Today is the 13th anniversary of the release of Batman: Dark Tomorrow, a video game that could’ve brought The Dark Knight into interactive highs but was instead the product of innumerable lows. A game developer set their sights way too high with this outing, and what the public got to experience continues to rank among the most embarrassing of Batman’s products in any media.
Back in 2001, Ubisoft released Batman: Vengeance with help from Warner Brothers interactive. It’s a great game for that console generation which ties in B:TAS with style and substance and some excellent gameplay. Two years later, a company called “HotGen” thought they could build on that success with a similarly animated adventure called Dark Tomorrow which featured a fully open world Gotham City and a whole mess of toys and devices for Bats to use against some top notch enemy AI.
We did not get what they promised us.
While the in-game cinematics were top notch, the writing talent and design they’d teased were nowhere to be found. Instead, there’s a kind of faux-stealth game at play where Bats sneaks up on enemies, takes them down, and then handcuffs their bodies (?) the way The Dark Knight is always handcuffing unconscious people constantly. It wasn’t the wrong impetus to suggest that a stealth Batman experience could be fun or interesting, but when combined with camera angles straight out of the Resident Evil playbook, it is damn near unplayable.
Dark Tomorrow now holds some terrible benchmarks in video game review history, including being the impetus for EGM’s “Shame of the Month Award” and Game Informer gave the GameCube version 0.75 out of 10 for gameplay that is “incomprehensible and littered with bugs.”
Its lasting legacy is now two-fold. First, it is famous for the most botched ending in gaming’s history, which features a branching storyline: in order to get the most complete ending, Batman must disarm a signal device before facing off against Ra’s. However, the player is never given any indication that the device even exists, making the small objective easily missable. Failing to disarm the device will result in Ra’s succeeding in taking over the world, and that’s what happens until you scour the internet for an explanation on how to beat this dumb game.
Secondly, and more importantly, it so broke consumer’s expectations for a Batman game that no one attempted a big licensed dive into the pool again until Arkham Asylum finally cracked that case. (A Batman Begins title was released for Xbox and basically got bargain bin’d right out of the gate.) So 13 years later, let us appreciate Dark Tomorrow for being so hopelessly broken that the Batman license remained untouched until someone had a worthwhile idea.