How non-lethal is Batman? A doctor weighs in on Arkham Knight

Batman has two rules. 1) Don't kill. 2) Do add the word 'bat' to everything you own (butlers excluded). Every sensible iteration of the Dark Knight sticks to these , but Arkham Knight pushes the first rule to breaking point then runs it over with the Batmobile. You keep telling yourself you're only 'incapacitating' them, Bruce. Whatever helps you sleep on your MATTRESS OF SHATTERED ANKLES. 

Anyway. Alarmed at the way Batman whacks, ploks and ka-hemorrhages his way through Gotham's villainous hordes, I found myself asking if his victims could actually survive. To this end, I got spoke to Dr M Hussain, SHO, an actual, non-comic-book-evil doctor to help deduce precisely how non-lethal Batman is. Please read on in horror as Dr Hussain explains what happens when Bat-fist connects with villain-bone. 

Pipe down

Theres' a sense early on in Arkham Knight that this is a Batman carrying additional emotional baggage. Considering the titanic amount he was carrying to begin with - dead parents, double life, Alfred's unfortunate insistence on keeping up with Downton Abbey - thats enough to make anyone a bit tetchy. So when Bats grabs a soldier in a cell and introduces the chap to the metal bars by yanking him into them, its certain that the old No Killing rule is getting tested before the night is through.

Fortunately for Bruce, this type of provocation isnt going to turn him into a murderer just yet. Dr. Hussain says that [It] depends on how strong the force is. Most people can survive this type of blow - but the resulting complications can be dangerous; the victim can be left with brain injury. Well, I guess its a good job Batman doesnt have a rule about ensuring the criminals hes fighting have to think or talk again.

Inverted Takedown

A classic staple of the Arkham series, as Bats lurks in the rafters waiting to swoop up some inattentive guards, whisper a few sweet nothings, and then leave them hanging like a naughty piata. If theyre lucky, theyll be cut down. Eventually. But could this showy display of strength actually end up with a body on Batmans conscience?

From a medical perspective, it is not necessarily how far someone falls but how they fall, which determines their survival. Dr. Hussain explains. When someone lands on their back, rather than their side, the main artery which carries blood (the aorta) is ruptured. A fall of 3m can be dangerous; a fall of more than 10m can cause significant organ damage - enough to cause death. Lets give Bats the benefit of the doubt. Maybe itll be better if theyre left to dangle until the Gotham Health and Safety Department devise a responsible way for hanging thugs to be freed? Dr. Hussain points out When someone is upside down for long periods of time the blood rushes to the head and lungs and causes pooling of blood where it shouldnt be. This can cause something known as pulmonary oedema, which in turn can cause raised blood pressure and stroke. Oh. Maybe not then.

Extended combos are extremely excessive

Nothing else captures the essence of Batman quite like the FreeFlow combat. The stalking, detecting, and gargoyle straddling might be close, but its the ballet of concussions that wins out. Arkham Knight ensures that Batman is as mercilessly economical with his fighting as ever, dishing out black eyes and broken bones like a sociopathic santa. At some point a line marked Living/Stop, stop, hes already dead will be crossed.

So while Batmans pulverising his foes chest while theyre stunned, Dr. Hussain warns hes doing some pretty grim things when it comes to their life expectancy. This can cause internal bleeding secondary to organ damage and can comprise the lungs and hearts functionality. Both are essential to survive. So when Batman leaves the poor sods with organ soup where their lungs should be, its safe to say a few lives have been sacrificed at the altar of a solid combo.

Double the pain

Its not the just the fists, boots and head of Batman that the nefarious wrong uns of Gotham have to sweat about. Hes brought along the Bat brood to square some odds. And they bring all the stylish aggression youd want from superior martial artists teaming up to craft a few fluid beatdowns. The type of smackdowns that Dr. Hussain warns could cause damage to the spine and ribs. The video I sent her had Nightwing lifting up a do-badder for Batman to glide into with his heel. Looks incredible, but does the sort of damage that leaves an NHS accountant in an existential crisis. The amount of force required to kick someone across the room would be very high and can cause damage to organs. Essentially, if Batman and Nightwing are using someone for human keepie-ups, that persons funeral is on Thursday and the Bat Family are not invited.

Baseball Bat to the noggin

Its not just his massive Bat-fists and Bat-gadgets The Dark Knight will end a life with. Hell gladly steal your weapon too, if youre dim enough to swing it at him. If youre unlucky enough, or just catch him on a particularly gruelling Monday, hell reacquaint you with the blunt end of it as well.

It wont come as a great surprise to you that Dr. Hussain confirms that being hit in the head with a baseball bat isnt ideal. A blow to the head can cause blood vessels to burst and pool in areas of the brain - causing a subdural haematoma. This can increase the pressure in the brain and lead to death. Batmans probably cracked enough skulls in his time to get his non-fatal baseball swing just right, but how does he know the guy hes left unconscious on the floor isnt suffering from a haematoma? Oh right, Detective Mode. Never mind, carry on.

Bats enhanced interrogation techniques

Theres the right way of getting information from a dodgy source, and then theres the quick way. Batmans methods fall very much into the latter camp. By the time your friendly neighbourhood interrogator has drafted up paperwork and busted out the polygraph, Batmans got answers and left a few cracked windpipes in his wake. The second part of that equation isnt good news for anyone.

