PC reviews

‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ Video Review

Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Developer Rocksteady Studios   Publisher Warner Bros. Games

Genre Action   Platform Played On PlayStation 4

It’s Halloween night more than one year after the devastating events of Arkham City. Gotham is safer than ever mostly thanks to The Joker’s death, which players horridly take part in at the genesis. As things finally simmer down, everything goes to hell when Scarecrow reveals his plans to cloak Gotham in his fear toxin, making the majority of the city’s 6.3 million citizens evacuate. It’s here in the conclusion to developer Rocksteady Studio’s trilogy of games where the Batman sets out on what is undoubtedly his darkest journey in the series.

Arkham Knight seeps with so much plot to the point where it’s difficult to discuss without spoilers, especially when something unfolds within the first couple of hours that lays the foundation for the duration of story dealing with Batman’s internal struggles. Events and people from his past haunt him throughout this grim tale with taunts and the constant question of why he doesn’t kill. Again, it’s difficult to talk about without ruining it, but it’s easily the best part of Arkham Knight because of the emotional weight it puts on Batman’s already large payload of tasks.

Batman Arkham Knight Batman Screen

The two main threats in the story are Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight, a cryptic new character created specifically for this game and leader of the military forces against Batman. Much of the anticipation leading up to Arkham Knight is who in the world could be under the mask. Unfortunately, if you have some knowledge on Batman comics or animated features, it becomes obvious. Even if your insight on Batman comes solely from the Arkham games, it’s still possible to deduce their identity, especially during one part where it’s heavily hinted. It adds darkness to the plot, but the reveal is ultimately disappointing.

Helping trim the villainous fat off Batman’s grueling night is the Batmobile, marking the first time players are able to drive in the renowned vehicle in the Arkham series. The Batmobile is used for many tasks throughout the game, from combating unmanned drone tanks in Battle Mode to helping Batman escape tight spots at gunpoint and, of course, a faster means of travel around Gotham.

It certainly takes some time getting adjusted to the tank-like car, especially when the PlayStation 4’s square button/Xbox One’s X button are used to brake/drift/reverse in place of the traditional left trigger, which is instead used to active Battle Mode. Once players adapt to the controls and feel of the Batmobile, it becomes incredibly fun to drive.

Batman Arkham Knight Screen 3

Oh, and don’t worry about breaking Batman’s cardinal rule by accidentally splattering innocents while driving. Not only are criminals exclusively roaming the streets after Scarecrow warned the city of his attack, but anyone who touches the Batmobile gets a shocking sensation and instantly knocked out.

Rocksteady has emphasized how the Batmobile is a big part of Arkham Knight over the past year, but the final result went overboard. There are an overabundance of tank battles that become repetitive after a while, and its use is often mandatory to get through different obstacles. It manages to make players feel even more like Batman than before while simultaneously taking away from the immersion because of how frequently it’s forced on the player. The Batmobile has always been a cool part of Batman lore, but it doesn’t define him.

There’s no problem with using the Batmobile as transportation, but if being in it too much starts taking away from your experience, gliding around is a great option because of the upgrades that boost the speed on Batman’s grapnel. Gliding isn’t a bad option either way when you consider the size and beauty of the Gotham City Rocksteady crafted.

Batman Arkham Knight

There’s a ridiculous amount of detail in Arkham Knight, from the way the street shines in the pouring rain to the particle effects when drones blow up and realistic character models. Everything looks fantastic while managing to rarely hiccup, which is astonishing because of the game’s scope. Fan service is around every corner of the game’s three main islands as well. You can easily tell how much love and care Rocksteady put into making a fully realized world, making Arkham Knight a fine example of what can be accomplished with the power of Unreal Engine 3 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

This tech also allows the huge city to be filled with dangers for Batman outside the 10 to 12 hour story. Side missions include events such as players tracking down returning Riddler trophies – with 243 to find and solve – making Azrael from Arkham City a playable character, stopping Two-Face and his thugs from robbing banks and much more. Some missions finish a little briskly, but they are all well done. One of the side missions even introduced me to someone I now consider as Batman’s creepiest adversary. I’ll put it this way: This character is probably the main reason Arkham Knight is the first M-rated Batman game, even more so when you read their profile once it’s unlocked.

