August 25, 2009 was a special day for Batman fans, because Batman: Arkham Asylum showed the world it is possible to make a good Batman video game. Batman: Arkham Knight is the last game of the series and the following is a spoiler-free review.
The first thing you’ll notice when you start playing Arkham Knight is how impressive the graphics are. The characters models look different from the previous Arkham games, but I think they are improvements over already great looking versions of classic Batman characters. Arkham Knight is one of the best looking games on PS4 (the version I played) and Xbox One, and the voice acting is excellent due to Arkham Knight using some of the great voice actors that have been acting Batman related characters since Batman: The Animated Series in the 90s.
For a crime ridden and psychopath filled place protected by a billionaire in a bat suit, Gotham is a great environment. With almost every other game being released having an open world environment, Arkham Knight’s approach is one of the best. Gotham is a big environment and there is no fast travel system to quickly go from one end of the map to the other end of the map. In all the previous Arkham games, the player would move from point A to point B by using Batman’s grappling hook to zip from one building to the next. This still exists in Arkham Knight, but now instead of just grappling to the top of a building or ledge, Batman can use his grappling hook to fling himself in the air and use his cape to basically fly over long distances in a short amount of time. You can also use the Batmobile to drive from point A to B following directional arrows on the ground leading you to your objective. Driving the Batmobile is more fun and you’re more likely to find Riddler Trophies and side missions (things I’ll get into later), but it is much faster to use your grappling hook to fly than driving around in the Batmobile and flying fixes the issue many open world games have of taking a long time to get from point A to B.
The way Arkham Knight handles side missions is near perfect. The main story of Arkham Knight centers around Scare Crow’s plan to detonate a bomb that spreads his fear gas throughout the entire city of Gotham. Due to this bomb threat, most people have evacuated the city. The people that didn’t leave the city are villains looking to capitalize on the situation and policemen and firefighters looking to help. Using this plot point, most side missions involve one popular Batman villain that you have to takedown by completing one or several missions. For example, Two-Face is robing banks and you have to stop him. Each of these missions is Predator Mode based and start with a time limit. After one bank robbery is stopped, you find out Two-Face’s men are robbing another bank and you can complete the other missions involving Two-Face one after the other one whenever you feel like it. The whenever you feel like it part is relevant, because that’s not always the case. Side missions are unlocked as you progress through the main story. Alfred or Barbra Gordon will call Batman on is Skype hologram device that he apparently has in is gloves, and during their video conversation, tell him to look into these cases if he has any free time. This will unlock new missions, and more than half of them have interesting stories and involve different gameplay mechanics than most games’ side missions. The only issue are side missions like “The Perfect Crime” where I was confused on whether I had to do more main story missions to unlock parts of it or just search the city for dead bodies with opera music playing around them eventually finding all of them and completing the mission.
The main story for Arkham Knight is good, but it has issues with its ending. To get any ending at all you have to stop seven of Batman’s villains that are unrelated to the main story. This involves completing side missions, but not every side mission will involve you taking down a super villain. Since the main story is only somewhere between 10 to 15 hours long and most of the side missions are fun, this isn’t my issue. The issue is the ending you get is good, but feels somewhat incomplete. The main story is technically done, but questions involving what happens next are not answered. To get what could be considered the true ending, you have to find every Riddler Trophy and there are over 150 of them. Most people are not going to spend time searching every inch of Gotham to find these items, and most will not see the real ending without going to YouTube.
When it comes to gameplay, almost everything you loved about the previous games are in Arkham Knight with new additions. The attack-and-counter melee system has a few new additions. First you’re fighting bigger groups of enemies at one time. There can literally be a group of thugs usual going from five to somewhere over ten trying to kill you at one time. You still can counter up to three people at once and not all five or ten will attack at the same time, but the enemies have more tricks up their sleeves this time around. Enemies will charge and tackle Batman to the ground. These charge and tackle moves cannot be countered and can only be dodged. There are new enemy types like the Medic. Medics can review enemies Batman knocked out and cover their friends with electricity making it impossible for Batman to punch them. Batman can use gadgets to make the electricity go away and finally has the ability to hit enemies on the ground using the regular attack and not having to use a ground takedown that leave him open to other enemies attacks (though he can still do that). There are also two new takedowns Batman can use. The environmental takedown, are takedowns where Batman uses the environment to knockout an enemy. This can involve Batman jumping in the air and cutting down a light above the enemy’s head or slamming them head first into a wall. The second new takedown can only be used in certain sections of the game, but is a fun and unique system I wish was in the game more. I’m talking about duel takedowns. There are parts in the game where Batman teams up with Robin, Night Wing, or Catwoman. With the exception of Robin, who basically works with Batman for one level but that one level was my favorite part of the game, most of these team-ups are under five minutes. In these short fights the player can switch between Batman and his sidekick with one button press and the player gets to control a hero with a different fighting style and moves than Batman. When you fill up your combo meter fighting with a sidekick you can use a duel takedown, where Batman and his partner attack the same enemy in a way that could be consider a Batman version of a wrestling tag-team match.
