Batman: Arkham Oranges Has Terrible Facial Animation

By Craig Pearson on October 22nd, 2013 at 8:00 am.


Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse

That’s because the developers of Batman: Arkham Origins are clearly using a joypad in this 17 minute walkthrough. Ahahahahahaa! Now the fun part of the story is out of the way, it’s time for me to get serious. I was hoping that this video of Arkham Origins would do me until the game is released this Friday, but there’s just one problem. I watched it and now all I can see about the bit 3m35s in, where Batman and Albert have a conversation in the Batcave. It was sneaky, punchy Batfun until that moment, but then Bats and Alfred started talking and it all just crumbled. It looks like someone attempted to reanimate a corpse and only succeeded in bringing the lips to life. It’s appalling.

Here. Watch it. Weep with me.

Okay, so the rest isn’t as awful (though some of the developer narration is awful), but I’d quite like to not have to hide behind my hands when the story takes over from the punching. I hope all the villains have full face masks, or it’s going to be a long Christmas Eve.

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74 Comments »

  1. MrThingy says:

    I suspect the culprit is something called FaceFX, which for some reason has become an industry standard. Presuming of course the standard is for horrific lip synching where the only puckering available is from another orifice as you pay for a licence.

    • Drayk says:

      I have another theory: They are used to animate only the lower part of batman face, because of his mask,; and forgot to animate the rest of the cast :P

      Ok kidding aside, I remembered all characters to be lovely animated in the other entries… this feels strange somewhat. Isn’t the name of the buttler Alfred btw ?

    • Ninja Dodo says:

      Having used FaceFX you can do passable animation with it but only if you hand edit the auto lip-sync, and only if the facial rigs are specific to each face. When you have one universal setup for all it tends to look good for some characters (with similar features) and not so much for others.

  2. cpt_freakout says:

    WARFA… sorry, wrong article.

  3. cF- says:

    They’re talking through their teeth, it makes them look like really bad ventriloquists or like they’re really angry at each other but trying their hardest not to show it.

  4. Screamer says:

    It seems reviews where help back till after release, not usually a good sign. Holding back on getting it just in case.

  5. Shodex says:

    Reminds me of the old face “animations” from the original Deus Ex. Arkham Asylum and City had perfectly find lip sync, how did this go so wrong?

    • DigitalImpostor says:

      Asylum and City were made by Rocksteady. Origins is made by WB Montreal.

    • LionsPhil says:

      DX (and Half-Life 1 and the like) at least had a generally lower detail on faces, so it was less obvious that the other parts weren’t moving: you were mentally filling-in details, so could mentally fill-in their motion as well.

      This is the special kind of horror you get when your polycount way exceeds your animation bones.

  6. Erinduck says:

    It’s not just the facial animations. There are parts where Batman slides across the floor to be in acceptable QTE/button prompt range and the framerate is REALLY struggling to even remotely reach 30. There’s a few parts in the video where the action and general physics simulation just pauses too. AA and AC weren’t perfect, but the games certain ran smoothly on my mid-range PC and even the consoles I played them on.

    This is looking really rough, especially for a video released 4 days before launch.

    • Rahdulf123 says:

      Yeah, that was some REALLY bad framerate. In a promotional video, no less.

    • Perkelnik says:

      Apparetnly, it runs on PS3, hence the framerate.

      • povu says:

        Why don’t they run their promos on a PC? They could even turn down the graphics a bit if they’re worried about misleading console users. That way you can get a stable framerate at least.

        Though I suppose that could be considered misleading as well.

      • Drinking with Skeletons says:

        Having played Asylum and City on both PC and PS3, I can say that platform isn’t an excuse. For Asylum, I had slightly better performance and almost imperceptibly better visuals on PC at max settings (minus PhysX, because I don’t have an Nvidia card).

        For City, PC performance was abominable. Just shameful. We could talk about DirectX versions and outdated cards all day long, but when my PC can handle any number of current gen (are we calling them last-gen yet?) titles without problem, including the immediate predecessor running on the same, widely used engine, there’s a problem. Meanwhile the PS3 ran pretty damned well, aside from a little screen tearing, and there was no visual difference that I could see.

