GamingReview: Batman: Arkham Knight

Review: Batman: Arkham Knight

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The final part of the trilogy (yeah I know lets just forget about that one) is here. The epic tale of everyone’s favourite rodent based hero is here. It’s fair to say that working hand in hand with Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy the Arkham games have thankfully moved Bats away from his camp 60’s outing back to the style of the original comics.

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Starting out Arkham Knight wastes no time in getting you into the action. Optional VR challenges are used rather than fixed tutorials. Even though I didn’t need them they were quick enough and rewarded upgrade points and before long I was straight back in the action. They provide good tutorials that are brief, rewarding and informative. More importantly they’re interactive so there’s no sitting around reading pages of text.

Although you don’t have the full set of abilities and equipment on offer from the start you certainly begin Arkham Knight with more than ever before. There’s a sense that this isn’t just unlocking the same upgrades once again in a different city but that you’re unlocking new stuff. There’s plenty of new bat-tech on show and lots of it is used right from the beginning. And of course everyone has been waiting for the Batmobile’s first appearance.

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I, on the other hand, have been concerned about the Batmobile not since it was first mentioned but shortly after that when it became obvious it was the only thing Rocksteady were interesting in at all. It’s awesome that it’s here but please let it quietly fester and build excitement in the background. There’s so much more to Arkham games than the Batmobile, it’s never been there before and they’ve done alright. I want it, don’t get me wrong, but lets not forget about the other features.

For the first couple of hours be prepared to see nothing but the Batmobile. Driving around Gotham doesn’t feel bad at all. The impossible speed, agility and strength of the Batmobile is great fun to blast around in. Switching to the combat mode turns it into a strange tank that moves like a crab. Combat in the Batmobile is plain boring. Strafe left to dodge very clearly marked attacks, press R2 to fire, kill the next vehicle. It’s far too simple, far too repetitive and after an hour I was already wishing I was doing something else. Well sadly it keeps coming. Throughout the whole game.

The physical combat is far and away the most impressive thing Rocksteady have achieved for me. That amazing fluidity combined with the feeling of Batman’s brutal strength. The satisfaction of getting a clean combat section is fantastic and I am glad to say this is the best combat I’ve played in any Arkham game yet. I was instantly gratified when the last slow motion kick sent the last thug to sleep. I just wish the Batmobile wasn’t forced on me so I could brawl more often.

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The entirely original Arkham Knight plays a fantastic villain more than capable of taking centre stage. Alongside Batman and just about every villain there is the cast is nothing short of amazing. The plot follows the usual trail of tracking villains down and following each as a different plot with the ‘main’ villain as the core plot they all revolve around.

On the world map the usual display of different tasks, puzzles and challenges are available. This time you’re playing in Gotham so the map is bigger than before but probably feels even more dense. The world is full, interesting and all the different tasks, sub tasks and plots are fully featured and enjoyable.

There’s also more attention paid to heroes than before too. You get to play as a potential replacement for the title of Batman. Nightwing makes a stronger appearance finally and in some sections you fight alongside other heroes allowing you to switch quickly mid battle and perform special team based specials. It’s nice to finally see some of the other heroes of the Batman universe but you still feel very much like Batman is in charge.

Sound has always played an important part for Batman even if you must include the iconic sounds and music from the 60’s. The brooding soundtrack crescendos at just the right times and the dark brass sections finish a fight off triumphantly. Rain effects and engine sounds are all punchy and crisp. It sounds great. Rocksteady’s ability to make a dark rainy game look somehow bright and crisp still amazes me. Environments are detailed and Batman’s armour moves and reacts realistically. It sounds and looks exactly like what you would expect from Arkham City’s successor.

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Arkham Knight has lived up to my expectations and exceeded them in many ways. The combat is somehow better than Arkham City and given the amount of time I spent (and still spent until this game) in combat rooms that is a big plus for me. Batman feels like he is stronger and faster than before thanks primarily to his new frankly badass armour. Progression feels like a continuation from Arkham City rather than starting from square one again. Tutorials are often optional so experienced players can complete them for points or move on and enjoy the game.

The Batmobile combat sadly isn’t any fun. Driving quickly through the streets and chasing suspects in cars, or other ‘vehicles’, is satisfying. Slowly moving in a third person combat style tediously pushing buttons to win gets boring. Ejecting yourself from the Batmobile into a glide and making a dramatic entrance is fantastic. Calling the Batmobile in remotely and jumping into the cockpit is awesome. I love it every time but Arkham Knight could definitely have done without the vehicle combat. It’s a shame because the design of the Batmobile, it has to be said, is amazing so I feel guilty for hating it. But at times I do.

Characters, plots and tasks are still basically perfect. There’s loads to do and once you get out of the damn car they’re all fun. Arkham games have never let us down on content and Arkham Knight is no exception. Overall a fantastic game that does the franchise and the Dark Knight justice. Another absolutely stunning job from Rocksteady.

SUMMARY

+ Huge amounts of content
+ Great characters and voice acting
+ Even better Arkham combat
+ Looks and sounds fantastic
- Batmobile combat lacks excitement

Reviewed on PC. Also available on PS4 and Xbox One.
phillvine
Phill has been the director of a small IT repair business since 2011 which he runs alongside studying for his degree in Information and Communication Technologies at the Open University. Video games are his real passion and they take up more of his time than he'd like to admit.

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