‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ (2015) Video Game Review

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Rocksteady Studios has finally released the final installment of their Arkham series, a collection of video games centered around the Dark Knight himself, Batman. Batman: Arkham Knight is the fourth game in the franchise and a direct sequel to its predecessor, the smash hit Batman: Arkham City, which itself was a follow-up to Arkham Asylum, the first game in the series. The most recent addition to this collection of games prior to Knight however, was actually the prequel Batman: Arkham Origins, which tells the story of The Caped Crusader’s first encounter with the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker and was the only game in the series made by WB Games Montreal rather than Rocksteady.

Arham Origins was met with generally average reviews stating that the game was good but didn’t really expand or add anything new to the franchise, unlike the first two games in the series which were both highly praised. So, how does Arkham Knight hold up in comparison to the prior three installments? Well let’s find out.

This review will focus on the core elements of the game. Namely gameplay, the story, and some other miscellaneous things such as downloadable content, the world’s vibe and how much effort is worth putting into the game as a whole to achieve 100% completion. These will be divided into two sections: the Positives and the Negatives. Without further ado, here is my review of Batman: Arkham Knight.

The Positives:

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The main story of the game is quite impressive. Scarecrow is now the number one criminal mastermind in all of Gotham with the Joker out of the picture. He plans to release a nerve gas that will send all the citizens of Gotham into a frenzy as they are forced to confront their greatest fears and wreak havoc all across the city. All this just because Scarecrow has nothing better to do on a Friday night. But he’s not alone. A new player has showed up on the scene and he’s brought an entire army of men with remote controlled combat drones with him. This is the Arkham Knight, a man who is only involved in this scheme of Scarecrow’s because he really had nothing better to do on a Friday night and wants to kill Batman for revenge… I think. He only mentions it every time he talks.*

Most of the side missions are also fun and the game really earns that M rating. Previous games were only rated T, but Arkham Knight really shows how dark and twisted the criminally insane people Batman deals with are. Granted, this game doesn’t reach the levels of outrageous violence games like Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto do, but there are moments that leave you feeling very uncomfortable.

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Rocksteady also has some new gameplay features on display in Arkham Knight that were not a part of previous installments. Namely, the Batmobile. All things considered, this car is a ton of fun! It’s heavy and really fast so it takes a little while to get used to, but once you do it becomes so easy to zip through the streets of Gotham at full speed. Battle mode is fun too, as you turn your car into a tank and bring massive destruction to your enemies’ battle drones. It’s a change to the iconic car that was not necessary, though completely welcome in my opinion, although one could easily wonder why Batman would need to have his vehicle turn into a tank before this particular invasion. It does make some of the puzzle solving a little arduous at times, but overall…it’s the f***ing Batmobile.

The core gameplay mechanics (combat, detective mode, and general swinging around the city) all make a return in this game and they remain unchanged for the most part. Sure, some of the buttons have been switched around but for the most part the changes are minor. The combat system and grapnel hook systems are (more or less) exactly the same as they were in the previous games, which is a very good thing as they did not need to be improved upon. The main strength of the gameplay is that it really makes you feel like Batman as you break bones and use the Batmobile’s tires to “nicely” ask one of the Arkham Knight’s lieutenants for some information.

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The only big addition to the gameplay is a team strike system. At certain points in the game Batman must rely on allies such as Catwoman, Nightwing and Robin. This mechanic is actually done very well as transitioning between the characters is very smooth. Plus, it’s always cool to see other people fight alongside Batman. The only downside is that the others don’t have as many cool toys. Either way, it’s still a cool mechanic and fits right in with the rest of the game.

The game’s graphics are amazing! Batman looks awesome, Gotham City looks as good as ever, and the cut scenes are great. The game really takes advantage of this current generation’s console capabilities. And it only makes me wonder, “what can they possibly do next!?”

