Batman: Arkham Knight PS4 Review
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Developer: Rocksteady Studios Genre: Action, Stealth Players: 1
Age Rating: 18+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
With each new game, Rocksteady Studios’ Batman: Arkham series has evolved nicely. Arkham City, the second game in the series, took you out of the confines of the asylum environment in the first game and placed you in a small, open-world city environment, but the third and final chapter in the Arkham series takes place in an environment that is five times the size of Arkham City, and introduces the Batmobile into the series, which means that the Dark Knight is now very mobile on both the ground as well as the rooftops.
The story takes place a year after Arkham City’s conclusion, which saw the death of Batman’s greatest nemesis, the Joker. Without the Joker, Gotham is obviously a safer place, although it also gives a handful of other Batman villains a chance to shine, with the Scarecrow and other famous foes eventually plotting the Caped Crusader’s destruction and the subsequent fall of Gotham. Following threats from the Scarecrow, the entire city is evacuated of its citizens, leaving only criminals on the streets. The Arkham Knight of the title, on the other hand, is a brand new character that was created specifically for the game, and he has an entire army under his hand. His look is similar to Batman, who he has an obvious hatred for and a history with, and there’s certainly early intrigue as to who is lurking behind the mask, although he’s hardly up there with the Dark Knight’s most memorable of villains. As for Batman himself, the story gets into his head like no other Arkham game before it, and this is one of its greatest strengths, adding much to the narration, and also making the man behind the famous mask very much a human being. It’s a dark and sometimes twisted tale, and one of the strongest stories that the series has to offer. The ending will likely also be discussed for months and months to come.
Let loose in Gotham city, there are three beautifully detailed islands to explore with the Caped Crusader being able to run around on foot, hunting down enemies, and also being able to glide from the rooftops and swing from building to building using the grappling hook. All the latter might sound like Arkham City all over again, but being able to also speed through the city streets in the tank-like Batmobile makes for an entirely different way to move from area to area.
The Batmobile in the game is a real mean looking machine, and the developer has added it to the series so expertly that I soon felt as if it had always been a part of it. Once Batman’s primary vehicle makes its first appearance in the game, you are then able to call it in more often than not, with the car then obediently speeding to your location. When you and the car are parted, you can also take remote control of it, which makes for some memorable moments during certain missions. As the Batmobile handles so beautifully, it’s just as fun to be driving on the road as it is being on-foot in elevated areas of the city.
The Batmobile isn’t all about speed though. The vehicle also has a tank mode, which not only makes it more manoeuvrable when in tighter spots, but, with a canon and a gun popping up, it packs quite the punch during the game’s explosive vehicle combat situations, which is lucky, as there are times when you’ll find yourself taking on tank after tank under the command of the Arkham Knight. You’ll also find that the vehicle is needed for certain puzzles, and Rocksteady have done a masterful job in combining the gameplay elements from the previous Arkham games with their brand new headline feature.
On foot, the excellent and fluid combat of the previous games makes its return, and this is once again immensely satisfying, particularly if large combos are strung together, with Batman quickly moving from one enemy to another, and there is also some depth there if you want it. As always, and thanks to the beautifully slick animations, Batman’s brutal and skilful fighting moves are a joy to watch. The stealth mixed with the Detective Vision is also very satisfying, and everything you do in the game once again makes you feel very much like the titular character, with both his brute force as well as his brains getting put to good use.
Early in the story, Batman dons a new suit, which makes you both stronger and faster. The suit also ushers in Fear Takedowns. This new ability allows you to take down a group of previously unaware enemies in quick succession, beginning with three, but being able to eventually be upped to a maximum of five enemies through upgrades. Like the rest of the game, the ability is oozing with flair, with everything slowing down as you choose which enemy you want to take down next. The Fear Takedown’s could have easily took away Batman’s human side, but as the ability is limited to when enemies are grouped together and also must be recharged by using a silent takedown, this remains very much intact. With that said, Batman is stronger, faster and drives a tank-like vehicle in the game, but he still has his vulnerabilities; he’s still a flesh and blood human being in a fancy costume.
You once again have quite a number of gadgets at your disposal, which adds further depth to the game, allowing you to experiment and opening up different possibilities, making for various ways to accomplish tasks. New gadgets such as the Voice Synthesiser allow you to give direct commands to enemies wearing headsets, tricking them into believing that the commands are coming from villains such as the Arkham Knight, which makes for some great ambush opportunities, and the above mentioned Fear Takedown is always an option if you are able to summon a number of enemies to a particular area using the gadget. The Voice Synthesiser also allows you to unlock certain voice controlled doors.
AI is also improved, and there’s also a variety of different enemies, with some even setting up turrets when they feel that they are under threat during the stealth sections. The new Medics also must be dealt with quickly, as they’ll tend to incapacitated allies, so Arkham Knight is once again a Rocksteady Batman game that makes you think before you strike.
There are also sections in the game in which you are able to team up with and switch to Batman allies, and these characters add in variation to what is already a varied game; a game which never fails to unveil new surprises. Not to spoil anything, but there’s a particularly memorable moment featuring both Batman and Robin teaming up, and elsewhere in the game, our titular hero and Catwoman are faced with some inventive puzzles from the mind of the genius Riddler, who once again also offers plenty of amusement with his sarcastic and over the top dialogue.
Like previous games in the series, boss fights could be more interesting than what they are though. Not to spoil anything, but what should be one of the game’s best showdowns is a real disappointment, and it’s also a shame that you don’t even get to duke it out with certain villains. As for the ones that are present, there’s few memorable boss encounters, and it’s a shame that Rocksteady have been unable to make such major fights feel more special.
Whether on foot or in the Batmobile, there is plenty to see and do in the large playing area that is the neon-lit and rainy streets of Gotham city. There’s the main story to follow, but there’s also a lot more besides that, including both short and substantial side missions, which often has you chasing down villains, rescuing someone or putting something out of operation for good, as well as challenges. If you are aiming for 100% completion (which gives you a more substantial ending), then this is one game that will have many playing for hours and hours to come. The ease of switching from which mission to focus on should also be commended, as it’s all done through an easy to access mission wheel, which is as convenient as it is genius.
Visually, Batman: Arkham Knight is far from a disappointment, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best looking games released so far on the current generation consoles. The moody visuals look splendid, and, even going from on foot to the Batmobile, the game rarely slows down. It really is a thing of beauty, and with the visuals and the high quality audio, production values were obviously never an issue during the game’s lengthy development period.
Batman: Arkham Knight marks the third and final game in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham series, and it’s a fittingly wonderful game that remembers everything that made the other Arkham games so special, but it also makes things even more special with the addition of the much requested Batmobile, and not forgetting the more expansive and memorable playing area. If Rocksteady never make another Batman game, then it’s fair to say that whoever makes a game of the Dark Knight next has a near impossible job of toppling a developer that obviously both greatly understands the character and has limitless respect for DC’s famous universe, which has resulted in them creating one of gaming’s greatest trilogies.