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Review: Batman: Arkham Knight

Welcome Michael to the Graphic Policy team! Can’t wait for him to help flesh out our video game coverage and that starts now! – the Management

Batman Arkham Knight Cover ArtIt’s rare for people to pick up a superhero video game title, as a majority of the games are pretty terrible (Anyone remember how awful Superman 64 was? Blocked it out from your memory? I wouldn’t blame you). With how severe people have been burned in the past by spending $60 on a game that felt like it was made at the last-minute, a stigma was created with superheroes and video games. If there was a title released, not only was it awful, but you could bet there was usually a developer behind it trying to promote a TV show, toy line or movie to fit alongside it. On the off-chance that someone saw that title in your house, you usually had to rely on the excuse that a relative gave it to you for your birthday, and that you didn’t actually want it in the first place. Never has loving a superhero brought me as much shame as it did among video game fans…

Like Rocky after getting beaten several times, the developers at Rocksteady put on their walkmans, cranked up Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger and were determined to make a superhero title worthy of owning (I have no evidence of this, but this is how I like to imagine it). Needless to say, their conquest was successful! In 2009 Batman: Arkham Asylum was released, and not only was it amazing, but the bar for a Batman game was set so high that only Rocksteady themselves could surpass it! (Sorry WB Montreal) With an emphasis on stealth, hand-to-hand combat, and a wide variety of gadgets at your disposal, Batman: Arkham Asylum provided a true first-hand experience to what being Batman was really like.

553e34670056aLet’s fast-forward to 2015 with their latest and final installment in their trilogy, Batman: Arkham Knight. With an emphasis on making everything bigger and better than before, Rocksteady did their best to pull out all the stops to make this the best Batman title they could. With a much larger map, more gadgets to utilize, and new and bigger threats around every corner, Batman: Arkham Knight is no doubt the fullest Batman ever released.

The game spans over 3 large islands within Gotham City, with criminals running wild as the rest of Gotham is evacuated for fear of Scarecrows attempt at terrorism. While Batman tries to save his city, there is another menace who appears to teams up with Scarecrow, referring to himself as The Arkham Knight. With a powerful army at their disposal, it’s up to Batman to save the city with his trusty Batmobile/Bat-tank and a few of his allies.

The story, as with most of the Rocksteady’s titles, starts out promising and then slowly gets convoluted as there is simply way too much going on. Each and every super villain has the need to try to take over Gotham to prove that they deserve to stand on top, except for the Riddler (Everyone knows he’s too cool for teamwork). What honestly shocks me is that none of these villains seem to care about Scarecrow’s threat to plunge Gotham City into a living hell with his new toxin, so much as run their crooked businesses normally. While the main story focuses mostly on the Arkham Knight and Scarecrow teaming up to overtake your city, fans may forget that Scarecrow is even in the game, because you only see him a handful of times. The story generally focuses on the Arkham Knight and his feud with Batman, and it’s pretty obvious who the Knight is if you’re familiar with Batman at all. I did enjoy the sections with the special guest of the game (no spoilers!). With a somewhat tired ending that just feels forced, fans really get the impression that this is Rocksteady’s final installment with the series, and that they’re officially done with Batman. With how difficult it was to actually get the PC version established, I don’t blame them. (Sorry PC players!) With a super secret ending for completing 100% of the game, fans are shown that there will be no more Batman, from this developer at least…

With every new installment to a series, the one thing people really hope for is improvements on graphics, especially when a series crosses over to a newer and better platform. This title doesn’t fail to impress as Rocksteady truly gives everything a major upgrade in the fashion department, making it truly breathtaking game to look at. Arkham Knight‘s environment is the largest of the three titles, spanning over 3 islands that each stand larger than Arkham City. With the ability to either glide or drive through the city, there’s a lot for players to take in.

54e504c0956d7I would have loved to have given this a solid 9 or 10 because of how amazing these Batman titles usually play, but the one thing that stands as the bane of your existence is the highly anticipated Batmobile… With shaky controls (at best) and several missions actually focusing on you driving your car around Gotham or mazes, I’ve more often crashed into walls, flipped my car over or blown up than I’ve actually stopped crime. With Rocksteady allowing the Batmobile to crash through most objects and building corners, it’s a wonder there was even a Gotham left to save after all was said and done. While it was difficult to learn at first, I did find it enjoyable once I got used to the controls. Though it did take a while.

