Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, Mac OS
Batman: Arkham Knight is the final installment in the series of Batman games developed by Rocksteady Studios. It is no secret that Rocksteady’s Batman games have gotten praise from just about every critic imaginable. But is this final installment on par with the previous games? Of course—but there are some things you should know before traipsing into Gotham city. And I will be doing my best to keep this review spoiler-free with references only people who have played the game should be able to figure out.
I wouldn’t recommend this game to newcomers of the Batman games. Definitely play Batman: Arkham City at the very least before you play this game, unless you want to be spoiled about the ending of that game. The plot of this game reveals the ending in the very first moment in the opening cutscene. The controls are also introduced very quickly, making it feel like this game was supposed to be played right after Batman: Arkham City.
The Story, Characters, and Voice-Acting
The story is solid except the first hour feels a bit jarring. You jump right into the story and the stakes are high right from the get-go. I actually thought this was a poor way to start. The writers are trying to build tension right from the beginning. At one point, the writers want you to think Batman will be sacrificing himself for the greater good. However, because this is so early in the plot there isn’t a real feeling of suspense. It’s obvious they’re not going to kill the titular character. At least, not yet.
I was never really super invested in the plotline until the twists and seriousness of the situation started coming in at around 60% of the main story when Batman has to go to a movie studio and take down three very colorful characters. This leads to a great if predictable twist. It also leads to some creative gameplay where you have to figure out a combination code to a door which is directly followed by a wonderful segment where you get to enjoy some downright deadly singing… if you’ve played the game, you know what I’m talking about!
The good thing about it being the finale is that we can’t be certain whether all the characters will survive. After all, one very prominent character died in the last game… which I won’t spoil if you haven’t played Batman: Arkham City or haven’t seen the first second of this game. This is actually a fantastic addition to the plot and makes me give the writers a lot of credit. They do not resurrect this character—what they do instead is so much worse for Batman and so much better for us. A fun fact if you’ve been playing—this character will actually appear on the billboards you pass, but if you double-back to see it again, the character will disappear until you leave and come back again… it’s a great way for the writers to mess with the player’s head. I wish they’d done it even more! The character is also involved in a couple of flashbacks to some intense moments in comic book history that were a lot of twisted fun to live through in video game form.
Then there is the Arkham Knight, a new(?) character who is after Batman for unexplained reasons. The “mystery” of who this character was wasn’t really much of one and towards the end I found myself yelling his name at the screen, waiting for him to be unmasked.
A big problem with the plot however is that the main villain is Scarecrow and he just isn’t that interesting. They do some neat things with the fear toxin, but overall I was still wishing the main game had some of his nightmare missions reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham Asylum game and that they weren’t just in DLC. Scarecrow’s new design may be cool, but I just couldn’t get into his character. Plus, his voice actor, John Noble, sounded strikingly similar to Hugo Strange’s voice actor Corey Burton from Batman: Arkham City. Where’s Jeffrey Coombs when you need him?
The ending features a real battle of the mind which is really interesting, but there is no big battle at the end. In fact, the boss battles throughout the game are quite limited. Previous games featured bigger encounters such as Ra’s al Ghul and Solomon Grundy, but this game had more sneak missions and batmobile fights. This change of pace could be seen as a bit of a downgrade from previous games. You don’t even get the true ending of the game unless you finish a certain number of side quests, which I have still not done—a great reason to do side missions as you play through the main story versus just saving them all for later. However, the ending will still have your mouth hanging open in awe for a bit.
Some of the character’s dialogue can feel a bit stilted but that may be because there is so much of it. You can go up to any non-player character (with the exception of people you need to whack with a batarang) and listen to several lines of dialogue. One of my favorite exchanges are with a character you can easily miss since it’s completely unrelated to the main story. Within the GCPD is reporter Jack Ryder, his conversation with Batman is littered with humorous moments as he goes off on how much he hates Bruce Wayne. The writers nailed Ryder’s arrogant personality perfectly.
The cast in this game are all giving good performances. Kevin Conroy reprises his role as Batman. The one character I didn’t want to spoil before gives the best vocal performance of any character and is the one who sings such a lovely, downright sadistic song.
I also want to mention the voice work of Steven Blum. A talented voice actor, I think this guy voiced about 75% of the henchmen you take down and it was pretty funny to pick out his voice within the group of henchmen every other fight.
Without the side missions the game has to offer it would have been over way too fast. The game is smart in that it doesn’t overwhelm you with a bunch of side missions right away. Instead, it will introduce a couple of new ones when you progress a certain amount through the main story, giving you the option to take a break from the main plot and instead deal with other enemies that you wouldn’t see otherwise such as Riddler and Man-Bat. This game distracted me with these side missions every other moment. I would be following the main mission when oh look, a Riddler trophy! Oh look, a bomb! Oh look, a mutilated body! These side missions are welcome distractions from the main story and I spent many an hour completing them.