        So this video, plus the suspicious lack of advance reviews, makes me think that this game is going to be a turkey. Guess we’ll see soon enough.

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          I believe there were patches that increased performance. I can get 60 fps on dx9 mode with max settings with my 6850, which was a mid tier card that came out two years before the game.

      • Erinduck says:

        I played AC and AA on a PS3 before I got the PC versions on the cheap and they ran loads better than this.

    • Moraven says:

      New developers on a engine they have not worked on before.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      That framerate was really depressing..

  7. djsarcher says:

    Wow, that really is awful. I don’t usually skip dialogue in games, but that might force me.

  8. ZIGS says:

    Compare that lip sync with Anachronox, a game from 2001, running on Quake 2 engine (which didn’t even support facial animation originally, devs had to add it to the engine):

    • Drayk says:

      Is it me or Sly looks a bit like Nathan Fillion ? I love Anachronox but never completed it.

      • basilisk says:

        That’s okay, neither did Ion Storm.

      • Werthead says:

        It’s on Steam and GoG now in modern Windows-friendly versions if you want to revisit it.

        And yeah, it ends on a cliffhanger, but the game itself is perfectly fine. And awesome. With the new Eidos/Square crowd-sourcing of ideas, I’m hoping Tom Hall will be able to propose doing the sequel to them (he’s always said he wants to do it) and they might go for it. If the old one sells really well on Steam, that would make that more likely.

  9. sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

    In a weird way I’m glad this is looking not so good.

    I played the hell out of AA and AC, and I really don’t have the desire to go and do it all again for a third time.

    But it would really annoy me if the one I didn’t play turned out to be the best one yet.

    • Jalan says:

      Too many key players are missing to make it the “best”, and no, I’m not just referring to the voice cast. I think, taken as a whole, Arkham Asylum and City comprise the definitive Batman gaming experience.

      I secretly hold onto hopes that Rocksteady has been toiling away at a game similar in style (not necessarily in tone) to both of those but for Superman. Heck, I’d even take a good Aquaman game at this point.

      • Werthead says:

        Word on the street (or rumour on the internet, so probably wrong) was that Rocksteady are working on a classic ‘Silver Age’ DC superheroes game. I don’t think that’s ever been officially confirmed though.

        • Turkey says:

          If they were working on a silver age character I can only picture it being Green Lantern or The Flash. Either of those sound pretty good to me.

        • Jalan says:

          Yeah, I remember that rumor. Until something/one officially confirms it though, I’m sticking with the vain hope of them doing a Superman game. Of course with it being the 75th anniversary of the character it’d be a prime time to drop news of such a game’s existence.

  10. vegeta1998 says:

    Yea it’s pretty bad, but as RPS is always championing half completed indie games or lazy design passed off as campiness I don’t understand the issue

    • phelix says:

      To play devil’s advocate: This is a game from a triple-A developer with staff numbers in the dozens, and with publisher funding in the millions. Saying they should be judged the exact same way as one or two man projects seems a tad na├»ve.

  11. Kong says:

    Batoxfaces are bad enough.

    The constant messaging about achievements and stuff center screen is even more annoying. To me.
    Maybe I have become a minority guy, belonging to a group of ancients who cannot enjoy TV shows anymore due to the constant messages and commercials beeping over and across the program/movie/game.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      That was the thing that struck me the most. You’re trying to glide around and be all bat like and suddenly there’s a wall of text in the middle of your screen, right where you need to look to determine what the hell is happening.

  12. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Good lord. I dread to think what the boob jiggle animations will look like

  13. BreadBitten says:

    I’m hoping, nay praying, that this is footage from some really old build of the game because other than the godawful facial animation and choppy framerate (regardless of this being the PS3 build) everything else looks rather fun.

  14. Zogtee says:

    Well, you weren’t kidding. Also, I’m seeing a lot of crap messages being displayed right over the action and questionable framerates.

    I’m starting to regret my pre-order now.

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      I almost pre-ordered it last week, had it ready to checkout. Then I noticed that it wasn’t by Rocksteady and decided against it.

