Written by Twisted Ideas
The final chapter in the Arkham series is finally here after several delays and the burning anticipation of fans. With a stumble with Arkham Origins, will Batman: Arkham Knight and his brand new, shiny Batmobile send off this series into greatness?
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
What is it?
The Scarecrow returns from is his encounter with Batman during Arkham Asylum and he’s back with a vengeance. With a refined fear toxin and the help with a new player in town, the Arkham Knight, Scarecrow rallies as many of Batman’s rogue’s as possible to finally bring down the Bat. It’s Batman, his allies and the GCPD verses an entire city of villains and thugs. This night may prove to be Batman’s last.
Batman: Arkham Knight is the final installment the Arkham series. Batman: Arkham Asylum first introduced the action/stealth/puzzle hybrid and stood tall as possibly the greatest superhero video game of all time. It popularized the freeflow combat by using a combo counter and easy controls to engage the player. Stealth made you feel powerful because of your speed and variety of tools in addition of the leeway if you made a mistake. All the gameplay we’ve come to love is back and there are new tricks to for this grand finale.
We are in a new part of Gotham outside of Arkham City and what was seen in Origins. The streets are patrolled by the Arkham Knight’s militia, setting up checkpoints, watchtowers and drones on the ground and the sky which you can take out. The biggest addition to the series is the Batmobile. You’re able to drive on the street of Gotham to fight crime, and utilize its various tools to solve puzzles and manipulate the world. The Batmobile can be called anywhere it can drive to and be remote controlled. It’s armed with various weapons to suppress thugs and destroy the Arkham Knight’s drones.
Combat is very similar but with new additions. Some additions are alterations of pre-exisiting moves and gadgets, like a shootible explosive gel, a last second throw counter or a follow-up attack after a super cape strike. The combat is more versatile by letting you strike and stand up downed enemies and pick-up weapons for combat use and utilize the environment for easy takedowns without a full combo meter. Certain sections have you teamed up with an ally. Each ally has their own moves and you can easily which between the two. After a certain number of hits, you can perform a special takedown with your partner or when fighting near the Batmobile.
Stealth is also similar but with a few new gadgets and skills. The main skill is multi-fear takedown which can safely takedown 3-5 enemies as they try to react to your sudden appearance. However, the enemies are more capable too. They can flush you out and destroy vent covers, can set up turrets, medics can revive downed enemies and minigun brutes that have few methods of quickly taking down.
How does it look?
Arkham Knight really pushes the console hardware. Gotham is a bigger city that feels more populated than ever with a couple of environment effects that give the world a more natural feel. We’re in new parts of Gotham and it loses the grid based feel of City and Origins. There a ton of detail in the environments and there are a bunch of easter eggs that you can find, some of which aren’t even apart of the Riddler challenges. Best of all is that there are no loading screens aside from starting the game and in-between deaths. You can move in and out of buildings with no delay.
The city takes place in parts of Gotham that we haven’t been to yet and isn’t so grid based as in City and Origins. There is a lot of detail in the environment and lots of easter eggs in the streets and throughout the game. The best thing about the game is that there are no loading screens while moving through areas.
The character designs aren’t too different from previous games but there are alterations and attention to detail that makes characters look better than ever. The improved textures help a great deal but the finger lines on Harley Quinn’s makeup or seeing the Scarecrow’s teeth behind the mask are subtle but makes the look all the better.
How does it sound?
Not too much new in this category. Most of the voice actors reprise their roles and Scarecrow’s new voice actor make him sound menacing, fitting for the main villain. Many of the sound effects are the same, the driving the Batmobile gives off a sense of speed and power and the music is similarly orchestrated.
What do I think?
Batman: Arkham Knight is a great deal of fun but it’s not a huge step up in the franchise. You still have the same action packed gameplay, strong narrative and the same old Batman we’ve come to expect and the game looks better than ever. The Batmobile isn’t the great new addition that people probably wanted with opinions about it being mixed. By no means is this a bad game. Arkham Knight is a good and even a great game.
The plot starts as a typical Batman story but grows into something more psychological and meaningful for Batman. The story is supported greatly by its supporting cast and the pacing of the game allowed for some genuinely shocking and even scary moments. The narrative mentions that most, if not all the villains are cooperating on some level to stretch Batman thin. However, the main story mostly focuses on the Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight. That wasn’t necessarily a bad move but it begs to question why involve the other villains when they ultimately have no impact on the Scarecrow’s plan. There’s wasn’t a real sense of urgency for Batman to deal with the rest of the rogues gallery. Narratively it was a missed opportunity to not have Nightwing, Robin or Catwoman tackle some of these villains while Batman is dealing with the real threat.
There are some moments in the story that might rub people the wrong way. These have been some burning issues in comics news that have come up over the last few months/years. Valid and distracted as they may be, the affected characters still show their strong points despite the circumstances.
The game doesn’t start with its best foot forward gameplay-wise. The tutorial is unfocused, quickly teaching several mechanics but not giving them the proper amount of time to sink in. The Batmobile’s introduction is followed by complicated mechanics that involves the clunky switching between the Batmobile and Batman to progress. The loose controls of the Batmobile probably doesn’t help matters either. However, after that learning period, the game eventually separates the foot and car gameplay enough for a better gameplay experience, treating the Batmobile as a tool rather as a fundamental function.
Personally, I like the Batmobile. I have little problems with the controls and aside from some collision physics that cause problems, it’s something you can get used to. The tank combat is fun and hectic later in the game. When upgraded, the missile strike is very satisfying. The Cobra tanks sections could have been done better and the game could have had more bosses that didn’t involve the Batmobile. I had more problems with predator mode. Those sections weren’t a well designed than in previous games. Often, you might drop to the ground trying to land on a lower ledge accidentally; Or something like the multi-fear or environment takedowns leaves you too exposed and the increased number of enemies catches you more easily. I did like how the militia could flush you out and disable vents and how the minigunners required a different approach to the scenario.
Arkham Knight is loaded with sidequest and it doesn’t distract you to the extent as Arkham City did. Many sidequests get an introduction then leave you alone which other than the narrative issues I’ve had with that is nice. You can tackle them at your leisure and many requires real exploration. Traveling Gotham through the skies and on the road is a different kind of relaxing than other sandbox games. There’s a lot of user input involved and nothing can stop you when you just want to move. It’s definitely more interesting than just riding on a horse.
The sidequests could have been more creative. Many are the same mission repeated and many of the villains don’t get an appropriate send off for the finale. There’s a lot of great build up for the sidequests but when someone like Two-face is taken out without you even realizing it, it’s not a great feeling. The Riddler sidequests is harder and more creative. The amount of stray trophies are reduced in favor of puzzles and the Catwoman portions are a great addition. However, scanning the riddles in the city causes a lot of false positives. Too often the Batmobile or a building way in the background catches the scan and confuses the player.
Should you get it?
There have been some harsh reviews and opinions about Batman: Arkham Knight but it’s a very good game. It has is stumbles and it’s not the masterpiece that players may have wanted it to be but it’s not any worse in a real sense. The gameplay is still great, the story is compelling and well executed and Rocksteady doesn’t try to do too much only to fall short. This is one of a few big blockbuster games for the summer and any fan of the Arkham games should see this series off.