plan to give the city warning and initiate an evacuation started to make sense: with a full security detail present, Dr. Crane would never have been able to gain access to the island facility. I met Jim Gordon and the GCPD forces outside, but when I tried to gain access to the island facility, an armored helicopter flew in out of nowhere and destroyed the bridge. The helicopter was piloted by a man I didn't recognize wearing a hi-tech robotic mask covering his whole face. I sent an image from my cowl to Oracle, who was able to identify him as the Arkham Knight, a self-styled military commander working for Scarecrow, who apparently has a vendetta against me for some reason. WayneTech satellite imagery of the  Ace Chemicals facility showed that he was loading a large militia and a squadron of tanks into large carrier helicopters, presumably for deployment throughout the city.

But I couldn't worry about that now, since if I didn't stop Scarecrow's bomb, there would be no city for them to terrorize. Luckily, the Batmobile's afterburners allowed me to easily jump the distance between the mainland and Ace Chemicals, after using the winch to fashion the end of the road into an improvised ramp. And also thankfully, the Arkham Knight's tanks and helicopters were unmanned drones, which means I could unleash the full fury of the Batmobile's Battle Mode. In this mode, the wheels of the Batmobile basically become four giant Dyson vacuum balls, allowing for seamless strafing in all directions. Oh, there's also a 60mm cannon, a Vulcan machine gun, and homing missiles that are activated when the other weapons are sufficiently charged. Retro gamers among you might recall the 3DO classic BattleTanx, and the comparison would be appropriate.

After dispatching the drone forces, I was able to access the Ace Chemicals computer terminal, which told me that a skeleton crew of five employees were still located in the facility, no doubt held captive by Scarecrow to assist in producing his toxin. The Bat Scanner provided me with their locations, but I was too late to save three of the five employees. While rescuing one of the live ones, I was ambushed by a large armed militia force, along with the Arkham Knight himself. I don't know his identity, but whoever he is, he seems to know an awful lot about me and how I operate, including the fact that the Bat Symbol on my armor is a trick to get enemies to concentrate fire on the best-protected spot. I have my own idea of who this guy is, but to keep my conjectures from ruining it for anyone who wants to find out on their own, I'll just write my guess on this piece of paper, take a picture of it next to today's newspaper, and hide it safely in a compartment in my utility belt until his identity is revealed in the story.

Anyway, I was able to take out the militia forces by remotely controlling the Batmobile, which was still parked outside. In addition to the weapons mentioned above, my signature ride also has non-lethal riot-suppressing rounds and an electric charge attachment for situations such as these. The Arkham Knight grappled away before the battle was over, but I knew things weren't over between us. The Batmobile came in handy for rescuing the final hostage as well, who was trapped deep underground, on the bottom end of a deactivated elevator. Long story short, I attached the power winch to the elevator's counterweight, stepped inside the car, and used the Batmobile's remote piloting to lower it ever so gingerly to the bottom level. I honestly don't know how I made it through Arkham Asylum and Arkham City without this super helpful member of the Bat Team. After returning the hostages to Gordon waiting outside on the bridge, it was time to resume the search for Scarecrow deep inside the mixing chamber.

Part 3: Enter Fear Toxin

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight, Part 1 - A New Story Begins

18 months after my epic confrontation with Joker at the old Arkham Asylum, Hugo Strange captured me and unleashed the rage of the Batman inside his Arkham City facility. I don't know how long it's been since that whirlwind adventure of a night when I tragically lost my arch nemesis The Joker, a night that also cost the lives of my beloved Talia al Ghul and Strange himself. My mind is a mess of adrenaline and fear toxin, but there's no better time to tell you my New Story. It's a story that involves excitement, heartbreak, and betrayal, sparked by two of my most nefarious adversaries: the master of fear, Dr. Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. the Scarecrow, and the newest addition to my rogue's gallery, a brilliant military commander known only as the Arkham Knight.

As I relate my story below, I'll be giving away plot points and spoilers relating to the events in the popular video game Batman: Arkham Knight, the fully licensed and sanctioned public retelling of this case file. If you wish to experience that game for yourself, please navigate away from this page and check out another corner of the Internet. Might I suggest the journey of another video game protagonist, Link the Hero of Time? The chronicle of his adventures will have to take a backseat to mine, I'm afraid, but as you'll soon see, what I have to tell you will be well worth your time.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

It all started when Commissioner Gordon called me to the roof of the GCPD building using the patented Bat Signal to discuss a plan of dealing with the panic that has spread through Gotham City over the last several hours. Well, that's where my part in this all started. The whole situation started the day before, when the Scarecrow released a five-ounce sample of his newest fear toxin in a crowded downtown diner. The results were catastrophic: people attacking one another, tearing each other to shreds while locked in the grasp of abject fear. One of the victims was a GCPD officer named Owens, who survived the attack, but who will have to deal with a case of PTSD a thousand times more intense than Tim Riggins's character on the new season of True Detective. An interesting bit of trivia: Owens was in charge of overseeing the Joker's cremation after his autopsy. I know because I wanted to make sure that went off without a hitch, so I kept a close eye on the operation.

