Batman Arkham Knight Review: The Knight is Dark and Full of Terrors

Batman Arkham Knight Review: The Knight is Dark and Full of Terrors

SPOILERS for Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City (and I guess that other one, whatever it was called) I played Batman: Arkham Knight on PS4, playing it to 90 percent completion (with only 2 side quests left, 1 of which is the 200 odd Riddler trophies). I only encountered 2 significant issues. I fell through the world once, and Oracle’s model didn’t appear in one cutscene. PC issues are well-known and the game has actually been pulled from Steam, but the PS4 version seemed fairly solid.

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It feels like it’s been a long road. Batman: Arkham Asylum was a pleasant surprise back in 2009, shining a light on the fantastic work of British developer Rocksteady. Arkham Asylum was like a love letter to fans of the Dark Knight and offered a compelling original narrative inspired by the comic books and the movies. Fast forward six years and Rocksteady are now at the end of their epic trilogy. 2011’s Arkham City introduced an open world to the franchise as Batman worked to stop Hugo Strange from destroying Gotham.

Arkham City had an unprecedented gut-punch of an ending, as the Joker’s plans went awry and he ended up dying in Batman’s arms. And now the question remains, what is the Batman without the Joker?

As Arkham Knight picks up, Gotham is in chaos. The war for the city started with an attack by Scarecrow in a diner (one which you get to see in gruesome detail) and now the insane Dr Crane is threatening to left off a fear gas bomb in the city. Because you know, that’s what Scarecrow does. Gotham is evacuated (or conveniently emptied of innocent NPCs) and a long Halloween night for Batman begins, as he works to stop Scarecrow, keep the villains of Gotham in check, and pursue a new villain known as the Arkham Knight.

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The story is, without question, the best in the trilogy and people who have an intimate knowledge of Batman are duly rewarded with too many nods and references to count. This is a masterclass in video game storytelling and just video game design in general and it is almost shocking how far behind other developers seem to be. Rocksteady has an undeniable flavour to their work. They like to deliver the unexpected. And although we get Gordon’s mantra at the beginning – ‘This is how it happened. This is how the Batman died.’ – you can be sure that nothing will go the way you expect. It’s just utterly compelling and I really couldn’t put it down until my questions were answered.

And they are. Arkham Knight is a worthy end to Rocksteady’s trilogy. At the end of it all, as you wrap up Batman’s few loose ends and catch those pesky super-villains, you get to do the last thing as the Batman. And it is an emotional moment. You have invested so much time in this world, but at the same time, it is the perfect ending.

But before all that soppy stuff, you have a lot of asses to kick. The world of Arkham Knight is significantly bigger than City and this time you get to rip around it in the Batmobile. The Batmobile is an addition that has got some flak since release, but I like it. The car is fun to use, navigating the streets and causing as much property damage as possible. The ‘tank’ mode is okay, giving the batmobile a cannon and guns to destroy any ‘unmanned’ drones in it’s way. Yes, there are a few too many tank fights, especially when they come just before major story beats. They don’t sit well in the Batman’s mythos but I can forgive them because the tank mode also adds an ingenious edge to puzzle solving. Some of the puzzles are just fantastic, and it’s insanely difficult at first to remember that you are not only Batman but can also operate your Batmobile remotely.

Otherwise the gameplay is what you would come to expect from the Arkham games. Tight combat, heavy use of gadgets, and exploration. Not much has changed, except for a few new enemy types and the fact you can now do environmental takedowns (a la Sleeping Dogs). At stages in your adventure, you will also be teaming up with your Super-Bros. Nightwing, Catwoman and Robin are all big parts of the story this time and you fight alongside them, able to do dual takedowns with maximum carnage and quips.

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Batman: Arkham Knight is incredibly graphically impressive too. It may be the best looking game I’ve ever played (and yes, I have played Witcher 3). But when all is said and done, you will remember Arkham Knight for the amazing story that it tells. Rocksteady are incredibly confident and meticulous developers, showing a deep respect for the source material and an even deeper respect for their fans.

Batman: Arkham Knight will entertain you, shock you, impress you, bring you to tears and give you one of the greatest gaming experiences of 2015. What’s better, it will leave you incredibly satisfied and indeed incredibly excited as to what Rocksteady does next.

 

Batman: Arkham Knight gets a 5/5.

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