Batman: Arkham Knight marks the conclusion of Batman’s story as well as developer Rocksteady’s final game in the series. This revelation is quite apparent both in the narrative and in the gameplay in Arkham Knight. Every game in the Arkham series has led to this point, which is appropriately described in the opening cinematic: “This is how it happened. This is how the Batman died”.
Batman: Arkham Knight follows about nine months after the end of Batman: Arkham City. The first scene begins with the cremation of the Joker who died in Arkham City, which leads players to believe that this is the last we’ll ever see of him. That isn’t the case though, as we see Batman haunted by hallucinations of Joker, as well as the consequences of his actions when the Joker was still alive throughout the game. The main villain however, is the Scarecrow who threatens a city wide attack on Gotham with his fear toxin. This threat prompts a city-wide evacuation and sets the stage for the setting of Arkham Knight. While Batman is off trying to stop Scarecrow from fully realizing his plans, he is introduced to the newest member of Batman’s rogue gallery: the Arkham Knight.
The Arkham Knight’s identity is shrouded in mystery, but it’s clear from the beginning that he has a deep knowledge of Batman’s abilities and habits, and he has a clear disdain for Batman for himself. The story in Arkham Knight therefore, is divided mainly into two parts: Stopping Scarecrow from unleashing his newest version of the fear toxin onto the city, and discovering the identity of the Arkham Knight and bringing him to justice before he can achieve his goal of revenge.
The payoff in Arkham Knight’s reveal isn’t spectacular at all, mainly because it was heavily foreshadowed throughout the story which minimized the surprise. The lack of appearances from most of Batman’s enemies in this game also results in the lack of great boss fights in the game. This is a bit disappointing given that Arkham Asylum and Arkham City had some unique and memorable boss fights with some of Batman’s most deadliest enemies.
Batman: Arkham Knight is the largest and most detailed game in the Arkham series. It’s hard not to get sucked into Gotham city itself and explore every inch of this beautiful yet derelict city from the eyes of the caped crusader. It’s still a blast to use the grapple to latch onto a building and zip to the roof in seconds, and moving in the air as you glide to the city is still one of the best ways of travelling in a game to date. Despite the fact that most of the citizens have left the city in fear of Scarecrows threat, the city still feels vibrant and alive because it’s still populated mainly with thugs and private militia, as well as other cops and firefighters that require rescuing. Certain conversations between these thugs can be heard on Batman’s radio, which leads to some interesting and humorous moments.
The combat was one of the greatest defining features of the Arkham games, and Arkham Knight does not slouch in refining the combat system while introducing some new and fun elements. Environmental takedowns allow you to use certain objects or weapons in the environment to help take down thugs quickly, and the ability to pick up certain melee weapons from thugs allows Batman use them against their former owners for quick beat downs. Even after multiple games in the series the combat still feels fluid and gorgeously animated.
Every punch feels brutal and every bone Batman breaks still looks extremely painful. There are several new welcome additions to the predator sections as well, such as the multiple fear takedowns (which allow you to immediately take down multiple enemies in quick succession), dual-takedowns (which are available whenever you are fighting alongside an ally), and a gadget which allows you to mimic the voice of their boss in order to give them commands. The latter is especially useful for controlling placement of enemies in order to get them in the perfect spot for the right takedown. All of these additions make Arkham Knight the most refined game in the series in terms of combat and gameplay.
The newest and easily the biggest addition in Arkham Knight is the Batmobile, a feature that has been requested by fans several times before and introduced for the first time in this series. In Arkham Knight, players are finally able to take the wheel of the iconic vehicle in order to patrol the streets of Gotham city. The Batmobile has two modes: pursuit mode and battle mode. Pursuit mode is used primarily to move from one point to another, or when you need to chase someone of importance in the story or through a few of the side missions. In pursuit mode you are able to drift around tight corners and use your afterburners to gain a momentary boost of speed. Battle mode on the other hand, is your mode for defending yourself against other tanks and drones. In battle mode, you gain access to a wide array of weapons, including the 60mm Cannon, the Vulcan gun, riot suppressors, and several other weapons abilities that are unlocked throughout the story and through upgrades.
The Batmobile handles well in both pursuit and battle mode. At first the Batmobile feels limited due to the availability of only a few weapons to tackle unmanned tanks. However, as you progress through the story you gain access to new weapons and gadgets such as EMP’s and a virus to take control of enemy vehicles to turn them into temporary allies. The combat in the Batmobile feels fluid and natural. The ability to strife gives players a good chance at dodging incoming fire, while blowing tanks into smithereens always felt satisfying.
The Batmobile is also used throughout the campaign to help Batman solve puzzles or get through areas he would not have been able to access otherwise. My only complaint with the Batmobile was that there seemed to be an over reliance on the vehicle near the end of the game. There were also sections in the game in which you needed to be “stealthy” with the Batmobile, which didn’t really make much sense and felt out of place, and certain platforming sections with the Batmobile led to a lot of moments where I fell off a cliff and sunk my extremely expensive vehicle into the bottom of Gotham’s rivers.
Six years after their first Arkham games, developer Rocksteady Games delivers on the best Batman game to date with Arkham Knight. The game is the most visually stunning in the series and the combat and stealth mechanics are refined with new additions that give players the more options to tackle every combat or stealth situation. The introduction of the Batmobile is a welcome addition to the game, even if it there are a few minor issues with its inclusion. If Arkham Knight is indeed Rocksteady’s final Batman game, they went out on a high note. Arkham Knight is a worthy end to Rocksteady’s Batman saga, and the Arkham series as a whole has cemented its place as one of the best superhero games.