The highly anticipated final chapter in the Dark Knight’s journey has been a hot topic amongst both Batman and gaming fanatics. His first appearance on a next gen console has got a lot of tongues wagging about its potential for greatness, or to be the biggest anti-climax since the reveal of Ben Affleck as the eponymous hero. There is no doubt that with even more firepower behind him that Gotham will look better than ever, and with Joker not being around, everyone is wondering who the Arkham Knight is, and if he can fill those clown-sized shoes. The question on everyone’s minds is “is this the Batman game that we deserve?”.
It would be fair to say Batman has never looked better. From the original trailer the graphics quality was superb, seeing droplets of rain land on a gliding cape and run down will forever stick in my mind, and it’s not just the graphics quality that I’m talking about. I believe Gotham has had a massive, grungy makeover. I’m half expecting there to be a Gok Wan DLC about how he created the look. It definitely feels like it’s run down and a place rife with crime. Everything feels worn down and on the brink of collapse, which is perfect for this game. One thing I will say however is that I would prefer more clarity whilst gliding in Detective Mode. Buildings are faint at best and sentry guns none existent, meaning more than once, whilst gliding have I been gunned down by an enemy I didn’t even know was there. At least Riddler’s green paint splattered everywhere makes it easier to identify his hideouts.
Detective mode in general has improved, it’s much crisper especially during combat and in predator missions. It also helps me to fulfil the role of the game in general: to be the Batman. With echoes of the sonar from The Dark Knight I welcome more Detective Mode! Flight/Glide has also improved (needed to tackle some troublesome drones) and as such I’ve spent many an hour simply gliding through Gotham, purely because it is so much fun. I like how if you’re just exploring the city, if you happen upon a mission or a checkpoint, it alerts you. This is how I prefer to find missions, rather than setting waypoints, as it indulges my fantasy that I am the Caped Crusader flying through Gotham, fighting crime as and when I see it. I enjoy a good street fight (almost a necessity for newbies), and as there is no tutorial it helps to hone combat skills without having to redo missions.
Without doubt, the Batmobile has definitely been the most talked about feature of the new game. Never before seen in an Arkham game, we were sat waiting like children for Santa to arrive… and it has not disappointed. Equal parts race car and tank, it fulfils all of our basic needs and more:
- It’s fast, especially with the booster attached. It can move. Quickly. Handling problems come with speed, but that is to be expected.
- It is powerful. With so many different weapons it’s hard to find anything that can match it for firepower (60mm cannon a personal favourite).
- Gadgets, Gadgets, Gadgets. Alongside its arsenal worthy of a small country’s army, there is enough technology to put the CIA and MI5 to shame. It’s like James Bond on steroids, and if any film producers are reading this I am prepared to sell this as an idea.
Being able to control it remotely is enjoyable when you’re otherwise engaged, it’s also fun to surprise unsuspecting criminals who think that it has been left alone. Adding the Batmobile has given the game a lot more scope and it’s easier to get around, although I do prefer to glide. It has added an extra pillar to use because the Batmobile being available for missions means that they’re not as repetitive, and it uses different dynamics not seen before in a Batman game. I’m also a sucker for a high score table and a timer. I WILL get 1 second faster. It’s implemented heavily in the Riddler missions (rightfully), and I never felt as though it was a bolt on extra to get people talking, but with no actual substance as I feared it may be. It has a right to be there, and if I may be so bold, would be strange if it was absent.
I do have one bone to pick, and I’m afraid it’s a big one. Rocksteady, there are a few gaming rules that all must obey. One of which being that the brake pedal is always the left trigger. I understand what you have tried to do, as you will use combat mode a lot more, but… no. You have no idea how many times I have lost Firefly, or 3 stars on an AR Challenge because I went into Battle Mode instead of coolly drifting around a corner, like Vin Diesel. Should you want to make a racing game, or any game that has an aspect of racing in it, please adhere to the rules of gaming. Thank you.
It’s tough to discuss a storyline without having any spoilers that will put me on the deathwish list of any old gen console owners that have not yet played the game, but I’ll do my best. As the game cover explains, Gotham’s super villains have taken control of the city, predominantly Scarecrow and some other masked man named the Arkham Knight. Previously unseen, he has a lot of firepower, military training and a pure hatred of Batman. He seems like he is Batman’s ultimate match, and I feel that although it was a tad short, the pace of the storyline helped this along, and after hitting 2/3rds of the way through, it rattled on at quite a pace. This is all I will say about the story, just hold onto your seats!
Combat is very strange, it feels as though it has stayed the same due to his fighting style being largely similar to the previous games, however it does flow a lot better. The fighting style doesn’t feel as clunky as Arkham Asylum, whilst still being brutal and in keeping with Batman’s tough stance. You can use more weapons and gadgets in combat now, having something that disables mini-guns is essential for some missions, although only having 3 shots can be problematic. Wouldn’t want it to be easy now would they? The electrical charge gun is a good method of crowd control, and you have the usual mix of brutes, knife wielding crazies and riot shield holders; with each requiring different fighting styles. Now also included are medics, which can be an issue as they can revive already tackled opponents. Taking these out first is a must, and with lots of new gadgets for opponents including detective mode jammer and radar, they certainly aren’t making it any easier for the Batman.
Opponents are indeed numerous in this game; however it never feels as though it’s too many cooks that spoil the broth. In fact, it often helps to break up the action by switching gear and tackling a new enemy, each with their own difficulties and traits. My personal favourite is The Riddler, maybe because I enjoy using my brain, or potentially because my embarrassing admission is that I quite like Jim Carrey’s portrayal in Batman Forever. The usual Riddler trophies are dotted about the place, mainly used to prevent you from getting to that elusive 100%, however now you have informants that you can interrogate to find their locations. I have to say, it’s far too satisfying to stick my giant armoured boot into someone’s neck. Therapy session aside, I enjoy all of the Riddler missions, especially doing coop with Catwoman.
For the other protagonists: Penguin’s gun running allows for a lot of battering and combat; Two Faces’ bank heists are a great way to improve on your predator skills; Azrael appears and taunts your sensibilities with a burning bat symbol; and there’s a mysterious serial killer on the loose that can only be found by listening for opera music. There are a few minor villains to deal with but thankfully they don’t take too much of your time as the creators seem to give them all the appropriate amount of time based on how interesting they are.
In closing I think that Batman Arkham Knight totally lives up to the hype. With slick combat, a gripping storyline, decent variety of different missions and obstacles, and of course the Batmobile. The only thing I feel genuinely disappointed with is that there is not a sequel. I will probably wait for the DLC to drop in price, but I can’t see any reason for me to not want to extend my Batman experience. Taking the time to get every single Riddler trophy, and complete every AR Challenge, I can see this being my number 1 game for a long time, and I can’t see any title taking that crown any time soon. Well, maybe in a galaxy far, far away…