“This is how it happened. This is how the Batman died.”
This chilling opening from Commissioner Jim Gordon is how Rocksteady’s third and final entry in the Arkham series, Batman: Arkham Knight, starts. Batman is my favorite comic book hero, as he is for most people. Naturally this means I’ve played the other Batman: Arkham games, including Origins which I felt was pretty good. I slotted Arkham Knight as my second most anticipated game of 2015 and have played almost non-stop for the past two weeks.
The verdict? Rocksteady has hit a home run with Arkham Knight, my game of the year for 2015 so far.
- TL;DR: The best entry in the Arkham series and the best game I’ve played this year
- Platform: PS4
- Hours Played: 30
- What I Played: Campaign to 96% completion on hard mode
- Should You Play It?: Yes, no doubt about it
Batman: Arkham Knight focuses on the Caped Crusader’s quest to take down Scarecrow, aka Dr. Jonathan Crane, who is threatening to use his fear toxin on the entire city of Gotham and beyond. On top of that, an unknown villain going by the name Arkham Knight is trying to kill Batman for his own reasons.
Rocksteady did a fantastic job of tying their previous games, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, into Arkham Knight. Scarecrow mentions early on how Batman thought he defeated him in the asylum, alluding to Asylum’s ending scene of Scarecrow’s arm reaching back up through the water. Thugs and VIP enemies mention Asylum and City, saying how they were there or events that happened. Some of the side missions are direct results of ones from previous games. It also references some of Batman’s more famous comics, first and foremost the fact that Arkham Knight takes place on very long Halloween night (get it? *nudge nudge*).
If you’ve played any of the previous Arkham games, you’ll feel right at home with Arkham Knight. The flowing, rhythmic combat returns with Batman bouncing from enemy to enemy, smashing them with his fist/feet/other enemies/the environment. Familiar gadgets like Batarangs, explosive gel, and the remote hack tool also return with a good chunk of them available at the start of the game, furthering the continuity between games that Rocksteady was aiming for. There are a few new gadgets, too. I’d like to briefly discuss one of them.
The Batmobile, in all it’s Nolanverse/Tumbler glory, is basically a giant gadget in Batman: Arkham Knight. You can hop in and out of it on the fly with the press of a button and even eject into a super fast glide, which is a hell of a way to get around the city. You can call it in anywhere you can see road similar to Red Dead Redemption, except the Batmobile isn’t afraid of plowing through buildings to get to you. It’s pretty funny to watch sometimes.
As far as being a giant gadget, where do I begin? You can fire a power winch to both move objects and tear down walls as well as overload electronics. The Batmobile also helps in combat, allowing you to shoryuken enemies up into the air while the car fires a rubber bullet for the KO.
Then, there’s battle mode. Holding L2 transforms the Batmobile into a super agile tank with both a machine gun and a cannon, capable of firing missiles at drones, EMP blasts, and more. Yes, I said drones. The Arkham Knight deploys unmanned drone tanks against you throughout the game, adding a nice mix up to the standard combat/predator flow of the Arkham games. There are a bunch of drone sequences in the beginning of the game, but they spread out soon after. Pro tip: unlock the EMP blast as soon as you can. I saved it for my last Batmobile upgrade which was a huge mistake, as it made all challenges and drone fights so much easier.
There are plenty of new goodies packed into the combat of Arkham Knight. You can use the terror Batman strikes into his foes to perform fear takedowns, which allow you to take down multiple enemies in a single, fast flow without being spotted. These are great for taking down a few gunners at once. Once you’re in standard combat, you can counter with a directional to perform a throw counter, tossing thugs into one another for a nice stun. Even the environment is a weapon for Batman with things like hanging lights, fuse boxes, and vents acting as knockout weaponry. Even at the end of my 30 hours, I was still oohing and aahing at the different animations.
You probably saw some promo material saying how you can fight with characters like Nightwing in Arkham Knight. While this is true, I feel like it was hyped up a lot more than it actually came true. Regardless, these dual fight scenes are a lot of fun. I recommend playing as the non-Batman character whenever possible for a bit of a mix up.
Missions take you back and forth across the map, so you’ll become pretty familiar with different parts of Gotham. Some of the side missions force you to really take on the role of World’s Greatest Detective and listen to thug and radio chatter for locations of where to go next. The Arkham series’ most time consuming villain, Riddler, also makes an appearance with his various location-based riddles and trophies. You’ll need to complete every mission, including all of Riddler’s trophy hunting, to get the full/best/100% ending to Arkham Knight. If you don’t, I highly recommend looking it up. It’s pretty damn great.
With Gotham being as big and detailed as it is, the fact that Arkham Knight has almost no loading screens is downright impressive. Heading into buildings with their owns maps is seamless, a definite improvement from previous games. Arkham Knight fits right into the current sea of comic book media with it being so dark, rainy, and gritty. The rain helps show of the superb lighting in the game.
There’s something to be said about the camera as well which, despite the constant changes between being on the ground and gliding, normal vision and detective vision, driving and ejecting, somehow never gets stuck or glitchy. You can also see for miles without even a hint of environment pieces warping into frame. Previous Arkham games have had fantastic voice work and Arkham Knight is no exception. You can feel the anger in Batman’s voice when something bad happens and the fear when Alfred is worried about Bruce.
The only negative things I have to say about this gem of a game are nitpicky at best. Thugs talk about VIP enemies even after they are captured, which is surprising since they react to other game events like moving the main story forward. Also, while the camera never seems to have a problem, Batman can get into a bit of a jam and just kind of wiggle in place when using the grapnel gun. These things don’t take away from the greatness of Arkham Knight, but were surprising since the rest of the game is so well polished.
Batman: Arkham Knight is my current game of the year, hands down. It’s a great game in it’s own right, a fantastic addition to the Arkham series, and a hell of a story. The Batmobile is every bit as fun, strong, and imposing as you’d expect it to be. I’m running out of ways to say just how good Batman: Arkham Knight is.