Rocksteady Studios reinvented the licensed game when they released the bold, smart and incredible Batman: Arkham Asylum way back in 2009. Little did people realise how big an impact that game would make. Not only did Arkham Asylum give fans the Batman game they’ve always wanted, but it revolutionised combat mechanics and storytelling in games, techniques that are still being aped today.
Roll on six years and the world got seemingly the final part of the Arkham Trilogy. In Batman: Arkham Knight, the stakes are higher, Batman himself is older and mentally unstable after the traumatic events of Arkham City (you find him constantly harassed by visions of the Joker) and you can finally drive the Batmobile. The map is much larger than in previous entries, but you can call upon the Batmobile at almost any time to help get you from point A to B quicker than you ever could before. The Arkham games are well-known for making it feel like you really are controlling the Caped Crusader, so how does the Batmobile favour?
Pretty well. It’s fast, aggressive and crashes through walls and enemies with abandon. Despite its speed, you can feel the weight of the vehicle as you take corners and speed down the crime-infested alleyways of Gotham. It’s a brutal machine, with an equally brutal sounding engine. It’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of since you first put in the disc of Arkham Asylum. The Batmobile can also transform into a lightweight tank of sorts, which is used to dispatch enemy vehicles and cause all sorts of mayhem, generally. The tank itself feels nice to use, with swift movements and solid weaponry, but the missions you use it for feel a tad forced, often going on just a bit too long.
The Batmobile and tank also bring up questions about the Dark Knight this time around. We’re made to believe that enemy vehicles are drones, remote controlled by some thug somewhere else. Batman blows these drones up with gay abandon, so I hope the game isn’t telling porkies. It also tells you that the thugs on the streets you smash into at god-knows what speed aren’t killed, merely knocked out. Batman doesn’t kill, it’s his rule. It’s all a bit ridiculous.
Unfortunately, the plot all gets a bit ridiculous, too. It treads along at a nice pace for the most part, mixing solid issues of mental health, violence and comic-book supervillainry together well. It derails a tad in the latter portions of the game however, with twists that won’t surprise and supernatural elements that I’ve always felt were a little out of place in the Batman universe. The plot isn’t as memorable as either Asylum or City. Thankfully, the gameplay foundations of those games remain entirely intact, with even a few little extras thrown in for good measure.
Combat is just as fluid as in the older titles, with more environment interaction coming along for the ride. See something glowing on the screen? Move Batman over to that and you can use it to you advantage in the heat of battle. It’s a nice upgrade to a well-known and mimicked combat system. The Batmobile, too can get involved in battles if close enough, shooting enemies with powerful enough shells to knock them out, of course. In my opinion, however, the best new addition to the game is the Fear Takedown. Once a gauge is filled up, you can sneak behind enemies (or jump down from above), taking up to five of them down one by one in quick succession, slowing down time so you can pick and choose your next target.
Arkham Knight offers copious amounts of fun in every encounter, be they tense, tight affairs, or large, open battles with dozens of enemies. The story is a lot of fun too, with the titular Arkham Knight more than a worthy foe for Batman. Side quests range from taking down combat towers, solving Riddler puzzles to save Catwoman and solving a murder case to tracking down the nefarious Manbat. There’s a lot to get on with, and Gotham is a brilliant playground for it all. This is a game full of wonderful touches and incredible levels of detail. The framerate barely misses a beat, too, a fantastic achievement considering the level of graphical fidelity on show.
Arkham Knight looks amazing. Gliding across the rooftops of Gotham, fights and car chases taking place underneath. It’s often breathtaking. The lighting is magnificent too. Neon signs light the sky and shimmer in the puddles on the streets. Rain dribbles down Batman’s suit and cape. It’s all ridiculously detailed, but the copious amounts of detail never deter the game away from being a blast.
It may not be as memorable as Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, but Arkham Knight provides a stellar cap to an incredible trilogy.