Batman: Arkham Knight Review

Published by Daniel Bennifer on June 25, 2015 9:30 pm
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Become the caped crusader for the last time in Rocksteady’s swansong to the Batman: Arkham franchise.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe the amount of scepticism that surrounded Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. Though, for good reason. Video game adaptions of not only movies, but comic books had long been disastrous. It was a long shot, but Rocksteady proved it could be done – and done right.

Now, several years on, we’re approaching the end of the line. The release of the long-awaited Batman: Arkham Knight is upon us. However is this swansong from the developer a triumphant finale? Let’s swoop through the streets of Gotham for the last time and find out.

The fourth instalment into the Arkham series, the game picks up following the death of The Joker. More specifically, it is set nine months after his cremation, of which was witnessed by the Bat himself. In the midst of his death, Gotham awaits the inevitable power struggle from its various underworld forces, awaiting to see who will take his place. But, it doesn’t happen – at least, not right away.

That is, until Jonathan Crane, more commonly known as Scarecrow, rises up. Having developed a new strain of fear toxin, which has been strategically placed throughout the city, he forces the very evacuation of the city’s six million civilians. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he’s not alone. Scarecrow has teamed up with the mysterious Arkham Knight, a masked villain, who controls his own militia forces, of whom have moved in to take control of the very city that Batman has vowed to protect.

This new villain is wildly different from The Joker. He has a deep rooted grudge against the Batman – for seemingly no reason, at first, other than he did him some wrong. It is the Arkham Knight’s sole intention to kill the Batman, but not before making him suffer – and watching Gotham suffer in the process. By hurting the city, you hurt the Batman and by doing so, you force him out into the open. You make him vulnerable.

All of this lends to the story in Batman: Arkham Knight being much darker and grittier than any instalment before it. This, isn’t a bad thing. Far from it, it’s the best part about the story. You’ll find yourself becoming emotionally connected to the game that much more because of it.

Batman: Arkham Knight Video Game Screenshots for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC

If there was one complaint, it would be that the tedious nature of the Arkham Knight’s vendetta against the Batman is rather prolonged – to the point of annoyance at times. It’s fine to keep you guessing about his identity – but only up to a point. After beating the Arkham Knight multiple times – each time for him only to come back even stronger – you will find yourself becoming a tad tired of the entire situation.

The reasoning as to why he continues to evade capture each time is understandable. It is all in the pursuit of building suspense as to his true identity. But, it falls flat on its face. Not to mention, most diehard Batman fans – especially those who have read the comics – will be able to work it out before the unveiling.

Despite this, Batman: Arkham Knight’s plot is undeniably fantastic. You won’t want to put the controller down or take a pause. You’ll be worried about missing something.

And the very story lends to the gameplay itself, which is more in-depth than ever. After all, Batman hasn’t quite had to go up against the kind of manpower the Arkham Knight controls, before. That’s a new ballpark for the caped crusader.

Batman: Arkham Knight is the most open-world instalment into the series to date, this is especially important to cater to the introduction of one of Batman’s newest tools, the Batmobile – which we’re going to talk about soon. First, though let’s talk about the gameplay mechanics themselves.

The core gameplay of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City remains, but is greatly improved. It’s the smoothest and most refined it’s ever been. This is in part due to the new additions, which make the overall experience an absolute breeze and a pleasure to play.

As with previous installments, a number of enemy types are featured and will be encountered. The easiest will present no challenge for Batman, but some, with shields and shock batons – among others – can sometimes require a plan of attack to take down. Otherwise, you will find yourself mobbed by more enemies than even the Bat can handle. The combat is about tacking down the strongest enemies first, before tackling the weaker of the bunch. It’s all about making use of the combo and counter system, to build up your attacks and take them down faster.

 

You won’t want to put the controller down. Undeniably a masterpiece.”

Gotham is entirely open for players to explore, sweeping throughout the city, as they take down the forces of the criminal underworld.

Though he is a vigilante, Batman is a non-lethal force. He fights to save the city he loves. Though he punishes those who commit crimes – it is not his desire, or within his personal belief system – to commit murder. In his pursuit of this, he utilises a wide range of gadgetry that includes his infamous utility belt, to take down villains without breaking his own rules – or morals.

