Batman: Arkham Knight Review

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With all of the supervillains, crime, and corruption going on in Gotham City over the years, it’s amazing people still live there. But then we wouldn’t get all of these great stories. I’ve been a huge Batman fan ever since I saw the Batman ’89 film as a kid but I’m not going to pretend I know everything about the Batman universe and all of its characters. I’ve seen all of the movies, read a few graphic novels, and know some source information just from doing research online but I am in no way an expert on Batman or any comic book character, really. I already played Batman: Arkham Knight on PlayStation 4 back around release and decided to give it another go on PC. We all know the PC version was a disaster at launch but it looks like all of the major problems have been ironed out at this point. Thanks to a Steam sale I was able to obtain all of the DLC which will also be covered in this review.

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Set after the events of Arkham City, it’s Halloween night, Joker’s body is incinerated and Scarecrow threatens to unleash his fear toxin upon Gotham causing a city-wide evacuation. Many of Gotham’s notorious supervillain’s stay behind and team up to take down Batman. The game also introduces a new villain called the Arkham Knight who is hell-bent on killing Batman. To quickly sum up events from the previous games, the Joker’s blood became infected from the Titan formula which eventually lead to his demise. But before the Joker died, apparently his infected blood was used in blood transfusions infecting five people, including Batman, who are all slowly transforming into Joker. After Batman identifies the Ace Chemicals facility as Scarecrow’s source of fear toxin he learns the facility itself has been transformed into a fear toxin bomb. Batman prevents the blast radius from destroying Gotham but also exposes himself to the toxin in the process. Because of the infected blood and his exposure to fear toxin, Batman now has frequent hallucinations of Joker taunting him throughout the entire game. Batman soon learns that Scarecrow is planning to use a device called the “Cloudburst” to disperse is fear toxin throughout Gotham with assistance from the Arkham Knight. Throughout the story are tons of subtle and significant references to classic Batman stories including Hush, The Long Halloween, and The Killing Joke and probably more that I just don’t know about.

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I really enjoyed the story overall and it’s accompanied by some phenomenal voice acting across the board. Batman: Arkham Knight has an ensemble cast of voice actors including Kevin Conroy as Batman, John Noble as Scarecrow, and Jonathan Banks as Jim Gordon just to name a few. Mark Hamill returns to voice the Joker and really steals the show. Batman’s hallucinations of Joker are all fantastic and add comedic elements to the otherwise serious tone of the story. I also have to commend Troy Baker who did a great job voicing Joker in Arkham Origins and returns here to voice several characters including the Arkham Knight. Even the dialogue between the henchman is well done and they’ll often talk about things that reflect what’s happening in the story. The voice acting truly adds another layer to the already amazing detail of Gotham City.

The gameplay in Arkham Knight remains relatively unchanged from that of previous games. You’ll engage in melee combat and stealth to take down tons of bad guys. Whether you like it or not, FreeFlow Combat returns and I think it’s still fun and addicting taking down hordes of thugs while racking up big combos. You still mash the attack the button and counter when enemies indicate they are about to attack. New to Arkham Knight are Fear Takedowns. You sneak up on a group of enemies and if you activate a fear takedown the game goes into this slow motion effect enabling you to instantly take down a certain number of enemies consecutively. It’s pretty cool. During specific scenarios you can team up with another character like Robin, Nightwing, or Catwoman to take down a group of thugs. You can switch between the characters at will and even perform a dual takedown where both characters work together to instantly take down an enemy. During combat the animations can still be a little wonky at times and the auto lock-on system didn’t always function the way I had hoped. What would an Arkham game be without those glorious stealth encounters? Just like before you’ll be sneaking and gliding around areas, confusing and incapacitating enemies one-by-one and it’s still satisfying to take out an entire group undetected. Detective Vision returns and you’ll still be using it a good majority of the time to identify enemies and clues throughout the environments. The problem with Detective Vision being active is that you never get to admire all of the little details in the environment. Sure you can switch it on and off but you’ll want to leave it on during most stealth encounters. With all of the money Bruce Wayne has, he should invest in a vision mode that only highlights enemies and objects.

