Rocksteady dissects Batman: Arkham City's controversial ending

Obviously this story about the end of Arkham City contains SPOILERS! You have been warned!

The final moments of Batman: Arkham City saw the (supposed) demise of the franchise's greatest villain, Joker. But more than just a cheesy “shock” moment to get fans talking, Rocksteady recently told CVG it had Joker's fate sealed from the beginning and, for them, there was really no better way to complete the story.

“There were no dissenting voices, as long as it was done in a proper way, as long as it was clear that Batman didn't go out to kill him - that's never what Batman would do,” Hill explained, recalling early conversations with DC Comics, Warner Bros. and Rocksteady developers. “Joker being responsible for his own downfall because he wasn't able to resist stabbing Batman in the back was something we thought would be a nice poetic end for him."

Hill said Joker's death was something the studio planned “fairly early on”, and that it was the natural conclusion to a story that saw the grinny villain poisoning Batman in order to find a cure for a disease he'd contracted from the previous game.

“We knew people would be thinking: 'obviously they're not going to kill Batman or Joker, right?' We felt killing Joker was a really striking end. It was almost taboo, like it was something we could never do. That would be interesting,” Hill said.

As for Catwoman's final decision – that is, to save Batman or get the hell out of dodge – Hill admitted that “will she, won't she” ending was more of a last-minute decision, but that it was too good to pass up.

Read the full interview, including Hill's musing's on missing multiplayer, the UK game industry and how Arkham City has a few more secrets left in it, over at CVG now.


  • robotdickens - February 23, 2012 3:49 p.m.

    I personally felt it was an exceptional ending. When I heard that Hamill was unfortunately not going to be playing as the Joker anymore, I thought that Joker would die or some cheesy story line plot where Joker's voice is horribly marred so he has to use a voice box or can't speak at all. Out of all of those, killing Joker was the best decision. I really hope they make more of these games, as I am a big fan, but personally I don't see anyway they could while still doing justice to the franchise.
  • CitizenWolfie - February 10, 2012 2:04 a.m.

    I was very disappointed with the AC ending. Not that Joker had died - I've seen that in Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Returns" already where he breaks his own neck because he knows Batman would never kill him. But instead I couldn't believe that Clayface was actually the last boss. I mean, it was a pretty good bait and switch story-wise but after I beat Clayface (hated that fight too by the way) I kept expecting to have my last stand against the Joker. But it never came. It felt like they knew there would be a third game and so didn't really bother to tie anything up. What I don't understand is why a lot of people think the boss fights in AC are so much better than AA. Admittedly, the Mr. Freeze fight was great in that you have to use all the skills you've built up in the game prior and was executed in a clever way, but all the others I can think of were just arena battles - find weakness, hit three times, next stage of attack, repeat from step one. Grundy, Clayface, Al-Ghul all followed this pattern. None of the side missions seemed to have boss fights so much as concluding openly. Whereas in AA the boss fights worked really well I feel. Some people hated the Croc fight, but I thought it was really tense and creepy. They did a really good job of making you feel like you should not be there in Croc's lair. After all, Batman couldn't really square up to him in a fist fight and I loved the idea that Batman was the prey after spending all that time prior as the predator. Likewise the Scarecrow segments. They weren't boss battles in the traditional sense in that you fight one-on-one with a villain, but instead it felt like you were fighting the game itself. I don't care what anyone says, for me those battles started from the moment the environments start tripping out. Those moments where the fourth wall breaks down and it's not just Batman fighting the Scarecrow, but YOU'RE fighting the Scarecrow. Personally nothing in Arkham City came close.
  • charlie_ruskiy - February 9, 2012 10:01 p.m.

    They didn't mention the part where Mark Hamill didn't want to do anymore Batman games after this one and they couldn't really get another voice actor to fill his place.
  • angelusdlion - February 9, 2012 11:11 p.m.

    Um.. No I believe the quote was that he WASN'T going to do anymore batman games.. and that's why. Correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will.
  • griffinkat - February 9, 2012 5:47 p.m.

