Arkham Knight: 2015 catchup review

  • Format: PC (version reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Warner Brothers
  • Developer: Rocksteady Studios
  • Players: 1
  • Site: https://www.batmanarkhamknight.com/
  • Game purchased by reviewer

Arkham Knight is simply one of the best games out there and one of the best if you want to “Be the Bat”. It’s true that many, many people have had issues, especially on PC, but when it works it works oh so very well. It’s certainly not a game without faults either; the Batmobile is not completely awful, but it sure is crammed into the game where it really needn’t be. Is it game of the year potential, maybe? It’s a tough call. There are a lot of good contenders but it certainly is immensely fun, interesting and beautiful – unlike pretty much all of the (enormously underwhelming) season pass Arkham Episodes so far.

Set about a year after Arkham City on the night of Halloween, Bats is up against most of his old enemies yet again with Scarecrow spearheading the operation with a (not so) mysterious newcomer: The Arkham Knight. The story that’s spun is a little bit awful in a lot of places, with Batman and Co seemingly being the only people who don’t know who the Arkham Knight really is.

It’s high quality voice acting all around and most of the characters are written as you expect them to be. Apart from every female hero and villain, who are made to be damsels in distress almost every time you see them, forgoing making them into interesting characters that stand on their own. Obviously there is also the Cockney Penguin (still a little strange) and The Riddler seems to have forgotten the dictionary definition of a riddle (much to the players’ detriment – the trophy collection aspect is ridiculous) but both aren’t necessarily bad portrayals of their respective characters.

The Batmobile isn’t awful. End of. It is used awfully at times and crammed in when it shouldn’t be, but it is not in itself awful. You won’t feel like Batman when you drive around in the Bat-tank but is it any less ridiculous than the Electrocutioner’s Gloves in Origins which unbalanced combat? It feels a lot like the Mako from the original Mass Effect; there’s fun to be had with it but it’s not what you bought the game for.

However, playing as the non-tank version of the Batmobile is great; racing around Gotham – well parts of it at least – ejecting out at high speed and gliding around and around… yeah, gliding is still way better than the Batmobile. BUT! The Batmobile tracks that the Riddler has set up are actually really, really inventive and fun. They may not be riddles but they are fun.

If you’ve played any previous Batman game then you know what the combat is like – punch, punch, counter, punch, counter, counter, special move etc. It doesn’t change the formula for a while but when it does, it does it through both the enemies that it starts to unleash on you and the upgrades you get for combat/gadgets. You now have enemies that are large like the titan enemies from previous games but, rather than them just charging you, they instead are more akin to brick walls that you have to focus everything on to defeat, while the other enemies still swarm around you. Mixed with enemies that revive and more “ninja” like enemies joining the fray as regular enemies, the breadth of tactics and skills you have to use has to be more than the punch and counter cycle.

The new gadget skills really do add variety to the combat – when you actually put them to use at least. Being able to shock baddies, freeze them, or grapple gun them is great and all but unlocking and using their takedown skills is almost essential to the encounters in the late part of the game. Unleashing an electric shock across multiple enemies, freezing multiple people in place, and the other various utility takedowns have to be woven into the combat to succeed – and it looks cool to boot.

Predator encounters still encapsulate the ideal of The Bat being a supernatural force that claims criminals in the night and is further improved by new Fear takedowns which allow you to chain multiple takedowns over a short span of time on unsuspecting guards. It’s semi-cinematic in the way these takedowns occur; once it begins all nearby enemies show complete terror as they watch their allies fall or as they desperately try to hose you down with bullets. It’s always satisfying when you can chain a few well-planned takedowns, and it’s a spectacle worth watching.

We did encounter some faults in the game – though far less than Origins. Framerate could dip quite heftily after loading into an area for about 5-10 seconds. We got caught in the environment once and had to grapple out to fix it. One of the Riddler puzzles allowed us to walk through its walls, floor and ceiling but we managed to grab the trophy and go without any massive issues. As we’ve mentioned, the PC especially is a minefield for bugs dependent on your PC spec and what settings you attempt to play it on. We played on the lower end of the scale, and it still looked very pretty.

It’s not a huge step forward for Batman, as the past games – Origins aside – are all very good and do more or less the same thing. This is the end of the trilogy though and if you can look past the Batmobile sections through either gritting your teeth or ignoring them, then there’s a lot of fun to be had. It’s paced better than City and it’s very, very open, so you can just enjoy whichever Bat-things you like doing most. Still – it’s better to be safe than sorry, so if you buy it on PC do it on Steam in case you need that refund, otherwise keep the receipt in the box.

Critical Hitcritical score 9

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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