Review: Batman Arkham Knight (PS4)
The Arkham series has come a long way since its debut in 2009, taking everything that we loved in the previous titles, polishing it up, adding some gloss, and creating a better experience. Batman Arkham Knight hits you hard in the gut, it successfully delivers a feeling of terror, a constant feeling of anxiety, and that feeling when you know something terrible is about and there is really nothing you can do to stop it. Batman Arkham Knight is the darkest entry to the franchise, it slowly peels away your layers, leaving you vulnerable and nervous. The story slowly drops you into a pessimistic state. Like Scarecrow it emits gas from the game and it slowly creeps its way into your mind.
Gotham City is in chaos, Scarecrow has threatened to bring about a wave of fear with his toxic fear gas. About 6.3 million people have been evacuated in 24 hours, and once again it falls to the Dark Knight to save Gotham. An even bigger threat looms over the Bat; a new mysterious villain threatens to end him once and for all, the Arkham Knight. Armed with military tanks and a weaponised army, this new villain is not to be taken lightly.
One thing is clear from the start of the game, whatever the Joker was up to in the past, whatever Dr Hugo Stranger tried to accomplish in Arkham City, it was nothing compared to the threat that Batman faces this time. Scarecrow is a dark and twisted villain, horrific and vile. He has this presence that might not get to Batman, but definitely feels real to the player.
This time you have the entire city to yourself, and if you think traversing it would be a strenuous task, think again. The Batmobile has landed in the game, and it is gorgeous, and full of surprises. Rocksteady really went out of their way to imagine what it would be like driving around in an armour-plated billion-dollar vehicle. They crafted one super hero vehicle that is easy to control, thrilling to drive and makes you feel like you are Batman. The Batmobile is a true example of great implementation and how Hollywood still has no idea what they are doing.
Please Be Careful With the Car Mr. Wayne, She’s One of a Kind
From the start of the game you get to call upon the Batmobile to whisk you away in any destination. One quick press of a button and it will come to your location, you could even be gliding across the city and you will instantly dive to the ground, or straight into the car, all in one epic animation sequence. It has two modes of control – a Battle Mode and a standard mode. The Battle Mode is the ideal mode when taking on enemy tanks and moving through tight spots. It allows you to move slowly and precisely. Battle mode is activated by holding down the L2 trigger. Yes, this might feel weird at first because L2 is normally reverse or brake. But after a few smashes into walls and taking the wrong corner, I finally mastered switching between the two modes. The Standard Mode sees you racing across the city, ramping off bridges, and using your thrusters to go even faster.
Shootouts with tanks feels like a combat battle, but with wheels. You switch to Battle Mode and strafe the area with ease, dashing in any direction if need be. The Batmobile can predict enemy fire, giving you a chance to get out of the way before being hit. Shooting missiles and using the riot suppressor to take out airborne incoming missiles is key to surviving. Missiles deal damage and takes tanks down, this fills up your Missile Barrage attack. The more tanks you take down without getting hit the higher your missile barrage attack grows, the higher the level, the more tanks you can take down instantly when you execute it.
The Batmobile is far more than just a battle tank, it comes in handy while playing through the game. At times you will need to remote control the car even if you are in a building and use it to open a new route using the winch to take down a wall. At times you will need it to solve some Riddler puzzles by using its gadgets or speed. One of the greatest Riddler puzzles saw me racing through a tunnel triggering a switch to lift bridges and close gaps as I tried to get to the end in time. It was not only thrilling, but the closest I was going to get to experience what it was like to be Batman.
Talking about Batman, he has also been improved, and just when you think you have it all, another upgrade catapults your Batsuit to 8.03. This upgrade changes how you played before and adds a whole new way to take down enemies, jump into the Batmobile and even glide through the city and explore areas. You start off with most of the gadgets that you ended Arkham City with, making the combat at the start of the game familiar, but as you progress you will find yourself leaning away from those dated techniques, and testing out new stuff.
The combat has been tweaked, but still keeping to the traditional counter, punch, use gadget, takedown scenario. Later in the game, with a few upgrades unlocked, you get to really show what Batman can do as takedowns can be performed during a combo instead of waiting to lower an enemy’s health. There were some hiccups I experienced where I took damage with a 70 combo even though I countered, but maybe it was just my combat skills.
