Friday, September 11, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight Review - I Am the Night

Score: 9.25 / 10
Batman: Arkham Knight
PC - Xbox One - PS4
Developer: Rocksteady
Publisher: Rocksteady
Release Date: June 23rd, 2015

  • Stunning performances drive a powerful conclusion to the trilogy
  • The Batmobile is a fun addition to travel the city in
  • Combat is fluid, and complex enough for challenging fights
  • Clever camera play adds a lot to the experience
  • Side content provides plenty to do and contributes to Gotham's liveliness 
  • Batmobile feels like lost potential
  • Lackluster secret ending for efforts of finding all trophies 
As I stared at the credits for Arkham Knight, stills of past installments adorned a gigantic team of names and the nostalgia of first entering the asylum hit me all over again. The joy of wheeling in Joker as I passed iconic Batman villains, the fun of stealthily taking out Mr. Freeze in Arkham City, and the overall joy of flying over Gotham and swooping down to save a citizen. This franchise has been a love letter to fans of the animated series and comic books alike, and not only proved how superhero games can be done, but the incredible impact a game can have with characters and villains you have known since you were little. The third installment is full of surprises, heartfelt goodbyes, and non stop action; closing out one of the greatest gaming trilogies to grace a console.

Gravelly Voice Not Included

The great appeal of Arkham Knight comes from the clever play on presentation. Batman is in a darkened state of mind after the events of the previous game, and without giving away too many spoilers, he is becoming a bit disheveled since the death of the Joker. Including the mystery of the Arkham Knight's identity, Scarecrow acts as the main protagonist and is all about hallucinations of your biggest fears, which the game plays on through clever camera placement; oftentimes you will look down a room, turn around, and find the walls have disappeared or you are walking through a memory without even realizing it. The story kept me guessing as to what was real, and what was morphing into an illusion.

The city, despite being primarily evacuated, is a living, breathing entity compared to Arkham City. Cop cars chasing down thugs, riots overtaking a street corner, and the alarm of a bank to signify a heist is underway; driving through Gotham is an unpredictable and wondrous thing. The visual detail extends from breathtaking views to intricate character models, bringing the animated series to a grittier life. The familiar soundtrack acts as a compliment to the previous two installments, while gaining its own identity in heightening the dark overtone of the game. As you glide over the city or boost around in the Batmobile, you never know what could await you at each corner.

Not a single gas station nearby...

The franchise keeps the familiar gameplay approach it became famous for, mixing action and stealth with open world gameplay. Enemies are faster and more brutal than previous installments with medics that revive fallen troops, electrical auras that protect enemies, and tougher generals requiring you to adapt on the fly with the multitude of gadgets to open them up for attack. The stealthier segments offer the same approach, with new overflying drones that you can hack and the potential to be flushed out of hiding spots to adapt on the fly. It is engaging enough for new players to pick up, but with enough subtle changes to keep veterans of the franchise on their toes.

Spicing things up this time around are the multitude of new features. The Batmobile makes the most obvious new addition to the arsenal with the ability to be used for traversal and combat, offering a new way to travel across the city and is prominently featured in many missions. Though the combat can be fun and tearing through Gotham is a blast, the standard use of the Batmobile loses its luster after a time. It is hard to beat flying through the cityscape, grappling from building to building with no limits. Additionally, new dual team events occur in which Batman will fight with an AI controlled ally, capable of switching on the fly mid combo. It works well with the free flow combat, and provides for some variance in certain situations to fight as Robin or Nightwing while an AI takes over for Batman. These segments were short lived, but memorable.

Alley-oop with a side of justice

Most of the side content offered rivals the main storyline, and eventually becomes a requirement to get the best ending. Each task offers an encounter with a familiar Batman villain, oftentimes through investigations or elimination of enemy threats. You will be tasked with stopping bank heists, dismantling mines scattered through the city, and even helping Catwoman escape The Riddler's latest game. There are also smaller tasks like solving all of Riddler's trophies, once again scattered through Gotham. Even at three games in, the puzzles proved enticing and the big green questions marks that stared me in the face beckoned me over plenty of times to abandon my current task in favor of beating Riddler at his game. Outside of the story are plenty of Challenge maps, most plucked from in-game segments or encounters that can be played for record times/combos to gain medals.

It is hard to say goodbye to the Arkham series, but when you close a blockbuster out as well as this game it is easier to let go. Arkham Knight hits all the high points where it matters; a solid story, easy and challenging gameplay, and a multitude of content to keep you coming back for more. Though the necessity to unlock all three hundred or so trophies from Riddler was a slight buzzkill, the side content still manages to entice you to see it through to the end. Arkham Knight is a game not soon forgotten, and a franchise worthy of the Dark Knight.

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