- + The Batmobile finally makes its introduction!
- + Well-crafted story
- + Plenty of twists and turns & full to the brim with content to complete
- Nothing to report.
Want to look beyond the score? Check out the full *Spoiler-Free* written review below…
*Batman: Arkham Knight was provided to Start Replay on PS4 by Warner Bros. Entertainment, whereas our Xbox One copy was provided by Xbox.
“An emotionally-charged finale”
For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been a fan of Batman for my entire life. I’ve watched every animated feature film, bought countless toys, and fallen head-over-heels for the comics and graphics novels that have spearheaded the character’s 75 year history. So yes, you’re in for a fanboy review.
Much like Christopher Nolan with the caped crusader on film, Rocksteady has re-invented the character in computer entertainment. They’ve accomplished what many people couldn’t, crafting a trilogy of critically acclaimed Batman games, whilst also redefining what a superhero game should be. Rising rapidly from a small London studio to a powerhouse in technical talent, their latest and last Arkham game, Arkham Knight, raises the bar once more.
Batman: Arkham Knight is Rocksteady’s most ambitious title to date, not to mention their largest. It’s five times the size of Arkham City, and amazingly every inch of this enormous world retains the same meticulous detail the studio are known for. Each alleyway is steeped in history and the atmosphere is palpable; from the rain scattering across the night sky or the neon lights pulsing throughout Chinatown, there’s never a dull moment.
Much like the Dark Knight’s journey into crime fighting, escalation is a big part of Rocksteady’s last foray into darkness. With Scarecrow ruling over Gotham City in a bid to detonate a fear-toxin-filled bomb, alongside a mercenary named the Arkham Knight with a personal grudge against Batman, the stakes have never been higher for Bruce Wayne and his alter ego. I think it’s fair to say that this is one of the darkest portrayals of the Dark Knight yet, and the brutal nature of the story reflects that.
When compared to Asylum and City, every pre-existing gameplay mechanic has been refined or built upon. As always the combat has remained simple, yet immensely satisfying to perform. In Arkham Knight improvements present more options to veteran players, and extra animations have allowed it to become a lot more streamlined. I thought I was a king at Free-Flow combat, but getting to grips with the latest incarnation made me reevaluate my position. Hand-to-hand combat aside the roads are just as lethal, but with the Batmobile finally rearing its bonnet the timing couldn’t be better.
Whether you’re traversing the huge expanse of mainland Gotham or engaging in one of the 243 riddles, the connection between Batman and his mechanical marvel is always brought to the heart of your experience. Have an urge to warm your tyres? Tap L1 and your car will spring into view. As you’d expect from such a machine, controlling it presents an unbelievable amount of power. Whilst driving you can plough through almost any scenery, like a hot knife through butter, but the destruction stops short of entire buildings.
That’s not to say spending time outside of the cockpit is lacklustre by any means. With three main islands available from the beginning, it’s your job to proceed through each area and make it available for exploration by car. Since the elusive Arkham Knight has brought an army to occupy the streets, armoured vehicles and tanks are in constant patrol. Through the use of the Batmobile’s heavy weapons most street-level threats are easy cannon fodder, however, as the story intensifies, so does the presence of army resistance.
Despite the heavy weaponry, should you end up aiming your canon toward thugs on the street the riot suppressor will automatically kick into gear, sending a worryingly-large rubber bullet face first into any nearby foe. He may not kill people, but Batman will make sure any criminal will have a lengthy – if not permanent – hospital visit.
The main campaign was pretty lengthy, weighing in at over 12 hours, but beyond that there’s a lot more to sink your teeth into. Many members of Batman’s rogues gallery return, and across the countless side-quests you’ll have the pleasure of facing them in their own story threads. Even if I didn’t start any of the extra missions before completing the main quest, I wasn’t penalised for doing so. Certain events and dialogue actually ended up playing out differently after the last mission’s outcome, which made me wonder what would happen if I had completed everything before finishing the last main mission.
Upgrading has had a major overhaul, bringing a plentiful amount of enhancements to the table. With the ability to beef up every part of Batman’s feature set, including his Batmobile, you are always in a position to become even more unstoppable. As for combat or gadget upgrades, I forgot about the extra moves almost immediately, but those who memorise the additional combos will be sure to make a grand entrance to any fist fight.
Thankfully multiplayer is nowhere to be seen. Instead, ‘Dual Play’ has been developed to allow players the chance to team up with other allies in combat challenges. It was a poignant moment taking lead as both the Boy Wonder and Batman at the same time, coordinating attacks and dispatching groups of enemies. Just a simple press of R1 and you can switch between both character’s seamlessly. It only features during specific segments of the game, and I’m surprised it wasn’t introduced into the city streets, but it’s a neat addition nonetheless.
Ranking this a masterpiece came with careful consideration, but through each Arkham entry Rocksteady have continued to outdo themselves, and Arkham Knight showcases their unrelenting commitment to risk taking and pushing the boundaries. This title couldn’t have been achieved without the power of today’s newer hardware, and every part of the game pushes that power further. However, once all is said and done, the Arkham Knight’s unmasking felt underwhelming, particularly as I predicted his identity from the beginning. I won’t spoil anything here and there is also plenty I haven’t even discussed, but all I’ll say is that you should buy this game, lock yourself away and prepare to become the Batman.
I couldn’t be happier that Rocksteady have managed to realise the full potential of Batman in a video game. We’ve got the car, the gadgets, the villains and allies, all wrapped up in a beautiful and intricately detailed package. It’s an insane adventure filled with emotional moments, stopping at nothing to surprise and deceive you.