Gaming's favourite fly by night. Batman: Arkham Knight reviewed
Holy franchise finale!
Game Theory Rocksteady Studios has stated that Batman: Arkham Knight is the last game of the franchise. Fans are in for a real treat. I really enjoyed Batman: Arkham City (2011) with its sense of progression but then thought the shock gloves were excessively overpowered in Batman: Arkham Origins (2013), making combat heavy handed.
Bring on the knight
Arkham Knight is the best Batman game I have played so far because it truly (to quote the tag line) allows me “to be the Batman” and I will save Gotham City.
This game is homage to the Batman fan and a nod to those, like me, who can quote verbatim from the comics. Incredibly dark and realistic Arkham Knight is worthy of its mature rating, this game is sure to pull no punches as the legacy of The Joker looms over this malign metropolis.
With the addition of the Batmobile, Arkham Knight is basically Batman GTA. Leaping into it for the first time, I genuinely squealed with joy.
Pull up to the bumper
Unfortunately, by the end of the game I’m more disposed to see it as just another gimmick. Alas, it seems chapters are often finished with a repetitive Batmobile tank fight against remotely manned drones (EMP becomes available later in the game). That rather took the shine off what could have been a five star title for me.
Ultimately the Batmobile sequences became my least favourite part of the game and a clunky game mechanic often forced upon me unwillingly. In my opinion, the Batmobile was best used for side quests and to explore this epic open world city. For me it’s the hand-to-hand combat that can’t be beaten, and dare I say it’s now been perfected. Taking on a gang of thirty enemies and kicking the living shit out of them always makes my night.
Batman: Arkham Knight has superb production values and feels much more organic than Batman’s last outing, mainly due to the wealth of gameplay and combat options available. As the bat symbol silhouettes the sky, drawing me to my next objective, I always seem to find zipping and swooping around Gotham then dropping like a buzzard to deliver a drop kick works best for me. Combat is never boring, even in the hardest fights. And if I do take damage, I can be sure it’s my own fault and nothing to do with the controls or mechanics.
Rocksteady has made sure this game is full of surprises; this is possible to pull off because it shows an understanding of Batman lore and his foes, that only those geeky enough to have been playing the latest miniatures game for the last six months should be equipped with.
A game of skull
Every aspect of this game fits snugly. It’s a great follow on from the previous games and all the characters are worked in perfectly and amazingly there are no plot holes. The most memorable aspects of Arkham Knight include changes in pace when Batman must use his private school education to investigate the past by getting forensic on corpses at a crime scene. Tasks such as viewing CCTV footage and rewinding it for a closer look immersed me totally in the game. Everything makes sense in the overarching narrative, having been reworked to grasp my attention – and it does not let go.
The graphics are stunning (yes, even compared to The Witcher 3) and make it a treat to look down upon this dark and derelict city – reminiscent of the recent endearing Gotham TV series. It's almost deserted of citizens thanks to Scarecrow’s latest threat: a mischievous plan to release a hallucinogenic gas into the streets.
On the pull
Batman’s movement animations are smooth as silk: the feeling of weight as I land on a surface just shows how far game physics have progressed and watching his glossy cloak flutter bring a tear to my eye. If only poor Spiderman got this treatment.
The controls cannot be faulted and make combat a breeze, with Batman’s fists of fury battering anybody within range. Stealth combat has astounding flexibility; I’m often crawling through vents and throwing decoys to make a surprise attack, then zipping away. The stealth gameplay is fun, rewarding and satisfying, and I always enjoy a well-timed predator room.
To disable foes from a distance, equipping my handy disruptor rifle is essential as it causes enemy weapons to malfunction and leaves goons open to attack. Co-op fights with Nightwing and Robin are needed to cope with the impressive ensemble of villains, who appear as the game progresses. Using Dual Play refined character swapping, I can take control of these allies with ease.
The score is immersive, and proved a good test for Cowin’s Ark 4.1 Bluetooth speaker, which was certainly up to the task. I’m surrounded by sound and instantly nostalgic for the films. With sweeping tempos and sinister fugues, Danny Elfman would be proud. Consistently strong voice acting from Mark Hamill as the posthumous Joker and John Noble as the Scarecrow give characters depth and the game its own personality.
Poison Ivy sprouts her own kind of eco-terror
The addition of a mission wheel means I can decide what path to take and that I don’t miss any side quests as I managed to in Arkham Origins. Trust me, there’s no part of the narrative that’s worth missing. This game is worth every hour you’ll invest. The two main quest lines to stop Scarecrow and unmask the identity of the cryo-suited Arkham Knight are compelling, though slightly predictable.
Attention to detail in the narrative should be applauded, with villains remarking on the fates of their fallen comrades. Smart level design and the handy array of gadgets, including an enemy voice emulator, hacking device and remote electrical charge, to name just a few, keep gameplay engaging.
Bright lights, big city
Refining the core gameplay of the previous Batman games and seeped in Batman lore, this game is meticulously and imaginatively constructed and a pleasure to play. Rocksteady is truly invested in the Batman universe, unlike those involved with trolleying out Ben Affleck to star in the forthcoming film, I suspect.
The Reg Verdict
Arkham Knight is finally the Batman game that we have always wanted. In the future will we see Rocksteady give this treatment to other DC icons, now this franchise seems to be finished in its present form? Surely, Swamp Thing deserves a reboot after the godawful Nintendo game from 1992? ®
Batman:Arkham Knight for PC, PS 4 (tested) Xbox One, Xbox Live. From £35.