    I'm a bit confused why is killing the joker shocking? They did it in the movies. They've done similar things in the comics (though I admit I don't read DC or batman so don't know if Joker himself ever died). And it's a game people. Another company will come along and make another batman game that has nothing to do with these two. It's not like he's gone forever. Only in these batman games and I think that's a good thing. Forces them to shine the spot light on other villains. but at the end of the day the companies get to decide what's in and out of the games. You don't see spider man running around with bone blades do you (he had them shortly in the comics). The games aren't the movies or the comics. Give them the freedom to try different things instead of fallowing the stories so stiffly there's no joy.
  • Pwnz0r3d - February 9, 2012 4:37 p.m.

    Honestly I don't care if they killed the Joker. He'll come back. What bugged me was how obvious and needlessly complex the plot got towards the middle act. It was obvious from the start that Strange wasn't even a threat, he was more of a Big Brother-lite figure, and once Ra's was introduced, you know at THAT VERY SECOND that he's involved in Arkham City in a huge way, and, through Strange's taunt screens when you die, he practically told you he was working for Ra's. Also, Talia isn't dead. Nor is Ra's. The League of Assassin's ALWAYS finds another Lazarus Pit, Batman knew this, which is why he wasn't devastated when Talia died. It was a great game, but the plot got too big for its own good, and ended up falling rather flat. I can't even say I was shocked when Joker died; I wanted the plot to just wrap up before it got more complex.
  • lazer59882 - February 9, 2012 8 p.m.

    my biggest problem with the story was the importance of Talia and her dad or whatever (i forget by this point) Rash. to be honest as a veteran only of the animated series, the first 4 films and the 60s adam west series, i had no idea who either of those two characters was. and the fact that two peripheral series characters would be so important to the climax of the story, in a game that expects you to know who everyone is before playing, ruined the entire experience for me. i couldn't possibly care less about talia cause i have no idea who she is, and the whole business with the assassins felt completely out of place. and then they kill joker?? instead of those two random loser characters? i guess they only wanted the hardcore batnerds to know what the hell was going on by that point anyway.
  • tokinzen - February 19, 2012 9:16 a.m.

    First of all, both Talia and Ra's were in the animated series. Granted they were only in 4 and 5 episodes respectively, but Clayface only had 4 and you apparently knew him. (And although you said you hadn't seen it, Ra's was in Chris Nolan's first Batman movie, which prompted the resurgence of Bat-popularity and led to the creation of the game, so most people would know Ra's). Secondly, and maybe this is my fanboy showing, but they most definitely are not "two random loser characters." Ra's Al-Ghul is the leader of the League of Assassins. He is hellbent on getting Batman to replace him, or kill him if he refuses. He's basically Batman, but with an "ends justifies the means" attitude. Talia is Al-Ghul's daughter and loves Batman, hell they even had a kid in the comics. Lastly, the reason they included character profiles and the like into the game isn't for the nerds to read, we already know that stuff. It is for the people who are unfamiliar with the Batman and his rogues gallery. Read those and you will have a better grasp of the game overall.
  • inkyspot - February 9, 2012 2:14 p.m.

    Comics kill and bring back super heroes many times. I actually enjoyed the game. I also hope they did not kill the joker, but the next game should feature a new bad guy... Someone different that what was shown already. I didn;t think the story was really bad, but if you look at the whole batman story in general... can you call that good for real? Super hero stuff. I enjoyed it. Rocksteady did a great job.
  • xarab4lyfex - February 9, 2012 1:55 p.m.

