Batman Arkham Knight Review
Let’s get this out of the way early. If you like the previous Arkham games, you will like Arkham Knight. It ticks all the boxes.
A slew of super villains out for the Dark Knight’s head: Check
Dark and brooding story that pushes our hero to the edge: Check.
The game begins following on after the events of Arkham City, which I won’t spoil here. There’s an era of peace lasting about 9 months. Crime has dropped. Gotham seems set to be a pretty cheery place.
Then Scarecrow gets bored and decides to hold the city hostage. I’m over simplifying things, but that’s the general way to sum up the opening.
From the very beginning it’s clear that this is one of the most beautiful games of this generation to date. I played on Playstation 4, and the game ran fairly smoothly throughout, with some stunning rain and lighting effects making me feel like I was actually there, gliding around Gotham. Character animations are crisp and believable, textures were ridiculously detailed. Overall, a gorgeous experience throughout.
Now, what makes the Arkham series stand out is its gameplay, and this game doesn’t disappoint. For the most part.
The core mechanics remain largely unchanged. You string together combos through beating on enemies, countering and using your gadgets to your advantage. The environment is now even more valuable, with Batman being able to throw enemies into electric fences, pick up baseball bats and crowbars, and even combine his attacks with his allies.
Yes, Batsy has allies. For certain small sections of the game you’ll fight alongside friends such as Robin and Catwoman. These are an absolute joy to play, and one of the times you feel truly badass. And truly like Batman.
The stealthy predator sections have made a return as well, and are mostly impressive, especially with the new Fear takedowns. Essentially you stealth strike an enemy, and plough your way through up to four more enemies in some slick, stylish, Batman-esque brutality until nobody is left standing. However, these predator areas feel a little stripped back from previous titles, almost like the were tacked on at the end to pad out the game. Previously, these were highlights of the series, and now sometimes feel like a bit of a drag.
Speaking of being a bit of a drag (was wondering how I was going to segue into this) let’s talk about the Batmobile. The first time Batman (played by the always amazing Kevin Conroy) calls on the Batmobile, the fan boy in me screeched for joy. It looked beautiful, more like a tank than a car, but still. You jump in, blasting through the streets, feeling like an unstoppable force. Damn it felt good.
For all of about ten minutes. Then fatigue sets in. Quickly. The car handles well for the most part, switching between driving and combat quite seamlessly. You bounce around shooting unmanned drones with ease, or navigating the city at ridiculous speeds. But the game forces you so very often to use it. Can’t get to a ledge? Batmobile can! Can’t catch an escaping enemy? Batmobile can! Can’t access a control panel on a roof that you’re already on? Better go back down to street level and drive the Batmobile onto the roof on a series of awkwardly designed platforms.
*sigh* You read that right. There’s Batmobile platforming sections, and they work about as well as you’d expect. Which brings me to the biggest complaint I have about this game.
It’s incredibly repetitive. The game was clearly built around the Batmobile. It solves all of your problems. And this shows in other aspects as well.
There is a huge cast of villains to battle outside of the main story (which I’ll get to shortly). Your first encounter with each of them is handled brilliantly. Their reveals are fantastic and will fill fans of the series with glee. But every time you see them again, it’s EXACTLY THE SAME! Every single side quest boils down to “do what you did the last time, but a little longer/more difficult”. It honestly puts you off exploring this gorgeous world.
Lastly we come to the story, and the titular Arkham Knight. Truthfully, the reveal of this character was predictable, and handled very lazily. However, up until the later hours of the plot, The Knight is a consistently interesting and antagonising presence. You want to pound his/her face in, to take them down and assert yourself as the hero.
And scarecrow…….. Wow………
John Noble (of Fringe and LOTR: Return of the King fame) handles this character with a menacing finesse lacking in most villains. When he is on screen, you believe he is the master of fear. And damn, does he use it effectively. His presence turns a mediocre story into something far more interesting. If only his motivations were made more clear.
So, should you buy/play Arkham Knight? If you’re a fan of the series, absolutely. There’s enough excellent gameplay here to keep you entertained and enthralled for hours. However, if you’re not a fan of the previous games, this won’t sway you. At its heart it’s just an upgraded version of Arkham City. So to sum up, it’s a very good game, with a lot of flaws.
Now if you’ll excuse me, Riddler is riddling it up in Gotham City, and they need a hero!