“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” (-Harvey Dent)
A few years back, developer Rocksteady Studios shared with the world their vision of Batman. Of course, the core story backing up Bruce Wayne tied in well with the ones from comics, but they have presented the rest differently. From Arkham Asylum to Arkham City, the series was looked over by the hero we all needed. Now, the studio introduced the last Batman game of their series, Arkham Knight, and features a darker and more serious story.
Creating a script using a well-established superhero is risky; fans look after them and expect nothing less than authenticity from the writers. Rocksteady has proven in the past that their Batman games would be great, and they have. As for Arkham Knight, it took the series to a wonderful end without leaving any untied knots hanging around. In between our cape crusader and friends, there is around 12 hours of gameplay, double if you like to challenge yourself with side-missions. The title offers enough content and wonderful moments to keep you engaged and satisfied.
Compared to Arkham City, this latest iteration features an open world map of Gotham; there are three explorable islands acking to be explored. The city is larger, a lot more detailed and stacked with character. Everything from the depressive rain drops, all the way to the newly improved lighting effects increase the level of detail and realism. Although Gotham has been fully evacuated due to terrorism, it is livelier than it has ever been; the increased population of criminals roaming the city also strongly influences its sinister charm.
Speaking of charm, the script is incredibly well written and strongly focuses on the relationship Batman has with various villains. In one hand, this is a good thing, but on the other, it puts too much emphasis on Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight; it makes the other bad guys look stale and boring. In past games, they all had an equal appeal, but in this title, it feels as though they are in the script simply to beef it up; they have no real impact when compared to the Joker, Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight.
For what it’s worth, it is notable to mention that the voice actor behind Scarecrow, John Noble, had such an unsettling tone that it gets deep under your skin. This is exactly what Scarecrow is supposed to do to you, freak you out every time you see and hear him. Additionally, the musical score really reflects the dark themes projected by the game’s visuals, script and characters.
Unfortunately, not all games are flawless; Arkham Knight does have a few minor graphics issues despite how fantastic it looks. It appeared on a few occasions that there were some bugs; issues such as inside rain, helicopters dissapearing in the ground and framerate drops after electrocuting bad guys are but of few of the rare ones that occurred.
When it comes to content, this is the element that really puts the game on the map. Wherever you end up exploring, you will always found yourself near a side-mission. They might sound cheesy at first, but as you uncover and complete them, they will have a minor impact on the city and Batman’s development. Keep an ear out on your sonar, because you never know what thugs can be gossiping about behind villains’ back. Although the main story focuses on certain enemies, the Riddler, Two-Face, Firefly and other antagonists have important roles in side quests as well. The best part about them is that not only will they train you in combat and driving, but they each have completely different gameplay mechanics to offer, which adds variety and appeal.
As Batman, you are equipped with a bunch of cool gadgets, some of which make a comeback from past iterations. Use them wisely to solve the elaborate and clever crimes, solve mind-boggling puzzles, take down vicious thugs, and more. Although our cape crusader is loaded with cool tech, only a few really stand out from the lot.
In Arkham Knight, one of the new additions that changes the gameplay drastically is the Batmobile. Fast, agile, and painted black, it is more than just a vehicle that takes you from point A to point B; most of the action requires you to use this army-grade toy. On occasion, you will find yourself chasing after bad guys, but one of its main feature is that it can turn into a tank. Switching in between modes is as easy as holding down the left trigger (by default). When in Tank mode, the Batmobile becomes a great tool for taking down threats weapons around your waist can handle or even scratch. It might seem out of place at first, since Batman isn’t the type to harm anyone, even enemies. However, the on-board computer automatically switches the ammo to non-lethal ones when a human is being targetted.
Additionnaly, the technology behind the Batmobile is so advance that when you are about to strike someone with it, it will give them a shock, leaving them temporarily paralysed and ‘sort of’ unharmed. In time, the vehicle will teach you how to be aware of your surroudings and think fast on your feet when in critical situtations. You can also call the Batmobile to reach you to a certain location nearby, just like how you call Epona in The Legend of Zelda; it can be remote-controlled to help you solve certain puzzles as well. The Batmobile not only adds great gameplay value, but it is an indispansable companion throughout your whole experience with Arkham Knight.
The tank car isn’t the only thing that shines in the game, Batman, the main character of the franchise, has also been improved. While following the climatic story filled with crazy and intence moments, you will encounter thugs and a wide variety of villains along the way. Just like in the past, you often have two choices as to how you want to take them down: beat them up or incapacitate them silently. Yes they are some times when you are forced a decision, but most of the time, you are free to do as you please. Remember, there are consequences; the more noise you make, the harder your job might end up being.
Should you decide to go berserk and beat everyone senseless, Batman will back you up with amazing new moves and abilities. In the long run, these encounters might seem monotonous, but the way they are set up, they aren’t as long and painful as the ones in Arkham City, many are short and sweet. Don’t let them fool you though, because they can be very challenging and difficult, especially if you underestimate your opponents. On the other hand, if you decide to go in stealthy, you can use the environment at your advantage to take them down. As your fear meter fills, you will have the ability to perform fear take-downs, which easily allows you to take care of multiple enemies simultaneously.
As an added bonus, some scenarios permit you to team up with allies such as Robin, Nightwing and Catwoman. Although you can’t fight as them – they are AI-controlled – they provide you with great support via a temporary swap that helps you maintain your combo count in its A game. No new mechanics are added, unfortunately, but it does feel great, as a superhero, to know that you have sidekicks backing you.
Batman: Arkham Knight is as complete as a game can be. It offers an intriging plot backed by superb story development, fantastic visuals, a great script, cool new mechanics, enough content to satisfy, and more. It is an excellent conclusion to the series Rocksteady Studios created and leaves no knots untied. For once, you feel exactly how Batman feels, and live his fear of the city, and himself, being totally overtaken by madness.
Batman, like a few other superhero from both the Marvel and DC universe, have a special place in my heart. I’m not as much of a fan as the next guy – I don’t know every single details about everything – but I am enough of a fan to know that I appreciate them. I won’t lie and tell you deep down in my heart, I wish I count be as awesome as a hero.
That being said, Batman in Arkham Knight is by far one of my favorites. Why? Well, I found that the events that occurred in this iteration scared our cape crusader to the point of madness and hallucination. If there is something I enjoy more than seeing a superhero take down bad guys, it’s seeing them suffer from the darkness that consumes them. I know it sounds horrifying, but in the end, I believe it is the pinnacle element that either makes them stronger, or crushes them down like a pulp. This is what happens in Arkham Knight and I enjoyed every last bit of it.