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Batman: Arkham Asylum was the start of an excellent series and it’s a great game for two reasons. One; it’s fun to play. And two; it makes you actually feel like Batman. It laid the groundwork for the sequels, which in my opinion, improve on almost everything established in Asylum. Arkham City took the experience to new heights thanks to refined and additional mechanics and more content. The next game in the series, Arkham Origins, added some cool new stuff but, ultimately, from a gameplay standpoint, it feels like a rehash of Arkham City. However, I do think it has the best story DLC in the series even though that feels like a rehash of the “Heart of Ice” episode from The Animated Series. For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, I’m talking about the Cold, Cold Heart DLC. After Arkham City, Rocksteady began working on a new sequel which is why Arkham Origins was developed by WB Games Montreal. Rocksteady’s next Arkham game would be Arkham Knight. Developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Batman: Arkham Knight was released for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in June, 2015. For this review, I played the PC version and do have all the DLC. I have played and beaten this before on PS4 and PC and I’ve been looking forward to jumping back into it.
The Joker is dead but his infected blood was used in blood transfusions infecting some people including Batman who proceeds to conceal his infection from others. Most of the infected have been mentally transformed into the Joker and were imprisoned by Batman. On Halloween, Scarecrow threatens to unleash his fear toxin on Gotham City, forcing an evacuation. Only the GCPD and criminals remain. While Batman is attempting to track down Scarecrow, he encounters a new villain called the Arkham Knight. He’s working with Scarecrow and has a personal vendetta against Batman and frequently makes it clear that he knows how Batman thinks. Meanwhile, Batman is taunted by visions of the Joker as he fights his transformation. The story is accompanied by phenomenal voice performances. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill return to voice Batman and Joker respectively. Nolan North returns to voice Penguin, Tara Strong reprises her role as Harley Quinn, and Troy Baker voices several characters.
All of the story DLC is disappointing if you go into them thinking you’re going to get worthwhile story-related content. The actual stories or scenarios can played from the Arkham Episodes menu and most of them can be beaten in under twenty minutes. The A Matter of Family DLC is the most fleshed out. You get to play as Batgirl and work with Robin to rescue GCPD officers and Jim Gordon. The rest of them feel more like Challenge campaigns which are actually absent from the Challenge mode this time around. You’ve got the Harley Quinn Story Pack where you play as Harley Quinn and have to rescue Poison Ivy from the Bludhaven police department. In the Red Hood Story Pack, you get to play as Red Hood who is trying to drive Black Mask out of Gotham. You get to play as Nightwing in the GCPD Lockdown episode and the plot here involves him trying to prevent Penguin’s henchmen from breaking him out of jail. In the Flip of a Coin episode, you get to play as Robin who is hunting down Two-Face. Finally, there’s Catwoman’s Revenge which revolves around Catwoman getting back at the Riddler for holding her hostage in the main story. None of the DLC stories are particularly engaging, there’s very little character development, and they’re all way too short.
If you’ve played any of the previous games, the gameplay here should be familiar. In the main story, you’ll primarily play as Batman but some encounters have you teaming up with others like Robin, Nightwing, and Catwoman for example, and you can switch between them mid-fight and perform dual-takedowns which have both characters working together to take down a specific enemy. Whether you play the main story or DLC, all of the playable characters control the same but have different equipment. Batman can walk, run, jump, crouch, slide, glide, and snap to cover. You can activate detective mode at any time to see important information in the world and you’ll get to use Batman’s evidence scanner to investigate crime scenes and track clues. Gotham City is a big place and gliding is one of the best ways to get around but the real gimmick of Arkham Knight is the Batmobile. You can drive it around and it’s pretty cool at first. But after a while, I felt like the game pushed it way too much. You can call it to you from any of the roads around the city and you’ll acquire upgrades for it as you progress through the story. As you defeat enemies and complete missions, you’ll earn experience and after earning enough experience, you level up and earn an upgrade point that can be spent on Waynetech Upgrades. You can unlock new moves, gadget functionalities, improve your armor, and buy upgrades for the Batmobile as well. Also, the game rewards you with upgrade points for completing side mission objectives. Many of the Most Wanted Missions have multiple objectives to complete and being rewarded with a point for completing each one made me feel like I was constantly growing and improving. I was always eager to complete a new objective so I can unlock more upgrades which in turn, can affect how you approach certain situations. Ultimately, the game offers a nice sense of progression.
