Warning: This review contains spoilers from Arkham Knight and the previous installments of the Arkham series. The areas mentioned have a (Spoiler) put before it. Please read with caution.
Following the story of Batman: Arkham City, Batman must protect Gotham from the vile grasps of the many gangs and supervillains after a mass evacuation occurs after a violent diner attack by the infamous Scarecrow. Scarecrow plans on detonating a bomb that will bring out the deepest, darkest fears of everyone on the Eastern seaboard. At his side, a new villain emerges under the alias of “the Arkham Knight,” a villain hidden behind a blue helmet who has a deep-seated hatred for the Bat. The Arkham Knight talks throughout the game about how he wants to kill Batman; that he’s been waiting a long time to seek his revenge. Batman must use his wit, gadgets, and the help of his team to fight these two supervillains while also fighting the villain that lies deep down inside of him.
“This is how it happened. This is how the Batman died.”
“This is how it happened. This is how the Batman died.” This is the first line ever spoken in the game, by Commissioner Gordon, no less, which brings forth hundreds upon hundreds of questions. “What happened?” “Why is he dead?” “How did he die?” “Does this mean that the Arkham series dies with him?” Even though I’ve heard multiple things, that last question spoke volumes to me.
If you’re ready to play the final chapter of the Arkham series, you’re in for one hell of a emotional roller coaster. With exquisite writing, shocking plot twists, and clever dialogue, you won’t be disappointed with how they finished this glorious series.
Let’s start off by saying that I absolutely love how the center of focus is on a villain that most aren’t aware of. The Scarecrow is a great refresher from the typical Joker-fueled story that we’ve all come to expect from the Batman series. Don’t get me wrong, Joker is a fantastic villain, but there comes a time when you just need some new bad guy to start causing havoc; and who better than the king of fear?
With how Arkham Knight is set up, you’re required not to only complete the main story to beat the game, but you also have to go and capture the other villains that are wreaking havoc around Arkham. With this, you have the main story and then a medley of smaller stories to liven up the story; and you can do it all at your own pace, for the most part. Not being much of a Batman buff myself, it was nice meeting new villains and then learning more about them from their files.
(Spoiler) While going through the game, you have to face multiple deaths along the way. Barbara, Poison Ivy, Gordon, Robin, and, even, Riddler, Penguin, and Two-Face. Granted, the last three aren’t very important to the story-line, but they are such crucial Batman characters, that you can’t help but feel like you’ve lost someone dear. Having to deal with these creates an immense amount of depth within the game, only reinforcing the fact that, when they die, the game dies. (End of spoiler)
After thinking that nothing could be improved from Arkham City, I quickly realized I was dead wrong. The hand-to-hand combat flows very smoothly, with the exception of flying halfway across the map just to punch someone. It mixes the need for offense and defense very well, making it more than just a regular “beat ’em up” style game. You need to utilize the combo meter if you want to deal heavy damage, the stun ability for heavy and shielded characters, and, especially, the counter ability to use your enemy’s move against him.
The controls run incredibly smoothly and are near-flawless. The combat, like always, feels swift and powerful, allowing for multitudes of different strategies and ways to eliminate the competition. The gliding is perfect, especially when it keeps the momentum when you’re launched via the Batmobile and grapple launcher. Turning, diving, and ascending goes with ease and is, actually, very fun to do. It didn’t take me too long to get back into the swing of things, which is essential, especially to new players. Another aspect I greatly enjoyed was that there were very few loading screens throughout the game. The only time you ever had to experience one was when you start the game or whenever you die, but at least you get to experience a small cinematic from the current supervillain you’re trying to thwart.
The difficulty progresses at a rather pleasant pace, allowing for people to get back into the swing of things with their combat system. With the inclusion of shielded, medical, shock, and giant characters, you’ll always have to up your game with brand new strategies to be able to eliminate the competition in the best way possible. I absolutely love how they included so many different kinds of characters with unique abilities that force you to think on your feet when you need to. The shielded troopers need to be dealt with aerial, stun, or stealth attacks and cannot be blocked, which can ruin whatever combo streak you may be on. The medical personnel are especially difficult in stealth missions where, if they spot a downed comrade, will go to their aid (with backup, if available) and pick them up, forcing you to have to take them down, again. On top of that, medics are also able to shock their teammates, allowing for non-counterable hits and, if you hit them, will daze Batman for a couple seconds, leaving you completely vulnerable. Some regular troops even have shock weapons that are unblockable and will block all of Batman’s attacks, so you’re forced to daze them and attack them from behind. But, nothing is worse than a giant trooper, who can have shocked hands or shields attached to them at any time. These guys will block every single attack you try to land on them, unless you daze them first. After that, you will need to land upwards of twenty hits (while countering any other enemies) just to take them down.
An all-new feature in the Arkham series is the ability to drive the famous Batmobile. With some additional attachments added, it becomes and all-powerful tank wielding a multitude of weapons including a 60 mm cannon, EMP blaster, and a homing-missile launcher. These allow Batman to travel the streets of Gotham to eliminate the vehicles that were brought in by the militia. Not only is it a valuable combat machine, but it also allows for quick access to the entire city. Going at breakneck speeds, with smooth drifting around corners, and the ability to eject from the vehicle itself. The eject ability is incredibly useful when trying to get to a part of a city that may be a bit hard to reach or if you’re just trying to attack an enemy with hand-to-hand combat. A great part about this ability is that, when you eject, you glide at such incredible speeds from the force of the speeding Batmobile.
