*Note: This review contains mild spoilers. A more in depth look on some of my thoughts that include spoilers are hidden at the end and are optional.*
The Batman: Arkham series that started back in 2009 with Asylum has since become an icon in the industry. It changed the way consumers and developers look at ways to use comic book properties in video games. The series has always been immersive, passionate, and of the highest of quality. It is all the more impressive when noted that developer Rocksteady had only a single game published prior to bringing to light their concept for a game starring the Caped Crusader. Even WB Montreal did a fine job of keeping the universe in sync when they delivered their prequel Arkham Origins. It has been a long six years or so, but the team at Rocksteady has done nothing but impress each time and they delivered immensely within Arkham Knight.
Arkham Knight takes place nine months after the events of Arkham City. *SPOILER* In light of the Joker’s death, crime is at an all-time low. It is a case of too much of a good thing, and Commissioner Gordon knows that it cannot last. It is Halloween, and Scarecrow has plans to make it a long one. Mirroring events of the classic Batman comic The Long Halloween, Gotham is evacuated after Scarecrow warns of an imminent city-wide fear toxin attack. Batman and the entire GCPD are called to action as criminals and riots wreak havoc all over the mostly abandoned city. As soon as players are granted control of the Dark Knight, you can feel the true depth the game has. As you are perched, a grand vision of Gotham lay right in front of you. It is the most alive the city has felt across any of the games. Police choppers scan the area, crooks speed by in cars, and a city of equal parts old and new all meld together with a heartbeat you can feel. As the rain runs down your cape, the power of our new shiny current gen systems has hit a new peak. Complete with gorgeous cinematic moments, this is the best looking game on new consoles without a doubt.
As the story develops, players learn more about Scarecrow’s plans for the night. When the game was first announced, the world learned that an all new villain schemed up by DC and Rocksteady was in the works. That villain is the titular antagonist, the Arkham Knight. He and Crane have teamed up to bring an end to the legacy of Batman. While Jonathan Crane aka Scarecrow is openly angry about having been crippled by the Batman and his abuse of power, Arkham Knight’s needs for vengeance are a mystery. What we do know is that he has a well-equipped, well-trained army at his side and that he will stop at nothing to kill the Batman. This is a notion that is not only foreshadowed in the game, but in the TV spots as well. “This is it. This is how the Batman died.” Batman always has contingency plans, and there was no chance that he was going down without a fight.
Arkham Knight introduces some new toys into the mix as past games in the series have done. This time around the most notable are the new and improved Batsuit V8.03 and the nearly indestructible Batmobile. Both of these tools in his ever growing arsenal come by way of necessity. There is a war to be fought, and Batman needs the upgrades to survive. The Batsuit is by far one of the coolest and most original in the entire history of Batman. It is designed for protection, flexibility, and speed. It allows players to do a new form of takedown called “Fear Takedown.” This lets Batman sneak up on multiple enemies and take them out in a connective flow. It also allows for faster grapnel boost which make for traversing the open world of Gotham a breeze. Traveling by way of the Batmobile is also a blast. It’s fast and easy to control for the most part. The only complaint here is that the traditional brake button (back left trigger on most platforms) is how to switch to the tank mode. It is something that you shake off naturally, but initially is hard to avoid making the mistake. The tank, in my opinion, is a great addition. I have read a lot that the Batmobile nearly ruined the game for them, but I disagree. It is true that it is over used, but otherwise it is a thrill to experience for the first time. It comes with classic afterburners, space for friend and foe alike, and added abilities that further the already deep combat system. When in a fight within the proximity of your vehicle, you can build a combo meter that allows you to take down an enemy with the help of the tanks non-ballistic weaponry. Batman can also launch out of the Batmobile at intense speeds to help ramp up traversal. There are many cool features it can do, like be remote controlled and ride around walls, but to avoid over using it in the review as it was in the game I will leave those for the players to experience.
The tight controlling combat is back, and works like a breeze. There is a newer upgrade system that is more sectionalized to what you specifically want, as in Batmobile upgrades or Combat upgrades. This lets you pick and choose more as opposed to a single branching upgrade tree. This is one of the ways it has about as much depth as a typical RPG would. There are also Gotham City Stories to unlock that further the lore, and in-depth character descriptions and models. It is jam packed with detail, whether it be written or physical. So much of the city is destructible and ripe for exploration. The docks are grimy and wet, there are abandoned structures and sewage ways, and brightly lit intersections that mimic Times Square. The development team no doubt spent hundreds and hundreds of hours perfecting their most grand rendition of not only the Dark Knight, but of his home city as well.
