Note I’ve attempted to be as spoiler-free as I can with this review. You should be ok, folks
So.. I guess I might like the Batman series a fair bit. Whilst a bit of a late bloomer in catching up, the Arkham series really ignited my interest in the series. Batman: Arkham Asylum ranks high in my list of favourite games and have been a fan of Rocksteady’s work ever since.
The series even inspired me to do a wee bit of cosplaying, involving that lovely gentleman we all know as Edward Nygma a.k.a. The Riddler…
That probably puts me down as quite the fan of the series, which makes it interesting for me to critique Rocksteady’s swan song in the Arkham franchise, Arkham Knight. The question I’ll be answering, like others have done, is this:
Is Arkham Knight better than Arkham Asylum?
For a while, I thought that it managed to equal the splendour of Arkham Asylum yet not quite surpass it. On reflection though, it definitely has surpassed it.
Arkham Knight tells the tale of a Gotham City that’s been evacuated after being spooked off (pun intended) by Scarecrow. Left to those who enjoy the chaos, Gotham City has been overrun by the city’s worst. A perfect playground for Batman to jump into his Batmobile and save the city once more from itself. This gets round the issue of having a city far too populated for the game to really show off its graphical prowess which, on the PS4 I played, looks absolutely fantastic. Straight off the bat, Arkham Knight hits hard and good with exemplary lighting work and textures that really make Gotham sing.
Those familiar with the Arkham series will recognise familiarities with the open-world nature of Arkham Knight. The only difference is that now the walls have been torn from Arkham City, all of Gotham can be explored in search of all of those pesky supervillains that are up to no good. In keeping with this expansion of real estate to explore, Rocksteady added Batman’s four-wheeled friend to help get around the city that wee bit quicker.
The Batmobile is as loaded with gadgets and goodies as you’d come to expect from Wayne Enterprises. Not only can it zoom around at high speed, but it can also transform into a tank to disarm enemies at range.
Yep, a bad-ass tank.
This tank part has caused some contention among reviewers, giving the Batmobile a bit of a ‘Marmite’ position amongst many. Some loved the ability to deal out the damage in a tank form and the puzzles that existed to challenge your control of it. Others were not so hot on the puzzles and commented on the slightly warped control scheme than is normal for controlling a car in a video game.
Let me explain those controls from a PS4 perspective. Since the L2 button activates Tank Mode in the Batmobile, the brake command has been shifted to the Square button. Natural instinct meant that it indeed took a while for me to get used to it, but in my opinion it didn’t take long to familiarise myself with the scheme. I even found myself using the tank form to navigate out of tricky spots that would normally be challenging with just the reverse and forward gears.
For me, the fantasy of the Batmobile is being able to drive a technologically advanced vehicle that can do a million-and-one things more than what a normal car can do. A Batmobile should make you feel unstoppable even if you’re against scores of enemies. Thankfully, Arkham Knight‘s Batmobile delivers that in bounds, even if it took a moment to get used to the controls.
Combat in Arkham Knight will once again be familiar to those who have played the previous games. The FreeFlow system is as fluid as ever and returning to the combat felt like jumping back on a favourite bicycle that I hadn’t used for a good while, yet still works perfectly. There are added bells and whistles to the system, including the use of Dual Takedowns which can allow you to switch from Batman to one of his sidekicks in certain scenarios. This gives you a pretty neat way to mix the combat up and enjoy some killer combo moves as they play out. The gadgets you know and love, such as the Disruptor and the Remote Electrical Charge are still there, although there one or two added surprises that mix-up the stealth sections greatly.
Speaking of which, there have been some greatly welcome updates to the stealth sections that not only keep it fresh, but also fixes some of the issues it had in previous games. One personal favourite of mine was the cowl’s ability to outline the vents beneath the floor. In the previous games you almost had to guess where it ended by wherever Batman stopped moving. There are a couple of new enemy types too which help keep these phases fresh for Arkham veterans.
For me, the biggest boost in Arkham Knight comes in the form of the story. For the sake of remaining spoiler-free I won’t discuss its specifics, save to say that it rocked…my…socks.. Everything mentioned up to here allowed Arkham Knight to comfortably sit alongside Arkham Asylum, but the story really saw it shine through. Rocksteady’s ability to draw from all kinds of genres (again, no specifics here) to create a fascinating story is absolutely sublime. Perhaps later I can discuss about those finer plot points, especially near the ending, but for the purpose of this review I will say that Arkham fans will not be left disappointed.
Batman: Arkham Knight‘s marketing has the tagline “Be the Batman”. It’s a tagline that certainly runs true for all three of Rocksteady’s games. Arkham Knight completes this with the addition of the Batmobile in a story that will have you hooked for long game sessions at a time. It sends off Rocksteady’s own arc of Batman storytelling with style and finesse that is befitting of the reputation it had for taking good care of The Dark Knight. It does this, all whilst completing the lofty task of surpassing its predecessors. With Arkham Asylum so fond in many people’s hearts, it’s by no means a small feat.
The only question left is… What’s next?
What Rocks! :)
- Immense story that rounds off the Arkham story arc.
- Gotham looks extremely beautiful. Fantastic lighting.
- Batmobile completes the fantasy of ‘being Batman’
What Sucks :(
- Batmobile controls will take a moment to get used to.
- The pre-order bonus for Harley Quinn’s story was sadly a bit too short and bereft of Harley’s true character for my liking.
- Whilst I had no troubles on the PS4 version, the PC version is currently in dire need of some TLC
This is the first Arkham game to be given a PEGI 18 rating. It’s not so much for the sweet justice that Batman delivers through his fists. Remember, he ain’t a killer. It’s more for other aspects that I can’t detail which may be a bit distressing for the wee ones.