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Batman: Arkham Knight Review

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On 07/06/2015 at 12:00 PM by Jon Lewis

Swan Song

For any who enjoyed the Arkham games thus far, or fans of Batman in general. Those who dislike driving sections in games may have some issues w/ the Batmobile, so be cautious.

In 2011, I said that Batman: Arkham City was one of the best superhero games ever made. A few years before that, I said that Arkham Asylum was the new standard that licensed games should live up to. Since then, few series have done so. Yet somehow, every Arkham game rises above the rest. Arkham Knight is no exception. It takes some of the best of what was established in the past games and puts it all together to form one of the most gripping games I’ve played in quite a while. 

Many of my play sessions began atop Gotham City looking down at a playground for criminals. Without even turning on Detective mode, the sky can be seen full of helicopter drones and the streets are running rampant with crime, Riddler challenges, and other forms of chaos. I would go after a criminal in order to track down Intel for a Riddler challenge, then I’d realize that I was right by a side mission involving Two-Face robbing a bank. I faced many scenarios where these missions all felt connected thanks to the open world mission structure. And for the most part,  these side activities are fun and interesting to complete. 

Part of what made doing these missions fun was the Grapple and Glide system from Arkham City, and the newly implemented Batmobile. The grapple and glide is just as great as it’s ever been, and if anything is better thanks to faster movement options and a generally bigger city (and much less invisible wall territory). The Batmobile is indeed an element that some will like and some will dislike. 

It controls a tad floaty compared to other driving heavy open world games, but after a few minutes of adjustment, it becomes quite easy to control. Not to mention it can steamroll just about everything in its path, so I felt extremely powerful as I would take corners and topple anything in my way in pursuit of street thugs and enemy vehicles. It felt even better being able to jettison myself out of the Batmobile right into a speedy glide, so I could continue my pursuit from the air if need be. 

It can also change into Tank mode which is a lot slower, and is used for battle as well as some puzzle solving elements. I thought it was interesting that Rocksteady decided to put so much effort into making the Batmobile weave into the game as much as it did. It becomes like having a constant partner to switch between. There were a lot of clever and unique challenges, including one where I needed to hook the Batmobile to a hook and literally leave it hanging in the middle of a pit while I’d be outside of the car, looking for a way to help get it deeper into the hole without hitting a trap and exploding.

Much of the fun comes after gaining enough upgrades to dispatch enemies fast. Before that, the average tank battle section involves you using the X (or A button on Xbox) to dodge enemy fire while blowing enemy drones to smithereens. To be honest, it’s not necessarily the most Batman-like activity, but I thought they were a fun challenge of my reflexes--almost as much as the bread and butter combat. There was a certain thrill to staying out of the line of sight and managing heavy weaponry and special weapons to take the drones down. I would often use a drone hack ability to even the odds and take the fire directly off of me, while saving up for a big missile barrage to use on bigger groups of enemies. 

What I will say about the Batmobile is that it felt a bit forced upon me. At the beginning of the game, I was still getting acquainted to the traditional Batman gameplay, only to be forced into some Batmobile sections that I initially wasn’t too fond of. After learning how to control the Batmobile properly, it became a lot more fun than I anticipated, but others may find it more annoying than I did. This is especially true of the tank sections, which can often be frustrating especially without the power ups you obtain as you level up.  But in the end, I did feel like my experience did have enough on foot action to balance out the Batmobile related activities.

Batman games are well known for combat and stealth sections. Both are back, with slight twists and additions to each. Some sections have you pairing up with other heroes, and during those battles you can freely switch between characters with one seamless button press. After building up a combo meter, you can even use a Dual-takedown which is a flashy finishing move that quickly ends your opponent. For example, you team up with Nightwing on a series of missions to destroy some of the Penguin’s weapon stashes in the city. After dropping onto battle, the odds begin to seem out of hand but suddenly as Nightwing appears, the once intimidating amount of enemies becomes a cakewalk to deal with. Even without that, nothing beats the constant personal challenge of trying to go through a battle with one seamless, flashy combo. It’s extremely satisfying when done right, and some enemy types do make it difficult. In order to take full advantage of the combat, I really needed to slow down, pay attention to my surroundings and use every gadget in my arsenal. 

