I love Batman.
When I was younger, Batman was a huge part of my life. Whenever we played during recess in school, I would always pretend to be the caped crusader. When I would get home, I’d immediately sit down at the kitchen table and do my homework so when Batman: The Animated Series came on, I could glue myself to the television. I had a Batman suitcase full of Batman action figures. I had Batman bedsheets and a Batman night light. I had giant wall decals of Batman in my room. Needless to say, Batman played a very important role in my childhood.
It pained me to see the lackluster Batman games that came out over the years. (Excluding The Adventures of Batman & Robin for the SNES–that game is very good). So when 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum came out, and was good, I was ecstatic. The game’s combat was fantastic, it gave you all of Batman’s signature weapons and featured The Animated Series’ voice actors (as well as its writer, Paul Dini). Fast forward to 2011, and we got Batman: Arkham City, which is one of my favorite games of all time.
So here we are, in 2015, with what appears to be the final game in Rocksteady’s Arkham series, Batman: Arkham Knight. How is it? Could it possibly live up to my expectations? Well, let’s find out together.
Batman: Arkham Knight takes place nine months after the conclusion of Arkham City. It’s been quiet in Gotham City–too quiet. It’s Halloween night and Scarecrow decides to perform his greatest trick, and gives the residents of Gotham a devilish treat. His plan is to release his fear toxin all throughout Gotham City and possibly, the entire Eastern seaboard. It’s up to Batman to stop him, while also tangling with the mysterious Arkham Knight, who aids Scarecrow with this master plan.
THE VOICE WORK IN ARKHAM KNIGHT Is TOP-NOTCH.
That’s the general synopsis of Arkham Knight. There’s a few twists and turns that happen throughout, and you meet up with both friends and enemies from past entries in the series.
I think the story works, just not to the most effective extent. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City’s narratives both felt very refined and focused. Arkham Knight’s story has a lot of narrative threads happening at once, and I didn’t feel like they all worked. I don’t want to spoil the main narrative too much, but my biggest gripe is with title character, the Arkham Knight.
The Arkham Knight’s whole story a red herring of another (influential) story in Batman’s history. It was evident who he was early on, and the game doesn’t earn the reveal at the end of the game. Even if you’re not a fan of the comics/show, the game hits you over the head with hints on who the Arkham Knight is throughout, that by the time the reveal comes, it’s ineffective.
The voice work in Arkham Knight is top notch. Kevin Conroy is at the top of his game as Batman, and the new additions to the cast do a great job too. Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad) gives a good performance as Commissioner Gordon and John Noble (Fringe, Lord of the Rings) gives a chilling performance as Scarecrow. The cast is rounded out by the usual suspects: Troy Baker, Nolan North, and Tara Strong. Each of them bring personality to their characters.
Unlike previous games in the Arkham series, Batman: Arkham Knight has two separate instances of combat. Your hand-to-hand Freeflow combat sections, which you should be used to from the previous games, and new vehicular-based combat, which takes place in the Batmobile.
First off, the Freeflow combat sections continue to be the bread and butter of the Arkham games. The combat makes you feel like you are Batman. It’s incredibly easy to string together combos and counters while mixing in the use of all of your gadgets. There’s also the inclusion of Tag Team Takedowns, which have you and an ally perform some sweet finishing moves.
The gadgets take a back seat in Arkham Knight. There’s only one or two new gadgets, and you’ll only use them a few times throughout the course of the game (they’re late game items). Where in Arkham Asylum, the game was all about discovery and collecting your gadgets, Arkham Knight is more about utilizing your arsenal in the way you want.
Instead of awesome, hand-to-hand brawls, you get waves of tanks and lackluster batmobile fights.
