Six years after Rocksteady proved that there was more to be had from superhero games than the poorly executed movie tie-ins that had come before, they return with the final chapter in the Arkham
series, Batman: Arkham Knight
. With a host of super villains to chase down, the inclusion of the Batmobile, a thrilling story to be told, and a larger and more detailed Gotham to explore, this is the complete Batman experience and a more than fitting end to the quadrilogy.
Set nine months after the conclusion of Batman: Arkham City
and with crime rates falling, Arkham Knight
once again sees Gotham city under threat. This time around it's the deadly duo of Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight - a mysterious new enemy who has military training, and somehow appears to know Batman’s weaknesses and every move before even he does - who are planning to flood the city with fear gas. With all of the civilians evacuated from the city and the streets full of bad guys, it’s up to Batman and his allies to stop the attack.
The newly imagined city of Gotham is much larger than the one we encountered in Arkham City
, five times bigger in fact, and whilst it can’t be described as sprawling, each part of the city has a distinctive feel, and allows for Batman to freely travel around via rooftops or the newly introduced Batmobile. It’s a wonderfully created masterpiece that offers the ultimate playground for you to explore without any loading times at all. Furthermore, the rain-filled sky, smoky grates and neon signs give the city a sense of character in itself. The streets may not be as full of life as other open world games (the city has been evacuated after all), but there are enough things happening to keep it interesting throughout, with villains causing general mayhem and police car chases tearing by at high speed.
The ultimate playground for you to explore
The largest change to the gameplay comes via the Batmobile. Part supercar and part tank, the handling at times can be a little twitchy, but it’s a joy to use when moving between various missions as you drift around corners at high speed, tear through concrete walls and catapult Batman into the night sky. The only downside to the otherwise fun addition is the developers need to include it in multiple repetitive missions throughout the main story.
With the click of a button the Batmobile can switch to battle mode which includes two weapons, 360 degree movement and a host of gadgets. At first it’s fun, but it becomes overused by the end of the game as the last tank battle is basically the same as the first with only the number of unmanned tanks increasing and a few different variations of opponent vehicle to fight.
Later in the story, cobra tanks are added to the battle. They're much larger and tougher tanks that can’t be fought like the other drones, instead their only weakness can be found at the rear, which means you have to try and stealthily sneak behind them in order to take them out. If the idea of trying to stealthily manoeuvre the beast of a car wasn’t bad enough, the actual battles themselves are infuriating, none more so than one of the final boss battles in the game which unfortunately left a sour note on an otherwise brilliantly told experience.
The Batmobile is brilliant when exploring the city of Gotham, but is far too overused in the main story
Thankfully the hand-to-hand combat and stealth that other games have tried to replicate since the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum
are better than ever. The developers have gone with an “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” approach, with only a few refinements and additions to the already winning forumal. The base controls, two-button combo moves, and quick fire gadgets are as fun to use as they ever were, but new takedowns have been added to spice things up. Fear takedowns allow you to quickly dispatch of up to five enemies when fully upgraded (three initially) by sneaking upon an unsuspecting group of enemies and triggering a slow motion sequence where you can quickly chain together attacks before the bad guys know what hit them. Environmental takedowns glow blue when available and allow you to instantly take out an enemy by crashing them into nearby objects such as light fixtures and electrical boxes. Finally, the Batmobile can also be used when in close proximity, with Batman throwing the unsuspecting enemy in to the air allowing for a well placed shot to fired from the car.
The combat system can be tricky to nail, and whilst it’s quite possible to progress through the game by button mashing and following the odd on-screen prompt, the real beauty comes when you are able to chain everything together to take out groups of enemies with large combos.
Another new addition to the combat comes in the form of the tag team attack, which is brilliantly executed. On a few occasions throughout the story you’ll team up with allies and have the ability to switch between both available characters at the touch of a button. Once your combo is high enough you can perform combo finishing moves which vary depending on the duo fighting, and who you are controlling at the time.
Hand-to-hand combat is as good as it ever was
The main story takes around 10-12 hours to complete, and is a thoroughly enjoyable experience aside from the frequent tank battles. There’s an element of inevitability about what’s going to happen, but the same could be said of any superhero film or game, and some of the big plot twists become alarmingly obvious early on, but there are frequent occasions when the game will make you drop your jaw, laugh out loud and even the odd moment which will make you jump from your seat with unexpected surprises.
Unlike Arkham City
, the main story in Arkham Knight
primarily focuses on the two super villains and Batman's quest to stop them, with the remainder of the cast introduced as most wanted missions gradually throughout. It works extremely well as the story flows in a much better way than it did in Arkham City
, and whilst the side missions may not add anything new to the core gameplay from the main story line, they do provide a nice change of pace and some diversity to the action. With a host of bad guys that reads like a super villain check list to chase down; from solving the Riddler’s puzzles and helping rescue Catwoman to stopping Two-Face’s bank robberies, and solving a mass murder case - each most wanted mission adds to the overall story well, and none of it feels like it has been bolted on purely to add additional hours of gameplay. There's even a further ending to work towards by completing all of the various side missions, that encourages you to continue playing once the main story is over.
Scarecrow isn't the only villain you'll have to chase down
Batman wouldn't be anything without his utility belt and the seemingly never ending supply of gadgets available, and Arkham Knight
introduces a number of new additions that will help you save the city. The new voice changing device is the most fun to use as you command enemy grunts to unlock doors for you, or move close for a hidden takedown. As with previous installments of the game, each one can be upgraded as you progress. Everything from the Batsuit to the Batmobile has its own skill tree which can be upgraded to make dispatching of Gotham’s meanest crooks easier, and can be tailored to suit your particular play style.Arkham Knight
’s achievement list is well put together, with the majority being awarded for playing through the main story and side missions. For completionist out there, the game will take around 40 hours to complete as you’ll have to play through the story twice
and reach 100% completion
in the game which requires you to collect all of the Riddler’s trophies
. For the button mashers out there, there may be some difficulty when trying to earn all of the stars available in AR Challenges
and trying to use 15 different combat moves in one FreeFlow
SummaryBatman Arkham Knight
is a magnificent and fitting end to the Arkham
series of games in every possible way. The city of Gotham is a huge, spectacular playground for you to explore, the story sucks you in despite it’s inevitable outcome, and the combat and stealth elements that brought Arkham Asylum
to everyone’s attention have never been better.
The game does have its faults; a couple of times it completely froze after navigating to the dashboard, framerate drops occur occasionally, and the Batmobile whilst brilliant for navigating the city is overused and repetitive in tank battles, but that can easily be forgiven when the rest of the experience is as good as it is. For anyone who likes Batman, the previous releases in the franchise, or open world games in general, Arkham Knight
is an absolute must play, and offers a genuine reason for gamers who haven't yet made the jump to the new generation of consoles to seriously consider making the switch.
- Combat is better than ever
- Beautiful graphics
- Mission structure is well thought out
- Gotham is a joy to explore
- Overuse of Batmobile tank battles
- Occasional frame rate drop and freezing
The reviewer spent around twenty hours exploring Gotham and putting villains behind bars, earning 34 of the game's 70 achievements. This Xbox One review copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.