Six years ago Rocksteady Studios took the gaming world by storm, by giving us a super-hero game with Arkham Asylum that was actually good, in fact, it was better than good, it was bloody-well amazing! Well apart from the end of game boss fight, but hey, nothings perfect, right? So six years have passed and Rocksteady end their Arkham trilogy with Batman: Arkham Knight, as Scarecrow threatens to unleash his Fear Toxin upon the residents that remains within Gotham City.
Scarecrow isn’t alone, as the cities most lethal villains will not only capitalise on Gotham’s misfortunes, but it’s an opportunity to put an end to the Batman once and for all, and none has a more deadly purpose then the one called the Arkham Knight. While most of the villains of Gotham want to get rich quick, the desire to put an end to Batman is an added bonus. However, the one and only true motivation of the Arkham Knight is to kill Batman, but why and just who in the hell is the man behind the villainous Batman-like mask? It’s time to put an end to this story and the Batman.
To simplify the visuals of Arkham Knight, this is a stunner of a game, one of the best visually that you’ll see in this new gen era in-fact. Gotham City is dark, dingy and brimming with aggressive and weird inhabitants illuminated by the darkened streets lit up by the neon lights of the vacated stores left abandoned by those that have evacuated the city. The attention to detail is simply sublime, from every seemingly minute detail, to the weather effects as the rain-drops plummet to the derelict city roads. Batman’s suit also looks fancy, no matter which one you choose (depending on what DLC you own) and they look even better when zoomed in to examine at close inspection. While much of the common thugs are rather generic, the same can’t be said for the recognisable villains of Gotham. It’s an obvious statement to say that Arkham Knight is visually superior to that of its predecessors, but what I can say with some validation is that this game sits firmly alongside the likes of The Witcher 3 and Bloodborne (in my opinion) and that’s an elite group to mingle among.
A long overdue feature into this series is the introduction of the Batmobile, but it’s not initially the match made in heaven that you first might think it should be. When I first began to use the Batmobile, I was all over the shop (I’m still not much better now). Being a fan of racing games, using the standard buttons to accelerate and reverse on the face of the controller, just didn’t feel natural to me. Thankfully you can change the controls in the options, which enables you to use the trigger buttons to accelerate and reverse, but even then, it still felt a little fiddly or over sensitive would be a better way to describe my experience. When he ravelling at high speeds, the slightest movement of the analogue stick can cause you to crash off-course, which is annoying when you’re in chase.
What probably caused me more annoyance with how the Batmobile controlled, was due to the fact that the brake and handbrake are assigned to the same button/trigger, which as you can image, can cause its fair few problems. However, after several hours of playing, I did begin to get a little use to how it handled, though it still could be better, especially during The Riddler puzzle segments. As you may know, the Arkham Knight has his own army and with it comes his array of tanks. The normal Batmobile would have struggled against such forces, but not here. The Batmobile can launch into Tank mode itself, which is armed with machine guns, rockets, EMP’s and more. Naturally you unlock more weaponry and gadgets as you progress.
In the most part, using the Batmobile is a fantastic experience (when you get use to how it handles), especially when you become over-powered. Yet other then the somewhat fiddly controls, I feel the Batmobile is over used a little. Yes it’s great that we finally get to use the Batmobile in Rocksteady’s trilogy finale, but it’s almost like they squeezed it into as many segments as possible, even when it’s perhaps not needed. It’s almost like that annoying kid at school frantically waving their arm about while grunting in an attempt to get the teachers attention when wanting to answer a question. “Hey! I’m the Batmobile, use me…I’m here…LOOK!” But for me, nothing beats gliding around Gotham in style, being the Batman and this still remains a top draw in the series.
