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Rock, Paper, Shot Takes: The Arkham Knight Debacle

Team RPS debates the Knightfall

The first in a new (hopefully) weekly series, in which the RPS hivemind gathers to discuss/bicker about/mock the most pressing (or at least noisiest) issues in PCgamingland right now. Hot Takes are go.

Alec: It will surprise literally no-one to hear that we are discussing Bat-Like Man: Arkham Kerrnigut and its somewhat disastrous PC port, which while technically last week’s news remains this week’s news because every fecker’s still talking about it. Including us.

I guess the first thing to ask is if y’all think its publisher pulling it off sale was GOOD THING or WHAT THE HELL THING?

Graham: *climbs on fence* I find it a HARD TO JUDGE THING. I know people for whom the game barely ran, in which case it's a great thing that it was pulled off sale. I know people for whom it ran basically fine with a few options turned off - better than many other ports - in which case it seems sort of silly that it's not on sale. I can't tell which is more common. I guess I lean towards it being a good thing. Slightly.

Alice: There's a big enough chance that it sucks that it shouldn't be on sale. Congratulations to everyone getting lucky, but they shouldn't sell a game like tombola tickets. Especially without plastering the box and store pages with "Warning: this game may be super-garbage for you" notices. Spend your tombola money on a bottle of Blue Nun; that's the best prize I ever won.

Graham: Do we think that they pulled it from sale because of Steam refunds? Removing it from sale is an almost unprecedented move, and refunds through Steam are a recent change that probably led to a lot of people claiming their money back on Arkham Knight.

Alec: I incline to thinking it’s primarily a face-saving measure: like, the longer this malfunctioning thing remained on sale, the more possible damage there might be to the publisher’s reputation. That’s why I don’t feel good about the withdrawal: it’s not really for the consumer’s benefit if that is the case. But clearly I’m presuming a very particular kind of guilt there. Instinctively I’d rather it was still available so everyone could see its shame, I guess. I must be Catholic without realising it.

Pip: Regardless of the publisher's motivation, leaving it on sale implies it's in a fit state to be bought and played. If that's in doubt then that's a problem because I can think of a whole bunch of people who might buy that game without looking at reviews to check for basic playability. In that way it doesn't matter what the motivation behind the decision is, I think it's better that people get a working product instead of a bad experience so removing it in the meantime is better. Warner chanced their arm releasing it in that state which is obviously a bad thing, but once that had been done I think removing it from sale was the better option. I'm also hoping it sets a better precedent when other companies have a tricky PC port on their hands.

Alice: I suspect they're more afraid of class action suits than reputation damage.

Anyway, I tell everyone loud and clear that it's trash. Just the other day, I shouted it at a child on the bus in a Batman t-shirt. His father had the most furious look of thanks across his face and fists.

Graham: I think the reputation might be unrecoverable now and not only because Alice keeps yelling at children. There are people who want the game to be punished, and no matter how long Warner Bros. spend wandering the world and training with Ra's al Ghul, certain players are never going to feel they're worthy of any future success. Arkham Knight could return to Steam with everything fixed and free DLC for all, and a lot of people will still give it negative Steam reviews and want us to kill Batman's parents a second time as punishment.

Alec: Some recent Batman comics suggested that might even be possible, I believe. I don’t know, the internet’s memory can be short, and if the game’s as good as everyone says it is even the loudest forum-bellower probably won’t be able to resist. Especially because graphics, if they manage to fix that. PC gamers love a graphic. But yeah, this’ll come up every time Warner open pre-orders for their next thinger.

Alice: Mate, the Internet's memory is LONG. It's so long. This shouldn't be forgotten either - it's gross. I know we say not to pre-order as a rule, but especially don't pre-order WB games now.

