Arkham Knight is the fourth in the acclaimed Arkham series which kicked off in 2009 with Arkham Asylum and was followed by Arkham City in 2011 and Arkham Origins in 2013.
All of the games were handled by Rocksteady except for Origins which was developed by Warner Bros. Games Montreal. With Knight back under its helm, Rocksteady takes the reins for the series’ grand finale.
In Arkham Knight, the Scarecrow has come up with a plan to gas the entire city with his fear-inducing toxin. After a mass evacuation, Gotham City’s left with a massive criminal element causing havoc in the streets.
To make things even more difficult for Batman, Scarecrow has enlisted the aid of the Arkham Knight, a mysterious military commander with a personal vendetta. Backed by a militia armed to the teeth with guns, tanks, and drones, the Arkham Knight won’t stop until the Batman is dead.
Gotham City is huge, and walking around in plain sight isn’t advised unless you’re into being constantly harassed and run over by thugs and the militia.
Thankfully, Batman can take to the city’s rooftops with his bat-grapple where he can launch himself into a glide using his cape. Gliding gives you the benefit of scouting out the city for quest markers and targets while keeping you relatively out of harm’s reach.
Taking the sky route will also give you a chance to exploit Batman’s detective vision – a cowl mod that helps him find needles in haystacks. Detective vision highlights important targets in orange and keys you into finding doors, weak points, and quest markers.
The cowl is also outfitted with tech that lets you eavesdrop on criminals and police scanners. Using sights and sounds will grant you a leg up on beating back Scarecrow’s forces.
It Comes in Black
If you’d rather get there faster, why not take the Batmobile – a rocket powered tank that can switch between two functional forms. In its transport form, the Batmobile can accelerate with a boost from its engine, launch itself over ramps, chase down other vehicles, and carry friends and foes in its passenger section.
In its tank form, the Batmobile trades speed for combat. Armed with vulcan guns and a cannon, Batman can hold his own against the Arkham Knight’s mobilized forces as long as you can aim and dodge. Don’t fret about blowing up those tanks and drones – fortunately and in keeping with Batman’s no-kill mandate, none of them are manned. And if you happen to accidentally shoot a stray criminal – the Batmobile switches to rubber bullets on the fly for guilt-free gunning.
The tank form can also use detective vision to locate secrets, winch connectors, and power ports. Being able to hoist your Batmobile into areas other vehicles can’t reach gives Batman an advantage that evens the odds.
Bat Fight! It’s Anyone’s Game
You’ll have to pick and choose your battles, using various gadgets from your utility belt.
Batman relies on a combination of fear and theatrics to get into the heads of his enemies, and the better you are at playing the mental game, the longer you’ll stay alive. Use perches, grates, and weak walls to play a cruel game of cat and mouse until you’ve achieved fear status. Once you’ve incapacitated the wanderers and sentries guarding the fringes, unleash fear mode to take out a group by targeting your next victim in the chain and hitting the attack button. This gives you an awesome edge against weapon-wielding opponents who can otherwise overwhelm you in a conventional brawl.
If you’d rather be a bulldozer, you can implement most of your gadgets to clear the field. Explosive gel, batarangs, disruptors, and the grapple hook will help you jack up that combo meter which in turn will net you a higher score for experience points. The more moves, tech, and counters you incorporate into your freeflow, the faster you’ll be able to add perks that will make you a better Batman. Be warned – the game will throw a variety of enemies that will require quick reactions and tactical changes on the fly. You’ll have to disarm gunmen, dizzy brutes, dodge energy wielders, and crush shieldbearers, all the while countering up to three attackers at the same time.
If that sounds too daunting, don’t let that turn you away. Batman has finishing moves that will instantly knock down foes. All you have to do is hit a combination of buttons to dispatch a singular enemy or stun a crowd before taking them all out. It will require you build up that combo meter, but once you get the hang of it, fighting crime turns into a beautiful but violent dance.
Missions and Challenges
Since this is the last game of the series, you’ll see a lot of friendly faces. You’ll also get to see familiar locations and some Easter eggs if you know where to look.
In addition to the main storyline, you’ll come across sidequests which provide different game types. These game types might require you to chase down targets in your Batmobile, find those Riddler trophies, fight off a squadron of tanks, or play detective as you hunt down a serial killer.
After you finish off the main storyline, you must finish a number of these sidequests in order to initiate a protocol which will give you one of two different endings. Finish the game completely – you’ll have to find 243 Riddler trophies – and you’ll get the perfect ending.
The game also presents you with challenges – sidegames that test particular aspects. These can be reached in game, or from the main menu. Besides being a welcome distraction, these challenges will also enter you into an online competition of sorts to see who the best Dark Knight is. You can compare your scores against your friends or the online community – the only problem is, it’s not working at the moment for a good number of people. If and when it gets up and running for us all, we can settle the score and crown a caped crusader.
Arkham Knight is a beautiful game that does a lot of things very well.
In terms of visuals, the city of Gotham is wonderfully realized with a sort of architecture that makes the city a character in and of itself. Even with all of the scenic details, traveling through the city is pretty seamless with very few load times, and you’ll appreciate it that much more after you realize how far you’ve chased a target from its starting point.
The voice acting is top notch – Kevin Conroy came out of bat-retirement to give this game its proper sendoff. Scarecrow, Riddler, and the Arkham Knight – voiced by John Noble, Wally Wingert, and Troy Baker – taunt you constantly, adding a layer of noise that keeps you company during the game.
As far as the story goes, I think people should play Arkham Knight expecting development rather than a twist. It’s pretty obvious who the masked villain is because the story leads you to the final reveal. The fact I’m telling you this might help you to enjoy the game more because you’re not walking into the game expecting a Shyamalan sort of surprise or twist – instead you’ll be experiencing the story as it logically unfolds.
That said, the story is great, and it pays a lot of tribute to the various Batman stories from the comics, cartoons, and movies. The cityscape is much like Joel Schumacher’s Gotham City in Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. The voice acting brings in the excellent talent from the cartoons, and the direction of the plot follows Christopher Nolan’s method of taking plotlines from the comics and molding them together into a mish-mash epic tale.
I’d have to say this is my favorite Arkham game so far – the Be the Batman slogan rings true because you begin the game with plenty of abilities, and the hand-holding is minimal. Combat is as complex as you want it to be, and the Batmobile is an welcome and unruly mythological creature that, once mastered, becomes the closest thing to sitting in a raging roadster that happens to double as an assault vehicle. There’s a lot of depth to the game, and the various pieces build up to a grand ending — provided you get the full ending.
That doesn’t mean the game is perfect, and I’m surprised that Rocksteady made everything bigger and better except for one major thing – the boss battles.
In Arkham City, the Mr. Freeze and Ra’s al Ghul encounters were some of my favorites in any video game and for separate reasons. The Mr. Freeze battle required you to use secondary skills and stealth in place of straight combat in order to beat him, and the Ra’s al Ghul fight was a sudden contrast to everything else in the game that surrounded it.
In Arkham Knight, the boss battles aren’t really battles at all. I would give away too many spoilers by talking about who and how, but if I could change one thing about this game – I’d rather Rocksteady gave us more satisfying and challenging skirmishes that were more than just reflex exercises.
That said, when you’re looking at the full package, Batman: Arkham Knight is an amazing game, and I’m sad to see Rocksteady move on. Flaws aside, the core game is fantastic with plenty of things to see and do, and the atmosphere prevalent in the other games is there. Arkham Knight is immersive thanks to the details – the only thing missing is the smell of Gotham in your living room – and as a conclusion to the series, we now have an ending to one of the best game series ever made, and I highly recommend it.