Step into the familiar boots of the Dark Knight for a bigger and better final adventure.
Rocksteady Games totally reinvigorated the superhero videogame genre with the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum some six years ago, and then improved upon the Caped Crusader’s formula in the even more impressive Batman: Arkham City. With the release of Batman: Arkham Knight, gamers will get to experience the last entry in this truly genre defining trilogy of games and once more step into the heavy duty boots of a man dressed as a flying rodent. I am Batman!
So we return to the rain soaked streets and rooftops of Gotham once again, and what a city it is this time around. Substantially larger than previous offerings and unbelievably open for the player to explore, with landmarks that will raise a smile on the faces of bat fans, Gotham City is a gritty playground for the Batman to make his own.
Gotham City sits well on the new generation of consoles, with the Xbox One version which we played making great use of all the extra power of the machine to bring the city to life. An amazing attention to detail can be seen from every angle, whether watching the city from the ledge of a tall building, or roaming the city on street level. Wonderful use of lighting and even water effects, thanks to the persistent rain, add a certain amount of sparkle to the otherwise dark and dour city. The sheer scale and detail of the city makes the time spent there, following the main story or side missions, or even just exploring, an absolute joy. As the player could be spending upwards of 30 hours in Gotham, depending on what they do in the game, the brilliant visuals simply add to the immersion.
Also making Arkham Knight that bit more immersive is the brilliant writing and thoroughly enjoyable story. Set some months after the death of the Joker, Gotham City is resting in an uneasy peace. This is, of course, shattered when Scarecrow unleashes some of his new fear toxin and reveals his plans to unleash this toxin across the entire city. One mass evacuation later and all that remains in Gotham are the police, the criminals and the Batman. Sounds like a recipe for fun, eh?
The cast is, as ever, a roll call for fan favorite characters from the Batman comics. Scarecrow plays one of the lead bad guys this time around, and appearances from the likes of Penguin, Firefly, Poison Ivy and even Manbat, to name but a few, will be enough to not only keep Batman busy, but also offer a huge amount of fan service. Riddler returns once again with a huge number of puzzles for the player to solve throughout the city, and even the standard goons come in different shapes and sizes, often requiring tactics to be mixed up. But Batman will not be facing all of this chaos alone, and encounters with Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman and good old Commissioner Gordon are often highlights of the game. The recognisable cast of characters from the comic books are all well done and feel more alive than perhaps one would expect in a standard superhero videogame, but then Arkham Knight is no standard game.
Alongside this stellar cast is someone new, the titular Arkham Knight. Set as the other main bad guy with Scarecrow, Arkham Knight is a mystery. His identity is unknown and he seems to have a quite substantial private army at his command. He also seems to have a very personal hatred for the Batman and is interested only in making the Dark Knight suffer. As a character, Arkham Knight is interesting, and as part of a twisty, turny story, he is also quite compelling.
For the first time in the Arkham games, the Batmobile is usable by our hero. Part high speed vehicle, part heavily armoured tank, the Batmobile makes a real impact on the game, almost as if the vehicle was another cast member. Driving at incredible speed through the rain-soaked streets of Gotham in this responsive vehicle is highly enjoyable and will fulfill many a Batman fantasy, and there is nothing cooler than being jettisoned from the Batmobile into the skied over Gotham. But the Batmobile is no simple car. Transforming into battle mode leaves the Batmobile capable of taking down heavily armoured tanks, as it will often have to in the arena style battles that pop up. Remote control means that the Batmobile will not only swiftly appear at Batman’s side whenever it is needed, but also that it can act as support for the Batman in certain situations. It can even be used to solve puzzles or access new areas with the winch and other gadgets. And then there are the Riddler’s races which are perhaps not the most interesting parts of the game, but add yet more variety. In all, the Batmobile is great, but I do think it is slightly overused through the course of the game.
Other than the scale and the inclusion of the Batmobile, the rest of Arkham Knight remains more or less the same. The fast paced and highly enjoyable combat, which will make anyone feel like a brawling superhero, returns in full glory, and is tweaked in a few ways including a new fear attack which allows Batman to surprise his foes and take down multiple enemies in quick succession. Progression leads to experience which allows the player to unlock new skills and gadgets, making Batman more capable in offense or defense, or able to approach things with a larger variety of skills. Gliding down from a height is as enjoyable as ever, and being able to use a grapple hook to slingshot Batman into the air to gain more height and continue to glide indefinitely means that the gliding fun never has to end. There is incredible variety to the side missions, most of which feel substantial in their own right, and the player will find themselves not only brawling with bad guys and super villains, but also investigating crime scenes and finding clues to solve mysteries.
Batman: Arkham Knight makes very few mistakes, providing not only a very fitting end to the Arkham trilogy, but also the ultimate Batman videogame experience for fans of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego. For those who have played the previous games, expect more of the same, only bigger and better, along with a few surprises. If you have never put on the cape and cowl, Batman: Arkham Knight is the best place to start your vigilante existence.