Today, we've seen a rumor flying around that Rocksteady's next Batman game will be a Silver Age-era game about the first time Batman met Joker. Variety notes that this period is when Batman formed the Justice League of America along with Superman and a bunch of other famous DC superheroes. Which of course, raises the question: Will we see other Justice Leaguers in Rocksteady's next game?
This opens the door to all manner of Justice League guesswork and supposition. But I'm not really that interested in guessing about this specific rumor-we're waiting to hear more about the game, but we've got very little info to go on so far. The only thing we can say for sure is that going purely on Rocksteady's track record, the game will probably be pretty darned good.
My initial reaction to the thought of a Batman game that incorporated Justice League members was "ew." Because I guess I hate change? And because for some reason, I don't like it when other superheroes interact with Batman. Batman is so badass. He exists in his own world, and the moment some superpowered yahoo in red tights turns up, it wrecks the party. This is psychopath playtime! Go away, Superman! Buzz off, The Flash!
But the more I think about it, the more I get into the idea of Rocksteady working other heroes into one of their games in the future. Maybe not this Batman game. Maybe not even a Batman game. But some game. And that's because I would love to play more famous comic book heroes who take advantage of Arkham City's amazing combat system.
Many comics, particularly classic superhero comics, rely hugely on fistfighting and physical combat. It's an essential part of every superhero game, then, that the fighting not only feels good, but that it feels as larger-than-life, satisfying and explosive as it looks in the comics.
I'd never quite experienced that until I played 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum. I remain astonished to this day at the trick Rocksteady pulled off. They used some very smart slight-of-hand, skipping animation frames and using slick invisible assists to make players feel like an unstoppable beatdown machine. Combat only improved in Arkham City, where Rocksteady tightened up the fundamentals while making the whole system deeper, more interesting and more challenging.
How great would it be to see these same guys lend their combat system to a Superman game, or The Flash or Wonder Woman? Many DC characters don't excite me all that much, but with the benefit of Rocksteady's fabulous combat system, I'd be first in line to play games based on them.
I had a similar thought while playing Beenox's recent The Amazing Spider-Man. It's a competent game, but the combat feels loose and generally lacks impact. It is, in other words, yet another superhero game with unsatisfying fighting. Can you imagine if Rocksteady had lent their expertise to Beenox? The Amazing Spider-Man would have been vastly improved on a fundamental level.
The last Rocksteady rumour we heard was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, yet another franchise that could benefit from a great physical combat system. That rumour turned out to be insubstantial, but that was where I first started dreaming my unrealistic dreams: Maybe we can just have Rocksteady do all of the combat for every superhero game from here on out? They could licence their fighting engine like Havoc licenses their physics engine. It'd be superhero middleware!
I realise that this is going to happen sometime between "never" and "when pigs fly." All the same, I can't help but dream of a future where the punches feel like punches, the kicks kick arse, and where the superheroes fight in a way that actually feels superheroic.