Rocksteady’s third, and possibly last Batman game, is about everything you would expect from a fourth entry in a major game franchise. The base game itself absolutely has everything you could want (so long as you play on a console). Jaw-dropping graphics? Check. Expanded Freeflow combat? Check. Plot that twists and turns? Check. Inclusion of the Batmobile? Check. New abilities for Predator encounters? Check. DLC that adds to the story and gives you a bigger challenge? That’s a more hesitant check. Truly, Batman: Arkham Knight will be remembered as one of the best titles from 2015.
But, before we get ahead of ourselves, Arkham Knight sees the Scarecrow (voiced by an intensely monotone John Noble) terrorize Gotham and with a little bit of toxin and a warning to run, turns Gotham into a playground for the criminal world while the good citizens flee. Predictably, this brings Batman (voiced once more by the true Batman, Kevin Conroy) out and he begins a long fight against the Scarecrow, and his lieutenant, the Arkham Knight. Now, going into the plot any further will ruin the surprises in store, so I’d really rather not go over them at length. What I will say, is that the side missions will have you run into a nice assortment of Batman’s rogues gallery including classic villains like The Riddler; Two-Face; and the Penguin. The game also tosses some surprising villains your way such as the Man-Bat, Professor Pyg, and Firefly. None of the side missions are necessary to progress through the game, but do reward your completion of them with upgrade points for Batman’s gear. With the main plot and side missions giving plenty of variety to spare, there’s roughly 20-30 hours of gameplay here.
When Arkham Asylum released in 2009, it surprised the industry. Never before had a superhero game been done so well or had the universal acclaim that it had. At the time, it was a pretty good looking game, with textures that were rich enough to read posters on the wall, or clearly see the picture of Cash’s family at his desk (I spent a lot of time exploring). But Arkham Knight absolutely puts those graphical achievements to shame. In Arkham Knight, Gotham is suffering from a
monsoon thunderstorm that happens to last the entire night. Because of this, the rain-slicked streets reflect the neon lights of the city. Batman’s suit has rain drops constantly cascading downwards. It adds a sense of realism I wasn’t expecting from a console release this early in the life cycle. The textures of the city and characters don’t suffer from any pop-in, and are gorgeously detailed. Even when the game is arguably at it’s most intensive points with drone battles, Arkham Knight shows no signs of slowing down. Arkham Knight is nothing short of a technical marvel.
The Freeflow combat made popular in Arkham Asylum and expanded on in Arkham City, gets further expanded/complicated in Arkham Knight. Here, it’s possible to use almost every gadget in Batman’s arsenal in the middle of combat effectively. And this time, you’ll need to. Enemy abilities expanded just like Batman’s, and they will now charge into him, resuscitate each other, or give other criminals an electric charge to fight you with. They are each great ways to force you to change your tactics without getting too annoying. Punching, kicking, and just generally beating the stuffing out of your enemies never gets old and turns into one of the best challenges to tackle after you complete the game.
But more than anything, the Batmobile is the most divisive addition in Arkham Knight. The game gives you the freedom to drive the Batmobile throughout all corners of Gotham, and is used to solve puzzles, eject you from the driver’s seat like a cannon, and to fight all kinds of drones that will be flung towards you. But the game is also designed in such a way that you end up in the Batmobile or needing to drive it for a significant portion of Arkham Knight. The Riddler even sets up race tracks for Batman to “solve”. And that’s the one puzzle about the game I can’t quite figure out, how a racetrack is a Riddler event. And yet that’s not even the strangest thing the Batmobile does.
With the pull of the left trigger, the Batmobile becomes a highly maneuverable tank, complete with a 60mm cannon, riot suppressor, and more secondary weapons as you progress. While it’s not very Batman-like to go around Gotham in a tank, it makes sense to have something so well equipped after the events of Arkham City. In Arkham City, Hugo Strange enlists a security force named Tyger. They come equipped with military-grade gear and are ready to use it on anyone within Arkham’s walls. So, it only makes sense that Batman would upgrade his iconic ride with the tools necessary to take down a militaristic force.
So that makes two kinds of combat in Arkham Knight so far. But by far, Predator encounters are my favorite. Do you remember watching The Animated Series and seeing Batman silently take out entire rooms full of thugs and none of them even knowing it until it was too late? That’s the feeling the Predator encounters bring to players. You enter an area and must dispatch the enemies in any way you deem fit, and wow there’s a lot you can do. It’s possible to synthesize some character voices and direct enemies to places to get the jump on them. You can booby trap their equipment, rendering the item useless, or at best knocking them out when they try to use it. But the most satisfying addition for Predator encounters is the ability to pop out of somewhere (like a grate) and take out up to 5 goons and not have any danger of being hit. It really drives home the idea that Batman is at his peak mentally and physically, and knows how to utilize fear in the middle of combat.
But that’s all just the base game itself. As I said, there’s plenty of content just in the main game, but once you factor in the DLC additions, you get some great content, but mostly a few “Arkham Episodes” that are over before they get especially interesting. But among these episodes, the best one by far is “A Matter of Family”, where you play as Batgirl before the events of Arkham Asylum in an abandoned carnival up against the Joker and Harley Quinn. It made for an enjoyable, if unnecessary bit of story with new puzzles and abilities. Unfortunately, the other Episodes can be completed in one or two hours and don’t add much to the story.
For example, there’s one where you play as the Red Hood, who is tracking down Black Mask. It has some fist fights, and a predator encounter, but that’s it. Red Hood says he needs to go somewhere and find where Black Mask is hiding, but the game fades to black and cuts to Red Hood storming his hideout. It felt very much like you were watching a cliff notes version where all the hard work of crime fighting was already done for you. It’s easily the worst part of the DLC packs to me.
Arkham Knight also follows in the previous game footsteps in that it gets added challenges. These challenges are about the three forms of combat (Freeflow, Predator and Tank) as well as race courses inspired by the various versions of Batman out there. Personally, my favorites are the 1989 film and 1960’s TV show courses. They feature the iconic theme music for both, and allow you to drive the respective vehicles while wearing the batsuit for the time period. It lets everything come together and let you live out a very particular bat fantasy. Especially since each of those components can be used in the base game campaign as well.
What the DLC does well is it tries to please everyone by featuring as many costumes and Batmobiles as possible in order to cater to every fan of The Dark Knight. Even the suit and Batmobile from Batman vs. Superman is included in the game as well as a suit based on the first appearance of Batman. It truly covers his entire history.
So, with all of this is Arkham Knight worth your time? Absolutely if you enjoy Batman or if you just enjoy action/adventure games with a fantastic plot. The Batmobile is very much a love it or hate it part of the game, but everything else about it makes the base game of Arkham Knight a must-play title. Your enjoyment of the DLC will greatly depend on how much of a fan of Batman you are, but even then the lack of story-based content could leave you wanting more for your money. Batman: Arkham Knight is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and for PC.
Note: Arkham Knight was played on a Xbox One where the campaign, New Game+, and story-DLC was all completed. Further, the PC version is not recommended due to still lingering technical issues.