After the issues on the PC version of the game, please note that this review is of the Xbox One version of Arkham Knight and will be a reflection on this only.
I got my first taste of Arkham Knight back in 2014. I was at EGX with my close friend Ed, and him being such a hardcore Arkham fan – and myself less of a hardcore fan, but a fan none the less, we immediately went straight for the Arkham Knight demo booth. We were lucky enough to have the early entry ticket, so we were amongst the first group to huddle into this little cardboard box and clammer around the screen. Here were were greeted by, without a doubt, the most enthusiastic Rocksteady employee I think I’ve ever seen. It made me wonder whether he managed to keep that up during the day, as it was pretty hot in that little sweatbox with all these people inside.
Anyway, as the presentation got under way, we were treated to the gameplay that later leaked online. Ace Chemicals. This was a showcase piece for both Batmobile and hand to hand combat. The presenter was going wild as Batman smashed the face of a thug into a fuse box, almost springing off of his little stage as the Batmobile blew up one of the enemy tanks. But there was one thing through all of his enthusiasm that Rocksteady have maintained throughout the marketing of Arkham Knight. You are Batman.
We saw it in the trailers too. Be the Batman. I thought from Arkham Asylum we were always Batman, but for Arkham Knight they were really pushing it. Be the Batman. Witness the death of Batman. The Arkham Knight is going to kill the Batman. You are the Batman. The Arkham Knight is going to kill you. Doom and gloom aside. If I’m going to be Batman, I’m not letting some up jumped little kid with an army stop me, just because you have resources doesn’t make you amazing. I am Batman. I have resources too and I don’t need an army to show it. So back the fuck down Knighty boy. I’m taking you down and everyone who thought that you could seriously beat me.
The game begins in a typical Rocksteady fashion where you don’t actually realise that you’re supposed to be responding to the game until you’ve been sitting there for a good five minutes wondering if your game broke, until you accidentally nudge one of the sticks and – oh shit! I’m controlling this. Whoops.
Once you’ve burnt off the loose threads of the last game, you jump straight away into the boots of a GCPD officer in a diner. It’s Halloween, things are seemingly quiet on the crime front. In fact, crime’s dropped dramatically in Gotham when people expected it to rise. However, you learn very quickly that there’s something sinister at play when you’re asked to stop a man from smoking in the back of the diner.
I’ll spare too much detail, because of course I don’t want to give too much away that isn’t already public knowledge. But I have to say kudos to the online community, it’s taken me just over a week to find out who the Arkham Knight is (yeeey adult commitments slowing me down) and I hadn’t had a single spoiler! So thank you internet. For once you were kind to me.
I’ll hand it to Rocksteady and Warner Bros. Interactive though, they know how to build the hype around theory and plot. Arkham Knight has had me and my fellow comic nerds talking for months before the game came out. Who is the Arkham Knight exactly? What’s his motivation? My initial thought was wrong, but when I got to a certain point in the game it became clearer and clearer that I was wrong and in fact, my second candidate was the actual Knight. Don’t worry, you’re safe on spoilers here, I won’t say a word. Those who do know, don’t spoil it for others! If you wanna discuss, I’m highly considering doing a spoiler filled article soon where I’ll talk about the Knight in more detail. Patience, patience my friends.
Anyway, if you’re a fellow fan of the Arkham series and have been playing since Asylum it won’t feel as if too much has changed. Though one thing that I discerned from the development of Knight was that everything that we didn’t like about the last few games, especially you Origins, has been neatly gone over with a hot press to iron out those ugly creases. Arkham Knight plays smooth as silk and I haven’t yet encountered a game breaking bug. I’ve glitched into the wall when I ragdoll in death a couple of times, but that’s about it.
The combat flows beautifully, I had to take a little refresher in how to kick ass the Batman way though admittedly. It’s been a little while since I’d taken up control of the Dark Knight. So when you get those opportunities to perfect your skills in AR Challenges and tutorials, take them, seriously. Don’t be like me (unless you’re a pro) and let the hunger of the story get to you too much. Slow it down and remind yourself that this game relies on your timing and knowledge of combos and gadgetry in order to be as lethal as the thugs on the street fear you to be. One of the important things about this game is how Batman has developed as an all round fighter. In previous games it was all very much a case of baseball bats vs batarangs, guns were something you steered well clear of. However, in this game? You can take on a group of six thugs all armed to the teeth with assault weaponry and you can leave them all writhing on the ground, wondering what the hell happened. This is the Batman that can take on just about anyone and anything. You also get some fancy new environmental take downs which… Honestly I only ever used once. Not the game’s fault, more my way of how I space out my fights which always seems to be the furthest away from anything good.
New to the game is the Batmobile and let me tell you this. The Batmobile is perfect. I’m not even kidding, I don’t think I’ve ever played with a vehicle that drives and attacks as smoothly and efficiently as I have the Batmobile. It has the traction and speed in all the right places, and once you get to grips with the soft spots on enemy drones then it’s not too hard to take them all down quickly and efficiently. Upgrades include EMPs and Drone Hacking, which are enormously helpful, not to mention the ability to overcharge your weapons to deal an extra hard punch. The Batmobile can also help you out in combat and provide assistance in take downs, as well as carry passengers to safety – or to prison, as the case may be. Pro tip, upgrade upgrade upgrade. The Batmobile is hugely important in the latter part of the game and I hadn’t invested nearly enough into it. I loved the Batmobile, but I was pretty adept with it as it was. Do yourself a favour and up the firepower, you’ll thank me later.
Upgrades as always in Arkham games cater to how you like to play. I for one am the kind of player who loves stealthing around and sweeping foes off their feet – no, not in a romantic way. I mean in the knock them down and smash them in the face before anyone notices kind of way. In that sense, I’m more of a Predator, I like to be one who reminds all the bad guys out there why you should be afraid of the dark. However, I know that some players have a whole lot of fun just punching people, so you may prefer that style of gameplay more. The joy of the game is, so long as you’re confident and you take a moment to remember that you’re the goddamn Batman, chances are any way you tackle a problem will be the right way.
There are a whole stack load of different side missions to get stuck into as well. From returning roles such as hunting down all the Riddler trophies, to rescuing Firemen and hunting down a stonking great Man-Bat. Admittedly, I haven’t even touched these missions. I have all but one of them unlocked and I’m more determined in kicking the Arkham Knight’s behind than chasing down Firefly. But that’s the joy of the Arkham games, you can just leave those without having to worry about them. I’m very much the kind of player who likes to tear through the meat of the main story first and then go back to the side missions once the main arc is all done and dusted. I feel like I have plenty of time this way. No having to rush through.
One thing that this game does well is remind you how this is the last game in the Arkham series. No character is safe as you progress through the story line. Anyone is up for grabs, including Batman himself. After all we’ve been continuously told that this is the night that Batman dies. No one is safe and no one is coming back after this. Arkham Knight signals the end.
Arkham Knight is a perfect end to what’s been a consistent and enjoyable series. Batman is a fantastic character and his supporting cast are magnificent as always. I love the parasite that you end up carrying throughout the game, I love how you get a glimpse of Bruce Wayne underneath the cowel in what he actually thinks of other characters – especially with how stoic a man he’s been throughout the series. Batman, I dare say it, becomes more human and with it I think that makes this game all the sweeter.