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Jul 10, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight Review

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4 Awesome
Retails for: $59.99
We Recommend: $59.99
  • Developer: Rocksteady Studios
  • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • Released: Jun 23, 2015
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

“I am vengeance. I am the night. I am tired of the Batmobile.” – These are words not spoken by the Dark Knight, but by me. The Batmobile isn’t the most egregious thing to ever grace a videogame, but Batman: Arkham Knight leans heavily on the usage of it. Though not everything to do with the Batmobile is bad, just the sequences that require the tank mode. Beyond that, gliding or driving through the entirety of Gotham City is an exhilarating and exciting take on this making you really feel like Batman.

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There’s no greater horror than a vicious nightmare toxin being released on Halloween night by Scarecrow. This sends Gotham City into disarray with a majority of the civilian population evacuated, letting menagerie of super-villains and their thugs to control the streets. While this type of anarchy would be more than enough, a new villain has emerged, calling himself the Arkham Knight. The introduction sequence in first-person, playing as one of GCPD’s finest really makes for a powerful opening.

Batman can’t save Gotham by himself, so the likes of Oracle, Robin, Nightwing, and even Bruce Wayne’s dutiful butler, Alfred will step-up to help corral these enemies towards their holding cells in GCPD. It’s still very much a Batman game, but there’s nods, winks, and elbows that let you know it exists among the DC Universe where characters like Lex Luthor can make a cameo.

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The Batmobile makes a proper appearance in Rocksteady’s series. And it’s easily a great asset to Batman, though I have many grievances about the Batmobile. The game does a lot to teach you about how to use all facets of the Batmobile, so it can seem very heavy up-front. This is only to your benefit, as there are two modes: Pursuit and Battle. Pursuit mode allows you to scream around the city and even launch yourself out of it, it does some light combat, but it is nothing compared to it’s other form. Battle mode is going to be a “love it or hate it” dichotomy amongst players, and not the act of using it, but rather how it gets used in the story and side missions. This is where the Batmobile turns into a tank and fires massive rounds to deal with the army of tanks that the Arkham Knight has deployed around the city. Plenty of side missions use the batmobile in tank mode, so to have them be incorporated so heavily into the story as well, becomes overwhelming.

Out of tank mode, the Batmobile is glorious and enjoyable. The relationship between Batman and the Batmobile can’t be understated. While I could drop a smoke pellet and zip away from a particular encounter, there’s a great deal of tension from the moment you call your Batmobile and as you are taking damage, it arrives just in time and you are shielded. Your reliance on the Batmobile is at odds with the dependency the game forces into you. It just never gets old to call in the Batmobile.

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Combat and Predator scenarios are unsurprisingly present, but now they occur out in the open world rather than solely inside buildings. This, in addition to the lack of traditional boss battles, the game feels more organic and less like a “videogame”. Batman more versatile and agile as a combatant. If you’ve played any of the prior games, you’ll likely be accustomed to the combat. If you haven’t though, I feel that it can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers, which is entirely possible for the debut of this franchise on current-generation consoles.

Upgrades are handled differently this time around. Batman is well-established, and you start the game with the majority of his tools, it eschews the old Metroid methodology of losing everything, and slowly gaining them back one by one. Instead, the majority of improvements you have involve leveling up. From here, you can use your Waynetech points to boost Batman’s tools and gadgets, combat prowess, even upgrade the Batmobile’s weapons. As you get deeper into the tech tree, the demand for more points increases. You tend to be more careful with your decisions and cater to your playstyle.

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The story of Arkham Knight is one of twists and turns in the story involving characters from Batman’s past and present. The way in which the titular Arkham Knight is teased and eventually revealed is neat and took me by surprise. You’ll find some comic book levels of camp and ham, but overall feels as grim as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series, especially when it is coupled with camera angles and presentation.

In a unique twist, the ending is complete, but is only a part of it. Side missions are required to get towards 85% completion to see ending part two. And to see the final part of the ending, requires 100%. Rocksteady used the in-game percentage to make it more meaningful, and give reason to keep playing after the main story was complete. But what they actually did, was make me want to watch the 100% ending on YouTube because the Riddler trophies are infuriating to attain them all, all 243 of them.

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Batman: Arkham Knight is the best Batman game to-date, despite the foibles with the Batmobile. The Batmobile in Battle mode is not what makes Batman well… Batman. Batman: Arkham Knight has too dire of consequences, but there’s a sense of finality to the series for both Rocksteady and the story. The fluidity of combat, the verticality at which you soar, and the speed and which you scream through the streets of Gotham are all great examples of what it is truly like to be Batman.

A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for review purposes