While the original Batman: Arkham Asylum, the first Batman game made by London based developer Rocksteady, had a very tight and focused narrative and was based exclusively inside the walls of Arkham Asylum, the psychiatric facility for Gotham’s deranged and dangerous, it’s sequel, Arkham City, expanded the Asylum to a whole walled off part of Gotham and turned the franchise towards an open world mentality. Arkham Origins (the criminally underrated part of the series, with the tightest and best story so far) showed the area of Arkham City years before it was a walled in prison.
This year Arkham Knight gives us finally what we always wanted: a much more detailed Gotham City and a playable Batmobile. The new game is not sharply focused like the first game, but more like an explosion of ideas all over the three islands that are our playable Gotham this time. It is brilliant, vast, beautiful game… even a bit schizophrenic in some ways, but as a nice fellow in clown make-up once said… I prefer it multiple choice.
This is a SPOILER FREE review, so don’t worry.
Let me tell you a story
Arkham Knight takes place sometime after Arkham City. Batman is changed after what happened at the end of it and haunted by the events of that one long night. After Jonathan Crane, the Scarecrow, makes an example of the visitors of a small diner, he gives the city 24 hours to evacuate before launching his full scale attack. Now it is Batman‘s job to find out what the lunatic is planning, why he gave the people time to leave at all and who the Arkham Knight, a sort of anti Batman in Scarecrows employ, actually is. The Bat has his hands full, but a new Batsuit, car and gadgets in his utility belt.
The main storyline of Arkham Knight is pretty satisfying, but it still features the occasionally clunky dialogue Rocksteady has been known for since Arkham Asylum. The mystery behind the Arkham Knight‘s identity was the only real problem for me story wise. It is pretty well structured and played out, but the reveal will leave Batman comic fans either scratching their head or throw up their hands in anger. I think this will play much better for casual Batman fans, so in this instance the less you know of Batman comics the better this segment of the story will play out for you. Design wise the Arkham Knight is one of the coolest looking new bat villains in a long while, so there is that. There is however a really clever, “Fight Club” like twist in the main story which occurs roughly in the first third of the game, which has to have its own very positive mention. There is no way to explain it without spoiling it, but you will know it when you see it.
Real fun is to be had in the side quests, or Most Wanted missions, which take you on the trail of several Gotham based supervillains, like Penguin, Harley Quinn and Two-Face. There are a few others, two of which really surprised me and made me geek out like no ones business and I won’t spoil them here. Just do yourself the favor and don’t neglect the Most Wanted missions, as they all are really fun to play, feature gameplay stuff you don’t get in the main story and you only get the true ending when you did them all, so… you got your hands full.
Another small nitpick I had with the games story is the fact that it again plays out in one night in Gotham. The problem with that is that playing the main story and all side missions is gonna take you at least 30 hours, if not more. So, if you know you have so much content, why not spread the story out over a couple of nights? Again, this is nit picky stuff, since it doesn’t really matter that much, but I thought its worth noting.
Can I drive?
While the story and writing is pretty good (still sadly nowhere near the levels of GTA V or The Last of Us for example, the story is pretty video-gamey and does not transcend the medium), the gameplay is where Arkham Knight really shines. Batman moves like he did in previous games, gliding and fighting hasn’t changed much but only got a few steroids. You glide faster an farther and you fight more vicious and brutal this time. The really new stuff it the great designed open world of Gotham and the Batmobile. Oooooohhhh, the Batmobile!
As soon as you call in this beast of a car/tank combo everything changes. Nothing can stop you when you are in that baby (well driving head on into a wall can, but thats almost it), as you crush everything in your path, even corners of buildings aren’t safe. It drives very well (after you changed the controller layout and switched the break back to R2 and not the Square button, which is just weird) and did I mention it turns into a highly mobile tank at the press of a button? Not only do you have to chase down bad guys in the car, but you have to fight hordes of the Arkham Knight’s drone tanks and helicopters with it. Those tank fights initially clashed a bit with my understanding of Batman, but when I thought about it, it made sense and is actually a lot of fun to play. I mean, come on… we all know Bruce would be ready for this stuff IF a large militarised force would invade Gotham. The Batman fan in me just had to accept that this isn’t any normal Batman story, but a fully fledged war being waged on Batman’s hometurf. You can even call the Batmobile when you are on foot and watch Gotham’s scum react to it racing towards them. When you shoot at people the ammunition automatically changes to rubber bullets, which you see bouncing off from their targets.
Fighting has largely stayed the same, but now you can actually fight together with an ally like Robin, Nightwing or Catwoman to take on the hordes of enemies. At first I thought this would make fights too easy, but it is used very sparingly and a lot of fun every single time, especially when you use the combo takedown of two masked crimefighters against one guy and then switch to the other playable character while doing it.
The Riddler is also back with a vengeance and he has designed a few racetracks for you and your new ride in his Most Wanted mission. His typical Riddler challenges (riddles, Riddler trophies and the like) are back again, super fun and you have to do over 240 of them to complete the game 100% and catch Edward Nygma at the end.
The game also switches up the old challenge rooms of the old titles with AR challenges all over the map. You get challenges for fighting, stealthy predator gameplay, tank battles and racetracks, which are all optional and have nothing to do with the story.
Graphically this is truly the very best looking game I have yet seen on the new generation of consoles. I played the game on PS4 and have checked out the Xbox One version, which is as good as identical. The PC version is supposed to have mayor problems, as it was developed by another studio than Rocksteady, so you might wanna wait a while for the PC version. On PS4 it is a true marvel, running at 1080p (Xbox One only manages to run 900p).
Overall Batman: Arkham Knight is a must have for Batman fans and newcomers alike! Graphically this is the current gold standard on consoles and the perfected gameplay has nothing to hide as well. The exciting story, while not perfect, stands well enough on its own and everything you do need to know form the older games will be explained, so there is no need to stay away from this just because you might not have played the older titles. The best option, as with any series is of course playing the other instalments beforehand.
So, enough words, more action! Go out, show Scarecrow whats what and… be the Batman. You might wanna check out our videogame merch store for Arkham Knight related merch too!