The legacy of Batman in the realm of video games has grown to a level it probably won’t be able to reach again for quite some time thanks to Rocksteady’s reign with the character. Arkham Asylum blew the hinges off the door that we thought had been the pinnacle of virtual Batman role-playing. Arkham City blew the whole house down, confirming that, no, virtual Batman role-playing can get better. In my two decades of gaming, very few games have had the WOW factor that Arkham City had. Forgetting Arkham Origins, which is something I think we can all easily do, with it’s slipshod story and sloppy combat and lack of Rocksteady development, this Batman series has been one of gaming’s biggest trilogies, and Arkham Knight brings it to a very satisfying close.
The game starts off one year after the events of Arkham City, which in other words means Joker’s death. Crime has declined, Gotham seems to be safer than ever before, but isn’t it always calmest just before the storm? On Halloween night, Scarecrow unleashes his fear toxin near a diner in an inspired first-person shooter sequence where you play as a GCPD officer. Once Scarecrow threatens to unleash more of the toxin, this time blanketing all of Gotham City, the city erupts in panic and a massive evacuation begins. In a matter of one night, mostly everyone has left Gotham, minus some officers, firefighters, criminals, and of course, Batman himself.
Although the idea of evacuating that many people and that quickly on all of short or no notice is a bit preposterous, but it sets things up to give us a generally vacant Gotham, packed here and there in places with the naughtier citizens of the city. It follows the same set-up as its predecessors, giving us one great big Dark Knight sandbox in which you can go from mission to mission, with some exceptions, or just simply travel from rooftop to rooftop, punching the faces of any thugs you see with reckless abandon. They’ve made gliding around the city a bit fancier with a few minor changes, but it’s all relatively about the same as we experienced in Arkham City.
The Batmobile. Prepare to use it all the time.
The major difference and one of the bigger hype pieces of Arkham Knight is the inclusion of the Batmobile. I suggest you get comfortable handling it as soon as possible, because you will spend a large chunk of this game inside of it. There are drones and tanks out along the streets of Gotham that will force you into combat, and a lot of puzzles or side stories can only be concluded with the help of Batman’s vehicle. On the positive side, the driving is pretty smooth and easy to get the hang of, and the tank combat is fun and provides a different Batman experience. As nice and refreshing as it is, unfortunately the game burrows you in relentless Batmobile gameplay until it begins to get stale, and then it just keeps on burrowing.
There’s actually a moment in the game where you will “lose” the Batmobile (trying to keep it spoiler-free), but lo and behold, ten minutes later, a replacement shows up. It’s almost as if the developers knew they were coming on too strong and trolled us mid-game by having it disappear and reappear in a matter of minutes.
Arkham Knight deserved a much more challenging boss battle.
Can we also mention the lack of memorable boss battles? Arkham City was stocked with great boss battles, like the Mr. Freeze showdown and Raz Al Ghul face-off just to mention a couple. There isn’t one memorable boss fight in this game, as they go lazy for your showdown with the Arkham Knight, and even lazier for your Scarecrow showdown. It’s too bad they didn’t attempt to at least replicate the same boss battle style that made their previous game such a remarkable experience.
The side stories are nicely chosen, and some cool yet-to-be-used villains show up throughout the game (big ups to Professor Pyg). The Riddler is still doing his “plant clues all over the city and hope Batman gives enough of a shit to find them” thing, but he’s got some really cool maze missions that might be the best parts involving the Batmobile all game. The story touches on Batman’s relationships really well, taking some story pieces from the comics that give this entry a strong sense of finality.
On that note, to achieve the official and very final ending, you have to do ALL of the side missions, and by all, I mean you have to collect Riddler’s 200-something trophies…or you can just get the natural ending and then youtube the final ending like me.
Alas, having some played all of the Rocksteady games, as well as the Arkham Origins bastard child, this isn’t the best, but it also isn’t the worst (I’m looking at you, Origins). It’s a very good game hinged with some flaws and an overuse of its new features. It was enticing enough for me to finish everything BUT the Riddler missions, and I have to say I’m very intrigued by the DLC so I’m not quite finished yet (I have the bundle package, which means I already have a code for Harley Quinn missions and Scarecrow Nightmare missions).
If you’re a Batman fanatic who has been playing since Asylum, this is simply a must-have. Rocksteady has taken us on one of the most ambitious and epic Batman journeys a gamer could ever hope for, and Arkham Knight brings it to a pretty explosive close.
Final Thoughts – You’ll get sick of the Batmobile and be begging for a boss battle, but you still glide around the city and beat the crap out of unsuspecting baddies all while following one of the more emotional and poignant Batman storylines.