The tank mode in the game is also another necessity as you have to fight several other tanks in the game. The targeting system is only subpar, so often times I would actually miss when I would think otherwise, resulting in my death. I made the mistake of upgrading my suit and gadgets before my car, thinking that I would go through the majority of the game as Batman, not the Bat-tank. Never have I been more wrong…

The times fighting as Batman are the reason this section received the positive score it has. With a heavy focus on combat and stealth, and a great mixture of gadget use and new kinds of takedown attacks, Rocksteady really outdid themselves with the physical combat. The newest feature, and by far my favorite, that’s provided with the new armor is the Fear-Multi Takedown. What this does is it allows Batman to get a surprise attack on a group, and causes the whole area to slow down and panic, so you can control your camera and attack your next victim at super high speeds. This feature gives fans real insight into how Batman fights using fear as an element, and it’s the best thing the game has going for it. The only downside to this is that it’s not easy to pull off when you want to, so much as when the game wants you to.

The other new feature that Rocksteady added into this game was Co-op fighting. While it’s not multiplayer (which would have been amazing), the feature allows players to fight like a true dynamic duo, but unfortunately it didn’t actually happen very often. This serves as somewhat of a letdown considering how high they were trying to sell it during advertisements. So unless you’re interested in only playing the one VR Mission that features this, you won’t be seeing much of Batman teaming up. We all know Batman prefers to be a lone wolf anyways.

Arkham Knight is also the first game to allow you to utilize gadgets in your combos. You build up a combo meter through flawless execution and then use that combo meter to unleash gadget attacks to takedown enemies. While this sounds like an excellent feature in the game, and everyone knows this is what Batman does, I often found myself being unable to use it. With the combo meter instantly getting taken down the moment you suffer any type of attack, it was a rare occasion to use one of these gadget attacks successfully. With Batman constantly fighting hordes of enemies, it’s rather difficult to do anything other than punch or counter, so inputting other button commands would often result in taking a hit and losing the chance.

The sidequests in the game were considerably more exciting than the actual campaign. They allow you to feel like the Dark Knight as you take down some of Gotham’s fiercest foes. While some of these stories are shorter than others, they give players a chance to explore through Gotham, learn some of its history, and solve crimes. The only downside to all of this, is that if you’re doing these alongside the main scenario, you’re often cut off from being able to continue until you progress further through the main campaign.

The Riddler missions in this game are also more exciting as they go beyond just finding trophies like in the previous titles. The challenges come in the format of solving riddles, puzzles, finding easter eggs, scanning your surroundings for question mark shaped footprints, and even race tracks. Rocksteady really outdid themselves this time around with how much there is to find in the game. For a title at nearly 50GB, you can expect quite a few Easter Eggs to find through riddle hunting. The motivation to finish the Riddler segment is strong too, because once you complete the main scenario, Riddler bugs you about finishing his riddles every 5 minutes or so. Never has punching someone in the face been so fantastic…

As with every Batman title from the trilogy, the game is very story heavy, so while the game is amazing to play the first time around, the re-playability factor isn’t high. I’d prefer to take a long break before diving into the game again, even if the difficulty is increased with New Game Plus. With nothing extra besides a slightly altered intro cutscene, there isn’t anything new to the game that we wouldn’t have seen before.

Nothing would have pleased me more than to give this game a 10/10 solely on the fact that I’m a huge Batman fan, but the game has a lot that stands against it. With several of the new features seeming like more of a hassle than exciting, or just overall lacking, this game just feels like it could have been so much better. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I just know it could have been better. At least it’s Kevin Conroy voicing Batman. That man could narrate my life. I would definitely avoid the DLC Season Pass bundle at the moment as it’s an additional $40 with only one segment, and a few extra costumes. That money could be used towards another title or several comics with better stories.

Story: 6 Graphics: 9 Gameplay: 7.5 Sidequests: 8 Re-playability: 5 Overall Score: 7.5

Played on the Playstation 4

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