Not the sequel we needed, but the one we deserved.
It’s over. Rocksteady’s Batman trilogy has come to a close. That is likely the most depressing thing, while at the same time, being the most exciting. This team came from nowhere and created what is arguably the greatest comic book game adaptation of all-time. Their send-off is certainly worthy of the name. Arkham Knight is a rollercoaster of twists and turns. A narrative every Batman fan can appreciate, and now it is time to dream about what Rocksteady will do next. For now though let’s discuss what makes Arkham Knight one of the best games to launch on this new generation of consoles.
The story beats in the Arkham games have only grown stronger over time. However, much like Nolan’s famed trilogy, Arkham Knight was coming in without the Clown Prince of Crime. With Joker deceased (it is further enforced in the game’s intro) who would possibly stand to be as interesting as Batman’s most popular villain? Well, without spoiling anything Rocksteady have crafted what I consider the most interesting narrative the series has seen.
Platforms: PS4, XB1, PC
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
The city of Gotham is once again evacuated as Scarecrow is threatening to release his fear toxin throughout. Once empty, Batman hits the streets to round up a host of criminals, and of course super-villains, including a new mysterious character calling himself the Arkham Knight. There are twists and turns that I cannot even begin to go into due to spoilers, but rest assured by the time the credits rolled, I was floored. This is by far the best Batman story in the series to date, and a perfect send-off to Rocksteady’s trilogy. Just remain spoiler-free as much as possible, this is some Bioshock-levels of surprise.
Arkham Knight is once again an open-world title more akin to City as opposed to Asylum. Batman can glide around, pick up missions, and of course beat up thugs with the stellar combat system. The biggest change to the core mechanics is the Batmobile. Bruce now has his trusty vehicle available at the press of a button, barring of course that I had met the pre-determined requirements in that specific area. It feels awesome holding down the button and watching Batman jump into the car, and just as satisfying watching him burst out of it at breakneck speeds and continue gliding to his destination.
With the new mechanic comes a series of new challenges, both good and bad. There are new puzzles involving the Batmobile that are clever and inventive, but there are also a series of races that tested the upper echelon of my patience. Getting a general handle on the car itself takes time. It handles so loose that anticipating turns is not necessary, and my brain took a while to process that. Still it is a cool addition and I enjoyed the moments when it worked. Let’s just ignore those stealth tank sequences and the world will be a better place.
The world of Gotham is finally Rocksteady learning how to piece together an open-world game properly. Side missions are sprinkled throughout the city, each with side stories. There is now a mission wheel that lets players choose what to focus on. Some are obtuse in their direction, while others paint the way to the objective. It is a good mesh of exploration and direction. I also felt their design was more refined and interesting. Teaming up with other characters, variety in the tasks performed, all keeps things moving along at a brisk pace.
Combat remains the main focus of Batman’s artillery. The free-flowing system has been mimicked over time, but never replaced. We do call it “Batman Combat” for a reason. Arkham Knight continues the trend by keeping what works, but also adding in more environmental takedowns, dual takedowns, and even Batmobile assisted ones. I got excited every time I came upon an area with 20+ unarmed thugs. It just meant it was time to feel like Batman, which is something Rocksteady does extremely well.
Gadgets are also back with most of them from Arkham City available from the beginning. There are some new ones as well that spice up the puzzle solving, but for the most part just add more reasons to dig around for the unruly amount of Riddler trophies. I have really grown to hate those things. There are simply too many of them.
There is a lot to see and do in Arkham Knight. There are two side story missions for pre-orders featuring Red Hood and Harley Quinn. Both of these are disappointing. They last all of ten minutes, and outside Harley’s have very little to do with the main game. AR Challenges are included and range from Predator areas to Batmobile racing, again these are just more excuses to practice the traits found within the main game. There are tons of collectibles and side missions in the main game to find, and even a bonus ending for those that meet a set of criteria after the regular ending. Rocksteady has packed enough content to keep Batman fans happy for a solid 15-30 hours depending on how much they choose to do.
Finally, the visuals are outstanding. Being the first Arkham game built from the ground up for the new consoles, it looks stunning. While the entire thing takes place at night, in the rain, it still looks stellar. Wet pavement is the new hotness when it comes to graphical effects, and Arkham Knight delivers. Seeing the raindrops form on his cowl and the crisp sheen of the world really stand out. Also the frame rate is nearly flawless at 30, with very few dips on either console.
Batman: Arkham Knight may mark the end of Rocksteady’s trilogy, but it goes out with a bang. There is so much to love about it, it is easily in contention for one of the best of 2015. I am truly excited to see what the team is up to next, but their take on the Dark Knight has been the best, and this final entry is no exception.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.