Batman: Arkham Knight Review – The Dark Knight Returns

The influence of Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns can be seen in every facet of the Batman universe.  Every Nolan film has gone to it for inspiration, and every Arkham game has plumbed it’s depths for tone and presentation.  Much like Miller and Nolan, Rocksteady came in and re-invented what was thought possible within a medium involving The Caped Crusader. Now they are faced with the same task that plagued those that came before, closing their respective saga.  Fortunately, they do so with much more success than Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises or Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes again, although Arkham Knight does not come without it’s own flaws.

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Taking place following the universe shattering ending in Arkham City, Rocksteady has to change its focus to a different villain, Scarecrow.  In this case his assault on Gotham raises the stakes higher than ever before, with the whole city in peril of a massive chemical attack, using his famous fear gas, Batman has his work cut out for him.  Arkham Knight is appropriately bleak, rain soaks the world, enemies fill the evacuated streets and Batman has to use new and powerful tools to deal with the increasing threat posed by Scarecrow and his followers.

The biggest issue in Arkham Knight is one of the new tools at players disposal, the Batmobile.  It is not the game-play involved with using the Batmobile but its use within the story that creates the weakest points.  The few boss encounters in the game are all in the Batmobile, becoming boring tank battles instead of one-on-one hand to hand tests like the Deathstroke fight from Origins.  Where sparse use would have made the Batmobile a fun tool desired by the players to break up the usual clip of predator and combat sequences, it ends up making a majority of the latter half of the game.  With some fights lasting far past the point of enjoyment, taking on a dozen drones is a blast, deftly weaving in-between them with the combat mode and building your weapon meter, taking on 60 drones is a chore.  In the case of the Batmobile, less would have been more.

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Fortunately Driving the Batmobile is incredible, it has an amazing and visceral sense of speed with punchy sound design, and highly destructible environments, making it feel like you are ripping through the streets of Gotham.  Ramming thugs in their cars is satisfying to no end, and launching out of the Batmobile is a thrill beyond compare.  It is here where Rocksteady shows that they are one of the best developers in the business, the Batmobile is just as fun to drive around as it is to fly as Batman,  it is only when players are forced into protracted combat sequences that it grows stale.

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Arkham Knight might fumble in its use of the Batmobile but it more than makes up for it in storytelling, presentation and all other aspects of the open world. Gotham is lavishly detailed, and brimming with personality, making it one of the most lovingly rendered and hand-crafted open worlds ever seen.  Visually Arkham Knight is possibly the best looking game on the new consoles and shows just how powerful they are, with destructible environments and zero pop-in, the presentation is flawless. Destroying the streets in the Batmobile and launching into the sky and flying over the gorgeous world is seamless, with no loading times throughout the world outside of starting a new mission.

The story is full of twists and turns, some obvious and some less so, with John Noble’s take on Scarecrow feeling downright malicious.  He carries with him that insidious and terrible loathing for Batman as he did for his own son in the Lord Of The Rings films.  It truly feels like it is the darkest hour for Gotham, with Batman drawing every last bit of his own strength to fight his inner demons and his greatest enemies.  The two weak points are the Arkham Knight himself, who comic fans will call the identity of a mile away, with Rocksteady showing their hand a little too early in the plot, and the ending or endings.  The endings are satisfying, they just happen to be gated by completion percentage, with the first coming with the last mission, the second with a certain number of side content done and the third with 100% completion.   This is a daunting task when faced with nearly 300 Riddler trophies on top of the hefty side content, each involving a classic comic villain, thankfully there is always the internet for the less inclined.

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The classic Arkham gameplay is the best it has ever been, with predator combat and freeflow combos still being the best in the business. The puzzle nature of the stealth and a new influx of moves and enemy types make it more challenging than ever. The side content is meaty, with stories and characters that carry over the same level of quality from the main missions and there is more combat, predator and other challenges than ever before.

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Arkham Knight is exactly the kind of experience players have been looking for in the years following the release of the Playstation 4 and Xbox one, and it truly seems like the first real title to harness every inch of their processing power.  It tells a powerful tale that relies on more than just plot twists and shock factor, dealing with some of the most interesting parts of Batman lore.  Rocksteady have bucked a common trend in the Bat-Universe, ending one of its greatest Sagas on its highest note.

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Pros:

+Possibly the best looking console game 

+Combat and Stealth are as fun as ever

+Strong Story with a satisfying conclusion

+Amazing open world

+Driving the Batmobile

+Destructibility 

Cons:

-Batmobile combat

-The Arkham Knight himself

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