I think the developers wanted the Batmobile to be the game’s biggest selling point but it falls short and that’s because you have to rely on it way too much. You need it to complete a lot of objectives and to acquire a lot of the Riddler trophies. Plus, if you’ve played almost any other open world game, you should know what to expect when driving around the world. It’s the same thing here except you can basically decimate standard vehicles by driving into them, enemies will run away if they see your tank of a vehicle coming, and it’s equipped with gadgets. As cool as all of that sounds, I found that gliding around was a lot easier and completing objectives on-foot was more enjoyable. Frequently having to switch back and forth between Batman and the Batmobile to complete objectives and solve riddles become tedious fast. One neat feature is that you can remotely control the Batmobile. This can actually be a big help if you’re in a tight spot. You can side swipe enemy vehicles, activate the afterburner for a boost of speed, it has an electroshock defense system so any enemies that come in contact with it are electrocuted, it’s equipped with a cannon, riot suppressor, and Batman can eject himself high into the air. While driving, you can switch between Pursuit mode and Battle mode at any time. Pursuit mode is basically like driving it normally. In Battle mode, you move slower and can navigate around tight corners and small areas easily and it’s the best way to engage enemy drones. As you progress through the story, you’ll acquire gadgets and upgrades for the Batmobile. The power winch allows you to pull down walls or drive up and down them, it can emit an EMP blast to stun enemy drones, hack drones to have them battle alongside you, and it can track things using sonar.
Batman: Arkham Knight employs the same style of freeflow combat and stealth mechanics showcased in the previous games but with some additions and refinements. The combat is still feels very simplistic but it’s fun. That said, if you didn’t like it in the previous games, you won’t like it here. You can strike, counter, evade, and stun foes and there are different moves you can perform by pressing certain buttons simultaneously and at the right times. The encounters themselves are rarely difficult. Once again, the challenge comes from keeping the multiplier going. The higher the multiplier the more experience you earn. Batman can now perform fear multi-takedowns and environmental takedowns. As you take down enemies, you build up fear which can be unleashed to take down multiple enemies in succession. Scattered around the environments are objects that can be used to take down enemies instantly, otherwise known as environmental takedowns. You can also pick up and throw objects and use melee weapons until they break. When playing as Harley Quinn, she cannot perform silent takedowns but getting hit and performing beat downs and takedowns fills her mayhem meter. When filled, she can enter mayhem mode where she’s faster and stronger and can take down an enemy in a single strike. Playing as Red Hood is kind of cool because he’s equipped with dual pistols and shooting enemies feels pretty satisfying. Enemies with guns are some of the more dangerous foes you’ll come up against and engaging them head-on will most likely get you killed. Being stealthy is the best way to deal with armed foes. You can still perform the same types of takedowns as those in the previous games and your ultimate goal is to not get spotted. You can sneak up behind foes, use grates to sneak around under them, or take them down from above. The game does give you plenty of ways to deal with enemies and it’s a lot of fun and very satisfying when you get to do it with gadgets.
Many of the gadgets from the previous games return and I often wonder why Batman doesn’t bring the previous gadgets he acquired with him all the time. The answer is obviously game design but it really does seem illogical for him to not bring some of the shit he used and upgraded in the past. Batman can grapple around the environments using his Grapnel Gun, get across large gaps with the line launcher, throw Batarangs, blow through parts of the environments with explosive gel, temporarily incapacitate enemies and plug up vents with the freeze blast, use the Batclaw to grab and pull things, shock enemies and power up generators with the Remote Electrical Charge, and throw down smoke pellets to disorient enemies. The disruptor returns and can now be used to track enemy vehicles and not only sabotage enemy firearms but also medic resuscitation packs and optic deflection armor which some enemies utilize to stay hidden from Batman’s detective mode. Eventually you’ll acquire the Remote Hacking Device which allows you to bypass security systems and hack enemy drones. It’s basically an improved Cryptographic Sequencer. A new gadget introduced here is the Voice Synthesizer and it’s pretty fun to use. It can mimic a villain’s voice which is used to bypass security systems and you can get their henchmen to move somewhere or do something specific. Many of the gadgets can be used during a fight and when certain ones are upgraded, they can make some stealth encounters a lot easier.