Things are easier to find this time with the help of the Gotham Police. If you find yourself stumbling on finding something, intel from Gotham’s finest will be periodically provided when they spot different things. Even with the police’s help, completing everything outside the story will add at least 20 extra hours of play.

This is also the first Arkham game to have three endings, but instead of choice-based endings, it all depends on how much the player completes. Simply completing the story gets the first ending; the second ending includes finishing the story plus most side missions; and lastly, the third ending requires completing the story, every side missions and snagging everything The Riddler has placed in Gotham. All endings are great, but the final true ending is the one people will really talk about, as it can be interpreted in multiple ways and will surely spark many theories.

Batman Arkham Knight

Much of the time completing these tasks will of course be spent taking out foes by combat or stealth – predator as it’s known in Arkham games segments. Arkham Knight not only has the most fine-tuned gameplay in the series, but it’s a little fresher thanks to new enemy types and combos.

Medics are the biggest standout among the several new enemy types, as they add challenge in both combat and predator sequences by reviving enemies you knock out. On the other hand, Brutes – the big guys – can now carry weapons such as blades and shock sticks. Brutes also carry mini guns during predator segments. They can’t be taken out like normal bad guys, so they have to be knocked out last from all the noise they cause, adding a layer of stealthy strategic approaches.

Combos are made fresher with new moves requiring a bit of a charge. Holding L2/LT and pressing square/X for example makes Batman shoot a large amount of explosive gel to blow up in a wide blast radius to stun or knockout enemies. Catwoman, Robin and Nightwing also join Batman in combat at times, making them playable characters and adding dual team takedowns, which are pretty fun to watch. I’m glad Robin and Nightwing in particular have a much stronger presence in Arkham Knight than previous games. I sometimes forget Robin was in Arkham City because of the little screen time he had.

Batman Arkham Knight Robin Screen 3

With Batman having more backup this time, I wish there would have been more boss fights. A majority of the few bouts against bosses involved the already overused Batmobile, and most were dull when they didn’t. Arkham games have always had enthralling fights against Batman’s main villains, so it’s a bummer to see Rocksteady’s supposedly last game featuring the Dark Knight to be lacking in the boss battle department.

You can’t mention these characters without commending the voice cast as well. To name a few, Kevin Conroy does a stellar job voicing Batman as always, Jonathan Banks (Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad) provides a great voice for Commissioner Gordon and hearing the iconic Steve Blum (Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop and the guy who perhaps has IMDB’s biggest resume of voice roles) as a number of different baddies is just swell.

the-verdict

The Batmobile’s saturated presence, the title character’s predictable identity and the few, boring boss battles hinder Arkham Knight from being the best of Rocksteady’s trilogy. Despite these shortcomings, anyone who appreciates anything Batman should still get Arkham Knight. It has the darkest story in the series largely because of Batman’s battles within himself, which make the best parts in the game, and the spectacular voice cast. Even though the Batmobile is overused, it’s still great to control once players get adjusted to it, especially with how fantastic and beautiful Gotham looks. Even though the combat didn’t need improvement from Arkham City, it’s made even better here.

The Good

  • Batman’s internal struggles
  • Combat is better than ever
  • Beautiful and huge open world with much to offer
  • Fantastic voice work
  • Batmobile feels great and fun to drive…

The Bad

  • … but often overused
  • Arkham Knight’s identity becomes obvious, especially to fans
  • Few and mediocre boss fights

The Score: 8.7


Robbie Key is the Nintendo editor for Analog Addiction and former editor-in-chief for The Pine Log at Stephen F. Austin State University, where he is now an alumnus. Follow his completely relevant Twitter updates, watch his awesometacular YouTube videos and view his LinkedIn profile.

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