Batman: Arkham Knight Review Overview
+ Familiar brawling combat that the series has become known for
+ Gotham is absolutely stunning
- An unoriginal story with a not-so-surprising villian reveal
- The repetitiveness of "battle mode"
Batman: Arkham Knight INFORMATION
Release Date: June 23rd, 2015
Developer/Publisher: Rocksteady Studios/Warner Bros. Games
Batman: Arkham Knight is the third Batman game released by developer Rocksteady. It's also the first developed for the latest generation but the extra horsepower hasn't led to a jump in gameplay.
Batman: Arkham Knight Review Story - A Very Merry "Unsuprise"
I won't tell you who the Arkham Knight is, but suffice it to say it is no surprise whether you're well versed in the Batman universe or not. It's rather disappointing that the main story mystery is hardly that. The storytelling on the other hand is top-notch. Batman's tortured fears have an immense affect on his decisions within the story and these are all conveyed very well. To be fair it has to be difficult to input the gallery of villains into every game, and that's why for the most part, the main story focuses on two or three. But what this narrow focus also does is eliminate variety in gameplay.
In addition, many of the side quests add to the overall story in terms of the individual Batman is pursuing, but does little to add in context to the primary plotline. In many ways it is a "villain of the week" set up, which is actually quite nice if you want to just complete a limited playthrough with the loose ends tied up. However, like previously mentioned, the connection to the main story is rather weak, and besides receiving experience points for upgrades, it's an isolated experience. It's very similar to an open world RPG in this sense, but when the flaws of the main story come to fruition, a closer relation to the Arkham Knight could've helped alleviate some of the filler (see below).
Batman: Arkham Knight Review Gameplay - The Repetitiveness of "Battle Mode"
Because of the lack of adversaries, and hardly what you can call "boss fights," Arkham Knight can sometimes feel like a grind, especially when it comes to the Batmobile portions. Arkham Knight introduces the Batmobile to the series for the first time, and at first it seems like a fun distraction, zooming around the streets of Gotham, pushing the afterburner and hitting jumps, using the car's wench via remote to access new areas and occasionally targeting an enemy vehicle on the run. Then you get to the "battle mode" which essentially turns the Batmobile into a tank, complete with third person shooter controls, strafing left and right, using the right analog to aim. "OK" I said, "this is alright..." the first time. Slowly the tank scenes increase, each time adding more enemies, until towards the end you feel like all you've done is use battle mode. Not just in comparison to riding around in "car-mode," but to the traditional Batman brawling and detective mode gameplay that have made the series so popular. What the "battle mode" DOES do well is make you appreciate all other aspects of the gameplay.
Batman: Arkham Knight for the Traditionalist
Outside of "battle mode" Arkham Knight does a lot right. Hand to hand combat is as smooth as ever, and after three games it feels completely natural (I would argue that Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor does it better) and there are some new caveats to detective mode that don't feel forced, and while very easy, still somehow manage to give the player a sense of accomplishment. Similar to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, there are a lot of sieges that can be approached in limitless ways. It definitely is more "open-world" than it's predecessor with missions not all requiring entry to a building that would otherwise be locked. And because of the more narrow character focus of the main story, the side missions can provide a little more entertainment. These missions are where you'll find the variety. You'll most likely slog through a few that are fairly boring (rescue five fire fighters, evaluate six crime scenes) but there are few that are concise and focused on something more interesting. It's a shame that these couldn't be integrated into the main story.
Sound - Batman: Arkham Knight Review
The music of Arkham Knight is good, but there is nothing differentiating from previous Batman games or to stand out in general. It's not the case where your recognize the music out of game or find yourself humming the tune.
The always excellent voice acting of the series is once again carried by Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker. It's this acting that really shines, especially when these characters interact with each other.
The sound design, while not memorable, is excellent. Punches land with a satisfying thud, the wind causes the gliding cape to crackle, the Batmobile's after burner fires with an eruption and the tires shriek during a sharp turn or stop. It's all done with a slight homage to the 60s Batman or The Animated Series of the 90s.
Technical - Batman: Arkham Knight Review
When the trailers came out, this game looked amazing. The Batmobile was the highlight in the trailer and it didn't disappoint in the final release. The biggest difference between the last generation's Batman series and Arkham Knight graphically, is the detail. The rain effects, the litter on the streets and the increased shadowing all contribute to a beautiful game. The world, partly because of the plot, isn't teeming with life like you'd see in Grand Theft Auto, and sometimes it feels vacant. There usually are a few hoodlums running around but it's only for the purpose of filling the world. There are other side quest initiators that can be found but they're hardly organic in their population of the world.
Batman: Arkham Knight Review Roundup
If you are a fan of the Rocksteady series of Batman games this game doesn't make any departures from the series core brawling aspects, but it does add some new features that may disrupt your core experience. Technically it's beautiful, and the story is told with aplomb, even if the mystery isn't so much a mystery and there is some prolonging of the reveal, despite the obvious. For some, the "battle mode" won't ruin the experience, but unfortunately by the time my play though with the game was over it was only the monotonous and disingenuous nature of these segments I could remember.