Stealth hasn’t been changed too much, but new gadgets like the voice modulator add interesting twists. Using it, you can trick enemies into literally walking into traps you may have set. It’s satisfying, yet situational. Also, there is a new mechanic called the Fear Takedown. After getting a Silent Takedown, you can take out a group of enemies by pressing the Square (or X on Xbox One) button. I often felt like the simplest way to take down enemies was to just take out one enemy, and then pick off the remaining enemies one by one as they come check on the knocked out bodies. The levels are designed to allow for many different types of takedowns, and while they are effective, they aren’t always necessary. But if you do want to get creative with the way you take out foes, the tools are there. 

One thing that I can legitimately complain about is the overall control layout. While the basic controls are the same, there were a few changes to the traditional control scheme that kept throwing me off. Throughout my time with it, I was pressing the wrong buttons or pressing things by mistake when trying to do something else that in previous games was mapped to a different button. Perhaps it’s the way my brain retains controls from past games and doesn’t like to let go, but it was frustrating at times when I’d wanted to go into detective vision, and I’d press L1 only to summon the Batmobile as I forgot that holding Up on the D-pad was the new command for that. 

Arkham Knight’s most outstanding strengths are in its story and its attention to detail. Over the course of the game, Batman goes through an extremely personal journey chronicling his past failures and inadequacies as the Scarecrow leads the charge with Batman’s greatest threat. You see a very vulnerable Batman, but you never see him weak. Some of the ways they delve into the psyche of the Dark Knight are jaw dropping. Scarecrow’s famous mind games return, and without spoiling, I can say that they’re executed in pretty awesome fashion. 

Part of what makes that even more significant is the amount of fan service scattered throughout. There are a great number of references, cameos, and other unexpected inclusions from all over the Batman mythos. As a comic book fan, it brought joy to my face every time I came across one of these. On top of that, there are subtle hints to what may be in Rocksteady’s future. Either that, or they’re just messing with us. 

I didn’t even dive into the beautiful graphics, the incredible score and voice acting, and the overall addictive quality this game has but overall I came away from this game only wanting to dive right back in and collect more. Yes, some of that has to do with the endings you can unlock by completing all of the side content (including those pesky Riddler trophies) but I had a blast doing it just for its own sake. 

I went into Arkham Knight prepared for a sequel that very well may not live up to the high standards of Asylum and City, but Arkham Knight did it triumphantly. Though the tight and condensed game design of Arkham Asylum still stands out in my mind, I can’t get over how much fun I had and continue to have with Arkham Knight. It’s one of the most interesting and gripping stories I’ve played in a while that really pays homage to the character's legacy--past and present. It’s got a ton of great cameos, nods and hints at the possible future for Rocksteady and overall is a game that I couldn’t recommend enough. Even if you don’t like the Batmobile, it’s hard to deny how well done the game is overall. This finale, in my opinion was a fitting send off to one of the best superhero adaptations in gaming.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.

Side By Side - PC Woes

At the time of this writing, it is to my understanding that the PC version of the game is quite busted. However, the console versions seem to be running just fine. I played the whole PS4 game with no crashes or game breaking bugs.



Super Step Contributing Writer

07/06/2015 at 10:30 PM

I actually liked the change to having detective mode be up on the d-pad. But then, I had trouble with it when trying to play City again on my PC (using 360 controller). 

And I'm ready for that "new" superhero they kept hinting at. By the way, did you ever read some of the Batman comics that some of these criminals came from? I haven't, but when I read one came from issue 666, I was like "yeah ... no crap."

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

07/06/2015 at 10:46 PM

no, but ive seen a few shows/movies featuring a few of them. Some of the inclusions surprised me, but in a good way. 

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