There are plenty of side stories to explore in your spare time or post story. Whether it is stopping local villains like Two Face and Penguin or reducing the Arkham Knights chokehold on Gotham, there is a good variety of missions to pursue. Unfortunately within these side missions there is very little variety to be found. Increasing difficulty does not substitute for diverse content. For instance, Two Face’s side story involves stopping his thugs from robbing the various unprotected banks around Gotham. Each is set up as a predator style mission, where at first you stealthily take down foes, and then fight a second wave that is aware you are there. It is like this each time with no change in their initial behavior, few dialogue changes, and similar banks. It’s a shame because many of the side missions are like this, also lacking any real boss fights. Boss fights have been a staple in the series, for better or for worse. It is not to say there is none in the game, but most of the few present are underwhelming. Several side missions require the tank as well, so no dynamic changes are expected of those either. It is also really unfortunate that players do not get to see the villains really work together as was expected from the trailers. Only Arkham Knight and Scarecrow really work together, and even then I do not think there is a moment where you see them in the same room together. You get to do these big sprawling defensive tank battles that are awesome at first but slowly fizzle out.
The best thing to come out of the side missions is that we get to see Batman work together with his allies side by side for the first time ever. Nightwing, Catwoman, and Robin are all present here. Best of all is they are all playable as well. Players can jump back and forth between characters while in fights while also building up a co-op takedown that links the two together. After these awesome takedowns, you are automatically switched back to the opposite player. These feature brings together something classic from the Batman universe that we have not gotten to experience so naturally before. It works out great, and it’s awesome to be able to experience fights as other famous DC faces. These are not the only people Batman has at his sides though.
My favorite thing about this game is that Mark Hamill came back, and it was thankfully for most of the game. “But Joker is dead, how can that be?” you may be asking. Through a series of events, Batman has hallucinations and can see the Joker. If you are a fan of the Showtime series Dexter, you will absolutely understand why this is so great. Joker serves almost as a bad conscious for Bruce Wayne, popping up at the worst times and taunting him. Hamill serves some of the most well written and hilarious dialogue from the whole series here. Not only that but during segments of the game he will lead you to the next spot if you inherently get stuck. He can be seen waving a thumb at a gate switch, or calling you names as he mentions sly remarks as to where you should be. Though the game could have worked without the Jokers presence, he fits so perfectly into the overall psyche of the game and really picks the brain of the Dark Knight.
Hamill as the Joker and the timeless Kevin Conroy as Batman are a dream team as usual. With the supporting cast also doing great, it’s no surprise here that the dialogue is top notch. John Noble’s Scarecrow is terrifying and punctual in the best way possible. Jonathan Banks of Breaking Bad fame takes up the role of Commissioner Gordon and really embodies a gruff man with emotional ties to his job. The ever popular Troy Baker is also present, reprising his role as Harvey Dent aka Two Face. He also does well as a few other characters, most notably the angry and mysterious Arkham Knight. Crisp sounds fill the game with ease and really set the mood. The Dark Knight’s fluid movements bring him to life with a swoop of his cape and impact of his punch. The Batmobile feels like the real deal, slinging mud while you drift and revving it up as your controller vibrates to tie it all together. On par with the impressiveness of the voice acting is the beautiful score. Equal parts classical and eerie, it brings shivers to my skin even after 30 hours of gameplay. It echoes the intensity of Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer’s Dark Knight Trilogy while keeping the deep orchestral tunes of Batman: The Animated Series fame.
Batman Arkham Knight is a masterpiece, there is no doubt about it. Being such a big fan makes it hard not to be biased, but I can see where the game fell short. I am always going to want more from the universe, and the lack of dynamic side missions or boss fights hurt it. The over use of the Batmobile and massive amount of Riddler trophies also made for tedious moments too. Where the developers dropped the ball however, they certainly more than
made up for everywhere else. Top notch production within the graphics and voice acting made for one of the highest quality games I have ever played. Aside from the troubling PC issues, the game rarely ever underperformed on my Xbox One and ran beautifully. Some big moments in the main story fall flat, but it has enough immersive moment and twists that you will not second guess it one bit. Arkham Knight brings end to an era of wonderful games that may never be topped. It is a work of art and a homage to fans of Batman and gamers alike.
*Originally posted on Player2reviews.weebly.com (check it out for more of my reviews)
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