Could I have been any more excited for this game? Probably not. As a stupidly avid Batman fan and lover of the Arkham series, this is my game for 2015. If I only had to buy one game this year, this would be it.
Let’s not jump the gun into thinking that the previous statement is a testament to the quality of the game, my point was merely due to the fact of my sheer adoration for the character, universe and game series. This game has been on my want list since 2011 after I 100% completed Arkham City.
Some might perhaps think my love for Batman may blind me from any of the flaws this game may have and stop me from being impartial in my review. I would like to think that if there was anyone that should review this title, anyone that will dissect this game so that you can know and understand everything this title has to offer – it’s me.
Arkham Knight had a lot to live up to. From the perfectly made Arkham Asylum and Arkham City both by developer Rocksteady and for those that were perhaps stung by Warner Bros. Montreal’s addition to the series: Arkham Origins. Origins was plagued by glitches, it’s somewhat imperfect story and questionable additions to the game mechanics, Arkham Knight had to return the franchise to its former glory as well as deliver something even greater than Arkham City – something I thought unachievable.
Rocksteady have somehow managed to give us something truly memorable however with their swansong to the Arkham franchise. By being not only something of a visual spectacle and marvel but also fun, meticulously intricate and packed with hours upon hours worth of content, along with a finale that is as climactic as the epic conclusion to The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Dark Knight Rises.
What is quite admirable of Rocksteady is that they have developed a story and universe for those that have been playing this franchise from the start and have not been tempted to try and capture a wider audience by shoe horning in a multiplayer in a hope to capture a new competitive audience.
Arkham Knight continues to focus on a strong story narrative and has some amazing voice actors on hand to help carry you through The Dark Knight’s toughest challenge yet.
The scarecrow has been absent since his apparent demise during Arkham Asylum (unless you caught the after credits scene of him clutching to the floating titan container) at the hands of Killer Croc but now he is back and has the city in the palm of his hand due to the threat of a biological weapon of epic proportions. He threatens to detonate and cover Gotham in his new and incredibly powerful nerve agent which of course is the Scarecrow’s speciality.
Aiding the Scarecrow’s control of the city is the arrival of a militia force led by a mysterious new villain: The Arkham Knight – a more extreme version of Batman who is armed with dual pistols, urban warfare Kevlar armour and is quite prepared to kill.
Together these villains are set to push the Batman to his limits and the Arkham Knight hopes to fulfil some kind of long running personal vendetta with Batman in the process.
The story does generally feel darker in tone than its predecessors with a strong overhanging lure of finality and with Gotham being conveniently evacuated leaving behind only the thugs, criminals and the police who try and reclaim their city, this setup helps to add a feeling that it’s all to play for and failing is not an option.
With the streets being emptied, Batman is free to call upon his latest incarnation of the Batmobile. The Batmobile is perhaps the biggest inclusion to the game, with most of the promotional materials featuring imagery of the new vehicle and it also being a main focus point of many of the gameplay videos which have been released in the run up to its release.
With Gotham facing a new militarised threat, Batman as always is prepared for everything and his new vehicle proves just that, trust me, if you had this thing you would never need to pay at a drive-thru ever again.
Batman’s latest four wheeled automobile is not only fast and armoured to the teeth so that you can plough through barriers, pillars, walls and other vehicles on the roads (not buildings though guys so don’t think you can start driving around levelling Gotham single handedly) but Batman can transform the Batmobile in to Tank mode.
While in Tank mode, the Batmobile can fire rockets, high powered shells, Vulcan machine guns and a strong high velocity round for use on troops who are stupid enough to stick around as you drive towards them. I am sure many of you are sat there thinking ‘Batman…. In a tank? But he doesn’t kill!” and you are quite right to think this and it is perhaps one thing I have struggled to get my head around at times.
Rocksteady have thought this through however, out of respect for the material which they clearly love and have shown this from day one in Arkham Asylum. In order for Batman’s rule to stay valid: High powered rounds, Vulcan machine guns and rockets can only be used against other tanks which are conveniently all remote controlled and are classed as drones so Batman gets to avoid the risk of casualties in the unavoidable warzone that ensues on the streets of Gotham.
If your target reticule happens to land over a passing thug or trooper, the Batmobile will only fire an incapacitating round which will render your target unconscious and probably wake up with some kind of broken limb, inability to eat or pass solids comfortably without aid for the next hundred years.
Players have been asking if they will ever get to drive the Batmobile in the Arkham franchise since the release of Arkham Asylum and Rocksteady have certainly delivered in that regard. Not only is it fun to drive and feels as though you are re-enacting some of the awesome Tumbler chases from The Dark Knight Trilogy, but the Batmobile is also an incredible aid during hand to hand combat and the many puzzles.
The Batmobile has the ability to fire a winch at certain points in structures and then pull walls down to create ramps or even openings for you to drive through. The winch can even hook on to power outlets and fire an electrical charge to supply power to certain elements within the area. All of these features will be useful to help you navigate your way not only through Gotham, but to help you overcome challenging puzzles as well as those overly addictive Riddler challenges.
One particular moment I enjoyed was emerging from a vent in to a box room with only one way out which was guarded by armed men and sentry guns. Using the remote control function of the Batmobile I was able to navigate the Batmobile to a car park rooftop opposite and fire support from across the street to clear the enemies and destroy the turrets – this made me feel very Batmanesque and was very satisfying.