Scarecrow was quick to take credit for the attack, broadcasting a message soon afterward spelling out his endgame: a fear toxin bomb so large that the fallout would affect the entire eastern seaboard. He gave the city a 24-hour warning for some reason: either his plan was not quite ready (in which case, why tip his hand?) or he had something to gain from the confusion stemming from a short term citywide evacuation. The other crime bosses certainly had something to gain: with most of the police in the city focused on getting as many citizens as possible to safety, the criminal element was free to flourish.

One such element was Scarecrow's forces, some of which were engaged in a high speed chase with a GCPD officer in Chinatown, as I was told by Jim Gordon. While up on the rooftop, I gave him a special Bat Radio, tuned to the frequency of my gauntlet-mounted communicator, now with video chat functionality. But before you remark on how this could allow anyone looking over my shoulder to learn the secret identities of my allies, you should know that the holographic image is only visible through the eyes of my cowl, why not.

After updating Oracle via Bat-Facetime, I summoned the only means by which to join in a high speed chase: the Batmobile itself. This baby has state of the art armor plating, allowing it to crash into most obstacles and survive, which was useful on the rain-slicked streets of Gotham where the Power Slide feature does not behave anything like its namesake from any games in the Mario Kart series. The GCPD cruisers were quickly outmatched, but using a specially-designed non-lethal immobilizer, I incapacitated the pursuers and interrogated the driver. Before using an Aikido-style hold to break his wrist in at least three places, I learned that Scarecrow was operating out of a safehouse nearby.

While gaining access to said safehouse, I overheard some of Scarecrow's henchmen talking about how after their boss had part of his face torn off by Killer Croc back at Arkham Asylum, Scarecrow had completed the job himself, apparently with the intention of enhancing his fearsome presence. Once inside, I found not the master of fear, but rather the mistress of plants, who was being held captive by the former villain. Upon clearing the room of Scarecrow's forces, for which task I had trained to expertly make use of objects in the environment, Ivy informed me that she was ambushed and captured during a meeting of all the preeminent supercriminals in Gotham. She agreed to return with me to the GCPD for incarceration, since the dangerous streets of Gotham, like those of Capitol City, are no place for an unescorted lady. On the way back, while safely seated in one of the Batmobile's two roller-coaster style passenger seats that fold horizontally into the trunk, she divulged the purpose of that meeting: Scarecrow had a plan to eliminate yours truly and take Gotham for himself. Looks like this was going to be one hell of a night...

Part 2: Ace Chemicals

Monday, June 22, 2015

Batman Arkham Fantasy Depth Chart

There certainly is a lot going on in the world of entertainment right now. HBO just unveiled a slew of new shows to try and fill a Game of Thrones-sized void in their schedule (True Detective (or "Trood" for short) is the only one I'm committing to watching, although Ballers does intrigue me, since I will always support the Rock's career). That master of video game storytelling Ryskmonger42 just released another episode in his Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time playthrough. But most importantly, the long-awaited release of Batman: Arkham Knight is tomorrow, which will undoubtedly take up most of my time until I have played to 100% completion.

In honor of this seminal event in gaming history, I've not only been revisited the first two games in the Arkham series, but I've also been applying the analytical approach I use for fantasy baseball to the Batman experience. Here is the fruit of my labor: a depth chart based on villains from Batman's rogue's gallery. Let me know what you think in the comments!


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Game of Thrones Season 5 Finale-plus-1 Preview

I am going to make a statement: I am a devoted watcher of Game of Thrones. If I made this statement two or three years ago, the response would probably be, "Naturally! It's one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television - one of HBO's most impressive offerings, and they've produced some of the all-time greats." This same statement made in the last two or three weeks would likely elicit a response more along the lines of, "Really? That trashy hotbed of rape and shocksploitation and sloppy storytelling? It doesn't even stay faithful to its source material!" Recent change in public opinion aside, I'm sticking with the show, not only because I'm somewhat "pot committed" after nearly five mostly-enjoyable seasons (mostly...), but also because of the pure good clean spectacle offered by episodes such as last Sunday's "Hardhome."

Before talking about that episode and looking forward to the rest of the season, I'd like to make another statement: I am a devoted watcher of the weekly recap/commentary videos posted by Ozzy Man Reviews. The response to this statement, regardless of when I make it, is likely to be something like, "Who?" I've mentioned him a couple of times on this blog before, but  suffice it to say, Ozzy Man's combination of humor, insight, and a mint Strine accent has kept me coming back week after week. He's also come up with several terms and tropes that add a great deal to the ongoing conversation about the show.