The Negatives:

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This Gotham City map is bigger than that of any of the prior Arkham games and it feels that way. However, compared to other open world games like Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row and Skyrim, it still doesn’t quite capture the feeling of a major city. There are only three islands on the map, each one roughly the size of the entire map of Arkham City. I’m not sure whether this is because the Batmobile moves so fast or because launching Batman over buildings is now that much easier, but they still could have done more to make the city seem a little more vast. To it’s credit though, there are a lot of places below the surface of the city that you have to discover in order to complete the game. However, once you beat the game and collect all the Riddler Trophies, there’s no real reason to go back and explore the city. Bad guys don’t respawn so once you’ve defeated them you really have nobody left to fight. And some of the areas are such mazes that you have no desire to go back and experience the frustration all over again.

The second big problem (so far) is the downloadable content. I pre-ordered the game which gave me early access to the Harley Quinn Story Pack. It’s a prequel story where you play as the Joker’s girlfriend/pawn to bust Poison Ivy out of police custody in Bludhaven. It’s terrible. Simply terrible. She has her own set of moves and gadgets, but they just don’t flow very well together. The worst part is that you can beat the entire story in under twenty minutes, and that’s if you have never picked up a controller before. The season pass (which costs $40) will allow players to download more content over the six-month period following the game’s release, so here’s hoping the forthcoming DLC will make the price-tag worth it.

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The final big problem with the game is the ending. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you. Yes, the rest of the story is awesome, and it’s not even the ending itself. It’s what you have to do to get the real ending. This is supposed to be the final chapter for Batman’s story in the Arkham series, but in order to see how things really end you have to complete the game 100%. That includes getting ALL the Riddler Trophies and solving ALL his puzzles. Since the very first installment of the franchise, this has been without a doubt the most annoying and pointless part of the franchise. At almost 250 riddles, it feels like such a cheap way to add about seven hours of gameplay to a game that is already well over the ten hour mark without the puzzle solving. Basically, the riddles are either so hard your brain turns to mush or so easy that you’d feel okay letting your pet cat solve them. I beat the main story, apprehended all the other villains in the game and then it came time to beat the Riddler. After a few wasted hours, I gave up and decided to watch the ending on YouTube.

What? You think I’m a loser for doing so? Well, I don’t care. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time with the trophies and riddles because the ending is lame anyway. Like dad joke lame. So incredibly lame that RockSteady should be forced to redo the ending like BioWare did for Mass Effect 3 (which I never actually played, I just threw that jab in there for the nerds to appreciate).

The Bottom Line:

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The gameplay is solid, the voice acting is excellent, and the story is very well done….except for that ending. I personally am very happy that this is the last installment in the Arkham series, mainly due to the fact that there wasn’t much added to the game in terms of gadgets beyond the Batmobile. The car was really the last thing that could have been added to make the experience of playing these games even more like being Batman himself. So after this, where do you even go?

Also, seeing that these games don’t put any emphasis on multiplayer, and the Arkham worlds aren’t as vast as other sandbox games, the series could have easily ended up staying well past its welcome. Kind of like Assassin’s Creed.

Other critics tend to praise Rocksteady for improving the game’s combat and predator systems from the previous games, but I for one feel it’s more or less the same. But, I will give credit where credit’s due as some of the moves Batman uses have been greatly improved upon thanks to this console generation’s use of a 60 Frames per Second rate. Also, as mentioned before, the addition of a team strike feature works astoundingly well.

Taking the good and weighing the bad, this is ultimately how I feel about Batman: Arkham Knight: It’s fun and you should buy it, but you may be better off waiting til the price drops…like 3 years from now when the “Game of the Year Edition” is released that includes all the DLC and will probably end up going for about $25.

A prequel DLC pack is on the horizon featuring Batgirl as a playable character for the first time, but I personally will be waiting for the reviews. After the Harley Quinn Story Pack disappointment, I can’t justify giving Warner Brothers any more of my money until I know for sure that it’s actually worth it.

 

Final Score:

Gameplay = 9/10

Story = 8/10

Graphics = 10/10

DLC (Harley Quinn Story Pack only) = 3/10

Total = 30/40 – Very good, but you’re best waiting for the price to drop.

 

 

*Possible Spoiler Alert: There’s one thing that I should mention about the plot. If you know enough about the Batman mythos, then you will not be surprised to find out who the Arkham Knight really is. I figured it out as soon as he opened his mouth. Not even joking.