With all of this said though, there is a downside. There is an age old saying “You can have too much of a good thing” and this is exactly how I feel about the Batmobile – I just feel as though everything I have to do has to have the Batmobile involved in some way and eventually I found myself a little sick of using it all the time.
It could be worse, its addition could have been executed exceptionally poorly to the point of it being unusable but this simply is not the case. Every time I have used it, it has felt relevant. It’s ability to help during puzzles, combat and the Riddler races are all pulled off with the level of thought, detail and high standard to which only Rocksteady have been able to deliver, but it would be just nice to have something to look forward to and feel as though although I have the Batmobile, I can save the day just as easy without it as I could with it – after all, I’m Batman for crying out loud!
Another great new addition is the inclusion of sidekick battles. Batman’s outings in the Arkham franchise so far have mainly been a solo one except for the audible aid and advice from Alfred and Oracle. Robin turned up briefly during Arkham City and you could play as him during the Harley’s Revenge DLC but Batman has never worked side by side with his allies in an Arkham game.
Batman is known as a bit of a loner, but he has inspired others and worked with allies in the comics for decades and his most popular ones surface during the events of Arkham Knight as they drop in to support Batman as he investigates the comings and goings of the criminals of Gotham City.
As they drop in to help, the game allows you to switch between Batman and his ally during combat. So if you fancy a bit of a change or want to see what Nightwing, Robin or Catwoman are made of then you can take control and put the hurting on some thugs. Build up a big enough combo and you can execute co-op takedowns, which allow Batman and his partner to coordinate themselves in to one seamless fighting force to takedown a selected target. It’s beautiful to watch and the kind of poetry in motion from this elite crime fighting force that you would expect.
Combat in general is everything you would expect from the Arkham franchise. The free flow combat is smoother than before, brutes which were introduced in Arkham Origins make a reappearance. Batman has more moves than ever, with environmental takedowns, use of melee weapons which you can retrieve from your enemies and a new ability to throw enemies in the air using the super stun and then kick your enemy across the battleground.
Batman’s new abilities aren’t just isolated to combat scenarios. Batman has the new ability to takedown multiple enemies very quickly using the Fear Takedown move which enables Batman to jump from enemy to enemy during invisible predator mode and a new ability to throw batarangs when gliding towards enemies.
Gotham has never looked so beautiful. As the rain pelts down – to sit and stare drops run down the batsuit and beats off the cape as you glide through the city is mesmerising. Perhaps some of the most incredible detail I have seen was when the camera zooms in on Batman as he takes a video call from his gauntlet. The camera closes in and shows the rear of Batman’s cowl as you look at the caller while they converse about the mission at hand. I found myself looking at the rain-drops that trickled down the cowl and was impressed at the sheer level of detail and the effort that has gone in to creating this effect.
The skyline of Gotham is carved out by tall buildings which work hand in hand with the newly upgraded grapnel accelerator allowing you to be flung in to the sky faster and higher. This provides you with an ideal opportunity to see the city in all of its glory. As you soar through the sky, bright neon lights illuminate the sides of buildings, the streets run amok with thugs fighting police, looting buildings, locked in gang wars with one another, cars being driven erratically as they run the police off the road and as they generally turn the streets of Gotham in to a warzone. All of this happens around you as simply glide or drive through the streets in the Batmobile. Whether you choose to act on these events is up to you. It’s these random events that help immerse you further into the sprawling metropolis of Gotham City. This helps to make you feel as though it’s not just a single part of a linear and orchestrated event that you have no control over, but make you feel as though Gotham’s fate really is in your hands.
Batman’s activities will keep you busy for a good amount of time and completionists everywhere will have a field day getting to traverse this mammoth sized area of Gotham City. With over 240 Riddler challenges, amazing side missions featuring new and returning villains, new story pack missions and the inclusion of some amazing new sidekick functions, the Arkham franchise has leapt an insurmountable distance forward that will keep players going for months. Although I can quite easily say I would be gutted if Warner Bros. Montreal did not take up the mantel of bringing us another Batman game seeing as Rocksteady have said this will be their final work on the franchise, I could also genuinely say that I would be happy if this would be the last Batman game to be released for some time.
For Arkham Knights flaws – they are few. As previously mentioned I feel as though I spend too much time in the Batmobile and I could perhaps say I am not keen on the new batsuit, I mean if any human wore a mechanised suit such as the one Bruce Wayne wears in this entry, and then tried to glide… he would plummet to his death. But if these are the only flaws I can pull from this game, then I would say these are not worth dwelling over.
Just as Batman Begins and The Dark Knight movies helped to spawn a new generation of superhero movie and have set the standard to what we expect from a comic book based movie, I feel as though Rocksteady have done the same for the superhero genre with games from the Batman Arkham franchise. Batman Arkham Knight feels as though it has brought this journey to its end and has left behind the standard that not only superhero games have to strive toward, but what many other games on the market must strive toward also.
Above all else, a game should be fun, challenging and tied together with a strong story that is entertaining and delivered to a high standard and polished to the extent that the developer will not settle for anything less than the best. Arkham Knight ticks all of these boxes and then some. If I did not play another game for the rest of the year, would I be bothered? Not in the slightest.