Review: Batman: Arkham Knight

Release date: 2015
Version played: Xbox One in 2015

Based on the well-known comic book hero, Batman: Arkham Knight is the fourth and reportedly final of the Batman: Arkham quadrilogy of games (Rocksteady is the developer of Asylum, City and now Knight, whereas Warner Bros Montreal released Origins, a prequel game). After suppressing the Joker’s takeover of Arkham Asylum in the first game, the sequel saw Batman head back to Gotham City, into a walled off area going by the name of Arkham City. The second game was bigger, in many regards, although it was much less personal, but further fleshed out the mythos of the Caped Crusader, culminating in the shocking death of The Joker.

This final entry in the series, set one year later, sees Batman try to deal with the death of his long time rival, while simultaneously attempting to thwart the release of deadly fear toxins by The Scarecrow. Long time voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy returns as the Dark Knight, and John Noble has the role of The Scarecrow. Jonathan Banks becomes the fourth voice of Commissioner Gordon and Ashley Greene replaces Kimberly Brooks as Barbara Gordon, aka the Oracle, Batman’s tech expert. The Joker appears in a flashback or two, and is once again, voiced by the iconic Mark Hamill.

+ the environment, that is all of Gotham City, and the character models and effects and everything just looks absolutely fantastic. The rain effects in particular are very pretty
+ the Batmobile is the real star of this game, almost as an entity itself. It’s various components move fluently, and the physics from destroying the world around you, intentionally or as collateral damage, are simply beautiful. The various ways in which the vehicle is needed to solve puzzles is particularly enjoyable, and you’ll need to put your thinking cap on if you want to get those last few collectibles
+ the combat is the same free-flowing, hard-hitting romp it has always been, but a few new changes help to not make it ‘more of the same’. New gadgets to use and the addition of the Batmobile create many new situations and ways to dispatch your enemies
+ the entire voice cast is phenomenal. Conroy proves, once again, why he is the best ever Batman voice, and Noble is menacing and angry as Scarecrow, though admittedly I never thought Scarecrow should have a deep voice. Banks as Commissioner Gordon and Greene as Oracle are also thankfully very pleasing, as you hear from them a lot.
+ the standout cast member has to be, for the fourth time running, Wally Wingert as The Riddler. His patronizing tone, and gradual descent into (further) insanity is almost reward enough itself to collect the various hidden goods
+ a few more small, large or HUGE surprises that I can’t really mention due to spoilers, but rest assured all of them were amazing to experience

Batman has to contend with the military experience of The Arkham knight, and the scientific knowledge of The Scarecrow. It's gonna be a long night...
Batman has to contend with the military experience of The Arkham Knight, and the scientific knowledge of The Scarecrow. It’s gonna be a long night…

– the Arkham Knight him/her/itself is almost inconsequential in the end. Barely menacing, only ever getting away in cut scenes, the Knight’s presence is stated by the characters, but hardly felt. Their identity, arguably the biggest talking point in the lead up to the game, loses steam early, and by the time the reveal is made, you’ll have come to that conclusion over half the game ago
– the pacing of the main story is often broken up, solely for an allied character to remind you that there are side missions. The story itself is very hit and miss, relying far too heavily on the lackluster reveal of the Arkham Knight.
– far too often, control is taken away from you and batman does something cool, usually in slow motion
– lots of collision detection issues, on foot and in the Batmobile. Many, many times Batman (or an enemy) was half inside a wall as an attack animation played out, causing him to twitch all over the place
– a handful of jump scares was a clichéd, but interesting way to evoke the ‘fear’ part of Scarecrow’s City of Fear. Some were very effective, and I am not ashamed to say I jumped off my couch due to one in particular, dropping my controller onto the floor

> Lots and lots of references to the rest of the Justice League, in particular Superman, has me hopeful that we may get a new game in the Arkham universe, without focusing on Batman. Queen Industries and LexCorp signs can be seen all over Gotham.
> There are plenty of callbacks, to historic Batman stories, including The Killing Joke, Death in the Family and even shades of Knightfall. Some are handled subtly, and others have all the subtlety and nuance of a napalm enema.
> No Bane is a big omission (no pun intended). He’s always been a favourite and I’d have thought he’d make at least a small appearance, as a few others did.

Should you play this game: You should absolutely play this game. I don’t think it made the most of its various villains, Scarecrow’s ‘fear’ motif least of all, but this was a particularly enjoyable game. The combat, world and particularly the Batmobile make this a game you’d have to be foolish to skip. (Having said that, make sure you play at least the first two, before playing this one; as a trilogy, they are probably one of the best in gaming).

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