Arkham’s creators are back on form and waltzing into next – gen territory with bold, no-holes-barred trailers prior to release. I had expected a lot. Perhaps a little too much. My mind had constructed plenty of over-the-top theories for what kind of next-gen Batman to expect. Arkham Knight brings more of the same to the table which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Publisher: Warner Bros Games
Avg Game Length: Campaign 15.5hrs, Completionist 45hrs
The only question at this point is if Rocksteady had already unloaded their best in previous titles, leaving them with higher creative brick walls to surmount. Don’t get me wrong, Rocksteady have crafted a solid, glitch free and thoroughly enjoyable game here. However, as we all know, there is no such thing as a perfect game. So in true ATPS4 fashion, it is only fair to expose the game’s failings so you can make a fair estimation as to whether or not it is worth your money.
Arkham Knight Has A Fantastically Under Used Antagonist
Arkham Knight’s antagonist is Scarecrow this time around. He is brilliantly voiced by John Noble (Denethor – LOTR). But he’s never really given enough screen time to have any real gravitas or presence. In the short moments that we do see him in the flesh, he dominates the scene. Frankly, I struggle to think of a time when a game character had held my attention so firmly (except perhaps the scene of Andrew Ryan’s death in Bioshock). These short scenes really do the seriousness of Arkham Knight’s scenario justice. Leaving me wondering why Rocksteady didn’t make use of him a little more.
It can’t have been an issue with paying for the actor as there is plenty of monologuing, taunting Batman as he traverses Gotham. Near the start of Batman Arkham Knight the campaign initiates Batman’s struggle against madness. I felt it would have been more effective to have had a confusion about whether or not Scarecrow is in Bat’s mind. Or simply coming from the tannoys around Gotham. Regardless, the campaign holds itself up quite sturdily. Like the others before it, this next installment in the Arkham franchise is still really hard to pry away from. Y’know, for important stuff like sleep and work.
But Scarecrow Is Not The Only Fellow Rattling The Bat’s Cage
Speaking of the story, as involving as it is, Arkham Knight can’t seem to decide who was a more important antagonist to focus on. The Arkham Knight (that’s right, the title does not refer to Bats) or Scarecrow. That said, as you have probably learned from the trailers, it delivers the largest roster of infamous Batman baddies. It includes Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Firefly and Penguin to name but a few. Some take more precedence in terms of branching missions, while others end up being one-off side missions. Fans of the comics will likely be satisfied. I can’t help feeling like Rocksteady crammed too much into the game. Many players will likely feel overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of things to do.
Sometimes this will lead to you to aimlessly flying and driving Bats around Gotham, taking care of tidbits and morsels as a result of sheer indecision. You’ll also probably accurately predict the Arkham Knight’s story arc from about the halfway point. But Scarecrow’s arc will have a few sneaky twists that I am positive will surprise you. Of course, the Riddler is back and many will be pleased to learn that his puzzles and trophy rewards have returned. As far as his set-piece puzzles go, some players will be less impressed.
Riddle Me This
The Riddler will now see Bats drive through deadly race-courses under a certain time limit to get out alive. Perhaps Rocksteady wanted to make this part of the game more accessible for those who prefer not to be solving puzzles in an action game. For me, I feel like it was a weird choice. Harken back to Arkham Asylum, where the Riddler’s puzzles felt plausible – like he’d been there before Bats and set it all up. How the heck does he get into vast underground sewer complexes, rigging them with death dealing traps?? It just felt like an extreme excuse to throw the player into the Batmobile yet again (a gripe I will get back to later).
Holy Chipsets Batman!
In terms of graphical prowess, this game looks damn fantastic. One moment we’ll see individual parts of the Batsuit clicking into place. It sounds so awesome it would give Optimus Prime a run for his money.The next moment we’ll catch zoomed in images of character’s eyes in the sharpest of detail. The game is brimming with quality. It wouldn’t be fair to refer to Gotham as having ‘level design’ because this game doesn’t have levels. Its just one massive free-roaming game. Unlike so many others, it has a wonderful sense of verticality and even plenty to explore below ground too.