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You still gain experience  from combat which will eventually reward you with WayneTech Points. But you can acquire these points much quicker by completing missions and objectives. With that said, the upgrade system returns enabling you to upgrade Batman’s arsenal of gadgets and abilities. Most of Batman’s gadgets from previous games return including the Batclaw, Batarangs, Explosive Gel, Smoke Pellets, Line Launcher, Remote Hacking Device, Remote Electrical Charge gun, Disruptor, and Freeze Blast. New to the arsenal is the Voice Synthesizer which can be used to order the henchman around. It’s really fun to use.

The biggest addition to the gameplay is the Batmobile. Yes, you can now drive the Batmobile and it’s quite thrilling to use. It’s fast and packs a mean punch. You can even call it to your location on command which is really neat and it can also assist in melee combat if you happen to be near it. It’s equipped with a riot suppressor for taking down enemies, immobilizer missiles for vehicles, an afterburner for a turbo boost, a Vulcan gun which is just like a machine gun, and a 60mm cannon for explosive damage. The Batmobile’s maneuverability and weaponry can also be upgraded using WayneTech points. As you progress through the story you can equip it with even more fancy features like a winch for pulling shit, providing an electrical charge, and letting the Batmobile drive on walls. It can also be equipped with an EMP blast for disabling enemy vehicles, and even a CPU virus for taking over enemy vehicles to use against each other. You can activate Battle Mode which transforms the Batmobile into a tank-like vehicle that you can slowly move around the area. It’s exhilarating to speed through the streets chasing down enemy vehicles or battling it out with militia tank drones. But the Batmobile is also one of the downsides. It’s almost as if the developers said “here’s the Batmobile, isn’t is awesome? You’ll be using it for everything”.

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The Arkham Knight commands the militia soldiers and they drive their tanks and drones around the streets of Gotham. You’ll need to use the Batmobile to take them out. The problem is the battles all play out the same. You strafe and dodge attacks while you fire back and blow them all up. Cobra Tanks do mix things up a little. These things can do serious damage to the Batmobile and you need to take them out from behind. This means you need to sneak behind them and wait for a lock-on before blasting them to bits. But nothing about any of these battles stays interesting for long. It’s just the same shit over and over.

Other than the main story there are most wanted missions which are like side missions in any other open world game. For example you’ll work with Nightwing to destroy Penguin’s weapon caches, rescue firefighters, solve a series of murders, and stop Two-Face from robbing all of the banks in Gotham. The end of these missions normally lead to Batman apprehending a notorious villain and bringing them in to GCPD. You can then visit them in jail any time you want. The DLC adds four more most wanted missions that lead to more notorious criminals like the Mad Hatter, Killer Croc, Mr Freeze, and the League of Assassins. The DLC provides great fan service but they’re all really short. But they do grant you points for upgrades so it’s not a huge disappointment. Along with most wanted missions are a few side missions that involve you taking out militia forces throughout Gotham. You’ll disable militia watchtowers and ground checkpoints as well as detonate explosives planted throughout the city.

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To see the true ending of the game you must complete all of the Most Wanted side missions. This wouldn’t be a problem if the Riddler wasn’t in the game. Now I don’t hate the Riddler. He’s a fine villain but his missions just suck. He’s kidnapped Catwoman and placed an explosive collar around her neck. To rescue her you need to solve his ridiculous riddles. What suck about these missions are you need to work with Catwoman to solve a riddle, then he’ll have you go to another area of the city to do something else, then you need to come back and do it all again for another series of tests or riddles or whatever. It’s tedious and annoying. Several of his missions involve these races and they’re just horrible. You use the Batmobile to race through these hazardous courses against the clock. It requires memorization and eventually boils down to trial and error. It feels like the developers wanted to find another use for the Batmobile and they couldn’t think of anything more creative than these dreadful races. The Riddler also commands robots now which are really easy to destroy and you’ll be teaming up with Catwoman to destroy them. These fights are arguably the best part of Riddler’s missions just because they’re straightforward. Yes, you still need to solve and find all of the Riddler trophies throughout the city and it’s actually required to fight and apprehend him. I never liked this aspect of the series and finding them all still feels like a chore but solving riddles reward you with tons of extras like concept art, lore and audio logs. You can still find and interrogate Riddler informants on the streets to add the trophies to your map which is helpful. If you want to see that true ending you need to solve them all or you can just watch it online.

