Rocksteady’s conclusion to their Batman trilogy, which conveniently excludes the externally developed Arkham Origins, delivers a conclusion that concludes many of the story threads that were left dangling from the previous games whilst also providing the most definitive superhero game ever made.
After the death of Joker in the last game, it looks like crime is finally taking a back seat in Gotham City until an attack by Scarecrow causes the city to be evacuated which leaves it an open playground for criminals and the Arkham Knight; a masked warrior who knows too many of Batman’s secrets.
The game’s story starts off slowly as it starts placing its pieces down onto the board which makes it feel a little meandering at first but once you get past the first couple of hours it takes a turn that makes realise that this is a becoming a story about closure in a grand fashion and is the greatest strength of the game. In times of frustration with other aspects of the game, the story actually distracted me from some of the more frustrating aspects of the game and helped me play through to the game’s conclusion.
Like the previous games, there is the main story arc’s missions as well as a variety of side missions that add further play value as well as means to upgrade Batman’s gear (the method used for levelling in the game) further. Though not necessary for finishing the main storyline, for those 100% players wanting to see the “true” ending there will be plenty to work through. And once more there are a myriad of Riddler trophies to find throughout the city; some of which will require use of the Batmobile.
Finally after getting a glimpse of Batman’s ride in Arkham Asylum we get a chance to drive it ourselves. Part race car and part battle tank, the Batmobile is a constant presence throughout the game. The only problem with it though is that it feels like the game itself has been changed to fit it in and it is not always successful; many of Riddler’s challenges now require its use and some missions will succeed or fail based on how well you drive. With Batman proving just how capable he is of crossing a city in Arkham City, switching to the Batmobile almost seems like a downgrade.
It’s a similar dilemma to what I remember with Crackdown; you reach a point the game of being able to bound over buildings so effortlessly that no matter how cool the cars are, they just get in the way from reaching your objective. Arkham Knight tries to give you more to do with the Batmobile but the repetitive nature of those missions and the less than tight driving controls may wear thin on some players unfortunately.
Visually, the game is a showcase of not only modern gaming systems but also the artists responsible for building the world. It’s a fully realised world with personality that reeks from every street corner, rooftop and alleyway. It may lack the depth of systems of Grand Theft Auto but it looks so incredible you still get lost in it. Sometimes when you’ve got Batman standing on a bridge during the rain you’d almost think you’re in an interactive movie.
Character design has always been a strong suit of this series and this one pushes the envelope even further with fine detail and an abundance of enemy varieties. Scarecrow is an even more terrifying figure now which is appropriate given his elevation to the big baddie this time around. One of the great aspects of Batman’s model has been seeing the wear and tear on the suit as the game progresses.
On top of that is the voice talent with Kevin Conroy continuing his role as Batman but it’s Mark Hamill who truly steals the show as a dead Joker that makes his surprising presence felt. That’s backed up by the constant taunting of Scarecrow (John Noble) and Riddler (Wally Wingert) who are given a lot of lines throughout the game. They all help to remind the player that there is more than one foe in Gotham that needs to be defeated.
Batman: Arkham Knight is likely the most complete Batman experience you’re ever going to play for a very long time. Though there are flaws in some of the design choices (like the Batmobile), it is backed by an incredible story that does an amazing job of covering up the blemishes and provides the kind of conclusion you’d expect from such a high quality series.
In addition, the amount of content in the game is going to keep players occupied for at least twenty hours and with a new game plus mode opened on completion of the main story, effort has been made to offer additional challenges and value to an already bulging campaign.
Reviewed on Xbox One but also available on PlayStation 4. At the time of writing, the PC version was suffering from quality issues that had it temporarily removed from marketplaces but progress has been made that should have it return in the near future.