    This was one of the worst endings in any next gen game this season since halo 2's, but I guess you can't expect much when the story of the whole game was just as bad. The story was Batman was sick and he needed to find a cure? That's the kind of story you find in the cartoon show. Just horrible, Batman doesn't need a story to go around kicking the villains ass. They kidnap people, Batman stops the villain and saves them. That's all it needed to be. They're right, the Joker dying is Taboo, so don't do it. You don't have the right to kill the Joker. And his death was so bad. Like after all the sh*t Batman and Joker went through, he dies of a disease? Really? Why did he carry out the Joker and just give a big middle finger to Talia. Did she even die? And why wouldn't he even want to carry out the girl that he still loves, and the reason he even went to stop the Joker. Why did he even try to save her at all if he was didn't even care enough to see if she was still alive. And the Joker singing was just annoying, not sad, not creepy, just annoying. And if I knew the Catwoman part was gonna be just as annoying and boring as her other 3 parts, I would've just turned it off right when the credits started, instead of sitting through credits that were longer than the damn game. Seriously dissapointing sequel coming from such a fantasic game that was Arkham Asylum. Seriously, hire new story writers and make the third game longer than five hours, or I'm just gonna rent it/wait for a price End Rant.
  • GhostNappa2k10 - February 9, 2012 2:04 p.m.

    I respect your opinion, but the game was far from disappointing. Sure, the way the game ended was breaking taboo, but at the end of the day it is an ending that people will not forget. And you're saying they don't have the right to kill The Joker, but DC themselves gave them the green light to do just that. The Joker singing was highlighting perfectly just how insane the man was mentally. Also, the Catwoman parts could be annoying, but they were nowhere near as bad as you make them out to be.
  • Doorstop - February 9, 2012 2:21 p.m.

    why why so hyperbole
  • FOZ - February 9, 2012 2:35 p.m.

    Are you kidding me? Batman isn't just sick. Joker infected Gotham's supply of blood to be transplanted. How he did that, I don't know, but that's a different plot hole. Second, a cartoon? Really? The Animated Series wasn't just a dumb Saturday morning cartoon, it's so damn respected that elements and plotlines from it (Harley Quinn, Nora Fries) have been adapted into the comics. It won awards all over the place. They don't have the right? Says who? One of the writers (Paul Dini) has 5 Emmy Awards and has been working on Batman for nearly 10 years. You're telling me he doesn't have the right to have Joker die because of some stupid, unwritten rule? It doesn't even apply here. Arkham is outside of comic book continuity. Joker died in The Dark Knight Returns, but we all know that comic is a stupid piece of shit that had no influence whatsoever on Batman's current direction, and everyone hated it. Of course. The Joker died and it was his own damn fault. Not some random disease he contracted, a disease he afflicted upon himself due to being so nuts. You keep trying to criticize the plot by boiling it down to the most basic ideas possible and then claiming the plot is too simplistic. The Talia part was barely done and makes little sense that she would die from a dinky pistol shot at 100 feet away. Fine. Catwoman's parts were boring. Definitely. That Two-Face section at the end was rather stupid as well. I thought the plot fizzled out and the game could have been longer, but I'm not going to go after the story for weak reasons like "the Joker shouldn't have died."
  • BladedFalcon - February 9, 2012 3:03 p.m.

    Man... I know you're just expressing how you feel about the game. But the way you do it makes it really hard to take your opinions seriously. Even though I actually rather agree with some of your complaints. (Like the Thalia thing, which i explain in the posts below.) I mean- Look, if you didn't like the game, that's fine, and it's completely understandable. but you're knocking him for having things such as... continuity? How is having the events of Arkham Asylum having a ripple here a bad thing? you're also kicking the story for trying to be more complex than your standard batman cartoon, which, again, it's not a bad thing in itself. Lastly... You're not just knocking on the story, but the whole game? Again, your oppinion, but considering most of your complaints come from the ending and the story, i fail to see how they translate into the game. It's bigger, it expands and improves of the combat system of the first, it has better boss fights, more cool gadgets. I might have a problem with some sloppy details of the ending, but consider the overall product to be amazing. And since it sounds like you actually loved the first game, i don't quite understand what it is from this second one that apparently makes it so terrible.
  • xarab4lyfex - February 9, 2012 6:55 p.m.