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There’s a good amount of enemy variety. You’ll start out fighting against weak goons and eventually armed thugs. Nothing really new there. As you progress the enemies become better equipped. There are medics that can heal fallen enemies and provide electrical abilities to other allies. Some soldiers can track you when you’re using Detective Vision and others have Detective Vision jammers. Some enemies will control small flying drones that can you can hack to use against them. Yeah, you got big brute enemies, enemies with swords and knives, stun sticks, and snipers. Then there are turrets that will rapidly fire at you if you’re spotted so you’ll need to destroy them and they become more prevalent as you progress making you really think before you act. Not only that but the enemies aren’t too stupid. If they sense you’re under the floor grates they’ll try and smoke you out, if they know you’re around they’ll place mines on the ground or on ledges. The disruptor is probably my favorite gadget because after it’s fully upgraded you can use it to disable most enemy equipment that can make some encounters really tough. For example many checkpoints contain these big-ass turrets with armed guards patrolling around so I would use the disruptor to sabotage the turrets. Now when they fire, they explode, incapacitating nearby enemies. It’s a great example of how the game rewards you with immense satisfaction for creativity.

The game comes with a neat photo mode which is a nice addition and tons of skins for characters and the Batmobile. The DLC adds even more. I was ecstatic to see that I could play as Batman from the ’89 film and even the Batmobile only to find out this Batmobile skin cannot be used in the story mode because it doesn’t support the maneuverability and weaponry of the modern Batmobile. What the fuck, guys? Still there’s tons of skins to choose from like Christopher Nolan’s Batman, 60s television series Batman, Batman Beyond, and tons more. There’s also skins for the other playable characters like Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman, and Azrael. Batman fans will find a lot to love here.

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There’s no denying that Batman: Arkham Knight is a gorgeous looking game. I don’t know what kind of graphical effects were missing at release but as of right now the game looks fantastic on PC. The city of Gotham looks amazing with three islands to explore; Founders Island, Bleake Island, and Miagani Island. There’s some gorgeous looking reflective surfaces thanks to the rainy weather and watching the droplets of rain drip off the Batsuit can be mesmerizing to watch. The PlayStation 4 version ran at thirty frames but I was able to play the PC version at sixty frames without any slowdown. However, texture pop-in is rampant, especially when I was moving around at high speeds and the game would stutter frequently when I was driving the Batmobile. The game did crash once when I first started playing but I never encountered any game breaking problems. I’m assuming it’s running better than it did at release.

New Story Plus returns which is unlocked after beating the story for the first time. This mode enables you to play through the story again with all of your upgrades and equipment and increased difficulty. Also returning is the AR Challenges mode where you try to quickly and effectively take down bad guys in order to obtain a high score and earn stars. Along with the typical melee and Predator challenges are the new Batmobile challenges which actually aren’t that great. They involve the typical battles against drones you’re so familiar with from the story and different variations of races. The melee and Predator challenges are still the highlights and you can even choose different characters for each challenge map. For Predator challenges, different characters have different requirements for earning stars so there’s plenty of replay value here.

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Now I’ll get to the DLC story packs and Rocksteady has a lot of balls to even call these story packs. The Harley Quinn and Red Hood Story Packs were originally pre-order DLC bonuses and I beat both in about thirty minutes or less. So that’s about fifteen minutes each. As Harley Quinn you infiltrate the Bludhaven Police Department to breakout Poison Ivy. Harley is equipped with a bat, a jack-in-the-box similar to the explosive gel, laughing gas similar to the smoke pellets, and a snare trap. She can’t perform silent takedowns so everything she does is loud. She can activate Psychosis Vision which is her equivalent to Detective Vision but everything is red and crazy looking accompanied by psychotic laughing. She leaps the around the area and can dodge bullets by moving around and double-tapping the jump button but I don’t think it works as intended since I would still get shot most of the time. Harley can also activate Mayhem Mode which enables her to perform instant takedowns for a limited time. She primarily fights against cops and there’s even a section where you can aggravate man-eating plants so they eat nearby officers. Finally, when you reach Ivy, you encounter Nightwing and a never-ending spawn of cops. It’s not too difficult nor creative and the entire experience is over before you know it.