  15. Nibblet says:

    Have to say i found the constant walls of text , prompts and scores all over the screen to be way more jarring and immersion breaking then the facial animations. Definetly skipping this one.

  16. f69 says:

    Forget the lip animations. That text in the middle of the screen, that damn text every 2 seconds. Horrendous. Absolutely terrible. Who.. the hell.. thought it was a good idea? If they can’t get a simple thing like this right…

  17. Jerppa says:

    Why does he brutally beat up police officers?

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      I loved the fact the dev was saying Batman would be gentler toward police officers, all while Batman was punching and kicking one in the face.

    • Jexiah8bit says:

      Because they are corrupt as shit – even more so in this game! ;) ..this game takes place before Gordon is commissioner, when the cops are bought and paid for and take all their anger and aggression out on the homeless and whatnot.

  18. MajorManiac says:

    Considering its Christmas theme. If this is good it’ll probably be my most anticipated game to play at Christmas.

  19. SkittleDiddler says:

    Yikes, it looks like they’re showing off a very unfinished dev build — weird text placement, NPC dialogue ripped straight from Arkham City, awkward HUD, clunky animation, etc etc etc.

    I hope the final release is a little more professional. Not that I’ll be buying it on release day, but I’d like to think I’ll be getting a polished product two years down the line.

  20. Solidstate89 says:

    You mean you don’t play third person beat’em up games like this with a 360 controller? Are you a masochist or something?

    • Jonfon says:

      After re-trying Arkham City only two days ago on the PS3 with controller I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m hopeless with controllers. Just can’t work them. At one point I managed to stealthly sneak up on a henchman and instead of silently taking him out (as I’d done to 2 of his friends) I instead pressed some other symbol and waved my fist at him, at which point he and his mates shot me.

      I’ve also discovered that I’d be a terrible Flying-insectivore-based Superhero.

      Maybe I’d fair better with a 360 controller on PC, I dunno.

    • Asurmen says:

      Having played AA on 360 and AC on PC I can say I really couldn’t tell the difference.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      I’m not against using controllers, as I have one myself, but mouse and keyboard is absolutely better for Arkham City. You can use the mouse wheel or numbers to select gadgets, you can press one button rather than two to quickfire or use special moves, and you don’t have to take your hand off of the camera controls.

      And the only type of game where a controller is definitely better than M&KB is third person games where the camera is divorced from the characters, like Devil May Cry 1-4.

  21. bodydomelight says:

    Caveat: I am an unashamed Arkham fanboy who is anticipating this game like the second coming of Space Jesus, Rocksteady or not.

    To me those in-game facial animations look no worse than in the first two, albeit while viewed on a small screen.

    And I know it was your hoo-man hoo-mour, but I have tried playing Arkham extensively with both k/m and pad. Pad is approximately infinity-times better for most of the gameplay, especially the combat. I would have thought that was standard consensus. No?

    • Low Life says:

      While I usually play third person action games like this with a controller, for some reason I found keyboard and mouse much more comfortable for the Arkham games. I think the heavy reliance on two primary actions (attack and block) in the combat is what makes this work, if it had more actions (such as light attack, heavy attack and block) things might be different.

      I also like having quickfires (and gadget selection) on the number keys.

      • AlFitz says:

        If I remember rightly you ideally needed to have 360 degree movement available with the gamepad to get the high combo chains in Arkham City. I didn’t manage to get very competent with it but it was good that it gave you the scope to become really proficient if you gave it the time.

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          You don’t really need to be precise with the attack direction, because you will attack the person closest to your direction of attack. If I need more precision than that (which is usually reserved for the higher level challenge rooms) I can rotate the camera. Personally, it’s very rare for me to attack a person that I didn’t mean to.

      • bodydomelight says:

        Fair play, all power to you if you made it work. As AlFitx says, for me the directional/rhythm-based elements of the combat meant that without sticks I felt I had very little precise control over target selection. Also, while the stealth elements of the Arkham games aren’t as dependent on graduated movement as much as others, having that option is also a big plus for the pad for me.

    • kud13 says:

      Not really. I found the game handled perfectly on my laptop with KB+M. On a large keyboard, it’s slightly less effective, but that’s because i’m one of the neanderthals who uses arrow keys instead of WASD

  22. puppybeard says:

    Those aren’t lips, those are leeches in the act of mating frenetically.

