BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT Review Author: Ricky Church (Follow @RICHARDCHURCH16)
July 15, 2015
“This is how it happened. This is how the Batman died.”
Those are the opening words for Rocksteady’s latest and final entry in their groundbreaking Batman: Arkham video game series, Arkham Knight. In the final installment, The Scarecrow has returned to Gotham City to wreak vengeance upon Batman by tearing him down in some of the most personal attacks fans have seen The Dark Knight go through. Working with Scarecrow is the mysterious Arkham Knight, a man who seemingly has intimate knowledge of Batman’s tactics as well as having some kind of personal grudge against him.
While the idea of the “last” Batman story is one that has been utilized a lot in recent years – The Dark Knight Rises and the revival of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight universe being just two examples – Arkham Knight’s approach not only feels fresh, but very expansive as you face down the majority of Batman’s foes, both old and new. The story’s scope is huge as the threat to Gotham keeps growing. None of it feels as if its just padding to keep the story going until the climax, but simply throwing everything it can at Batman and putting fans through the wringer.
Where Arkham Knight’s story really shines though is the spotlight it puts on the relationships Batman has cultivated over the years with both his allies and enemies. While both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are fantastic games, one element that was sorely missing from those games was the extended Bat-family. Arkham Origins at least put a lot of emphasis on Batman’s relationship with Alfred and Gordon during his formative years, but Knight really kicks it up a notch by delivering a true sense of history between all the characters. Batman’s relationships with each of his allies is put under an intense microscope and examined in a way that hasn’t really been done outside the comics. By the game’s end, there is a definite sense of closure for all involved. The only story aspect that didn’t entirely reach its full potential was the identity of Arkham Knight as Rocksteady went with a somewhat obvious choice.
The voice cast, like the games before it, is superb. Some of the standouts are Jonathan Banks (Mike from Breaking Bad) as Commissioner Gordon, Ashley Greene (Twilight) as Barbara Gordon/Oracle and Troy Baker as Arkham Knight. John Noble of Fringe and Lord of the Rings fame gives one of the best performances of the game as Scarecrow as his deep voice is just full of menace and delight at the torment of others. Coupled with Scarecrow’s redesign for the game, this may yet be the most terrifying and disturbing the villain has ever been.
The real scene-stealer though is the Batman himself, Kevin Conroy, a veteran of the character for over twenty years now. Conroy delivers so much emotion throughout his performance as the character faces several personal demons. There is even a fun nod towards his early work as Batman where he recites one of his most famous lines from Batman: The Animated Series toward the end of the game. Next to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, this may yet be Conroy’s finest work with Batman and if it is his final time voicing the character, he certainly went out on top.
Gameplay wise, Arkham Knight utilizes many of the traditional features from the previous games while introducing brand new ones. For the first time ever in the series, players can actually control the Batmobile, literally tearing up the streets from underneath them. It’s always been a fan’s wildest dream to drive the famous car and it definitely completes the Batman experience the Arkham games have given people. While it is very fun to drive, the Batmobile is not without some problems though. Navigation can sometimes be quite tedious as the car can be unwieldy, especially during some of the tougher Riddler racetracks or when making a quick escape from enemy tanks. Fully controlling the car is something you can never quite get used to. Missions with the Batmobile, such as chasing down Firefly or Militia APCs, can also feel a bit repetitive.
The Batmobile’s battle mode is, however, quite cool. The Batmobile is quite a powerful car and has a variety of neat upgrades throughout the game to dispatch enemies quicker. You have the option of two types of controls in battle mode: one is simply holding the control stick down, quickly changing into battle mode, or toggling into battle mode with one of the control bumpers. I found toggling to be much easier as you stay in battle mode during a fight; if you simply hold the stick down, your finger could slip and change back into car mode, costing you valuable time and health.
The real highlight of the gameplay is the new Dual Play mode. At certain points in the game Batman is joined in battle by one of his allies and Dual Play allows you to seamlessly switch between characters during combat. Each character has their own set of moves, gadgets and takedowns. When you fill your combat meter, you’re able to use a Dual Takedown where Batman and his ally both knock out one of their opponents. It is a very fun and innovative way to spice up a combat system many Arkham veterans would be used to by now.
Gotham City has also never looked so gorgeous. Approximately five times the size of Arkham City, Gotham is simply HUGE. Once the story progress and you’re able to visit the other islands, it is immediately apparent just how much detail went into the building of the game. Each neighborhood has a distinct look and feel to it with vibrant colors popping out in the entertainment district or the gloomy slums giving off a rusted color. It’s a fully realized city and one of the best design concepts in any open world game.
Batman: Arkham Knight contains elements that all Batman fans can and will enjoy. Its story is deeply personal and rich, has an outstanding voice cast and provides exciting new gameplay to the series yet retains its signature feeling. With a 10 – 12 hour campaign and just as many hours of side missions, Batman fans have a lot to accomplish in this game. With such a strong focus on character, though, players will truly have felt they were the Batman. - Ricky Church
Batman: Arkham Knight is based on DC Comics’ core Batman license and will be available exclusively for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, and Windows PC. The game is scheduled for release worldwide on June 2, 2015.
In the explosive finale to the Arkham series, Batman faces the ultimate threat against the city he is sworn to protect. The Scarecrow returns to unite an impressive roster of super villains, including Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn, to destroy The Dark Knight forever. Batman: Arkham Knight introduces Rocksteady's uniquely designed version of the Batmobile, which is drivable for the first time in the franchise. The addition of this legendary vehicle, combined with the acclaimed gameplay of the Batman Arkham series, offers gamers the ultimate and complete Batman experience as they tear through the streets and soar across the skyline of the entirety of Gotham City.
“Batman: Arkham Knight is the pinnacle game of our hugely successful franchise, and we are giving players the most expansive, impressive title in the series,” said Martin Tremblay, President, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. “The Rocksteady Studios team is continuing to focus on the excellent gameplay for which they are known while delivering a thrilling new experience for gamers and Batman fans.”
“The team at Rocksteady Studios is putting a tremendous amount of work into delivering the final chapter of our Batman: Arkham trilogy so that fans can feel what it’s like to be the Batman,” said Sefton Hill, Game Director at Rocksteady Studios. “We’re excited to be developing the game for next-gen platforms, which has allowed us to bring to life the design elements that we envisioned from the beginning such as the Batmobile and how it augments Batman’s abilities, to the fully detailed and realized Gotham City.”