Alec: It’s only selectively long. Bad things said or done in the past by the hero of the current hour can be forgotten conveniently, I find. What about this business, reported upon by Erstwhile Colleague Nathan over on Kotaku, that everyone involved allegedly knew far in advance that Batty was a hot mess? It doesn’t surprise me and clearly they should have changed tack if that were the case, but… I mean, aren’t most big projects a hot mess until pretty close to the end, this whole bunch of people praying their cauldron of crazy junk will miraculously turn into something viable in the final stretch?

Alice: And this is why so many AAA sequels are trash. Support yr local walking simulator.

Graham: The news that the game was a mess a year or two before release is certainly no big surprise. It's slightly more of a problem that they would have known it had problems when it was released, but… That's not a surprise either. They weren't the kind of problems that only showed up on very particular hardware configurations. Probably they should have used that information to delay the PC version of the game and taken the heat from that instead of releasing it anyway - though I bet the decision to move ahead was less malice and more that it's hard for large publishers to change course quickly.

Alec: Visions of one poor shmoe in a basement at some outsourcing company, handling QA by himself with one mid-range GeForce and a monitor from 2006.

Alice: This is why I don't mind when a game's PC version is delayed. I can wait. Wasn't GTA V nice after its delays?

Alec: Nah, there was some howler which took a couple of days to sort - lotsa people couldn’t get it to load. Internet memory: only selectively long.

Alice: I resent the accusation that I'm part of the Internet.

Alec: I’ve only ever seen you outside it twice, I think, and I can’t be sure that it wasn’t VR. I just mean though that Warner are being held up as Almighty Baddies, but we’ve seen this happen (off the top of my head) with GTA, Assassin’s Creed, iD’s Rage and it never went quite this far. Not uncommon for PC versions to be messy, but this is the highest profile case yet and I wonder if it might actually make other pubs think twice about sticking any old guff on Steam. Which would be lovely.

Graham: This seems relevant to whether it should have been pulled from sale and how it should return: have any of us here played it enough regardless of Batbugs to know whether the Batgame that lies beyond is any good?

Pip: I bought it on PS4 and it's great. The Batcape looks amazing when I glide around, I'm enjoying the combat (although the Batmobile can do one), I love exploring the world and finding stories on my own or by following clues if I want. It's just a really great experience, even for me who is less familiar with the comics and has an uneasy feeling about the Batman character in general. There's some fantastic set pieces as well. I won't spoil them but I've been Skyping friends who are playing it too so we can geek out when we've both finished a section.

Alec: It actually runs pretty well on my PC so long as I’m prepared to turn off Fancy Rain, Fancy Fog and Fancy Fluttering Newspapers, so I’ve given it a few hours. Not much further on than where I was when I wrote that piece with Adam, but it’s opened up more now, has had a couple of fun twists and is rife with Bat-lore in a fairly accessible way. Feels a lot more like the bat-sim I wanted it to be now I’m a bit less chained to core plot and can dick about in the city. I’d rather be back in The Witcher 3 because I like strolling through corn fields, but I totally get why people are going bat-crazy for it.

Graham: Any predictions for how Batman Returns? I'm presuming they'll push it out bundled with apology DLC and a fresh new Steam App ID so that all those negative reviews are quietly jettisoned, instead of being listed as being from an earlier version of the game.

Alec: That would make sense, though I guess it gets messy in terms of bumping people with the original version onto the new one. Yeah, I guess they’ll copy what Ubisoft did and make some of the season pass stuff free to all existent purchasers, and maybe a free game for season pass owners. They’ve probably got a job lot of Mordor codes stuffed into a coffee jar somewhere they could stand to get rid of.

Alice: As I'm evidently playing The Controversial One in these four fingers of Hot Takes, I'll say they shall instead fire it into the sun. p.s. Give F.E.A.R. 4 to Monolith.

Alec: It’ll all just turn out to be a marketing stunt for Batman versus Superman anyway.

And finally, who’s everyone’s favourite superhero?

No let’s not do that, bye.

Batman: Arkham Knight is, er, not out now.

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Batman: Arkham Knight

PS4, Xbox One, PC

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About the Author
Alec Meer avatar

Alec Meer


Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about video games.