  23. jonahcutter says:

    Eek. Those facial animations do look rough. I’ve been anticipating this pretty highly and now I’m nervous they’ve been cutting corners.

    Please please please don’t be shoddy.

  24. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Batman has clearly suffered some sort of paralysing stroke to his facial muscles, and Alfred is Botoxed to the eyeballs.

  25. RaoulDuke says:

    I’d like to point out that it [mostly] only looks that terrible in the Optional, “Press X to hear Batman converse with this character again, reiterating the current objective again in a concise manner” OR like the 2nd time he presses X to talk to Alfred ” To hear random chit-chat/quipping”

    During the main “story” [ie pre-rendered] cutscenes the facial animation is as good as Asylum & City. I can’t seem to find a video to illustrate that though, as the released videos don’t show spoilery cutscenes; for obvious reasons. I’m going by my pre’d PS3 copy, which I’ve played the first hour or so of.

    My opinion is still the same as when they showed the first videos of Origins. It’s like Saint’s Row IV, a new coat of paint and a whole bunch of reused/reinvented ideas jammed together. The AI & Enemy placement seems much crapper than City though, I guess even when you copy AI algorithms someone else made you still have to actually design patrol routes based on your map and script enemies behavior when a guard is taken out.

    This is one of the biggest letdowns in Origins. I had to assault a super-villain’s boat filled with machinegun-armed guards on the deck and snipers up above, I got spotted by the 2nd sniper taking out the first one, zipped up and killed him too [Silly, I should have taken out other sniper first]. Then I notice that the other guards have all run to the knocked out guy and are doing the usual “WTF happened here? We gotta find who did this, cowards hide in the shadows, etc” spiel. After, they walked about in a big clump of five [5] or six [6] guys. I watched them from the shadows for five minutes and they never once stopped walking around in a giant clump of guys, pointing guns in all directions, I tried to fight them but was killed every time before I could knock everyone out.

    In Asylum you have the heart-monitor/collar thing that justifies them knowing a guy is down, fair enough.

    In City, the thugs super-villain master shouts prompts over the tannoy/radio to them a guy is down, although it doesn’t really explain why they run straight to him, but I can live with that as they can’t realistically have someone like Mark Hamill records a billion “One of the guys has been taken out on/near the “.

    In Origins they just run straight to the guy who was knocked out ON A HUNCH and all stand around him, then walk about in a big clump. Great stuff WB Montreal.

    TL;DR – Origins isn’t as polished as Asylum or City, and the [in-game, not prerendered] facial animations reflect that.

    • Monkeh says:

      In my mind, those talking points in Asylum and City looked a lot better, but I just looked up a video on Youtube and it looked almost just as bad as this. Guess my vision was clouded by all the other awesomeness.

      Shame to hear that there’s no ‘voice-over’ or heart-monitor for when baddies are downed, but that seems like something I could get over pretty easily. Hearing that the AI placement/patrols isn’t up to par and that they stay in a clump and alerted state forever (5 min. should be enough to conclude they won’t change state) once they’ve seen a body sounds quite terrible though.

      Really hope you’re talking about some kind of preview build you’ve played that was still going to get fixed up, but I’m guessing that’s not the case.

  26. dragonfliet says:

    I don’t know if you guys remember how terrible the facial animation was in Arkham Asylum and City, because it was pretty terrible then, too. It’s almost some sort of weird requirement for the game, that the animation be garbage.

  27. kud13 says:

    I think I will do with this one what I did with City:

    wait a month, then buy it 50% off in a Steam Sale.

  28. EvaUnit02 says:

    Arkham Asylum had awful facial animations all the way in 2008 as well.

  29. ffordesoon says:

    My reaction:

    Well, that doesn’t seem too terrible. Alfred was standing pretty far away, so it’s not like AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT

  30. DestroyYourEgo says:

    Holy Strawberries, Batman- looks like you’re in a jam!

  31. kapone says:

    Why does Alfred look like Marlon Brando as the Godfather after a few months at fat camp?

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