The first term is "fun boobs," which are distinct from "sexposition" in that there are generally no important plot points to pay attention to, and distinct from the scenes depicting sexual assault in that they are, for lack of a better word, fun. Examples include Melisandre having a bath, Melisandre sitting on Jon Snow's lap, Melisandre tearing Stannis's pants off on the strategy table... basically any scene with Melisandre where she's not giving birth to a shadow monster. Then there are Ozzy Man's various nicknames: "Stannis the Mannis" goes without saying, "Jorah the Explorer" for when he and Tyrion are sailing through the ruins of Old Valyria, Samwell Tarly becomes "Sambo," Barristan Selmy becomes "Bazzer," and other little flourishes that make his commentary unique.

But the most relevant term to our discussion is "Book Wanker," used to refer to someone who has read all the novels in the Song of Ice and Fire series, and who can't help themselves from constantly comparing the books to the show. I became a member of the Book Wanker camp when I read all the books during the hiatus between Seasons 4 and 5, because I didn't want to wait for the show to come back to find out what happened in the story. Now I find myself regretting my decision, not only because the show has quickly left the books in the dust, but also because now I find myself doing the compare and contrast game rather than just enjoying the show for what it is. But rather than try and quell my instincts, I'm just going to embrace them and do a little examination of where each character stands heading into the final two episodes of the season, the first of which is historically when the most impactful shit goes down.

A word of warning: while I won't directly give away anything that happens to our nearest and dearest characters in the books, those of you looking to remain completely spoiler-free should probably steer clear of the rest of this post...

SPOILER ALERT!

Let's start with Arya, since her story most closely mirrors what's happening to her in the books, except for a brief moment of will-she-or-won't-she get accepted into the House of Black and White at the beginning of her arc. And a change of name for her assumed identity, calling back to her aunt Lyanna (Lanna) rather than her mother Catelyn (Cat of the Canals). It remains to be seen whether the show will gloss over one of her hardest trials (which was also mostly glossed over in the books) or if they will stretch the ~1 chapter of book material into multiple episodes like they did with Theon's torture (although in a far less unpleasant manner).

Next, going in order of book fidelity, is Cersei Lannister, trapped helplessly by the faith militant. Her two Tyrell companions in prison do not share the same fate in the books, but for Loras, the end result is about the same. Another character whose storyline is basically going according to plan is Stannis, dutifully marching his army south towards Winterfell. The only notable deviation is the inclusion of his daughter in the party, who Melisandre will hopefully not convince him to sacrifice to the Red God, otherwise what was the point of all their family bonding scenes earlier in the season?

After the events of last night's episode, it looks like Jon Snow's arc is going through a mere detour rather than a complete 180, since the "next on" tease showed what looks to be a tense confrontation between him (and his army of wildlings) and Ser Alliser at Castle Black. Needless to say, the book version of the Lord Commander never boarded those ships for Hardhome, but based on the second half of the most recent episode, I'd say it was a good change. I am a little confused to see Sam and Gilly still hanging out at Castle Black, but there's still time for them to fulfill their bookish destinies.

Daenerys also has a chance for her story to align with what happens in the books, albeit with the presence of a new ally, Tyrion Lannister. This is the one point in which the show has leapfrogged over the books most significantly, accelerating the meeting of two of the three top-billed cast members and skipping the machinations that Tyrion and an uninfected Ser Jorah would have to carry out in order to gain their way into Mereen. I do have to say that the power potential of these two characters coming together does make me fear for Tyrion's safety during the upcoming events at the Great Pyramid (also teased in the "next on"), since the show does not tend to let sensible alliances last too long.

Now for the most blatant deviations from the novels. I have no problem with Jaime and Bronn embarking on a road movie style buddy comedy together, not only because it served as an excuse for two of the most fun boobs in the show's history, but also because it's a heck of a lot more interesting than what those characters are doing in the books. I do not have the same feelings for Sansa's predicament, about which enough has already been said. Even after the implication of multiple repeat rapes at the hands of the show's most inexcusably campy villain, I am actually more nervous for her future based on a) the information she gets about her younger brothers being alive, since this show tends to kill off characters in their rare moments of happiness, and b) the sharp object she picked up in the previous week's episode. I'm also a devoted watcher of The Walking Dead, which has shown us the dangers inherent when a female lead pulls a concealed blade on her captor.


Regardless of how closely the show will follow anything that happens in the books from here on out, we can expect to see some dynamic plot points unfold in next week's episode. But as long as there are no more graphic rapes or attempted rapes, I'll count it as an overall positive experience.