Batman Brings His Friends!
During certain parts of the game you will be able to play as other characters. These scenarios are mostly combat based, allowing you to switch between characters with an easy press of a button. One scenario saw me kicking butt as Catwoman and charging up a combo to execute a dual-takedown, instantly moving to Batman’s position and performing one bad ass takedown together. The same goes for other characters like Nightwing.
There are some side quests that show off some of DC’s characters fighting abilities too, these are simple combat arenas that feature the same combat scenes arena-like gameplay that you would experience as Batman, but with other characters. Not to spoil anything I will just say that these side-missions are pretty epic, and bring out an even deeper DC Universe setting in the game.
Either way, the combat is just another polished up, and shiny mechanic to the game. It could be overwhelming to those who have never played the game, there is zero tutorial during the start of the game, and even I had my ass kicked a few times while I tried to remember the basics.
You Gone Get Your Upgrade On!
You level up Batman by performing well in combat, Batmobile shootouts, and completing different villain scenarios. As you level up you earn Wayne Tech. You could also earn them in abundance by finishing “Super-Villain” story lines that focus on the many villains that have come into Gotham. Each of these super-villain scenarios are like the side-missions in Arkham City, but with more meat to chew on. As you gain Wayne Tech skill points you can spend these in different upgrade trees such as combat, stealth, Batmobile, Batman, gadgets, and more. To max out everything you will need some time and patience as some of the later upgrades in the skill tree need up to nine Wayne Tech points.
Predator missions still take place during the game, and they too have been given a good old rework. The new Batsuit allows for a quicker and stronger approach to stealth. When possible you can now take out a couple of enemies at a time with slowed-down Fear takedowns. You can also use one of many gadgets to help you along the way. As you go through the game the enemies get tougher, and the gadgets do not work as well, relying on you to be stealthy.
The Riddler is back as mentioned before and he is as crazy as ever. This time he has over 240 trophies for you to track down and find. Although most of these trophies are all about finding that green “?” by either getting into a tough spot, or coming back when you have the right gadget. There are some that add a new substance to the whole treasure hunt, like hunting down a victim who has had a bomb planted in his brain, or using your Batmobile to get into a building to grab the trophy. You even find yourself racing across the city in a time-trial scenario. This all adds to the side quests which are really enjoyable and often needed as the main story is extremely daunting at times and you really just need a moment to take everything in.
Don’t Forget Your Brollies
The game is utterly gorgeous in every way. Characters and emotions are shown off with great facial animations, the city is beautiful with light accurate light reflections hitting pools of water, and every single area is crafted to the finest detail. It is a huge city with three main islands, and areas to explore in-between. You can just grapple up the top of a radio tower to take it all in, and it is quite something to take in. Gotham City is a feature of its own in the game, it is alive and beautiful, even with all that darn rain!
When you’re not busy saving Gotham City from Scarecrow, you are busy hunting down the countless riddler trophies, uncovering unique plots based on other super-villains, and disarming nuclear bombs on the streets of Gotham. There is always something to do and you will always feel compelled to start a new side mission just to uncover who is behind the problem. The further you dive into a scenario, the further you can upgrade Batman, so it is a win-win.
The game is a long one, so get your nerves ready. As much you feel like a bad-ass Batman, it is twisted and your emotional ties with Batman will be broken and rebuilt a dozen times over. Main characters will break your heart, and villains will question your own sanity. The game is massive in scale. The main story is about the length of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City put together, and with all the side missions and Riddler trophies to find, be ready to spend a good 40 + hours in Gotham City
Batman Arkham Knight never failed to impress me once. Just when I thought the game hit a steady pace, I unlocked a new ability that changed the way I approached a situation. The story is one of the best ever told and holds out right to the end. Not once did I get the feeling that the story was being stretched out and lost its pace. It kept me on edge the entire time and even made me shed a few tears every now and then. Everything is on point, from the soundtrack, to the thunderclaps. The voice actors are professional, the presentation is flawless, and the story is one of a kind.
It is a rare occurrence to have such a big franchise, (based on a comic book of all things) become such a success for a third time. Rocksteady Studios have done an exceptional job on Batman Arkham Knight, it is as good as it could possibly get. Being the Batman has never been so kick-ass.