Each of these areas never feel like a copy and paste job. I am honestly baffled as to how Rocksteady released this game when they did, due to the sheer scale of detail here. Followers of my site probably know by now that I am always singing the Witcher 3’s praises and how well it did. However, in terms of atmosphere and consistent detail in anything from a view of the whole city to an open locker in the police station, Arkham Knight finds itself one rung yet further up the ladder.
Particularly impressive is the fact that Rocksteady are still using the Unreal 3 Engine to power Arkham’s visuals. That’s right – the very same from Arkham City, the previous title. Regardless, it does show signs of bending under Rocksteady’s ambition. Jagged edges can be spotted on both close up and distance shots. The occasional slow down found its way in as well. Perhaps the game would have been better served with more anti-aliasing and less motion blur?
Lastly, explosions are indeed very pretty. Although, when you take the time to really squint at them in the slo-mo shots, they’re just thousands of coloured squares. Once seen, it cannot be un-seen.
So far, we know Arkham Knight is the same as before, built upon and with everything bigger on the next-gen hardware. But what’s new in this game? Rocksteady had to introduce a few new things or else suffer the wrath of critics like myself. Aside from a two sided holo-screen, popping out of Bats’ arm to communicate with pals its the combat and the Batmobile.
We still have the zappy logo, indicating when to parry. Combining that with standard striking and dodging was always enough for me. We now have many different branching options with that yellow combo multiplier. A leveled up Batman will now be able to incorporate gadget takedowns, each holding advantages and disadvantages. You can see an example of the grapple takedown about halfway through the video below. These are unlocked after completing about 60% of the game. This depends on how much time you’ve put into side quests or which skill trees you’ve chosen to invest in.
Things Could Have Remained The Same And I Would Have Been A Happy Customer Anyway
Even more combat extension just had me button confused and the grapple takedown was just about all my brain could process. Odd, that a Mortal Kombat veteran like myself would say that.
As for the stealth, think back to dealing with Joker’s goons in the Foundry and you’re just about there. What changes most though, is your approach to combat. The new enemy types that you’ll come up against will demand different tactics. A major worry for this game was that it would fall down on combat as it was getting a bit stale. However, simply put – there have been few changes to your combat but plenty of changes to how you approach it. Very subtle, Rocksteady, very smart. Oh and lastly, the Fear Takedowns are simply eye candy every time.
Summon The Batmobile!
. I’ve been avoiding it for the whole review. Let’s get into the Batmobile. First off, it looks fantastic and makes Christian Bale’s Batmobile look like a bucket of bolts. Before you ask, no you can’t shoot out of it on a motorbike, sorry. Getting into and out of the Batmobile is very fluid as it jettisons you into the air while driving. While gliding, simply point the camera at a road, press LB and Bats will jump into it. Like Zorro jumps onto his horse. Pow! And you’re off. The Batmobile is very easy to handle and even has a handbreak. So you’ll be speeding through Gotham like a pro in no time.
Like noodles, these are all a good thing. I don’t intend on eating noodles every day, though. Rocksteady has made the dangerous assumption that we all plan on driving the damn thing all the time. The Batmobile is forced on you over and over again for several missions. The aching issues with all this is that it’s actually faster to get from A to B by gliding and grappling.
That said, the Batmobile doesn’t feel cheap. Rocksteady has obviously put a lot of time and thought into this and perhaps, a little too much. When we all know that Batman focuses on non-lethal takedowns at ALL times and then see him shooting down thugs with ‘non-lethal’ bullets…c’mon, they’re dead. The next time a bad-guy mocks The Dark Knight for never killing, it has less meaning. Especially when he’s just gotten back from a killing spree in a tank.
Will You Return To Gotham?
To wrap up, Arkham Knight is a brilliant game. Its many story arcs will have you engrossed for dozens of hours each. While it is a shame that some areas seem to have taken too much precedence and others, too little, Arkham Knight is the polished gem shined to a fine sheen after two equally successful titles. Make no mistake, the third in the trilogy is the epic finale we all hoped for.