Batman: Arkham Knight was intended to be the capstone on a trilogy of excellently crafted Batman games which in many respects defined Warner Brothers Studios’ style of games, but much like how Warner Brothers bet it all on Batman for the last 20 years in the film industry, that pay off in their most recent outing was not exactly what we all hoped for. Arkham Knight is the logical step in the progression of Batman games moving from close quarters corridor action-detective game, to pseudo open world bombastic batman experience, to an entirely open world experience with full bat arsenal at your disposal. You are finally able to totally experience the full range of Batman’s abilities and gadgets, but it comes at a cost.
The game picks up roughly a year after events of Arkham City with Gotham having calmed down a bit when Scarecrow appears with his fear toxin, evacuating the city of civilians (which honestly feels like a missed opportunity for depth), and the gamut of Batman’s rogues gallery to take over Gotham and kill Batman. Along with Penguin, Two Face, and the rest of the gang, we are introduced to the Arkham Knight, a brand new character from Batman’s past looking for revenge. And this really where Arkham Knight fails, with the Arkham Knight himself. The problem is that as soon as Rocksteady revealed the game, Batman fans already knew the identity of the Arkham Knight but Rocksteady flat-out lied to fans saying this was a new character when in actuality it was an already established character.
In terms of gameplay, Arkham Knight is an open world game with lots to do and pretty visuals to gawk at.This is where the game truly shines with a wide variety of missions and options to come at them (with a few exceptions) and its the quintessential Batman experience. Batman’s villains are relegated to side missions with Penguin being an arms dealer, Two Face robbing banks, and Riddler setting up trophies and race tracks…
I figure this is as good a time as any to discuss the Batmobile and all that entails. If you haven’t figured out by now that you get to play around with the Batmobile, you must be blind, deaf, and living in hole in the ground. While the gameplay mechanics of the Batmobile are solid, it is simply over used to the point that you’d rather rip off your cowl and switch to Marvel. Where in prior games, when Batman receives a new gadget its relegated to certain moments but used just enough to show you its worth, the Batmobile is rammed down your throat till to choke on it. It’s one thing to use it to disarm the 20 or so bombs around city or chase down criminals, but when Riddler has to set up challenges for your Batmobile including racing, it ruins the story element. Riddler is actually gauging Batman’s intellect based on how fast he can complete a race track. Never knew Nigma was a NASCAR fan…
One element of the story that does deserve some praise is the incorporation of the Joker into this thrill ride. Joker is dead, but his spirit lives on and thanks to the fear toxin it manifests as an over present tormentor of Batman which was excellently handled. The effect this places on the story adds just enough in this reviewers mind to redeem the story and add that psychological twist we all know and love in the Arkham series.
But how is the game on the whole? As a whole, the game is a solid installment in the series (which will hopefully be the end). It provides a “night in the life” of Batman which is fun to play, but not think about. However with this installment, the Arkham series has strayed into the “casual game” spectrum, which isn’t a bad thing in itself but is disappointing. I only got stuck 2 times in the game, and each time because I forgot about the Batmobile and being able to remote control it. It provided little to no challenge which was disappointing, and the only real decisions you make are how to engage groups of enemies.
Ultimately the gameplay is excellent, the story decent, but not nearly on the level as prior Arkham games.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I have completed the game with all side missions except for Riddler trophies because I have better things to do than busy work to pad out a game.