My personal favorite side-mission involves Riddler. Not only do you get the usual hundreds of Riddler trophies scattered around the city, but you get Riddler putting you through nine death traps in order to save Catwoman. These tasks are usually entertaining and at least one is bound to wrack your brain a little bit (his last test does so a little too much if you ask me…). My favorites (and perhaps the most frustrating) are the races involving the batmobile. And speaking of the batmobile…
This is the first Rocksteady game that features the batmobile. I’m not very good at driving in video games (or in real life for that matter) but even I could turn corners without taking out the sidewalk… at least, not much of it. You can also turn the batmobile into a tank to battle enemies. I found it extremely satisfying to dodge oncoming missiles and takes out enemy drones. I also enjoyed how the batmobile was worked into the plot, but if you don’t enjoy driving it, then these portions of the game may feel shoe-horned in. There are even stealthy tank missions… it sounds like an oxymoron, but it kinds of works. One mission involves you taking on the Arkham Knight and a bunch of Cobra tanks and it’s a very intense mission that will keep you on your toes.
The rest of the controls are fairly simple to master, though the game doesn’t take very long explaining it to you so they will be much easier to understand if you’ve played one of the previous games. I also like how gadgets are strewn into the plot of the game and during fights. It’s fun to combine both your typical fighting skills and then use your gadgets to knock people out or lure them into a spot where you can take them down silently. I felt this way more so in this game than I had in the previous ones.
Sometimes I wish things were introduced sooner in the game. There’s a convenient function, a multi-fear takedown that will help make the harder moments of the game easier. However, this option doesn’t come up until you get a new suit in the game. I don’t know why they bothered waiting to give you the suit and didn’t just start you off with it, but at least when you do get it, it’s useful. All the gadgets you’re familiar with (if you’ve played the previous games) are in this game, plus a voice synthesizer that I wish was introduced sooner as well.
What is sometimes annoying is the fluctuating difficulty of the game. Sometimes it feels like the game is holding your hand too much, telling you what to press before you can even intuit it yourself and feel like a real detective. Other times, when I would expect it to provide this hint, the game decided I was Sherlock Holmes and didn’t provide me with a hint. These hints could be dispersed better throughout the game. I sat for a little longer than I’d care to admit before I realized I was supposed to press a button in the opening scene of the game.
Gotham city is meticulously created in this game. This is probably the best sandbox in the Arkham series that could have only been made better if you could explore Arkham Asylum as well. But there are numerous places you can visit such as the Clock Tower and, my personal favorite, the Gotham City Police Headquarters (GCPD). I was always finding new things in this building. Every time you knockout henchmen or take out a classic Batman villain, you can go taunt them in their jails cells at the GCPD. It’s also a really cool feeling since in the last game, Batman: Arkham Origins, you had to hide from the cops while sneaking around the GCPD. Now you can walk around like you own the place. It’s a surreal and cool feeling.
This is a next-gen game so of course the graphics are great. However, I only really noticed a marginal improvement from previous games. Nothing earth-shatteringly different, but nice all the same.
You know it’s bad when “Glitches” is a category and not just a sidenote. There are many glitches in this game. I have gone through my car several times, have seen two Nightwings on my screen at once, my cape has clipped through buildings… this is a somewhat buggy game, especially the batmobile. Unfortunately, I never had anything as hilarious as this:
One of my favorite things about this game is the numerous Easter Eggs that are subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) nods to every Batman-related medium, from the animated television show to the movie to the comic books. These references are often creative and can be found in just about every nook and cranny you visit in the game. For instance, when you visit Lucius Fox in Wayne Tower to get some equipment, take a listen to the answering machine. You’ll find Bruce when he has gotten several messages from recognizable characters in the DC universe including Lex Luthor, Vicki Vale and Kathy Kane (aka Batwoman).
There are also several posters littered throughout the game of the Gray Ghost, a reference to the fictitious television hero that inspired Bruce Wayne as a child from Batman: The Animated Series who was voiced in the show by Adam West. These posters are all over the place (I’m starting to think you may be a little obsessive Brucey…). Then there is the evidence room in the GCPD which includes little displays of all the villians’ gadgets that you may recognize from the previous Arkham games. (Pro tip: Be sure to check out the evidence room! Not only is it a nice tie-in with Arkham City, but you’ll also find something quite… electrifying.) All of these references are like a love letter to the player of Batman’s history and I love how multiple mediums are covered, basically insuring no type of fan is left out. This is one of several reasons why the re-playability of this game is so high.
This is a great game that lets you be the badass that is Batman. The story has its dramatic moments, the controls are easy and fun, the side missions bring a whole new meaning to “something shiny…” and you get to drive the batmobile. What more could you ask for in a game? Well, other than some more dynamic battles with classic Batman foes and less glitches. So get this game and become the dark knight… after playing the rest of the Arkham games if you want the full experience.
I give Batman: Arkham Knight a 9.0/10.