It has been six years since we first ventured into the world of Batman, in what was to become developer Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy.
This may not have been the first time a player was put in the shoes of Batman, but it was the first game that really made you experience all the aspects of being Batman. Arkham asylum was seen by many as setting the benchmark for what licensed games could be. After the high standards set in place by Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, would Rocksteady be able to improve on what they have already achieved with Arkham Knight, their last game of the trilogy?
The game takes place a year after the events of Batman: Arkham City, as Gotham’s citizens find themselves in a time of relative peace. This is shattered when Scarecrow launches a biological terror attack on Gotham, and threatens to unleash even more of his fear toxin into the city. This leads to mass evacuations. Seizing the opportunity, criminal gangs lead by some of Batman’s rogues gallery start looting the city. With most of the city empty, and only a hand full of police left to defend those that stayed behind, it’s up to Batman to stop the Scarecrow and his militia, lead by the mysterious Arkham Knight.
The story kept me engaged through all its twists and turns. I especially appreciated the fact that the story gave some more insight into Batman’s psyche as well as focusing on his relationships and how they evolve throughout the story. The mystery behind the identity of the Arkham Knight is a bit of a let down as it is quite easy for any Batman fan, and even most non-fans to figure out who he is before the big reveal.
This time around we are free to explore the three islands that make up Gotham. Each of these has their own unique feel and atmosphere, as well as recognizable landmarks such as Wayne Tower and ACE Chemicals. Gotham looks amazing in all of it’s dark and gloomy glory and for an empty city feels strangely alive. The textures and moody lighting along with the constant rain makes Gotham a beautiful place to explore.
While I am on the subject of exploring, Batman now has two ways in which to traverse Gotham. Not only can you grapple and glide from the rooftops, but you can now also take to the streets in the brand new Batmobile. This is the biggest departure from the previous games, and one of the most polarizing aspects of the game for me.
It is a lot of fun driving the Batmobile and drifting around corners at high speeds. It really adds to the feeling of being Batman, and chasing down criminals in high-speed chases is entertaining, as every object in your way crumbles beneath the weight of the Batmobile. As with the rest of the game the Batmobile looks really good, the way it moves and animates is spot on. The design takes its inspiration from both the old and new Batmobiles that have come before. There are some clever and interesting puzzles that require you to use the Batmobile to solve.
The Batmobile can also transform into a highly manoeuvrable tank, which enables Batman to take down the patrolling drones (both ground and air) which litter the streets of Gotham. At first I found the Batmobile battles to be an entertaining distraction, which later turned into a frustrating endeavour, as these battles started to occur more readily. These were some of my most frustrating -throw my controller out the window- moments, and really dampened the fun I was having. It is also one of the few moments that feel un-Batman in the game. There are also some awkward Batmobile platforming sections which just felt out of place.
These aren’t deal breakers; I enjoyed the Batmobile as a method of quickly traversing Gotham, but as a vehicle of destruction it just feels awkwardly out of place.
When not driving or gliding around Gotham, Batman takes on the myriad of gangs that now inhabit the city. Combat is once again a blast and one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game. Batman’s new suit enables him to move quicker giving combat an even more fluid feel. As with the Batmobile, Batman is perfectly animated, every move and punch flows into the next effortlessly. Another great addition is that enemies now take notice of your strategies. Keep attacking them using the ground ducts, and they will throw grenades down them to flush you out, keep attacking from up high, and they will place mines on the surrounding vantage points. This adds a great new dynamic to predator battles and forces you to keep changing up your strategies.
Batman can also take on the new team-up side missions, which have you fighting side by side with the likes of Nightwing, Catwoman, and Robin. These are great fun, as these team-ups enable you to change who you control during fights as well as giving you access to the splendid looking dual takedowns.
There are also quite a number of side quests to complete, these are a great distractions and have you chasing down the likes of the Penguin, Two-face and the Riddler (yes, Riddler trophies are back). Each of these side quests have their own unique mechanics, for instance in the Two-Face quests, Batman has to stop his henchmen from robbing banks thereby putting a timed twist on the usual predator missions. The diversity in these side quests are a real welcome addition.
Batman: Arkham Knight is an outstanding game and a fitting end to Rocksteady’s trilogy. The game looks beautiful and adds some new mechanics to the already tried and tested formula. Some of these new mechanics work really well and some just fall a little short. It doesn’t quite reach the heights that its predecessors did, mainly due to the fact that standard was set so high in the first place, but it still manages to deliver a brilliant looking and engaging experience.