Rocksteady Studios did the unthinkable in 2009 by making a game based on a comic an actual GOTY contender. The follow-up, Arkham City, continued the pattern of quality and faithfulness to the comic making for another great game. To finish off the series, Rocksteady is back with Batman: Arkham Knight.
From a gameplay perspective, Batman: Arkham Knight is the most ambitious superhero game developed. Rocksteady were able to create many new gameplay systems, as they dedicated their efforts on new generation systems. And after having spent around 40 hours in the final chapter in the trilogy, I can say with a big smile on my face that Rocksteady has accomplished an epic closure.
Taking the Batmobile for a Spin…and a Beatdown - For the first time in the series, Batman’s hot ride is fully playable. The Batmobile combines the pace of a supercar along with the power of a tank. When the Batmobile’s on pursuit mode, the use of afterburners and power sliding allows for Batman to engage speeding militia and thugs at high speeds. The driving and tank mode controls were absurd and not too friendly in its default scheme, but after quickly enabling the toggle settings, it quickly turned the tables. From there on, Batmobile quickly became a blast to hop into and race through the streets of Gotham.
One among the returning villains from the Batman-verse is Edward Nygma aka The Riddler. This time around Riddler hasn’t just spread across Riddler trophies for Bats to collect, but his puzzles require a Batmobile to crack it along with timed races laid out by the clever fiend. The Riddler's puzzles, for the most part, are so well designed and very thoughtful, that it always feels rewarding to solve them. And I can’t stress this enough, hopping in and out of the Batmobile is so seamless. Not only has the transition to entering the Batmobile been so effortlessly designed by the team, but the game has absolutely zero loading screens while playing. Loading screens pop only when you run out of health and forced to restart from previous checkpoint.
Most stunning looking superhero game to this day - For starters, the game looks identical to the gameplay footage that debut at the Sony E3 2014 press conference. From the rain soaked streets of Gotham City, stormy skies, beautiful buildings to the varied environments, Batman Arkham Knight is a jaw dropping game to behold. Water droplets seeps through Batman’s cowl and suit, the Batmobile, building rooftops and roads. Water effects have never looked this good before in a superhero game. The game’s particle effects and lighting system makes for the most realistic looking rain in a video game ever. The character models of Batman to his allies, villains, thugs and the entire world within Gotham City have never looked this good before. The visuals in Arkham Knight capture the dark atmospheric look of Gotham City perfectly.
Plenty to do for Batman - A key gameplay aspect of Arkham Knight that had me in awe, thanks to the natural initiation, were the side missions. Let me describe you in more detail how it all happened: As I was en-route gliding to the next main objective to track down the Arkham Knight, I stumbled upon a dead body that was hanging on a building wall. After analyzing the crime scene for one side mission, I proceeded to the main mission that I had originally planned to, and there I was staring at a burning bat symbol on a rooftop of a building, which led to another interesting side quest.
This happened a lot during my entire playthrough. As I’d normally pull up the map to select the location for a side mission in other games, I found myself naturally coming towards these satisfying distractions in Arkham Knight without forcing myself. Beating the side missions in the game is of paramount importance, as it ties to the true ending the game. So prepare yourself to collect Riddler trophies and other members of Batman's Rogues Gallery.
Free-flowing Ass Kicking - Rocksteady introduced to this free-flow defense/attack combat system to the worlds in Arkham Asylum. That has been polished ten folds here in Arkham Knight, along with more additions to counter and attack moves for Batman. Gadgets from the previous games return to aid Batman with traversal, puzzle solving and in combat. Speaking of traversal, Batman can catapult himself to great heights from the Batmobile, allowing him to glide for farther distances. Batman can use his grapple gun to tether himself to other nearby points on the go, to continue scaling buildings without breaking a sweat.
Though we play as Batman throughout the entire game, a new mechanic called Dual Play allows for the player to take control of Batman’s allies. Batman teams up with Robin, Nightwing and Catwoman to chain attacks and take down the opposing forces in an epic beatdown at various times throughout the game. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing Batman hurl a thug in the air, to find Robin leaping forward to unleash a takedown kick or vice versa.
Oh It's Just Them - The initial trailers led me to believe that other villains of Gotham City are all backing up Scarecrow to take down the Batman. This isn’t how the main story plays out and it’s one of my pet peeves to Rocksteady’s approach to the main narrative of the game. It’s just Scarecrow and Arkham Knight pulling the strings to taunt, haunt and destroy Batman. The identity surrounding Arkham Knight had been shrouded in secrecy by Rocksteady since the original reveal of the game. As the story progresses, a series of events in the game leads us to guess who Arkham Knight really is. Unfortunately, when the character is revealed in this final act, it wasn’t as impactful to me as Rocksteady would’ve hoped.
Where are the Big Boys? - Arkham Asylum to Arkham City had a slight dip in the amount of boss battles, but overall maintained a healthy amount of satisfying final fights with the super villains. In Arkham Knight, however, boss fights are absent for the most part. Just when you think there’s going to be a big showdown against someone, a cutscene plays out to finish the encounter. This comes across as wasted opportunity to me. All these iconic villains, yet there isn't a single elaborate fight against them.
Lack of boss fights and poor use of villains to the narrative is disappointing in Batman: Arkham Knight. As someone who has played the heck out of first two Arkham titles, I had envisioned how the story and sequences should play out in the final game, but the game’s story takes a totally different approach from what I’d imagined.
That being said, I was in awe over Rocksteady’s take on some of these iconic characters in Batman Arkham Knight. Not only is Batman’s intelligence and physical strengths is tested in the final game, but his mental toughness is pushed to the edge. Arkham Knight marks a fantastic conclusion to the trilogy that was started nearly six years ago to this day.
*This review was based on the retail version of the game for the PS4