With all of the critical acclaim and high praise from audiences for last year's The Dark Knight, one would think that a video game adaptation of the film would be a foregone conclusion, and yet here we are in 2009 without a film-based Batman versus The Joker game in sight. So what happened? Who dropped the ball on a Dark Knight game? As it turns out, it's a long, sad story from the worlds of publisher Electronic Arts and developer Pandemic Brisbane. Kotaku has the tale of high expectations, rushed deadlines, and stretching a game engine until it snaps.
As for the quality of the design, our sources disagree. One says many of the game's mechanics were brilliant and potentially revolutionary, while the batmobile and batbike were loads of fun once you looked past the streaming problems. Another says the missions were mostly borrowed from other open world games and the core gameplay was dull and boring. The work on the sound design, however, was reportedly magnificent and beautifully responsive to the in-game action.
Either way, for the Dark Knight to become a title worthy of the Batman name, it needed more resources to sort out its host of design and technical problems. More and more people were brought onto the team, mostly as external contractors. At one point, our source says, there were 130 people working on the game. The human resources were there, but a more important resource was missing.
The real killer was having to hit the same release date as the movie. Eventually it became clear this would be impossible and the decision was made to focus on launching to coincide with the Dark Knight DVD release in December 2008. This would be the absolute deadline, as EA's rights to the Batman IP expired in December.
Maybe it's for the best that a game based on The Dark Knight just wasn't meant to be. Lackluster games based on blockbuster movies are more the rule than the exception in the industry, and it would have been terrible for such a stellar film to associate with a dud of a game. Nevertheless, I can't let go the idea of a Dark Knight game in which players are cast as The Joker instead of Batman. Think about it for a moment. Batman spends most of the film reacting to The Joker's madness. It's The Joker who gets to have all the fun with his explosions and knives and rocket launchers and high speed chases. Who do you think would be more fun to control, hmm?