So whats happening medically after Batman has crashed his arm onto the throat of his victim? Nothing great if youre receiving the throat blow. The windpipe is essential to supply oxygen to the lungs and in turn to the rest of the body. If this is compromised then death could occur. Is a NPCs life worth the few Riddler trophy locations youll get? Obviously the answer is yes, but Batmans a killer now, so nobody wins.

Electrical Batarang

Quick, The Riddler has planted bombs inside some of the slower elements of Gothams thugs and they need to be saved from having to experience watching their brains being forcibly ejected from their crania! They need to be saved, Batman, how are you going to go about it? Chuck an electrified batarang at them to short circuit the bomb? Steady on Batman, that might do more harm than good.

The good news - as good as news can be for a person with a bomb snuggling up in their innards - is that a shock isnt necessarily fatal. Anything between 6-30 milliamps causes a phenomenon called freezing where the muscles contract (less of a threshold in women compared to men) but can survive, Dr. Hussain says. But Batman isnt off the hook yet as 50 to 100 milliamps causes respiratory arrest and death is likely. Considering Batman plays it fast and loose with charging up the Batarang, I think a few thugs are going to get a nasty (sunglasses on) shock.

Head-On Collision

When designing an armoured, all-purpose thug deterrent disguised as a car, its going to be almost impossible to avoid tripping over the lethality line. After all, the Batmobile is a very heavy piece of metal travelling at ludicrously high speeds. Its able to break concrete as if it was Batmans back (a little something for the Bane fans out there) and in Arkham Knight, Batman can spend most of his time in it hurtling towards people driving in beaten-up taxis. Feels a bit silly asking it, but will this end well?

As with any vehicle collisions, crush injuries to the victim can occur. This is when the body is caught between two objects being pushed together by a high pressure. These type of injuries are responsible for broken bones, severe bruising, bleeding and compartment syndrome, Dr. Hussain points out. So should the Batmobile collide into another moving vehicle that hasnt been designed by a billionaires R&D department - which it does, a hefty amount - Master Wayne isnt driving away guilt free.

Just in case the Batmobile wasnt overkill enough, its electrified as well

At some point, Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox decided to make the Batmobile electric. Not in the petrol is very expensive and weve only got one world way - its 2015 Batman, maybe you should save some ice caps - but in the if anyone gets hit by my car, Ill make sure they know just how badly they goofed by running a few volts through their body type of way. Which just feels sort of unnecessary, if you ask me.

Dr. Hussian informs that both the electric shock and the force of impact can cause serious bodily damage and, in turn, death. Having the BatHummer plow into people like lava through snow is really enough to finish a life already. By the time theyre getting a jolt through their body, its technically considered desecrating a corpse.

An immobiliser rocket? Yeah, more like just a rocket

One of the Batmobiles jazzier features is the immobiliser, a rocket that explodes on impact but not enough to kill whoever is driving its intended target. Or at least thats what Batman should keep telling himself. Dr. Hussain says [Theyre] unlikely to survive this trauma. The impact of the rocket will cause damage, but more than this the resulting explosion would cause extensive burn injuries.

In what is becoming a depressing trend for serial killer Batman, whack him behind the wheel of the Batmobile and all consideration for the lives of Gothams neer-do-wells is gone. So while the immobiliser rocket does help slow down the vehicle hes chasing, thats because the people inside are too busy trying to avoid an early cremation. If they havent exploded in a mushroom cloud of giblets already.

A non-lethal round... followed by a rocket

As you work your way through Arkham Knight, youll notice that everyone repeatedly calls out Batmans refusal to use live rounds when firing at enemies. Thats one enormous blind eye theyre turning. When hes not running over half of Gotham, hes finishing the other half by firing rockets at their incapacitated bodies. Yep, knock somebody out and youre able to fire all those explosives Batman keeps tucked in his Bat-tank o death.

Dr. Hussain underplays it a tad by saying The force and resulting explosion will cause burn injuries. But lets be clear, Batman fires a rocket at an unconscious body. He has firmly lost his grip on morality and sees the thugs of Gotham as his playthings, tiny insects to inhumanly torture and squash under his BatBoot. Basically, Im saying Arkham Knight earns it 18 rating.

Batman just keeps running over someone. Again and again and again

The undeniable excesses of the electrified tank feel like Batman beginning to accepting that, in truth, he really is just down to murder. I mean come on, Brucey. But when he flexes the ability to steamroll crims into the pavement, well yeah. No way back. No, the game doesnt explicitly show you the broken bodies the Batmobile crushes underneath its blood-soaked wheels, but that doesnt excuse Bruce being able to repeatedly drive over the men hes incapacitated. I bet hes thinking of dodgy one-liners like This is a new way to squash crime as he does, the merciless Bat-stard.

If you have any queries about a humans ability to survive having the Batmobile rolled over them again and again and again, let Dr. Hussain put your mind at rest. If they do happen to survive the first impact, repeatedly running over someone will crush any remaining bones and organs. From maybe being a tiny bit too punchy, to painting the road several shades of sinew, Batmans gone from religiously Not Killing, to showering in the gizzards of his enemies. Vigilanteism. Its a slippery slope, kids. Do not be the Batman.

Ben Tyrer

Hello, I'm GamesRadar's News Editor. I've been working in the games industry since 2013, after graduating from Bournemouth University with a degree in multimedia journalism. Since then I've worked for Official PlayStation Magazine as a staff writer and games editor, as well as writing for Official Xbox Magazine, Edge, PC Gamer, GamesMaster, PC Games N, and more. When I'm not moaning about being beaten on FIFA and Warzone, I'm writing news, features, and reviews for this wonderful site.