GAME NAME: Batman Arkham Knight
DEVELOPER(S): Rocksteady Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Warner Bros. Games
PLATFORM(S): PlayStation 4
GENRE(S): Open-World Action
RELEASE DATE(S): June 23rd, 2015
Just a fair warning, there will be no spoilers in this review. The story will not be discussed any further than I really enjoyed the psychological flair it had and the way Rocksteady used DC Batman lore while still maintaining their own storytelling style. Some of my favorite things about this game I won’t even write here to maintain the surprises for you as they were unspoiled for me. You deserve the shock and awe that comes with playing it blind. This is definitely a Rocksteady game through and through. If you enjoyed Arkham Asylum and Arkham City you’re going to feel right at home in Arkham Knight, as it is the natural evolution of gameplay. However, this is not a perfect game as there are issues with the camera and sometimes the Batmobile can be so damn powerful that it’s hard to control. Having said that, the ride of the story from beginning to end is something Batfans will enjoy, and a solid cap to Rocksteady’s trilogy. To quote the commish “Legends live on. Only man comes to an end.”
I AM VENGEANCE!
Stepping into Batman’s $20,000 boots (approximate value) for the third time in the series, Rocksteady made sure to give you some new toys to play with. The voice disruptor allows you to open up locked areas by fine tuning the machine to a particular character’s exact sound waves. Using it to lure some poor militia member into a trap, or mistakenly open up a gate so you can take him down, are satisfying ways of showing Batman’s genius instead of just his brawn. The Cryptographic Sequencer returns in a revamped style giving the player the ability to remotely hack drones and turrets. Turning the militia’s tech against them was great, especially after getting cut down by gun fire a few times charging in head first in very un-Batman like fashion.
Then there’s the Batmobile. I would venture to guess that it was the most wanted and unwanted addition to the series at the same time. A lot of fans clamored for the chance to drive one of the most iconic vehicles in history, while others thought it would be too drastic of a shift in gameplay style. In a way, both segments of the population are correct. This is a large difference in the variety of gameplay for the better, and yet feels out of place at times. Simply put, this is Batman at war and the tank, rocket-car hybrid is very much needed to dispense the justice Gotham needs and deserves. Rocksteady made it a point to widen the roads of Gotham to get that behemoth on the streets and holy crap will you need it. Controlling the car portion of the Batmobile feels like the most powerful cars from the Burnout series in that you NEED to learn how to drive it and stay on your game. The game doesn’t punish you very often for being a student driver though since most of what you see will crumble at contact.
The animations are slick and I never got tired of “evening the odds” by calling it in at any time to fight the remaining thugs and militia members. Rocksteady was able to use it for many forms of the gameplay including the returning Riddler puzzles and hand-to-hand-to-tank combat. Adding several side missions that require the Batmobile may anger some fans but I found that it broke up the gameplay enough so I never got bored doing any one thing for too long. As stated above, there are some issues with driving this transforming vengeance delivery system, mostly dealing with the camera panning out and in during certain sequences causing me to crash a few times, as well as how touchy the gas and steering can be. Most of the control issues I feel are my fault as an overly enthusiastic armchair Batman. I wanted to go balls to the wall at all times with it, and of course I paid for it with a few failed missions and winding up in the drink on more than one occasion.
I was so apprehensive about tank combat in a Batman game but my fears were put to rest pretty quickly as the handling is well designed and the enemies are varied enough that I found it a lot of fun. I don’t generally think of tank combat when I think of Batman, but the friggin guy has a plan for everything, so him being ready for an all-out military style assault on his city isn’t exactly far-fetched. At least it’s not anymore far-fetched than a billionaire orphan who’s a master in all known forms of martial arts, detective work, engineering, and criminal psychology. I digress, the tank’s upgrades and weaponry are really well done, and the pacing of both your improvements and your enemies’ is spaced out very well. I never felt like I was thrown into the deep end too fast.
I AM THE NIGHT!
The performances, characters, and music in this game, as well as the graphical fidelity, are the reasons we have current generation hardware. Rocksteady themselves said they could never have done what they’ve done with the last era of consoles. It truly shows how much the industry has grown with how mature the story is, and in the video below you’ll see the voice actors talking about their roles. Standouts like John Noble’s rendition of Scarecrow, Jonathan Banks’ (of Breaking Bad fame) Jim Gordon, and Kevin Conroy’s latest trip into the cap3 and cowl as Batman. Conroy IS Batman to an entire generation of fans who grew up on the animated series, and he gives a fantastic performance once again.
If you listen hard enough you’ll also hear other voice-over veterans like Nolan North as The Penguin, Troy Baker (Origin’s Joker) as Two Face, and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. This all-star cast was put to great use, though not central to the story, they provided a lot of the color in Gotham’s picture. Graphically the game is a powerhouse and one of those games that will make you want to show it off. The little touches around the city and small animations like Batman’s wrist communicator shifting in and out of his forearm are just plain cool. All the Easter eggs and small touches around the city made this Batman fan geek out pretty frequently. The Grey Ghost movie poster and Flying Grayson promotional materials were probably my favorite.
The combat. At the risk of throwing down a hyperbolic time bomb I’ll surely regret later, I have never, ever, enjoyed a game’s combat the way I did Arkham Knight’s. This is the type of easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master gameplay I enjoyed the second I played the series. They’ve done a great job building and building on top of their previous work, and it has paid off tremendously. FreeFlow Combat in Arkham Knight absolutely makes you feel like Batman.
Here is an example of a fight progression I went through: Driving the Batmobile I see some poor random thugs that need an attitude adjustment. I launch out of the Batmobile, glide into the air, smash into my target, shoot a guy with the Batclaw yanking him toward me like Scorpion in Mortal Kombat, closeline him and crush him down into the ground with an elbow, and then uppercut the last poor victim into the air only to be shot by the Batmobile with a rubber bullet. Afterwards Bats just adjusts his gauntlets, rolls his shoulders, remotely calls over to car and jumps in and I’m back on the road again with a rocket boost. 10-year-old Dante would have spiked the controller in glee. Alright, 31 year old Dante spiked the controller in glee too.
The other half of Batman’s combat is the predator sections. You’ll use Batman’s cunning wit and guile (go ahead and hum his theme song it goes with everything) to quickly and quietly take out enemies from above or below. The major additive here is the Fear Takedowns where Batman can takedown an enemy while also eliciting fear from his comrades allowing you to highlight them and then dash over quickly knocking them out before he can get his bearings. Once you’ve upgraded him enough you can easily takedown five enemies with only a few button presses.
The Dual Play Mode is new as well and I really wish there were more of these instances. In these sections of the game, Batman teams up with Catwoman, Nightwing, or Robin attacking foes at the same time. If you build up a combo meter high enough you have access to the Dual Takedowns, which are fancy pants animations where the two heroes tag-team some poor fool with absolutely brilliant and brutal choreography. Switching back and forth between Batman and one of his fellow heroes was quick, a blast, and leaves you wanting more.
I AM BATMAN!
It took me a little over twelve hours to complete the main story and even more to complete the side missions. There are two endings: One at 75% complete and one at 100% complete, not to mention the New Game Plus and all of the challenge maps. Currently the game doesn’t have the option of playing the challenge maps as other characters but hopefully that will change. There’s a lot of value here, including a very ambitious DLC season pass that will add more to the game over the next six months, including Batgirl’s debut to the series. If this is Rocksteady’s swan song, let’s hope it’s more like the lyrics of the song “We’ll Meet Again” made famous by Dame Vera Lynn: “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day”. Have fun saving Gotham.