Rocksteady Studios did something remarkable in 2009 by releasing Batman: Arkham Asylum. They brought Batman back into the spotlight. Sure, Batman was relevant again once Christopher Nolan started making the Dark Knight Trilogy, but Rocksteady wonderfully captured the feel of the Batman (comic) universe. With Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady Studios made the best Batman game at the time. Nothing could compare to hunting down thugs, walking through the halls of the asylum, feeling the terror within the environment and facing Batman’s deadliest foes head on. It left Batman fans and gamers wanting more and that’s exactly what Rocksteady Studios did. Batman: Arkham City gave us an even greater sense of being the Dark Knight. Roaming the titular Arkham City was a thrilling time and adding more gadgets to his arsenal in addition to introducing more characters increased the “WOW” factor. Rocksteady Studio’s Arkham games already have a legacy so it’s understandable that the Batman: Arkham Knight had a lot of hype leading up to its release.
Story: Gotham’s In Trouble… Again
Things never seem to end for The Dark Knight. Crime is always happening and villains are always scheming on how to take over Gotham. Another catastrophic attack on Gotham has been launched by Scarecrow. Gotham has been evacuated and mainly thugs and villains roam the islands that make up Gotham. A group called The Militia has scattered across Gotham setting up watchtowers and checkpoints while patrolling in tanks. Gotham is in a state of distress and things aren’t getting better when the mysterious Arkham Knight makes an appearance. Much of the game tackles trying to take down Scarecrow as well as finding out the identity of the titular Arkham Knight.
The story hits many of the right beats, including a phenomenal opening sequence. There is mystery, suspense, thrills and insane twists, but not everything works. In fact, The story revolving the Arkham Knight lost its steam early on for me, but Scarecrow’s story constantly hooked me. Scarecrow is a fantastic villain and he can hold the game on his own. The threat he presented in Batman: Arkham Knight was genuine, believable and brought a sense of urgency to Batman’s mission. The Arkham games wouldn’t be successful without an excellent supporting cast. This is one of Batman: Arkham Knight’s strong points. Jim Gordon, Tim Drake (Robin), Dick Grayson (Nightwing) and Barbara Gordon (Oracle) keep the narrative flowing. They all develop Batman’s character in different ways that make us sympathize and relate with our hero.
Gameplay: Glide, Fight And Drive Your Way Through Gotham
Batman: Arkham Knight uses the same formula as the previous Arkham games, but adds some new gameplay features to make the game seem fresh. Batman can use his grapnel to reach rooftops and he can glide around Gotham with ease. Combat feels fluid and very responsive. It’s a fun system full of combos, counters and gadgets. While fights can get repetitive, many encounters mix in a variety of enemies that will change your fighting strategy. Even with an almost completely leveled-up Batman, some of the later fights gave me some serious challenge. There are even dual-fights (which are completely awesome) that have Batman teaming up with Nightwing, Catwoman and Robin in a series of fights. It’s an interesting change of perspective when we get to use characters other than Batman. While I really liked these sections, they were few and far between. I wish there were more dual-fighting sections or even sections that had us using other characters entirely, but it’s not a big deal.
Despite all the chaos around Gotham, there is plenty going on, with a lot for Batman to do. “Most Wanted” missions introduce us to many of Batman’s iconic villains. The missions range from fun to sometimes tedious, but the payoff is usually good. Two-Face’s missions for instance add a cool twist to the usual predator missions involving Batman trying to stop bank robberies. The Penguin’s missions are fun combat missions. There are also “Most Wanted” missions involving detective mode. Those are personally my favorite because it gives off the excellent Detective Comics vibe. There’s enough variety within these missions, but occasionally they feel repetitive. Fortunately, you can do them as you see fit so that they don’t overstay their welcome.
New to Batman: Arkham Knight is the Batmobile. The Batmobile is a nifty vehicle to have. When gliding and using your grapnel just doesn’t cut it, the Batmobile is a bat’s best friend. It can be summoned with a push of a button and be used to travel to destinations quickly. The Batmobile can also be turned into a tank which can be used for vehicular combat which happens quite often during the length of Batman: Arkham Knight. The tank has a built in winch used for puzzles and accessing harder to reach areas as well as EMP blasts, missiles, a Vulcan gun and a 60mm Cannon. Gadgets play important roles for Batman’s survival in combat and in exploration. Particularly the remote control which allows Batman to access the Batmobile without actually being in the vehicle.
Negatives: It’s A Hard Life Being A Bat…Man
No game is perfect and Batman: Arkham Knight is not an exception. I had a lot of fun with the game, but I unfortunately hit some rough spots throughout my playthrough. There weren’t that many technical issues, but the framerate did drop during some of the Batmobile sections as well as when I ran over certain enemies. A few of my problems with the game weren’t even technical, but had to do with the game itself. As gripping as Batman: Arkham Knight is, the story doesn’t always work. I mentioned this earlier, but the Arkham Knight’s sections of the story start off strong, but loses its mystery early on. I found myself not caring in that part of the story. The story worked best when it focused more on Scarecrow’s plans.
Additionally, the Batmobile is also a mixed bag. It’s fun to drive around Gotham, but Batman has a no kill philosophy and the Batmobile contradicts that lifestyle. I can run over an enemy, but I’m supposed to believe that they are perfectly fine. The same thing goes with the tank. The tank that the Batmobile turns into is easily the worst part of the game. It’s not a bad feature, but it just feels out of place. Worse, is that there are too many required Batmobile/Tank sections that take us out of the Batman experience.
Conclusion: A Bat-tastic Experience
Batman: Arkham Knight is an ambitious game. The game is larger than the previous Arkham games in almost every way. The open-world has a lot more life in it, the action is more intense and the stakes are greater than usual. Between the campaign, AR Challenges, “Most Wanted” missions and The Riddler Challenges, there are so many things to do in Batman: Arkham Knight. I have a 94% completion rate after 36 hours of playtime. I still have more than 140 Riddler Challenges to solve, a hidden ending to unlock and New Game + to tackle. Rocksteady Studios has stated multiple times that this is their final Batman game. If this is the case, then Rocksteady Studios has finished this series on an very high note.