And ultimately that is what makes this game so much fun, being the Batman. It may follow the same formula as before, but as the saying goes “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and no term could suit Arkham Knight better. Since Arkham Asylum, many games have tried to replicate its gameplay; yet none has perhaps mastered the art of the free-flowing combat quite like Rocksteady Studios. It’s very difficult to talk about the aspects of Arkham Knights gameplay without treading on old ground, as we’ve seen much of it before (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
However, one new aspect that has been introduced is the Duel-Play. At first glance this seems like a cheap gimmick, almost as if the developers couldn’t think of anything new to add into the game. Yet when you actually sample this feature, it’s a more then natural fit. How it will work in a nutshell, is that during certain points of the campaign, you will be required to team-up with either Catwoman, Nightwing or Robin. They will join you for a fight and by a simple press of L1 (PS4); you will switch seamlessly between Batman and his current partner in the fight against crime to deal some awesome double take-downs. Other then feeling totally satisfying, it’s a great way to build up your multiplier combo and without adding a co-op feature into the game (which is something that I would not want); this is possibly the best way to make you feel that you’re not alone when fighting the good fight.
Another area where Arkham Knight really shines is within its storytelling. A story will affect each individual differently, but with its blend of lush visuals and sublime combat, the story of Arkham Knight plays a huge part in reeling me in. It does sadden me that this is Rocksteady’s last Arkham outing, but it least it feels like a departure with the series that should offer some closure to its story, for most at least. I won’t go into any details, but what I will say is that this is one of the darkest and more mature Batman tales that you will likely encounter and there were moments when my hand was over my mouth in shock and not many games have done that to me.
To coincide with the gripping story, is a masterful soundtrack and voice cast to boot. While it’s not a direct audio issue, I have still found issues with the frantic lip-sync, something that has present throughout the series (including with Arkham Origins). As expected, Kevin Conroy does a great job at being Mr Wayne (as to with all the other main cast members), but it can be quite distracting from the first moment you notice just how fast Batman’s mouth is moving in comparison to the pace of the words coming from his mouth. Thankfully this is a minor distraction, to what is a wonderfully told story all round.
Aside from the main campaign itself, there are loads of other activities within Arkham Knight to indulge in. For example there are many side-missions to participate and what I particularly love about them, it’s that they all have a purpose to the lore of Batman: Arkham Knight, rather than being used as filler, which we see often in many other games. The side-objectives are that good in fact, that you will likely spend many hours trying to finish them all and none have you feeling like you’ve been taken away from the campaign. Batman: Arkham Knight is one of those games that you could spend many hours playing, without making a dent in the main campaign.
Then of course you have all the VR missions, Challenge Rooms and all the upgrades to acquire, which have been extended to accommodate the Batmobile. As with all Arkham games that came before, this latest instalment includes the New Game+, which after completion of the campaign, allows you to carry over all your acquired upgrades. However, one aspect that used to annoy me with the New Game+ with previous games, was with the fact that this was the only opportunity to use your DLC/unlocked outfits, but now you can use them as soon as you start the game by choosing your desired skin via the main menu screen. It’s a subtle alteration, but one I’m sure many will be happy about.
You see it more often than not, when a game receives so much hype and has such high expectations, when it finally releases, it inevitably comes crashing down to earth like an anti-climatic comet. Yet, while Arkham Knight offers no real innovation, for me it’s a strong contender for game of the year. Its dark, has you questioning Batman’s actions and almost lures you into its dark-sided nature, this is the Dark Knight in almost every sense of the term. It wouldn’t be the wisest of moves jumping into this game if you haven’t played any of Rocksteady’s games that came before, but that just gives you extra motive to playthrough this iconic and standard setting trilogy which leads you towards its satisfying conclusion.
In many ways this is a bitter sweet moment, as Rocksteady have delivered us three sublime games, but then on the flip-side, it’s an end of an era, but what a way to bow out! Moving forward, I can’t wait to see what the studio has in-store for us next with DC’s rich and expansive history. The Flash, Green Arrow, Suicide Squad, Superman or even The Justice League? Whatever the future may hold for Rocksteady, I would just like to say thank you for the Arkham series. Now if you excuse me, I’m going back to being the Batman.
+ Free-Flowing combat is as good as ever
+ Largest open-world map in the series
+ Sublime visuals
+ Gripping, dark and mature tale with some great twists
+ Duel-Play feature makes you feel you’re part of a team without co-op
+ Can wear skins from the get-go, no need for New Game+
- Batmobile feels a little overused, especially with its fiddly controls
- Batman’s hyper lip-sync