Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham Knight is the Best Game I’ve Played In Years

The caveat is that I have yet to play the Witcher 3. I’m playing that next. Some details: I played Batman: Arkham Knight for about fifty-six hours on the PC and the version I played was the Premium Edition, so I had all the downloadable content.

So I’m going to do a spoiler free write up first and I’ll write up some bullet points that may have spoilers after the score.

First and foremost, we have to talk about bugs and glitches. When Arkham Knight was released on PC last year, it was a disaster. The game had so many bugs and glitches that it was pretty much unplayable. So how does it play now, one year later? I am happy to say that while there are some bugs still in the game, it did not substantially affect my enjoyment of the game. For me, there were primarily two bugs: stuttering/frozen screen and sometimes the audio would cut out. And I have a GTX 1070, so I’m fairly sure it wasn’t the card. Anyways, while not the ideal scenario, the game was still playable and awesome.

Secondly, the visuals in this game are just amazing. When I started up the game, the first thing I noticed was just how awesome this game looked. This is not just because of detailed textures and graphics engine, but because of everything else. The art direction is just amazing. You can’t help but marvel at the detail that has been applied to this world. It’s clear when you drive through Gotham City’s streets that artists drew and designed every aspect of this city and the player’s experience benefits greatly from it. Furthermore, the animations are just fantastic. Most of the cut scenes are in-game because of how good everything looks and because of camera positioning and motion capture. This game just has a top notch presentation.

In regards to audio, the music is great. It’s not ground breaking, but it’s exactly the kind of dark, orchestral music you’d expect from a Batman story. If you’ve played any of the last three Arkham games, then you will be delighted to hear that familiar Batman theme play again.

Gameplay in this game can be broken down into a few parts. Firstly, there’s the polished, free flow combat system that originated in the Arkham series and was subsequently copied by many other games. At this point in time, the system just feels good and I think most returning fans expect this system to remain in the game, with some minor improvements. These minor improvements include the use of new gadgets during fights, the introduction of some new enemies, and the use of the environment to add variety to combat moves. There are a lot of challenge maps afterwards, and I played through some but not all of them. In my opinion, the main draw of playing some of these challenge maps is to see some locations that you would not see otherwise.

The second part of gameplay involves stealthily clearing a room of enemies. This is also a fan favorite and expected to return. Minor additions include the addition of new enemies that either restrict your use of abilities, enemies who revive fallen abilities, invisible enemies, drones, and those who must be taken out last lest the rest of the enemies be alerted. This game mode was already fun and the small additions are nice.

A minor addition that I enjoyed immensely was the inclusion of Batman’s allies (like Robin and Nightwing) in the combat and stealth portions. I felt like these were so fun that if Rocksteady explored this mechanic further, this could have been the cool, new thing in the place of the less fun Batmobile combat.

Third, there are puzzles. These usually involve gadgets , the Batmobile, and standing on platforms. I’m glad they included puzzles, but the puzzles along with Batmobile combat are the weakest parts of this game. Additionally, some of the Riddler puzzles are so elaborate they kind of break the fourth wall in that it would take years to construct something like this, much less underneath a city of skyscrapers.

The last and newest gameplay addition is the Batmobile. The Batmobile can be broken down into two parts: racing and combat. Racing is… racing. The only thing I will say about racing is that there are certain tracks outside the main game where you can race around in old Batmobiles (like Adam West’s Batmobile, Keaton’s Batmobile, or Bale’s Tumbler) around tracks that seem taken straight out of each Batmobile’s respective show. It’s a fun side activity where you get to hear the theme music from these old movies/shows. Except for Christian Bale’s Batman movies. I don’t think they got the music rights to use the theme from those movies. You get an imitation song instead on those tracks.

Batmobile combat is more complex and if you’ve read other reviews, Batmobile combat is the weakest aspect of this game. Unfortunately, I have to agree to an extent. I certainly don’t hate Batmobile combat. I still found it fun. It just wasn’t as fun as free flow combat or the stealth portions. Of note is that some Batmobile combat portions require stealth, which kind of contradicts the idea of driving this powerful, loud tank.

In regards to the story, it is mostly fantastic. I was worried when I heard Paul Dini did not work on this, but it was just fine without him. I’ll go into it more in the bullet points following the score.

A note about the DLC: I would not buy the downloadable content piecemeal, I would just buy the Premium Edition and get all the DLC at once. While most of the DLC is weak, the ones that are worth it to me are The Season of Infamy and Batgirl: A Matter of Family. The Season of Infamy is the better of the two.

Score: 9/10 Loved this game. There is no other game that makes you feel more like the Batman than this. There is no superhero game as good as this. It’s like playing an episode of the animated Batman cartoon or one of the movies. This was a great, narrative driven experience. Easily one of the best games I have ever played.

 

Now for some potentially spoiler filled bullet points:

  • The story for the most part is fantastic and does a great job pushing the player forward. The weakest part of the story was how predictable the identity of the Arkham Knight was and the ending. The ending wasn’t bad, it just didn’t have the impact that the ending of Arkham City had. Since this was the end of the Arkham trilogy, I was expecting more.
  • There are some twists in this story. The one that truly shocked me was the one involving Barbara Gordon. Unfortunately, this twist was predictably ruined by events later in the game.
  • I like that they included decisions in this game. Unfortunately, the only decision that mattered was the final choice in the Ra’s Al Ghul quest in The Seasons of Infamy DLC.
  • Once again, I must praise this game for how details oriented and visually pleasing it was. For example, Batman gets dosed with some fear gas and slowly starts hallucinating more and more Joker related stuff as the game progresses. Sometimes, you will turn away from a statue and when you turn back to look at it, it now has the Jokers face. Just little details like this add so much to the tone and immersion of this game.
  • I like the inclusion of the Joker hallucinations. I love Mark Hamill playing the Joker and I will take his performance any chance I get.
  • The side quests are some of the best parts of this game. A lot of the plot lines planted in prior Arkham games are resolved in the side quests. Some of them are kind of bare, but it’s nice to see these characters in the game. I was particularly surprised by the inclusion of some new enemies from the comic books that fans of the old, animated series would not be familiar with. Professor Pyg in particular was cool.
  • I hoped in my heart of hearts that the Arkham Knight was not who I thought it was. Unfortunately, it was exactly who I thought it was. This was a missed opportunity to introduce a new twist that could have blown players’ minds. Instead, we walk the same, well trodden path that other writers have taken us down before. This sucked.
  • I like how in the Arkham series, you generally get to keep all the gadgets you found in the prior Arkham games. It really helps maintain the narrative integrity of the game and maintain the immersion.
  • I was disappointed that Gotham City is mostly empty. According to the story, the city was evacuated because of the threat from Scarecrow. Which if fine I guess. I would’ve loved to play in a living world with civilians and muggers though.
  • Batman doesn’t kill, but I’m pretty sure that running someone over and shooting them with a tank’s cannon would kill them. Just saying, “nonlethal” rounds shouldn’t be able to magically explain away everything. I do understand the conflict between making driving a tank fun while following Batman’s no kill mandate.
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