Gotham City is filled with criminals so you don’t have to go too far if you’re itching for a fight. Most of the same enemy types you encountered in the previous games return here. However, there are some new additions like enemies wearing optic deflection armor as mentioned earlier, medics that can revive fallen enemies and electrify their buddies’ suits so Batman can’t strike them directly without taking damage, and minigunners. In some stealth encounters, certain enemies can track your location when you use detective mode. Drone operators will control drones that fly around the area looking for Batman and it’s pretty fun sabotaging them to explode if they detect you. Better yet, if you can hack the controls, you can have the drone attack multiple enemies. Enemies can lay down mines, sabotage vantage points, and deploy sentry guns. You’re always outnumbered and sometimes multiple enemies will attack you simultaneously during a combat encounter. Enemies will often try and grab a gun from a nearby weapon crate or pick up an object to throw at you. You’ll have to perform aerial attacks on enemies with shields, attack enemies with stun batons from behind, and stun large foes in order to beat them down. Enemies will charge at you and it happens quite often but they can easily be incapacitated with a Batarang. The new enemy types introduced add a new dynamic to encounters and I feel that the stealth encounters were affected the most. You have to really analyze the area and see which enemies you should focus on taking down first. Having the right upgrades gives you more options and makes things easier. There’s one encounter in the Harley Quinn story pack where you can aggravate man-eating plants to take down officers and I thought that was pretty cool. Most of the combat encounters across the board are not very difficult which is expected. I would say the most challenging one is in Catwoman’s Revenge and that’s only because you have to fight enemies and avoid environmental hazards at the same time.
With the Batmobile being a major focus of the gameplay, you’re going to engage all kinds of enemy drones. There’s ground units and air units. Ground units include different tank drones like Rattlers and Diamondbacks with the most dangerous being the Cobras. They are only vulnerable in the rear. Air units like Serpents fly around the city and will attack Batman if they spot him and Dragons will accompany the ground units in battle. The ground units will patrol around the different areas of the city and many of the side missions have you engaging them. The tougher battles are only more challenging because more drones are thrown at you but once you master the thrusting, it’s not hard to dodge enemy projectiles. Whether it’s a story mission, side mission, or your just engaging the drones that you come across in the world, all of these battles play out the same and there’s a lot of them. Upgrades to the Batmobile can make it easier to dispatch the drones so I would say the biggest challenge is trying to not to take damage which really isn’t that hard to do once you master the controls and timing. While the vehicle combat is repetitive, I admit I found the battles to be addictive and enjoyed them nonetheless.
The main story has Batman trying to stop Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight while fending off the Knight’s army of militia soldiers. You’ll come across various side missions to complete, some of which were added in as DLC, and these are known as Most Wanted Missions. Each mission requires you to complete multiple objectives usually ending in an encounter with a major villain. You’ll have to stop Two-Face and his gang from robbing banks around the city, work with Nightwing to destroy Penguin’s weapon caches, rescue firefighters, track down the Man-Bat, and solve all of the riddles and collect all of the Riddler trophies. The militia have set up numerous checkpoints, watchtowers, and bombs throughout the city and you’ll have to immobilize the militia APCs driving around. The APC side mission is actually pretty cool because you get to chase them down in the Batmobile while other militia vehicles will try to stop you and it’s usually very action-packed. In addition to the side missions are AR Challenges that appear throughout the city as you progress but they’re locked until you do something specific.
You’ll get to roam around the streets and rooftops of Gotham. Enemies will be rioting in the streets, driving around in vehicles, and sometimes you’ll encounter police vehicles in pursuit. You’ll have to watch out for hazards like electrified floors and sentry guns. The story will take you to numerous buildings around Gotham like the GCPD, an orphanage, movie studio, and airships and scattered around the city are Riddles to solve and Riddler trophies to collect. The Riddler has informants scattered all over the city and you can interrogate them to reveal the locations of riddles and trophies on the map. The Riddler has also taken Catwoman hostage and put an explosive collar around her neck. You’ll have to complete his trials or puzzles which will often require assistance from Catwoman. Many of these are Batmobile races on deadly obstacle courses and I’m not a huge fan. They’re just trial and error. I think Arkham Knight includes the most difficult riddles and puzzles in the series but some of them truly are just tedious. There are certain trophies that require you to race the clock to get them. You can acquire the starting point coordinates from the area around the trophy and use them to find the starting point on your map. If you fail to actually beat the clock, you have to traverse all the way back to the starting point and do it again. But the game doesn’t even add the starting point to your map or let you quickly restart. With the right upgrades, these trophies really aren’t that hard to get but otherwise, they can be frustrating. There’s a lot of puzzles that require the use of the Batmobile and some of them are really creative and satisfying to solve but a lot of them are just a pain in the ass. And that’s because of the frequent need to switch back and forth between Batman and Batmobile as mentioned earlier. Tank drones are scattered around each island and until you destroy them, you’re usually safer on the streets if you’re in the Batmobile. But even enemies driving standard vehicles can be dangerous if you’re on foot because they’ll try to run you down. As you progress through the story, solve riddles, and collect Riddler trophies, you’ll unlock things like character trophies, showcases, and stories. There’s a lot of content here for fans of the Batman universe. As a Batman fan myself, I love all the skins you can apply. These include skins from the films, comics, and shows.
