I love Batman. I really do. From the light-hearted and flamboyant 1960s Adam West television extravaganza; Tim Burton’s idiosyncratic Gothic stamp on the franchise, to the wonderful Batman: Animated series in the early 90s and even Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. Yes, I just said that – I was young and the figurines rocked. Anyway, I could elaborate further into all the graphic novels and various spinoffs, yet it’s the Arkham game series I wish to bluster on about as Arkham Knight, the third and final instalment into the franchise, ultimately disappointed me.
I intend to write this review as spoiler free as I possibly as the slightest hint towards character developments or story arcs may really spoil what Rocksteady aim to achieve here and that ultimately is the experience of playing as the Batman. First and foremost-the story telling here is immense and worthy alongside any graphic novel, or even movie. Again, Rocksteady have absolutely nailed not only the design of the Bat and his cohorts of vigilantes and villains and refined how well he plays, yet something in Gotham City feels empty as I got very bored tediously flying to my next breakable item to tick a check list, or when I found myself monotonously gliding through Gotham to listen out for yet another Fireman waiting to be helped. To elaborate: you’re the world’s greatest detective; yet don’t feel like it when you’re searching aimlessly to fulfil a mission. The Witcher 3 for example, had a ‘Witcher sense’ mechanic that lead you from one place to another, why can’t Batman?
There are however, a few story events which put you in the scenario where you must uncover a crime scene, or rewind and fast forward surveillance cameras to progress forward into whatever it may be that’s impeding our protagonist. These segments pose little to no challenge as you can’t necessarily fail them, but they’re so well done that it’s tough not to smile at how well they’re executed and I personally wanted more of this. Some of the side missions are indeed satisfying, especially from the perspective of a massive Batman fan, but one of these had me visit one location and simply just by playing out a scene, I had done it. Granted, my grin was as wide as the jokers during, but I fear that casual gamers may feel a little alienated if they aren’t too clued up on the source material.
Now for the main addition and crux of the game: The Batmobile. This new gameplay mechanic is going to have fans split fifty-fifty no doubt to whether this was a wise decision being included into the game. It was a great choice in involving it as it literally is an extension of Batman’s gadgets (more on that in just a second), but this machine really does outstay its welcome with how much it’s implemented in both the puzzle sections and combat sections of the game. Jumping into it for the first time was epic and involving it during a combo when battling thugs had me bellowing out loud in fanboy excitement, but using winches to push and pull obstacles and manoeuvring ever so carefully to complete platform puzzles feels so dull and wasted. Again, car chases (although tough) are great when in high speed pursuits but when tank mode is activated, you’d better be prepared for either enthralling duels or boring bouts, as this feature is used – a lot.
Does anybody remember the PS1 game Ghost in the shell? This is what the tank Batmobile sections remind me of and if nobody had the chance of playing it then let me briefly explain how it works.
Numerous tanks of all shapes and sizes fall upon you and your job is to shoot and strafe your way out of trajectory lines of fire. Admittedly, it’s fun the first or second time around, but as these parts become the main part of the game you begin to want more Batman, not his vehicle. A boss battle (several in fact) MADE me use the Batmobile and the whole ordeal felt like something out of the old school Sonic the Hedgehog games whereby Dr. Robotnik himself challenges you to a premeditated series of ‘do this, do this again’, to beat them- it simply bored me.
Furthermore on Batman himself, there are now more new ways to take your enemies down in predator mode and the amount of choice of doing so is grand. There is now a new ‘fear’ takedown that has you clearing thugs out faster than the shipyard scene from Batman Begins and it’s these bits of the game that have me growling that ‘I’m Batman’, Christian Bale style, reminding me that this game really has had a lot of thought put into it. Combat too has been enhanced, although with this some fights and AR challenges become really tough due to how many different ways there are to dispatch bad guys.
This being said, there is a leaderboard section on the menu so these challenges are there to rival your buddies and keep the game alive after completion. Regarding the combat too, there is another new feature whereby as Batman, you team up with a side kick and with a touch of a button, switch seamlessly in combat. This is awesome and couldn’t have been a better call to fan service.
Now, there is a season pass for this game and at the price of £32.99, I didn’t pick it up. With the way video games seem to be going recently with the whole expansion / season / exclusivity DLC business, I could write an entire article discussing the pros and cons from this and how they seem rather dubious. There is a lot to collect from Batman: Arkham Knight, albeit through the means of some seriously laborious collecting of Riddler trophies, but I hope to Alfred Almighty that content wasn’t taken out from this game previously to be sold again after, just to increase the longevity of the game as I did find it rather short for a next generation game. Unfair or not, I am comparing this game to The Witcher 3: Wild hunt as there is way more content and if one company can give so much-so can another.
I do want more Batman because honestly, the attention to detail, fluidity of the game’s mechanics and use of source material in this game is phenomenal and I have all the faith in Rocksteady and I do look forward to what they do next. Justice League game, please?
Overall, I have been harsh with this game as I didn’t want my fanboy eyes to be blinded for the sake of a positive review. I asked myself whilst playing: do I like this because it’s Batman or is there a solid game here regardless of the Batman aesthetic? It was both. The game plays decently and heck, who doesn’t love Batman? I just wish for a game that’s on a next generation platform that there was more here. Imagine a fully open world Gotham with citizens to interact with, allies to call whenever, multiplayer too perhaps? That would be near perfect.