    Fine, I'll give an explanation on why the first is better than the second 1. The first game was actually longer, I've played both and AA is the longer of the two. And I'll repeat this again, side quests don't count, especially when some of them suck. (Fuck Freeze's wife) 2. The first game's story wasn't bad. He was saving an asylum from a bunch of crazy villains, which is much better than Batman being sick and Joker infecting a large blood supply by impossible means. 3. The environment was much better in AA. The feel of traveling around the asylum gave a sense a fear, knowing that anything could happen. The medical bay and being afflicted by the Scarecrow's gas, the greenhouse surrounded by Ivy's plants. I just thought it was a lot more scenic than a city. It's like Resident Evil how people liked certain parts of the game because it had a better atmosphere. 4. AA used it's villains much better than AC. I shouldn't have to explain why, ex: Two-Face. 5. Yes the combat was better and so was the predator missions, but it wasn't much of an upgrade. There was nothing new or ground breaking about it enough to justify it. But I guess if it ain't broke don't fix it. 6. The boss fights, nothing in AC could even be compared to the Scarecrow encounters or the Killer Croc fight in the sewers. The mister freeze fight and Ra's al Ghul were the only good fights, and clay face was a really easy/boring final boss fight (though I will admit it is better than Titan Joker) This game by no stretch is bad. But when Arkham Asylum is such a great game and there's over a year of hype for this game, it was just disappointing. The terrible use of villains, the plot hole riddled story, the boss fights were worse, the city got boring, the "new detective mode" was just scanning something and letting batman do all the work. And don't even get me started on what happens at the top of the tower with Hugo Strange. I was expecting a big boss fight, but I just got batman bitch slapping him around silly. And Really? Ra's al Ghul? I mean, ok fine, he can be the main villain, that's ok, but he literally just dies within a minute of finding out. And it would've been cool if we got to rematch him, but no. It's a cutscene. The whole scene just felt rushed. And leaving holes in a story is ok if you're planning a sequel. But it's a problem when it just detracts from the whole game. Now I know I complain about the story too much and I'm going way too much into it, and if it was just the story, then I would say idgaf, and I doubt no one really cares what I'm sayin and it's not gonna change anyone's mind, but I still view the game as a disappointment when compared to the first one. I was expecting the next best thing, but I got more of the same with minor problems. And I never meant to hate on the Batman cartoon, I loved the shit out of that when I was younger. I meant more like that story is something you see in a cartoon, not in a video game. The whole story and game just felt rushed.
  • BladedFalcon - February 9, 2012 9:04 p.m.

    Okay, thanks for the explanation, and hey, some points are actually pretty good, but well, let me reply one by one: 1.-I can't really say which one was actually longer, but i don't think there was that much of a difference since to me both lasted a healthy amount of time. And besides, when does more length equals quality? To me, as long as the game's length feels "Right" and not padded out or rushed, then it's done well. And in my opinion, both games achieved this. 2.- I honestly believe the overall story of the first game was about as silly as this one. But I think you're not even getting the premise of AC's story right. It's not about batman being sick; It's about a large section of the city being turned into a prison with all the biggest criminals there, and Batman getting there to find out what's going on. Which is really not all that bad of a premise, even if the ending isn't executed as well. 3.-I think the atmosphere in both games were done well. Yes, AA is more creepy, but to me, AC does a better job of making you feel like Batman, and to interact with what often is a part of him: The city. It's genuinely exhilarating to be able to continuously fly and grapple around the city and it makes you feel more like batman rather than crawling around corridors everywhere. Not to mention that it was more fun and faster to explore and backtrack than AA was. 4.- Not going to argue this point. Though AA was far from perfect, the way they used Bane was insulting, and while initially applied right, Croc's involvement was ultimately anti-climatic. 5.- Considering there's still no other good game out there that has anything like this combat system. It was awesome to see it back AND improved while never changing what made it so special in the first place. Same with the sneaking and predator sections. 6.-Dude... Scarecrow wasn't even a real boss fight. And Killer-Croc's was boring and a letdown. I appreciate the atmosphere they tried to pull, but it simply was a boring and annoying fight. Ivy was "eh" at best, and all the titan related bosses are frigging obnoxious. All the bosses on AC on the other hand, were competent at worst, and frigging brilliant at best. I still consider Mr. Freeze to be the best boss fight of 2011, easy. And well, I also agree that the whole thing with strange in the wonder tower felt rushed, but in itself the reveal wasn't bad. Not nearly as bad as the whole thing in the theater anyway. And yet... I still think AC delivered the overall better experience. In AA I enjoyed it, but i couldn't be bothered to get all there is to do, or even tackle the challenge rooms. In AC I felt compelled to do EVERYTHING there was to do, and to me it was just more fun and compelling. That being said... I can't believe you never mentioned the extras. That was definitely one thing AA did leagues better. That reveal of Quincy sharp upon collecting all the pieces? brilliant, and that whole thing felt like a better story than the main actual plot. And the tapes regarding Zahz and that doctor? Incredibly chilling and creepy. The ones in AC aren't bad, but they never are as memorable as those two things. And another point of comparison you left out: The music. I don't remember the music in AA being bad... Because I don't remember the music at all. It was probably atmospheric and adequate, but I don't think it enhanced the experience... The music in Arhkam City? Absolutely amazing. The main theme is iconic and does a great job of pumping you up whenever you started the game, also, any title music that compels you to NOT press start right away just to hear it more says something. And then the battle music in general was superb and equally memorable, and made you more tense/excited during a fight just hearing it. Lastly? I honestly think you're making a big deal out of the Joker's death. I am not really happy about how they killed him. (because I thought it was sloppily done) But I have no problem with them killing him if he has served his purpose, and he did. And if they do a sequel, I would actually groan if Joker was to be the villain again. Batman has such a large pool of interesting, complex villains, that sticking mainly with one feels like a waste to me.
  • xarab4lyfex - February 10, 2012 12:43 p.m.