With the inclusion of an open-world environment, there are a ton of side missions. While they don’t directly affect the main story (at least, until the end), they are useful in the meantime to if you want to hone your skills in the ways of combat and puzzle solving. One thing I didn’t like was how time consuming some of them are. They weren’t difficult, mind you, they just take an immense amount of time to complete that it just bothers you to no ends. The main ones I’m referring to are the Militia missions, where you had to go across Gotham, finding mines, towers, and road-side fortresses to take down the Arkham Knight’s militia forces, and the Riddler missions, where you have to do Batmobile puzzles (and the occasional race), Catwoman puzzles, as well as solving riddles and finding Riddler trophies. One reason I didn’t like them was because, when I play games with side-missions, I go into full side-mission mode, where I don’t want to stop until they are all done. Well, until the end of the game, you’re not able to finish any of these. First, you’ll have to gain access from the different bridges if you need your Batmobile, which aren’t very pertinent for Militia missions, but is a need for Riddler missions. Not only that, but you need to go further into the story to be able to find the riddles and trophies found in story-specific landmarks (like the underground, ACE Factory, blimps, etc.) (Spoiler) and to be able to fight Slade, the new leader of the Militia after the Arkham Knight goes into hiding. (End of spoiler)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I find both of these side missions to be fun; the Riddler puzzles involving the Batmobile and Catwoman are interestingly perplexing, which is a nice change of pace as well as the constant combat and “need-for-strategy” that the Militia missions entail. But, the Riddler is probably the most aggravating part of every Arkham game, and that’s because you need to go around to find randomly placed trophies (some are placed in puzzles, some being rather repetitive) as well as solving riddles that, sometimes, have the most ridiculous answers! These could be a sign, a character, an item that’s hiding in the distance, or a cup (and no, I’m not joking on that last one). Sure, they make it easier when, if you can’t get it at the time, you can scan it to add to the map or you can interrogate Riddler goons to have random ones be placed on the map, but it’s still a matter of going there, solving the puzzle, then moving onto the next one. And, to top it off, you have to capture every single villain to be able to see the complete ending of the game. (Spoiler) When you beat the story and Batman goes into Knightfall mode, all you see is Wayne Manor explode with him inside, and it ends right there. (End of spoiler) Luckily, though, you’re able to witness this then go back into the game to capture the last villain, but it’s just so inconvenient that all I can do now is run around in a collect-a-thon style. I find it tedious that I have to run around just so I can witness the true ending of the story and get some achievement points.
There are also moments, throughout the game, where you can play as one of Batman’s allies; this includes Catwoman, Robin, and Nightwing. They all fight like Batman, but they each bring their own flare to the equation, allowing for interesting combo moves, equipment, and finishing moves. I also very much enjoy the team-takedown moves, where you fill up a meter with every attack that lands, and, once it’s filled, you throw the enemy towards the other character where they automatically take them out. Of course, you can switch between the two during combat as many times as you want, which is vital in the cases of Batman and Catwoman during Riddler’s trials. (Spoiler) My favorite extra character to use, however, was Joker; especially in the Jokermobile. He has a very unique set of moves that eliminate enemies, but also humors you, because, I mean, it’s the Joker! The Jokermobile I mentioned earlier is especially fun because it absolutely eliminates everyone. When you use the Batmobile, you fire non-lethal rounds if you fire on grunts and their cars, but you use the machine gun and 60mm cannon when in the Jokermobile. Plus, it’s truly remarkable looking! Being able to kill anyone is definitely a dark, but immersive change to the game’s vibe and mechanics. Later on, you switch into first-person mode wielding a shotgun as you traverse further and further into Batman’s – or is it Joker’s? – fears. It allows you to really feel like you are the Joker, allowing you to truly experience what the life of Joker is like, underneath the cynical surface. (End of spoiler)
The gameplay is truly what makes the Arkham series unique, and the Arkham Knight not only follows the gameplay we’ve come to enjoy, but expands upon it in the greatest ways possible. Sure, it has some issues where it could be improved on, but nothing that is absolutely game-breaking and tarnishes the series. The combat is groundbreaking, with a ton of other games trying to imitate it due to it’s fluid movement and combo-integrated style.
Now, the graphics and sound are truly remarkable, creating the dark and mysterious atmosphere I’ve come to love from the Arkham series. This game utilizes cutting-edge graphics to give you a near-cinematic feel and was definitely an upgrade from the previous installments. Throughout my time in Gotham, I’ve caught myself appreciating the look of everything, from the background to the rain, from the enemies to the collectibles. The cinematics were so engaging and felt like you were truly watching a brand new Batman movie and some were even interactive. And the sound? The background music gives you a sense of mystery and, even at some points, caused me to pumped about fighting any bad guy that dared cross my path. They utilized every aspect that they needed to create such an immersive atmosphere that let you feel like you truly were the Batman, trying to save world.
The Arkham series has been one of my favorites since my first playthrough of Arkham Asylum five years ago. I truly love the story of Batman, especially the dark and twisted side that the Arkham series brings forth. This game, and it’s predecessors, are perfect for all fans to experience whether they started from the comics or the movies. Rocksteady Studios puts so much effort and time into carefully making a near-perfect game, and that’s exactly what this game is. With an engaging story with an immersive atmosphere and one of the best combat systems brought forth by any game company, there’s no way you won’t enjoy this game. Of course, with every great game, there’s always that small issue that makes it just a little less perfect, like the Riddler collect-a-thon, but it isn’t necessary to beat the game, initially.