By Gerard Campbell @gamejunkieNZ
Of all the superheroes, Batman is my favourite.
I love his vulnerability because he has no superpowers, his frailty because he’s human and his slightly psychotic bent: A trauma-riddled past combined with a dark, brooding persona.
In Arkham Knight, Rocksteady’s final chapter in its Arkham series (Origins doesn’t count as Rocksteady didn’t make it), dark, brooding, slightly psychotic Batman is back patrolling the mean streets of Gotham City, gliding, swooping, socking, kapowing and biffing Gotham’s Most Wanted – including the game’s titular bad guy the Arkham Knight – and I couldn’t be more happy.
(As an aside, I bought the Arkham Knight Collector’s Edition on PlayStation 4 which comes with a nice Batman statue that’s sitting on my computer desk, some additional DLC, an art book, a comic and a steel case. It cost $199: The most I’ve ever paid for a video game related item.
I’ve played all the Batman Arkham games to the end and for me while Arkham Knight might not reach the heights that Arkham Citydid, Arkham Knight is one of the best of the series, not only because this is a darker more unstable Batman than we’ve seen before but Rocksteady have refined the game play (the tag-team finishes are particularly well done), as well as adding a few new additions, most notably the Batmobile. More on that later.
This time around, Gotham is much, much larger, with plenty of tall buildings and towers to launch the Dark Knight into the air, and there’s a tonne of stuff to do, ranging from taking out simple garden variety thugs robbing banks to taking on some familiar villains. If I have one piece of advice it’s to take your time. Sure, it’s tempting to focus on the main story mission primarily but explore and complete side missions.
One of my favourite side missions was having to hunt the nut job behind a series of bodies left discarded around the city, and the only way you knew there was another body near was when you hear opera music playing near where the body was. You then have to scan the body using one of Batman’s wonderful gadgets to gather clues that can help track down the killer.
Side missions are also great for earning XP points, which can be used to upgrade Batman’s combat moves, his suit, and the Batmobile (yes, you can drive the Batmobile) and its equipment, so you want to do them. Besides, it seems that if you want the ultimate ending you have to 100% the game, which means completing the frustrating Riddler missions as well. I haven’t even attempted any of those yet.
The main story narrative is worth following, though, involving the Scarecrow and Dark Knight laying havoc on Gotham and without giving too much away, the return of a much loved villain adds a satisfying twist to the already dark nature of what’s going on. I have to say, though, I was a little disappointed in the Arkham Knight: I was expecting a foe that was Batman’s equal in terms of nous and physicality, but he seems to rely on military might and hired help to take on the Batman. Fans familiar with Batman lore and cannon should be able to work out pretty early on who the Arkham Knight is, too.
OK, let’s talk about the Batmobile.
When I first heard that the Batmobile was going to be playable I was quietly excited. I mean, who wouldn’t want to drive around in one of the most iconic superhero vehicles of all time? My first impression of driving the vehicle itself wasn’t good: It handles poorly when driving at speed through Gotham’s tight roads. I was smashing into buildings and things constantly. Things do get better once you get to grips with the powerslide ability, and it can transform into a tank bristling with armaments for when the going gets tough, but I felt at times the vehicle was relied on a too much by the developers, taking the focus off Batman, who should be the star of the show.
I’m loving the game but my biggest complaint about Arkham Knight is the number of times you have to use the Batmobile to battle the titular character’s unmanned vehicles that patrol the streets of Gotham (they have to be unmanned, of course, or else Batman would be breaking his ethos of not killing anyone).
I could have dealt with taking on the unmanned drones/tanks a few times but the game throws up the vehicular encounters frequently during the course of the game. It felt as if these “destroy the drone tank” sequences were just there to pad the game out and while they can be made easier by using drone hacks and missile barrages at times I felt I was playing a tank simulator. I’m not alone in my feelings about the tank combat: I’ve spoken to several other people who are frustrated by how often the mechanic is used.
For me, Batman Arkham Knight is at its best when Batman surprises a crowd of enemies, taking them on one at a time, and then delivering the knockout blows – not being confined to the Batmobile blowing up unmanned tanks. I don’t regret buying the game.
Look, Arkham Knight is a fun, if slightly flawed, conclusion to Rocksteady’s trilogy that lets gamers don the black cowl and cape and knock the snot out of thugs, but its showing signs that perhaps the franchise has done its dash. Rocksteady has made the right decision to not to make another game in the series but, of course, that doesn’t mean Warner Brothers won’t continue the series using another developer.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on your time with the game and what you thought of the Batmobile and tank combat. If you bought the broken PC version, is it playable for you?
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