The other instance of fighting, and the overall notable thing in Arkham Knight, is the inclusion of the Batmobile. Unfortunately, the combat sections with the Batmobile are some of my least favorite sections in the game. And it’s a shame too, because a lot of the game happens in the Batmobile. While driving, you can press and hold the left trigger and turn into Battle Mode (you can change it to a toggle mode in options). Battle Mode is where the majority of the Batmobile’s action sequences happen. The Arkham Knight has an army of tanks at his disposal (never quite explained how he got them) and they send wave after wave of them to try and stop you. Tank combat boils down to this: dodge the incoming projectile (which is shown on screen with a line), and then fire back. Some tanks take one shot to kill, others take a few. It’s incredibly simple, and there’s not a lot of variety to it. Also, it happens a lot. Later on in the game, you’re forced into a few boss battles using the Batmobile, and they’re excruciatingly cumbersome.
That brings me to another point, where are the boss battles? In previous Arkham games you went up against some of Batman’s biggest baddies. That’s not the case in Arkham Knight. In there place are a few set piece moments. Instead of awesome, hand-to-hand brawls, you get waves of tanks and lackluster Batmobile fights. Don’t get me wrong, there are boss encounters in the game, just not like in previous installments.
The stealth sections are back in Arkham Knight and they’re just as fantastic as ever. It’s so simple to use Detective Mode get a feel for your environment and its adversaries, and then plan (and hopefully execute) your attack. It’s so satisfying to enter a room with 15 armed guards and then to take them out, one by one, as the others slowly begin to panic. This is what “being the Batman” is all about.
With all that out of the way, the open world in Arkham Knight is astonishing. It’s bigger than Arkham City and every corner of it lives and breathes. Traversal is still as easy and satisfying as ever, soaring around and zip-lining your way across Gotham. Which makes me wonder, why anyone would want to drive around Gotham when you could fly? There’s plenty to see and do as well. You complete a lot of the side missions in increments. This is a smart idea, and helps you not get bored of doing any one thing over and over again. Some missions have you solve puzzles for the Riddler, while others have you stop bank robberies conducted by Two-Face. There’s also the standard “save 20 firefighters” and “collect 240 Riddler trophies” missions as well.
At its core, these are what the Arkham games are about, and Arkham Knight continues to deliver. There’s a lot to do, and it’s fun doing it. I just wasn’t a huge fan of the Batmobile sections of the game. The narrative reasoning behind it is very weak. The Arkham Knight has brought with him an army, and the only way for Batman to combat it is with the Batmobile.
Batman: Arkham Knight is a beautiful game. The city and characters look great, and the music throughout is strong. Whether you’re driving around in the Batmobile or taking on 20 of Penguin’s thugs, the score always plays to your situation. As stated earlier, the voice-acting is very well done in the game as well.
I played the game on PC. I logged 25 hours into the game and completed every side mission except collecting all of the Riddler trophies (that’s a lot of trophies!) That being said, I didn’t run into a lot of the technical issues that users are reporting with the PC version of the game. I didn’t fiddle with the frames per second so it ran at a constant 30fps, and I had Nvidia Gameworks turned off. In my 25 hours of play, I had one hard crash. The only stuttering that occurred was during Batmobile chase sections of the game where I sped through the city and ran into a lot of objects.
This is my experience with the game. I know numerous others who have had problems with the PC version of the game and Warner Brothers has since suspended sales of the PC version on Steam.
I’d definitely recommend Batman: Arkham Knight.
While the story is a little lackluster, the performances are strong and the beautiful open world which includes a plethora of activities makes up for it. Where the Batmobile sections fall flat, the brilliant combat and stealth sections continue to elevate the series. Arkham City was an incredible game and brought the story of Batman and the Joker to a close. Was Arkham Knight needed? No. However, am I glad that it exists? The simple answer is yes. I’d definitely recommend Batman: Arkham Knight. Whether you’re a die hard Batman fan, or you’re just looking for a fun, open world adventure. You can’t go wrong with the conclusion to Rocksteady’s brilliant Arkham series.
The retail version of the PC game was used for review; It took me about 16 hours to complete the main quest and 25 hours to complete almost everything.