Returning gadgets from previous releases into the Batman: Arkham franchise include the grapnel gun, line launcher and batarangs. The detective mode is also featured once again, allowing Batman to locate clues and information undetectable to others. The Disruptor, which was previously introduced in Batman: Arkham City also comes into play, and has been upgraded to facilitate the tracking of vehicles. It can also be used to booby-trap weapons and disable drone turrets.

Batman: Arkham Knight Video Game Screenshots for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PCEntirely new additions include the remote controlled batarang, which can be used to scan the general vicinity of an area, and the Voice Synthesiser, of which can be used to imitate and trick enemies.

Arguably, the most important addition to the gameplay, is the aforementioned Batmobile. Though vehicles, such as the Batmobile, have previously featured before – they have never been drivable. A highly requested addition, we’re finally being treated to it now – at the end of the Batman: Arkham series. The question is, was it worth the wait.

In short, yes. Yes, it was. The Batmobile can be summoned at any time it is needed, and is truly a weapon for destruction - as well as the most intense and fun way of travelling throughout Gotham. It is equipped with two different modes: Pursuit and Battle.

The first, is essentially a car. It is this mode that will allow you to travel the streets of Gotham at incredible speeds, tracking down the city’s most wanted villains in pursuit of the Arkham Knight. While, the Battle mode, turns the Batmobile into a tank. This allows for total 360-degree movement of the vehicle, as well as use of its Vulcan gun, hypervelocity cannon, and anti-tank missiles. A non-lethal riot suppressor is also included on the vehicle, which can be used to take down the mobs of Gotham who line the streets causing havoc and destruction to the abandoned city.

Almost every aspect of the Batmobile – as with most of Batman – can be upgraded. This includes such features as an EMP device, which sends out an electronic pulse to disable nearby enemy vehicles and communications.

During the times when you have control of the Batmobile, it is often the most intense the game gets. Whether you are performing jumps, smashing through terrain, taking down enemy tanks, or ejecting directly from the Batmobile itself into Gotham’s skyline, it is an absolute blast.

The first instalment into the franchise to arrive exclusively on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Batman: Arkham Knight completely does way with the old. Though, admittedly a downside for some – especially those who haven’t taken the leap to upgrade from their Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, as of yet, it is a wise choice that pays off hugely for the game.

Batman: Arkham Knight Video Game Screenshots for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC

It is visually a masterpiece. An open-world title of this magnitude always comes with potential pitfalls. You sacrifice certain things for the large scale of the environment. Though, the game handles it incredibly well and you’ll rarely notice something that looks low resolution or poor quality throughout the adventure.

The city of Gotham itself is stooped in an atmosphere that complements the dark and gritty nature of the Dark Knight’s finale chapter. This is similarly accomplished when Scarecrow’s toxin is spread throughout the city, bringing with it an incredible sense of depth to the overall landscape.

There aren’t many downsides to note when it comes to the visual department. Yes, there’s enemies that are repeated, but that’s understandable. Typically they’ll have an additional item of clothing or a different weapon – but they are the same base. Though, when it comes to Batman himself, along with the main supporting cast – both good and bad – you won’t find many games this stunning to behold.

All of this is further complemented by a blockbuster voice cast that sees the return of Kevin Conroy as Batman himself, who delivers what might be his best performance to date. He is further supported by Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) playing James Gordon, Ashley Greene (The Twilight Saga) starring as Barbara Gordon, John Noble (Sleepy Hollow, Fringe) taking on the role of Scarecrow and Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights, Hart of Dixie) as Nightwing.

Batman: Arkham Knight has everything going for it. The franchise, which debuted only six years ago, has quickly become one of the most beloved in the industry. That’s for a good reason. The story, the gameplay and the depth of the characters – not to mention the visuals – have continuously improved each and every time a new instalment arrives. There aren’t many conclusions to franchises that are delivered on this level or this precisely.

Editor’s note: This review is based upon the Xbox One version of Batman: Arkham Knight. This carries over onto the PlayStation 4 release. However, we must note that there are, as of the time of writing, serious issues with the PC version. The opinions of this review are solely based on the discretion of our writer, and his view of the console release.

 

The Verdict

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visual

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design

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gameplay

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story

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audio

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overall

9.5

9.0

9.0

9.0

9.5

9.5

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