The popular stealth sections in every Arkham game known as Predator Mode returns with added challenge and improvements. You can still jump down from a gargoyle statue to grab an enemy that is unaware of your presence and hang him upside down by his feet and hind inside vents and pop out at the right moment to grab an enemy from behind and knock them out with a silent takedown, but now you can takeout up to five enemies at once with a multi-takedown. Batman can use a multi-takedown when he has enough fear. In the upper right corner of the screen you’ll see the word fear flashing indicating you have enough fear to perform a multi-takedown. When you first enter a dangerous area you will instantly have enough fear to do a multi-takedown and you have to perform enough silent takedowns to recharge your fear to perform another one. The way multi-takedown works is if more than one enemy are somewhat near each other and you attack the first enemy that triggers a quick cutscene where Batman knocks him out than time stops for a few seconds as you select your next victim. If there are no enemies within Batman’s melee range, the multi-takedown will stop even if you only took care of one enemy. The enemies now have drones and the ability to find Batman’s location if he uses his see through the wall ability too much.
I saved the biggest and most controversial change for last, and that is the introduction of the Batmobile as a gameplay mechanic. Do you miss the vehicle combat of Twisted Metal? Ever play Tomb Raider wishing Lara Croft had a Croftmobile that she could use to solve puzzles and have vehicle platforming? Hopefully you answered yes to both of these questions, because that and fun to frustrating obstacle courses are what awaits you when you play Arkham Knight’s Batmobile sections. While it is hard to say how much time is spent using the Batmobile, it seems to be somewhere between 30 to 60 percent of the game. Driving the Batmobile in normal car mode is pretty much what you expect it to be. It is fast, has decent, but not great, handling, can shoot rockets at vehicles you’re chasing, and do not worry about Batman breaking his no kill policy because these are weak rockets that just wreck the vehicle and I’m sure the people inside are just fine, has a turbo boost, can eject Batman from his seat giving him a boost without using his grappling hook, and you can run people over, and again Batman is not breaking his policy because the Batmobile electrocutes people when it runs them over which somehow keeps them from dying. What really makes this version of the Batmobile different than other versions is that with the press of a button it turns into a tank. The first thing you should know is that the default setting is to force you to hold the button to stay in tank mode, but you can change this after you visit the Gotham police department the first time by going into the options menu. In tank mode you fight several other tanks. The enemy tanks have red lasers that indicate where their cannon fire will come from and allow you to dodge them by using a side boost, basically causes your tank hop to the left or right. Dodging without firing allows you to charge up your tank and use multiple rocket, hack enemy tanks to attack their allies, and use an EMP to stop enemy tanks from functioning for a short time period. It also has a cannon like all tanks, but it also comes with a machine gun that fires rubber bullets when you shoot humans, but I guess it also fires real bullets due to its ability to shoot down helicopters.
I personally like the addition of the Batmobile, but I can understand why some people hate it. Probably over 70 percent of the puzzles in the game involve the Batmobile in some way. One situation involves Batman getting into an elevator that didn’t work and remote controlling the Batmobile to shoot a wrench that allows it to slowly lift the elevator as the Batmobile drives in reverse. There are platforming and stealth sections involving the Batmobile and three of the four boss battles in Arkham Knight are Batmobile based fights. There are also the Riddler Challenge side missions involving the Batmobile that can be so frustrating, that I wished Batman would make an exception to his no kill policy and murder the Riddler slowly.
While the final game in the Batman Arkham games series has big changes that might not appeal to everyone, I thought it was a great game and liked using the Batmobile.