I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman!
Available on PC, PlayStation 4 (tested) and Xbox One
They say every journey must come to an end sooner or later. That every story, no matter how good or bad is it, must sing its final song. So is the case of developer Rocksteady’s excellent series of games about the Caped Crusader. Arkham Knight is the last chapter of the Arkham series, and it may be the best comic based game ever created.
The guys at Rocksteady achieved this feat by following a simple rule; “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. They have always used their previous effort as building ground for the Dark Knight’s next adventure, adding cool tweaks to the already existing mechanics. This time they have done the same taking it up to 11, and the results are excellent (with minor bumps). So join me in the next few lines, as we dwelve deeper into the grateful experience of donning the cowl for the last time.
Gotham by Night
Let’s talk about visuals first; the game is absolutely gorgeous and it’s definitely the best looking game of this gen. I’ve been a fan of the Arkham series art style since Asylum, and watching it applied to the whole city is like a dream came true. It’s a delight to drive or grapple through the streets of Gotham, with the rain never ceasing, the neon lights burning bright and lots of different architectural structures. Character design is as strong as ever, with every new character introduce fitting perfectly into the Arkham-verse. From a performance standpoint, I have faced a texture loading issue here and there, but you will be so distracted by how good this game looks, that you won’t even notice it. It’s also worth noting that the game is locked at 30 fps and during my full play through, the game never dropped a single frame, so cheers to rocksteady for that.
Holy story telling Batman!
Talking about congratulating rocksteady, I think the main story is their biggest accomplishment as a studio. The game’s story telling superb, containing a lot of “oh sh*t” moments that are so enjoyable you will even quickly forget about the kinda predictable reveal of the Arkham Knight’s identity. The game has a lot of excellent moments, but there’s a particular story element throughout the whole game that stands out; I won’t spoil it, but only say that it has with Batman’s psychological aspect. The side quests stories are quite enjoyable overall and work like a charm as a diversion from the main storyline, except for one or two missions that felt kinda rushed into the game (especially one that has to do with a well-known mercenary).
Tied to the story is the voice acting, which features a ridiculous ensemble of such great actors you don’t even know where to start from. Kevin Conroy is excellent as usual reprising his role as the world’s greatest detective; John Noble gives you the chills every time you listen to Scarecrow; Jonathan Banks as Gordon is a perfect addition to the roster, as the commissioner has a lot more relevance than on previous games; Troy Baker expands his usual Two Face role to give life to the Arkham Knight, the other huge opposing force in the game; the likes of Tara Strong, Nolan North, Scott Porter, Martin Jarvis, Matt Mercer, Dave Fennoy, Laura Bailey complete the roster. Music is as strong as ever, with the main themes reprising for the last time, albeit with one new variation that introduces a sad piano arrangement to the well-known main track, twisting it into an emotional swan song that works very well.
Zap! Whamm! Pow!
Last but not least, let’s talk about gameplay, which has been the foundation stone for the trilogy, placing it in the high place where it sits nowadays. The game plays exactly like the previous Arkham games, with an experience and upgrade points system to further develop Bruce’s array of abilities and gadgets. The following section will dig into the two core aspects of the game:
Starting with the newest addition to the game, the Batmobile stole the limelight from the very first second it was shown on a trailer. Does it fulfill the expectations? Yes, most of the times; driving the batmobile is every little (and big) kid dream and the game delivers on that aspect, although it takes some time to get used to the controls high sensibility. I personally loved how it is not just another tool, but an extension to the bat, helping him solve some really well-crafted puzzles. Most of the story related car parts are well executed, although I would have personally removed one specific part from the third act; it just felt weird.
Now let’s press L2 and switch to Tank-mode, which has tighter controls than its car counterpart, but feels forced most of the time and can be a real pain if you haven’t spent your upgrade points into tank improvements. The perfect way to describe this aspect of the game would be my tank fighting reaction curve, which went from “Holy sh*t, I will Missile barrage the crap out of everyone!” to “please stop this torture” and finalized in a “oh, I get it know, maybe I should have invested in this upgrades earlier in the game, it would have made the fights a little more enjoyable”. What do I want to say with this? If the game would have had half the tank battles it has, it would have been spot on.
As for the “physical” part of the game, the mechanics have been improved for both FreeFlow and Predator combat. FreeFlow combat is as fun as ever, with its usual simple control layout but with such a diversity of movements that mastering it will take you some time. Some of the most notable additions to the combat are the environmental takedowns which feel so good to execute, and the Dual Play fights, which lets you take control of two characters during fights comprised of 20+ enemies; remember how I said environmental takedowns felt good to perform? Well, Dual takedowns feel even better. Additions also have been made to the Predator aspect of the game, with the new Fear Takedowns mechanic stealing the spotlight; an ability that lets you take down up to 5 enemies in one cinematographic sequence which will make you feel like the real Dark Knight. Other notable addition that will help you take your enemies silently is the Voice synthesizer, which will let you give orders to the Arkham Knight’s militia, thus giving you more space control.
To sum up the gameplay aspect of the game, I really liked how every side quest of the game was deeply related to one type of gameplay: Penguin’s one with Dual Play, Two-Face’s missions with Predator scenarios, Firefly’s chasing sequences with the Batmobile and so on. I have made focus on the core aspects of the gameplay, but it is really notable the effort put into the game, that feature a lot more of little mechanics that I haven’t enumerated but wrap the “be the Batman” package; from scanning murder scenes to reconstruct a whole car crash situation in order to find a clue.
Should you play it?
Yes, yes, yes, absolutely yes. It’s by far the best comic book based game and also the best in the Arkham series. Wraps up everything in such a perfect way, both from a story and a gameplay standpoint, that you will forget how you hate tank battles very quickly. So go, play the game, don the cowl for one last time and be the Batman.
One last thing; the review and final scores are based on my experience with the game on a PlayStation 4. It’s common knowledge the issues the PC version has and this review does not reflect the experience on that platform (I have an opinion regarding the whole PC situation about the game).