    Well that is the point. The whole game did feel rushed. You were moving from one villain to the other in a matter of minutes (some an hour). I didn't get to take in the experience, like I did in Asylum. The Scarecrow fights, while not really a bare-knuckle brawl was still a fight. It was more scripted but you were still fighting scarecrow, but on a more sneaky and intellectual level. Also I still stand by the killer croc fights being better than every fight in AC except Freeze. That fight was probably the best. Ra was ok, but it felt kinda meh. The last fight was stupid as soon as batman picked up that sword. And clayface just came out of nowhere. It's like "I don't fucking care about you, go away". Like there was no point to fighting him. What did he do to me, he's just in the way of the real target. The story of AA, while not good wasn't retarded and riddled with plotholes like AC was. And my playthrough of the game was about 5 hours, nowhere near enough to justify 60 dollars (thank god I got 35 dollars back when I traded it in). And Uncharted lasted me about 8 hours, but I didn't complain that it was too short, because the whole thing was actually satisfying and fun and a great experience. To me, the first game was like eating a pretty good slice of cake. The whole thing was satisfying from beginning to end. Then AC was like eating a smaller, but better tasting piece, but finding a hair in it right when you get to the last bite. It's a weird analysis, but that's just what I thought of when I looked back on it. And no, I'm not saying the story sucks because I don't like it. I don't like Mass Effects story or Bioshocks, but I'm not parading around saying that they're terrible stories, I can acknowledge that they're good games and good stories that I couldn't care less about. But when people are calling it a great story is where I draw the line. If people think stories like this game are anywhere near good. Then playing games like Persona 3, TWEWY, Phoenix Wright or Okami must be mindblowing. Just saying, I think the game is overrated, but I'm clearly the only person in the world who thinks this, but then again it is my opinion and I made legitimate reasons to back it up. And the side quests for the most part, were bad. While they seemed interesting at first, if you boil it down, it's really go from point A to point B, scan this, go from point B to point C, scan this. Just boring in general. Freeze's wife I could care less about. Fuck picking up the phones, and deadshot was really just scanning the environment until you find him. Mad Hatter was my favorite part of the game, but was too short. And yea, now that I look at it none of the games really excelled in boss fights. They're arguably the worst parts of the both the games. And Arkham City's use of villains was much much worse. If I had no experience with some of these villains, then I wouldn't really hate them. In my opinion, they only used Penguin right. What they did to Two-Face was disgusting and when you mentioned Bane, I hope you were talking about him in AC because was even worse in the second game
  • xarab4lyfex - February 9, 2012 6:59 p.m.

