Batman doesn’t have much luck; in fact he has more bad knights (pun intended) than Jack Bauer has bad days.
The final of Rocksteady’s Batman trilogy is much like the final of Nolan’s Batman three-piece. As a standalone it’s good with some slightly strange choices but more fitting as an end of a saga.
Building on Arkham City’s open world design branching out from the more linear Arkham Asylum, Arkham Knight takes Batman full open world. Gotham is under attack from the Scarecrow who is picking up bad guy duties after the Joker’s demise in the second game. Threatening to poison Gotham, the citizens have panicked and evacuated. This is a fairly heavy handed way of getting civilians out of the way for Batman to have fairly empty streets to police, populated only by various gangs left who for some reason aren’t too fussed about getting gassed out.
It’s Halloween and a fitting finale for Batman. Donning the cape once again he must stop the Scarecrow. However, as before there are a number of other characters popping up which create a number of side quest opportunities – the vast majority are genuinely interesting and worth exploring. The main guest introduces a new character to the universe – the titular Arkham Knight. With a mysterious identity, the other Knight has done a deal with Scarecrow that he aids Scarecrow by taking out the Batman. His payment – getting to take out the Batman. Some of the side quests are actually better than the main plot as the Arkham Knight is a bit of a personality vacuum, driven by angsty fire against the Bat – himself not exactly the life of the party.
Batman does get a bit more flavour in what is frankly a genius mechanism used as a window into his inner mind. To reveal this would how this is done would be a spoiler but it’s my favourite thing about the game by far. Usually though it’s left to the support cast to flesh out the personality. Batman’s allies make an appearance who like before are briefly playable in dedicated sections – Nightwing, Robin and Catwoman all have specific moves which makes their fleeting moments enjoyable although not really enough to really get the most out of them. Catwoman is by far the best – a fun side quest involving the Riddler who is brilliantly irritating is one of the longest quests in the game. Robin is often berated by Batman and Nightwing seems dedicated to become the next Bat in being no fun, yet this is more akin to the DC Universe than the specifics of the game.
The open world allows you to pick and choose what you tackle next – I found myself chasing down some of the side activities due to the excellent character interaction. Again, avoiding spoilers there are some really good set pieces and surprises but sadly ‘side quest’ fatigue can set in – the biggest culprit is repetition.
As with just about every open world game ever, Batman has a number of ‘incidents’ that pop up around the world. Fireman to rescue are dotted around, checkpoints and outposts need to be liberated and bombs need to be disarmed. There are a lot of them and you have to find them. The last type of the major repetitive challenges – the bomb disposal – are made worse by not being able to experiment with Batman’s combat and gadgets but instead using solely the newest addition and biggest change to the franchise. The Batmobile.
This will likely be a controversial statement but the Batmobile sucks. The sound of it is great as you’re driving around Gotham, but it handles terribly making driving anywhere a bit of a pain and nowhere near as much fun as flying. The real problem is Tank Mode. Holding left trigger turns the Batmobile into a mobile tank, a floaty, strafy, rocket launching killing machine. Only Batman can’t kill anyone, so when people are targeted it cleverly adjusts to soft bullets. Not explained is how you can run people over (electric charge sends them flying) or you can cause a massive explosion right next to them but even so. The issue is strafe, fire, reload, strafe some more, fire some more is done to death in this game. It happens a lot, is nearly always exactly the same and you can find yourself fighting upwards of 30 drone tanks (the drone bit helps do away with Batman exploding people). I couldn’t bring myself to finish the bomb disposal side quests sadly and stopped the game at 93% completion. So close, yet so far. Annoyingly the Batmobile is also used throughout the game in other ways – to solve some puzzles which actually are fairly clever although most puzzles require it in some way which given its limited gadgetry usually shows the answer fairly quickly.
The reliance on the Batmobile throughout the game is a bit of a shame although it’s commendable being used to try and change things up. Sadly for me, there are essentially three endings in the game – one for finishing the main quest, one for completing a number of side quests and the final one for 100% completing the game. Boredom set in before I reach 100%, not only through tank missions but also Riddler trophies. There are over 240 and yep, you need to collect them all. Whilst fairly fun for the first few, this quickly began to grate on me and I found it a shame that I couldn’t finish the game without needing some serious grinding (and probably use of a guide). Granted, some will probably enjoy this so it’s down to personal taste. However for me, the enjoyment of this game follows this pattern (excuse the artistry):
There are a number of very nice touches that really enhance the atmosphere in the game. As you capture villains through side quests for example, they all pop up in the maximum-security section of the prison at the police station, along with gang members, control post captains and various weaponry used by the criminal element. Looking around this, and seeing the baddies numbers grow is excellent, particularly the dialogue you have with them. Seemingly there are new levels of interaction with everyone throughout the game, reacting to circumstance and the order you do things (or the game cleverly directed me).
I really enjoyed Arkham Knight despite the overuse of the Batmobile. It looks and sounds fantastic too, clearly showing off current gen capability by having it rain constantly to demonstrate lovely water effects. The PC version is still having issues but I had no problems on PS4.
Reviewed on PS4