By Bryan Smith on June 29, 2015 at 9:13am
Disclaimer: We reviewed the PS4 version. The PC version has been removed from Steam as of the publication of this article.)
Nananananananana BATMAN! I’d be hard pressed to hear someone not know who the caped crusader is. He’s everywhere, and “Batman: Arkham Knight” has released (for better or worse dependent on the platform). Scarecrow is trying to take over Gotham by basically burning it to the ground with fear toxins, and Batman has to stop him in a full-blown war. The hype has been intense for the (supposedly) last chapter in the “Batman: Arkham” series, so how does it fair? It's actually great, but the Joker beat certain elements over our heads.
Making the Great Parts of "Arkham City" Greater
Nowadays it’s hard to make people go “wow” when they see big open areas. They either have seen it before, or the game just can’t handle areas that force loading times. “Arkham Knight” is one of those games that can "wow" you with its scope. Gotham is huge, and I’m so glad that Arkham City wasn’t reused again. We get to see Bruce Wayne’s buildings, visit the GCPD and view criminal trinkets, and catch Easter eggs in the Lex Corp buildings. They may even be signaling the “Superman” game, like the “Batman: Arkham” series, will be Rocksteady’s next game: a proper “Superman” game that isn’t for the N64.
Everything also looks beautiful (assuming the PC version has been patched to running at the same level as the PlayStation 4/Xbox One versions). The Batmobile can run into just about anything that isn’t a large building, and down elements in incredible detail. Hell, the buildings can be nicked and damaged. Considering that the “Batman: Arkham” series is a relatively new series altogether, it’s amazing how far the visuals have improved since “Batman: Arkham Asylum.”
As for what there is to do in Gotham, there are tons of criminals running about and Batman has to handle them. We sighed with relief to find the Riddler trophies are not as obnoxious high in number. Riddler also has a full mission just for him that isn’t just exclusive to collecting the trophies. Rocksteady finally found the perfect balance to the collectibles. Though in terms of the super villains, I think they could have had a lot more seeing this is a war against Batman. No Mr. Freeze, Bane, Killer Croc, Clayface, Talia/Ra’s al Ghul, Copperhead, and Deadshot There are probably others I missed too.
Same Gameplay, Stronger and Better Batman
The free flow combat has been tweaked and fine-tuned to be at its best. Batman will be flipping and punching all around the area to beat thugs silly. It’s satisfying to obtain that combo high to the point that Batman is just a blur. In addition to the combat, stealth mode has been tweaked even more. I’d say even more than the combat, as fear multi-takedown was added to get rid of armored enemies quickly in a row. Thugs have even more tricks up their sleeves, which can track Batman while he uses his detective mode. That’s something new to switch up how Batman takes down his foes, which was awesome.
The new toy in Batman’s arsenal is the Batmobile. Since we’re basically dealing with war in Gotham, Batman wants to be as close to lethal as possible without killing people. Try to figure that out when the Batmobile crushes everything regardless. So there are two modes Batman can use to control the Batmobile - driving mode and battle mode. Driving is exactly what it says on the can. Battle mode is where Batman has more direct control to use to fight tanks and for puzzles. For the most part, the Batmobile is an interesting element to be used and when utilized right. We had a decent amount of fun with the Batmobile. It is rather strange to not see the Batmobile in Gotham.
Laughably Predictable Story
I’ll say this now; the story is undeniably predictable to the point of being laughable, and the tone is lost somewhere between “Batman: The Animated Series” and Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” film series. I don’t want to spoil anything, but considering how trailers and the very first minutes tell us that this was “the night the Batman dies,” I think you can see where this is going. “The Dark Knight Rises,” if it were a living person, would be laughing his bottom off just looking at this game’s story. It’s a shame because of how fantastic “Batman: Arkham City’s” story was.
Speaking of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the game is taking a bit too much from the films for lore than I think it should. We understand that Scarecrow is killing people by exposing them to fear and stuff, but this world is more inspired by “Batman the Animated Series” with its rather dark nature but uplifting morals. Voice actors even came back to voice characters. The “Batman” lore really hasn’t been about war, and Scarecrow is the last person I’d think of to starting it against Batman. It’s more about fighting crime and solving problems. At times, I found myself chuckling because the game remembered it's "Batman," where men in clown makeup run around with a guy who flies with fire, a man who is practically immortal, and a short pudgy man with a cockney accent.
Here, Batman is constantly brooding, and the only thing he cares about is not letting people die. In fact, his unsympathetic personality causes a good amount of the problems. You know what would be helpful? Letting Nightwing and Robin help you take enemies down instead of saying, “It’s too dangerous.”
Rocksteady and Warner Bros. missed a big opportunity of having Batman, Robin, Nightwing, and anyone one else fight together large masses of mooks together. When Batman does allow his allies around, it’s usually just one and rare. Robin, Nightwing, and Catwoman, at the very least, are limited to these segments, which, considering “Batman Arkham City” allowed more freedom with Catwoman to begin with, is rather limiting. Why can’t I run around with Robin in Gotham? That’s something I want to do: not solely with Batman.
There’s also the Arkham Knight’s identity. Simply put, the Arkham Knight was designed to be a completely new character just for the game as said by the makers. To avoid frustration, I won’t spoil it. “Batman” fans will just shake their heads when they find out who it is.
Mechanics Need to See Lucius Fox More
While Batman himself still moves relatively well on his own (assuming the game knows what you want to do in the first place), the Batmobile is wonky. You move so fast with the car, and even the smallest of indestructible walls will cause you to crash. During chases, this is extremely aggravating considering the power slide isn’t particularly useful to counteract the super speed crashes. Being accurate while in battle mode is also difficult, let alone in regular driving mode. In the later parts of the game, harder missions that involve the Batmobile become downright infuriating, because the Batmobile is in a tight area and you can’t move easily. My hands cramped because of how much I had to react at every moment while defending a bomb. I’ll also remind people that the Batmobile is a heavy feature in this game, so expect frustrations abound in the later parts of the game. Going back to the missing villains thing, I think that the Batmobile should have been scrapped (or heavily reduced to a lower number) in favor of seeing more of the rogue gallery. The Batmobile hardly ever sees anything different from races, occasional puzzles, and battles with other tanks.
Now this may be more of a nit pick, but Batman becomes a bit too versatile to the point that the game just doesn’t know what actions you want to do. This’ll become more apparent when you want Batman to do a silent takedown, but instead he drops right down onto a person and alerting everyone and their grandpa of what he just did. There were times I wanted Batman to do a fear multi-takedown, but the option would never appear despite me being in perfect range to beat thugs up.
The Dark Knight Rose ... then Stumbled a Bit
Do not get me wrong for a moment - “Batman: Arkham Knight” is a fantastic game. It builds off from “Arkham: City” in great ways and built Gotham as an awesome place to explore as Batman. As awesome as the game it is, though, small bits like the predictable story and not ironed out gameplay segments hinders the game from being the best in the series. I have yet to be aggravated by “Arkham City” by its design, and that makes me sad that I can’t say the same for “Arkham Knight.”
Even with this game being (supposedly) the last “Batman: Arkham” game, I would still love to see a game that has just about every villain from “Batman” either to mess up Batman’s day or aid him like Catwoman does very often. In addition, I want to see a “Superman,” “Wonder Woman,” “Flash,” or “Justice League” world by Rocksteady. That would be incredible to see. Rocksteady has proved than can make a great series; why not again with more DC characters?