Wow, just…wow. Batman: Arkham Knight had every opportunity to do too much and get lost in itself, to leave too many dangling plot lines, or to simply not live up to the two outstanding games preceding it (ignoring the WB Montreal developed Origins). Instead we are greeted with an expertly crafted game with superb pacing and gameplay filled to the brim with options that never becomes overwhelming. Batman: Arkham Knight is not just the swan song for the Rocksteady Arkham Trilogy, it will absolutely go down as one of the year’s finest games, so long as you don’t play it on PC that is.
Arkham Knight continues the series’ rich history of superb gameplay, but where Arkham Origins stumbled by being too similar, Arkham Knight thrives by almost doing too much. There are plenty of new options for dispatching thugs both in stealth and in open combat. Luckily, Rocksteady does an excellent job of introducing these mechanics over time so you never feel overwhelmed. They also provide plenty of opportunities for practice with simulations littered around Gotham that allow you to play around without the risk of having to be taunted by a game over screen. Combat is as smooth as ever and immensely satisfying when executed properly. If you are a long time fan you’ll be treated to the most refined system yet, while newcomers will quickly learn just why this series is famous for it’s combat.
When it comes to stealth, nothing tops the new stealth takedown mechanic. When fully upgraded, it allows you to take down up to five bad guys before the fight even begins. Watching Batman flow from one unsuspecting thug to the next is ultra satisfying in slow motion and the knockouts are brutal. Ultimately, playing as Batman is just as you’d expect. As a nice change of pace you can switch between characters when the likes of Robin and Nightwing join the fight at various points of the game. They too have a familiarity to them, but their moves are different enough to give you a break if you just absolutely couldn’t best down another thug as Batman.
The biggest new addition is the Batmobile as a drivable, unrelenting force of destruction. Sounds crazy, I know, but this is less the Batmobile and more Bat Tank. Cruising through the city is a blast and crashing into walls and other objects will leave nothing but rubble and destruction in your wake. When combat is a must, you can shift into true tank mode, cannon and all. Batman still doesn’t kill, firing non-lethal rounds at squishy targets, but the plethora of drone tanks littering the city get the big guns. A full auto vulcan is accompanied by a whopping 60mm cannon that will tear those ill-equipped tanks to shreds.
Story and Modes:
Arkham Knight features a much darker, grittier story than either of the previous two games, thus earning itself a mature rating. This would normally not be worth mentioning, but Rocksteady used this rating to perfection, not by heaping on sex and unrelenting gore, but by telling a truly mature tale of Batman and embracing the theme of dark fears. They also managed to take the generally unintimidating Scarecrow and make him a truly fearsome villain worthy of the spotlight. As the city is now under the control of Scarecrow, by proxy of the Arkham Knight and his military force. The GCPD is helpless and Batman is the only force in Gotham capable of any kind of resistance. To make matters worse, every big bad in the city is uniting to take advantage of the chaos. It is difficult to talk much about the story because everything feels like a spoiler. Arkham Knight is a masterfully crafted tale, well paced and full of amazing set pieces as well as a few twists that might just blow your mind. Is it a tad predictable for longtime fans of the Dark Knight? Sure, but Rocksteady manages to do more within the constraints of the license than most developers do with full creative freedom.
Visuals and Sound:
When playing on either of the current generation consoles, Arkham Knight is stunning. Though locked at 30FPS, this is absolutely one of the finest looking games to date. The city is full of detail and lighting is superb. Debris left in your wake when driving the Batmobile or the particle filled explosions of a drone tank show just what this new generation is really capable of. If the only complaint to be found is that the game does not run at 60FPS, then frankly I say job well done. Some of the subtle presentation problems from the previous games remain though, and seem far more out of place this time around. Batman still remains emotionless and statuesque whenever speaking to someone outside a cutscene. Other characters suffer from this but to a lesser extent. Voice acting is generally okay and there is enough dialogue to keep the random radio broadcasts from sounding repetitive.
Now the PC version maintains many of these quality features but is generally awful when it comes to performance. Not to toot my own horn, but my PC is capable of running games like The Witcher 3 at a solid 60FPS; there is no excuse for it to not maintain at least the locked 30FPS on PC. Ignoring the fact that the framerate is locked at 30FPS on PC, the constant dips, sometimes to the single digits, of the frame rate are inexcusable. While these are mostly confined to the use of the Batmoblie, they still occur in normal city traversal. Frankly, this port is embarrassing, and even when running at it’s highest setting it lacks visual features found on the console version. As of this writing it has been pulled from retail, but the damage has already been done and anyone with that version of the game is stuck waiting for a patch that will eventually release, one that will hopefully fix our issues.
As the rest of the Arkham Trilogy has been, Arkham Knight is an original tale of Batman that takes influence from the many comics and animated productions featuring the beloved hero. The influences are apparent and appreciated, but never overpower the overall tale being told. At this point, Rocksteady is as good a source as any when it comes to Batman. Their original takes on the Bat Suit and Batmobile, as featured in the game, surely are influenced by the more recent Christopher nolan films but manage to stand on their own and look excellent. Combat style is still unequaled, even though WB has been quick to tout it’s games that feature similar, but less refined versions. While not entirely “original”, Arkham Knight feels fresh in a way Batman hasn’t felt in games since Arkham Asylum.
The Big Question:
How much do you like the Batmobile? Your opinion of the Batmobile and your extensive time with it will ultimately dictate your opinion of the game. I personally enjoyed my time with the vehicle and favored it over other traversal methods and used it whenever possible in combat. Of course, this review will be influenced by that as I found nothing wrong with it’s use in the game. Take everything I say with a grain of salt because your milage may vary if you just can’t stand using it. Sounds crazy, I know, but that is the one major divide between adoration and condemnation
From production values (again, on consoles) to story, Arkham Knight is a fairly compelling package. The previous games’ challenge rooms have been replaced with the AR Challenges that are available in the story mode, which may limit some replayablilty, but it’s hard to hate on Arkham Knight with it’s 20-30 hours of gameplay to hit 100%. The value will go much further if you play the game on console, since you know, it works properly. Unless you absolutely hate driving or piloting a tank, Arkham Knight is an easy recommendation.
*Editor’s Note: The score is a reflection of the game itself and does not take into account the poor quality of the now removed PC port. Thought the game is playable to completion on the PC, I cannot recommend enough to purchase the game on console whenever possible.