The Challenge mode the series is known for returns and is called AR Challenges in Arkham Knight. They are a way to test your skills, earn medals, and you can even earn upgrade points. You can play as Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Catwoman, Azrael, Harley Quinn, and Red Hood and they each have to earn their own medals. There are different types of Challenges including Combat, Predator, Batmobile Races, Batmobile Combat, and Batmobile Hybrid. Campaigns do not return although several of the DLC stories or episodes feel like challenge campaigns as mentioned earlier. In Combat maps, the objective is to set a high score and medals are earned for reaching certain scores. In Predator maps, medals are earned for completing specific objectives which usually involve taking down enemies in specific ways. Veterans of the series should be familiar with these types of challenges. Some of them give you the option to switch between two characters during gameplay. The idea is for them to work together and in the Predator maps, it does make you think a little differently about how you engage foes. The Batmobile challenges are obviously new and for the races, you can choose one of multiple Batmobiles. The standard one, the 1989 one, the Tumbler, the original Arkham Batmobile, and the Batman v Superman Batmobile. The Batmobile Combat challenges require you to engage enemy drones and Batmobile Hybrid challenges combine racing and combat.
I prefer the on-foot challenges more than the Batmobile ones but I do like how several of the Races are set in locations based on the films and 1960’s TV series. In my experience, the Batmobile Combat challenges are easy medals and upgrade points, especially if you’ve upgraded the Batmobile. The standard challenge maps, on the other hand, are more difficult. I would even say some of them are the most difficult in the series, however it does depend on which character you choose since they all have different equipment. And when I say difficult, I mean difficult to earn upgrade points. All of them can easily be completed but some of the requirements to earn medals will really put your skills to the test. The mode as a whole is pretty fun and it’s cool being able to play as all the different characters. The upgrade points you can earn are a nice incentive to keep coming back and if you’re a fan of the gameplay in general, trying to earn medals can become addictive. I like how the requirements for medals in the Predator challenges force you to think differently and basically show you the many ways to engage foes. That’s always been one of the highlights of the challenges throughout the series.
Visually, Arkham Knight is easily the best looking game in the series. It’s also the most colorful. The city is well represented visually complete with buildings and landmarks established in franchise and the amount of detail pumped into this game is incredible. You’ll see everything like the impact of rain drops, droplets of water on Batman’s suit, his cape reacting realistically to movement and wind, reflections in his eyes, and the Batmobile’s transformation from Pursuit mode to Battle mode and vice versa looks really cool. Textures are crisp, reflections look excellent, gliding over the city as lighting illuminates the sky is a sight to behold, and explosions look glorious, resulting in a ton of sparks flying through the air. The soundtrack is full of dramatic orchestral tunes and several of them are memorable. The sound effects are solid with loud explosions and satisfying sounds of strikes during combat. The Batmobile roars as it speeds around the city and its weapons sound powerful. On the technical side, the frame rate would tank in numerous areas and the game would stutter frequently. The dips became so bad that I eventually downloaded the Batman Tweak tool and used it to resolve the performance issues. It worked great. It eliminated the dips but I still encountered stuttering from time to time. When I downloaded the Tweak tool, I also downloaded a custom ReShade for the game from the game’s PCGamingWiki page which provides better anti-aliasing than what the game offers.
I love Arkham Knight but the forced Batmobile stuff does often get in the way of the otherwise phenomenal gameplay. This is yet another entry that does a great job at making you feel like Batman and the Batmobile can make that feeling more complete if you will. It’s just unfortunate that it’s forced upon you so often and the drone battles are repetitive and there’s no variety to them. Also, in my opinion, it’s more enjoyable and sometimes even easier to get around by gliding. That said, from a gameplay standpoint, I think the on-foot gameplay is the best in the series. The freeflow combat system is fun and whether you engage enemies in combat or decide to take them out silently, you have more options when it comes to how you want to take them down. Despite the repetitive drone battles, the Batmobile combat can be satisfying. I found it addictive thrusting around, dodging projectiles, and blowing up drones. There’s just something about it. The explosions, the feeling you get from blowing one up with just one shot – it’s euphoric. Overall, the game does a great job at capturing the tone, atmosphere, and spirit of the Batman universe.
I would absolutely recommend Batman: Arkham Knight to fans of the series and Batman in general. It’s a great stealth action game that successfully builds upon the gameplay established in its predecessors. It just goes overboard with the Batmobile stuff. If you like the core gameplay, much of the DLC is basically more of the same with different characters. Just don’t go into the episodes expecting excellent storytelling. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sad to see the Arkham series come to an end but I do feel that Arkham Knight is a good send-off for the series. Definitely check it out.