The final entry into the main Arkham Franchise, developed by Rocksteady, is finally upon us. While the last effort we saw in the franchise was a prequel, and not developed by the main creators of the series, we see their triumphant return with Arkham Knight, named after the character that has been created solely for the game. This fact shows how much hold the game has in the Batman fan community, as it manages to capture the very essence of being Batman, and this game is the culmination of all that’s come before.
One could say the most important part of a comic book video game would be the story, and Arkham Knight feels like a Batman story. It has enough twists, turns, villains and allies, and is executed extremely well. Without spoiling anything, the way certain characters appear or are revealed are fantastic, and it’s interesting to see the city of Gotham after the events of Arkham City. It lasts a good amount of time, and even after the main villains are locked up, there’s still some extra endings in there for you to discover that wrap things up neatly, as well as allowing you to tie up loose ends if you couldn’t quite finish the plethora of “Most Wanted” side missions that appear throughout the game.
While the story itself is great, and told in an interesting way, there are some flaws. At least a couple of the large twists seem to give out giant clues before they’re even revealed, leading you to figuring things out a little bit before you feel like you’re supposed to. It lessens the shock, and falls ab it flat. Thankfully, there are surprises in there, and it’s due to the fact that you’re following so much that some minor details can slip in your mind. Much like how some of the bad guys you’re chasing can slip away.
In terms of cast of characters, there’s a lot here, but there may be some missing that fans have been clambering for. Some return, some don’t, but the main hitters are all there for you to find and lock up in the GCPD facility that, as the game progresses, fills with goons and masterminds alike. It’s very satisfying to see the jail cells slowly fill up as you come back to the Police Facility time and time again.
In terms of gameplay, the Freeflow Combat system remains larger the same, with only minor changes and updates to gadgets and combat combos. The main addition being the ability to use special partner take-downs, whether that be the Batmobile or Nightwing, Catwoman and Robin, for example. These fill up a separate combo meter and tend to immediately knock out an opponent, good for thinning out numbers quickly. When using a side-kick, you then switch to that character until you next manually change characters or use another tag-team take-down. It’s great to keep a rather large combo going and it feels like the best version of their combat system yet, which was pretty amazing in the first place.
Briefly mentioned previously, the Batmobile does need to be addressed. You’re given the Batmobile fairly early on in the game, and it’s useful for getting around the city quite quickly, as well as chasing down cars, solving new, interestingly designed puzzles and fighting any drone tanks that are patrolling the city. (Batman doesn’t kill, nice way around it.) You’re going to be using this a lot, whether it be winching yourself down a wall, very bat-like, or just getting to your next objective. In terms of control, it’s great fun once you get used to it. Initially, it can be frustrating getting used to controlling it, as most of the time you feel only certain things are destructible yet some will grind you to a sudden halt. You can drift, use an afterburner boost and even boost Batman himself out of the vehicle for some gliding speed.
Combat uses the Batmobiles tank mode, and tends to be against multiple different types of drones. Using the main weapon to take out tanks fills up your secondary weapon meters, this in turn allows you to take out multiple drones at once with missiles, shoot out an emp, or hack the drones, depending on what upgrades you decide to get. Overall, it’s rather enjoyable being able to take the wheel of the Batmobile finally, and it’s well executed with the puzzle and fighting mechanics being interesting and engaging. Unfortunately, it is used a rather large amount of the game.
There are some new gadgets that Batman can use, but these show up later in the story, such as one that will mimic a persons voice, allowing you to give orders to their goons. This is great for setting up traps in Predator scenarios, where most of the gadgets available will shine. The Drone and Army focus means there’s a lot of interesting things to do to distract, incapacitate or generally just mess with the enemy from up above, but they’ve got tricks up their sleeves too. The bane of my Batman’s existence would have to be the addition of the Medic class of enemy. Not only can they revive knocked out opponents (thankfully only once) they can electrocute them during fistfights, making them impossible to take out directly. This means they you have to use a grapple combo attack to take them out. Brutes have had some upgrades too, with electrified gauntlets, mini arm shields and blades. Some are even armed with Chainguns, but once you’re close, they’re no problem to deal with.
There’s a lot of opportunity for these Predator scenarios too, despite it being set in a vast amount of Gotham City. Watchtowers, Checkpoints and of course certain parts of the main story allow for it to occur, as well as hunting down the villains in the Most Wanted Missions. They’ve advanced so much that it seems like a lot of the time you’re struggling to figure out tactics purely for the fact they’ve even given you a scenario with too much choice, or too little.
Of course, with any Arkham Game, there comes the challenges set by the Riddler. There are actually a few parts to this. His Most Wanted mission begins with him setting you challenges, most of these involve either racing or puzzle solving with the Batmobile. Once this is over, he flees and won’t let him fight you until you find and solve every riddle in the city. There’s over 200 this time, and they’re both more clever and more frustrating. Some of the small puzzles you need to solve make you feel incredibly intelligent when you solve them, while others make you feel slow, both physically and mentally. They’re certainly some of the more creative ones I’ve seen in the Arkham game, and for the first time since the Asylum, I feel determined to find them all.
Batman: Arkham Knight is a sum of it’s parts. Learning from each previous incarnation of the Batman simulator, it’s improved it’s combat to near perfection, it makes you feel like the best detective in the world, and it makes you feel like you have so many options to sneakily hunt your prey. It’s challenging, intelligent and has a well told story, even if some of the twists can be seen coming thanks to their own way of telling the story. It’s probably the best Batman game out there, and will be for a while. In the start, I was nostalgic for going back to a smaller scale, back to the Asylum, but now, I’m perfectly happen speeding around in the Batmobile, solving as many Riddler Challenges as I can find. Because Batman doesn’t stop until he’s finished.
Chris reviews the latest installment in Rocksteady’s Batman series of games.
- Consistently thrilling Batman gameplay
- Superb graphics and art production
- Compelling storyline and open-world structure
- Gotham has never looked better
- Batmobile battles can get boring
- Main story is the series weakest