As Red Hood you need to take down Black Mask and thwart his weapons deal with Penguin’s henchman. His unique weapons include dual handguns and flashbang grenades. There’s one unique enemy type and that’s the bulletproof thug but other than that it’s your standard goons. The final boss fight here is almost identical to Harley’s story pack. You fight Black Mask along with constantly spawning enemies. And Red Hood is actually quite awesome. Unlike Batman, he kills his enemies and using the handguns is extremely satisfying. It’s just too bad the experience doesn’t last long.

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In the A Matter of Family story you play as Batgirl and team up with Robin to rescue her father and several hostages from the Joker at the Seagate Amusement Park. And this all takes place before the events in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Batgirl uses several gadgets from Batman’s arsenal and she likes to hack everything. She can hack devices near enemies to cause distractions but that’s really the only thing unique here. At the end both you and Robin engage Joker and Harley Quinn in another fight with constantly spawning enemies. Once you defeat both villains and watch the cutscene you’re free to fly around the amusement park. It’s neat but other than fighting bad guys, what’s the point? You can do all of this with more and better equipment in the story or challenge modes. The best part of this DLC is you get to see more Joker. This is probably the longest DLC. I think I beat it in about a half hour.

Catwoman’s Revenge is by far the worst DLC story pack in the bunch. And if you can beat it without any hiccups, possibly the shortest. Taking place after the events of Batman: Arkham Knight, Catwoman seeks revenge on Riddler. Starting with a stealth section in Winslow’s Toy Shop, you uncover a secret entrance to Riddler’s Robot Factory where you need to fight off his relentless robots. The first fight is fine but the second one is ridiculously hard. The second fight has you avoiding moving lasers and avoiding the electrified floor that slowly closes in as you fight off waves of these stupid robots. I died countless times before I realized I just need to be quick with takedowns. There’s no way the developers could have playtested this fight and thought it was enjoyable. It’s horribly designed making it cheap and frustrating. After that, it’s over. Another short experience.

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GCPD Lockdown has you playing as Nightwing. You need to prevent the Penguin from breaking out of GCPD. In A Flip of a Coin you get to play as Robin and need to take down Two-Face. Robin has a bullet shield which is cool to use but each of these packs can be beaten in under twenty minutes. Considering you get to play as both of these characters in the main story, there’s nothing really new to see here.

Besides them all being too short, the biggest problem with the DLC is that for anything new it offers, you don’t have enough time to enjoy it. Red Hood is arguably the most fun new character to play as but other than this story pack and the challenge modes, there’s no other way to fully explore what the characters can do. The developers should have added an option to free-roam Gotham as any playable character. That would have been incredible. Sadly, you can’t do this. Another problem is that none of the DLC packs flesh out the characters or villains your up against. Each of them is more or less a glorified series of challenge maps. There’s no upgrades, no world to explore, no super cool gadgets, and all of it just kind of sucks. Batgirl and Red Hood should have just been downloadable characters for challenge maps and let that be the end of it. Instead we get teased with these story packs that don’t develop into anything. Sure you get to engage in more combat and stealth but if you’re expecting more lore or something interesting then I hate to disappoint you but you’re shit out of luck.

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Batman: Arkham Knight is a great game with some pretty shitty DLC. The Batmobile is a cool addition but is definitely overused. The story is engaging with some seriously amazing voice acting. The amount of detail put into this game ranging from the visuals to the immersion is staggering and Batman fans should find plenty to enjoy. Even with the extremely short DLC story packs, the main story by itself took me about fifteen hours to complete and that’s without collecting all of the Riddler trophies. The fan service is fantastic and whether you’re a fan of Batman or not, this is one of the best open world games of the generation.

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