Batman Arkham Knight: Review

Rocksteady’s marketing campaign deployed #BeTheBatman as the primary message and selling point for fans to pick up Batman: Arkham Knight. And they nailed it. This is Rocksteady’s bread-and-butter, their comfort food – the team perfected the world of Batman in the 2009 release Arkham Asylum and have been fine-tuning that experience ever since. Arkham Knight balances Batman combat, detective skills, stealth missions and predator takedowns in such a way that players feel like Batman. There is one large, bulking problem though…the honest marketing campaign would have been #BeTheBatmobile.

Arkham Knight CombatArkham Knight, the game not the character, is a game with multiple personalities (guess that would apply to the character as well) that don’t mesh well together. Batman is agile, clever and moves through Gotham fluidly whose inner monologue reveals why he can’t perform certain actions because it would kill criminals. The Batmobile/tank is crude, cumbersome and bashes through property with no regard for Gotham, deploying guns, missiles and cannons with reckless abandon.

I wish I could say that I was being nitpicky on a small aspect of the game, like reviewing camera footage frame by frame to uncover secrets or the long load times upon death, but the Batmobile makes up roughly 50% of the game – which means half the game you are rushing through the mission to actually enjoy the next part.

What You’ll Enjoy

The world built within Arkham exists outside of Batman-comic or movie continuity but never ignores the groundwork set by these franchises. The story within Arkham Knight moves at a brisk pace, packs a couple turns and surprises that catch the player off guard. These surprises make the game. Speaking of shocks, there were approximately five times when the game scared me by subverting expectations and felt like a Licker crashed through a two-way mirror (Resident Evil 2 jump-scare for the uninitiated).

The voice actors, new and returning, do a perfect a job. The dialogue feels a little stiff during the opening scenes because they are exposition heavy, but once the characters interact with one another and build upon the lore from the previous entries everything comes together. Scarecrow is legitimately creepy. Batman is focused on the mission. Robin and Nightwing (the first Robin) have different personalities from one another, something that is not always pulled off.

Arkham Knight OracleOne of the biggest hurdles for this current generation is the HD-filter in our brains. Arkham Knight doesn’t immediately jump out as being graphically impressive compared to Arkham City…but it is. The number of moving parts in Batman’s suit, the glistening rain, quantity and variety of onscreen combatants and scope of the world prove that this game must be next-gen only title.

Combat within Arkham Knight will feel right at home to gamers who mastered the previous entries, but still equips a couple adjustments to keep players engaged. If this is your first time (which it probably shouldn’t…Arkham Asylum and City are worth playing) then don’t worry, the game starts off with simple grunts and slowly introduces a wide variety of assailants. By the end levels, or challenge maps, players will be able to defeat sword wielding assassins, towering brutes, medics, electrical foes, shielded enemies and gun-wielding enemies all at once without worry (well sometimes a little worry).

Outside of the main storyline, there are fourteen various sidequests to complete. These range from disarming bombs (with the Batmobile), analyzing crime scenes, chasing down super villains or stopping bank robberies. The side missions are introduced organically (for a video game) and will take a large portion of the playthrough to complete. Most of the markers for the mission don’t put Batman right on top of the action, but instead require the player to traverse Gotham and investigate the area to begin the quest.

Arkham Knight GlidingMost of the time I navigated Gotham by gliding instead of driving the Batmobile…and by glide I mean practically fly. The grappling hook and glide system can be upgraded and it feels more impressive than previous entries as Batman swoops, soards and dive bombs through the environment. The world is larger, but it feels like Batman can move from one end of the world to the other faster – meaning you won’t spend the entire time in traversal.

Another important, powerful and fun upgrade, is Batman’s ability to stealth strike multiple enemies at once. This feature changes the approach to predator missions from previous entries but isn’t an overpowered gimmick. To recharge, the player must successfully complete a stealth takedown and foes possess new abilities to counteract Batman’s predatory skills. This is another example of how Rocksteady is able to make Batman feel powerful and capable, but manages to balance risk vs reward.

What Might Frustrate You

The Batmobile is shoehorned into this game at every possible moment. There are rooftops in Gotham perfectly measured for the Batmobile and dreaded platforming sections. The car is required to solve some of the puzzles and collect Riddler trophies. Combat isn’t that fun in the tank mode. There are only 4 types of enemies available and instead of varying the structure the game just throws more at you. Another awkward moment in the Batmobile is stealth car combat sequences.

Arkham Knight BatmobileLast part of the Batmobile frustrations – the control scheme is cumbersome. You need to hold down L2 the entire time to stay in combat form and the control scheme shifts to the new perspective. The controls are also different while transforming to a car. Plus, there are different schematics for combat, exploration and predatory mode. It creates a jumble of inputs for the player to constantly memorize.

No spoilers, but the identity of the Arkham Knight is a let down.

Lastly, I know we need Batman to interact with his allies, but man he sure uses the gauntlet communicator often. Its a visually impressive feature, but it starts to wear thin after a while.

Final Verdict

Arkham Knight recreates iconic Batman-moments, the atmosphere of Gotham and manages a robust cast of characters well. The game is graphically impressive, with a riveting score and plot sequences that match the caliber of Batman comics. This isn’t just a great licensed game – it is a great game period (then another period to end the sentence).

The major drawback is the Batmobile. The boss battles in the car are frustrating, the races are floaty or cumbersome and it pulls the player out of the Batman experience. If you enjoyed the previous Arkham games, then Knight is still worth picking up despite the Batmobile and if you haven’t played any then it still a great action game, but you should start with at least City to get the most out of the plot.

If I could rate this in two parts, I would give Batman a “Must Buy” and the Batmobile a “Hardcore Only” but as they are intertwined the game ends up being somewhere in between and up to the player to decide the balance for themselves.

Trophy Analysis

Even if you beat the game, then again on new game+, complete all of the AR challenges, Riddler puzzles and see the true ending you still might not have the platinum. There are a couple unique skill based challenges which require the player to show expertise in driving, flight and combat. This Platinum isn’t for the faint of heart and will probably take anyone 50+ hours to complete, most of that time will be hunting down Riddler trophies. Again, most of these tasks are split evenly between Batman sequences and Batmobile.


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