    And I'm pissed that they killed Joker because he's arguably the best villain in any story/comic/t.v show/game ever. It'd be like if Nintendo killed off Bowser for good. People would be pissed including me because everyone loves Bowser. And yea it's an ending I won't forget, but it is also an ending that I do wanna forget. I'm just gonna pretend that Joker dying never happened. And it didn't help that my ps3 went mute during the ending. (maybe it hated the ending too) And yes the Catwoman parts do suck, it's just time that I could have spent playing more as Batman.
  • FOZ - February 9, 2012 8:22 p.m.

    He's not "dead for good." He's dead for the Arkham games, because his role is DONE. A huge portion of two games focused on him. Using him more wouldn't be particularly interesting. Asylum's boss fights? Did we play the same game? Crouch-walking around the sewer, throwing Batarangs at Killer Croc was hardly an exciting "boss fight." Waiting for Bane to charge, throw Batarang, dodge, again. Poison Ivy, wait for pods to open, THROW BATARANG. Face it, Asylum's boss fights were bad, maybe the weakest parts of the game. And you realize the only boss fights in AC were Grundy, Ra's, Freeze, and the final boss? So it has 2 good bosses and one boss better than Asylum's final boss. That sounds like AC has the advantage. Scarecrow sections weren't exactly boss fights, and using the same gimmick (seriously, that's some NES-era stealth going on in those sections) for all 3 times wasn't exactly one of the game's better ideas. Asylum had a better environment, but traversing it just sucked. Having to cut through buildings to reach other areas, having to cross the yard with those stupid, stupid plants. I didn't really want to explore it. I didn't care for the story either. Strange's "mysterious plan" turned into nothing but "Gather criminals, secretly arm them, then blow them up with missiles," and Ra's al Ghul just felt like a completely lazy excuse to justify Strange's and Sharp's political power. But you're going after the story because "That's not how I would have done it, therefore it sucks." Seeing as your idea of an adequate Batman story is "Batman punches dudes and saves kidnapped people," and that experienced writers shouldn't be allowed to try new stories because you can't let go of the Joker, you're really undermining your own criticisms. Again, Batman is not popular just because he punches people and is badass. And even though AC is clearly shorter, I'm not sure why you accuse the sidequests of sucking, then point out Nora Fries. All you have to do is go to a building and beat up some guys. It's probably the easiest sidequest.
  • inc30 - February 9, 2012 11:57 p.m.

    I Apologise for not having the time right now to make a well constructed paragraph by paragraph comment here, but i spotted this and just had to make this joke. In the words of Jack Ryder, You Are Wrong! (Sorry, Bit Too much DC Universe) But Seriously, i cant believe no one picked up on this "Batman doesn't need a story to go around kicking the villains ass." If you haven't Noticed, Batman is primarily a comic book, and as such doesnt have satisfying action scenes. So Batman Should ALWAYS be all about the story. It's the reason Batman is the Worlds Greatest Detective. He Doesn't need to be, but it gives the comic a method of telling More Stories. I'll throw in my opinion and say, Arkham City was Eagerly anticipated from the moment Arkham Asylum's Credits started rolling, and to me at least it was a Roaring success. I Loved Every Minute of it. The one dissapointment was Hugo Strange's Big plan kinda felt stupid once it happened. Oh, you are bombing the city. Great work... Catwomans parts, while average, are at least a good way of breaking the game up a bit, and offering differentiation. If you didnt want it, why not just delete the catwoman download off your hard drive. And Jokers Death? The icing on the cake. It Blew my mind to have him die, in the same way Robins death Blew my mind in the comic books. It Was, in my opinion the perfect ending. Why did he not Mourn Talia? Don't Care. Why Did he carry out the joker? Dont Care. Who are we to nitpick what goes in in Batmans Mind? On Another unrelated note. I Miss the Animated Series :'(

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