Batman: Arkham Knight Review (PS4)

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Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Main Review

Review Context: The Batman Arkham series is a fantastic series, and hopefully the start of an era of good superhero games. Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City were great games, and arguably some of the best games in their respective years.
Date of Playthrough: September 15 – October 15, 2015

Batman is a comic book icon and one of the most well-known symbols in the entertainment medium. There have been many attempts to encapsulate the essence of the Dark Knight on both the big screen and in video games. While many attempts at creating a successful game failed, one studio rose above all the failures to give us the Batman: Arkham series. Rocksteady games has been known for their work on the Batman: Arkham series, and it has been a hit with both fans and newcomers alike. After the stellar performance of both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, did Batman: Arkham Knight live up to its predecessors?

The gameplay formula hasn’t been tweaked too much in the way of combat. The free flow mechanics and incorporated gadgets work really well. With the addition of the voice modifier to trick both voice locks and goons of the villains really being an enjoyable feature, most of the old toys make an appearance. Nothing in Batman’s arsenal or combat mechanics feel stale even at this point, because it feels so good beating the crap out of the larger thugs with multiple lightning fast punches. There are even some missions where hand to hand combat is really challenging to do because of the certain variations of enemies surrounding you, and that gives a great sense of tension throughout the battle. The inclusion of the Batmobile is technically sound. It drives about as well as a racing game should, and the inclusion of tank mode certainly allows for some versatility, rather than just driving around. Technically this is a really nice game, but a game like Batman needs not only a great technical aspect, but a great storytelling aspect too.

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The overall concept of the Batman: Arkham Knight is great. Scarecrow is threatening to release his fear toxin all over Gotham and potentially over an even larger area, all in order to defeat the Batman. He enlists several supervillains’ help along the way, with the inclusion of a new villain, the Arkham Knight and his high-tech army. Now conceptually this is a strong setting to the story, but the execution was not as stellar as one would hope. A lot of the side missions in previous Arkham games are actually some of the more memorable and entertaining moments, and this is where Batman: Arkham Knight dwindles. Watchtowers, bombs, lieutenants in armored cars, and outposts are just lifeless as side quests and often are tedious. Even the villain encounters feel like afterthoughts, as none are truly unique battles or missions. I thought Penguin would be interesting or Two-Face, maybe even Harley Quinn hunting you down for revenge, but none were that memorable. Even the side villains were not as entertaining as such villains from previous games, except for the mysterious brutal serial killer, that one was interesting, but one just doesn’t cut it.

The big reveals in the game were nothing short of disappointing, and at times if not for some good old Joker lines. Yes, Mark Hamill reprises his role as the infamous clown prince of crime in some of the best reenactments of famous comic book scenes I have seen. Sadly, not even the Joker can save most of this game and its repetitive dialogue with the villains. Alfred, the three robins, and Barbara Gordon certainly give good character arcs and performances. Even Scarecrow’s actor, John Noble from the T.V. series Fringe did a phenomenal job. So technically in every aspect the game has me sold on except for some of the juicy bits, which is always a necessity. The most compelling aspect is the main story, but seasoned Batman fans can see through it like that. The thing is, the story has never been so psychological. Almost all of the focus of the game is playing mind games with the Batman and trying to destroy him from the inside. That is where we get the best moments with the fear toxin of Scarecrow, and its effects on Gotham during the main storyline.

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There is one huge problem with the game, and it’s a noticeable one. As fun as the batmobile/bat-tank is, they used it far too much. There were too many missions focused on repetitive Batmobile play, where even the side missions had a huge focus on the Batmobile. It is a fun gimmick, but an overused one at that. As fast as it is exciting, by the end the epic nature has outworn its welcome as it grows tiresome with the extended use for side missions. Stealth missions are more frequent and I really enjoy the difficult scenarios used for them. When you have a stylized scenario in the main story it feels great and is certainly elevated from previous Arkham games. There is only a few sections of Batman actually playing detective though, and they aren’t that great to play, which has me a bit uneasy since he is considered the world’s greatest detective.

The game is still fun despite the flaws and is a good send off to the series. The problem is though, is it better than its predecessors? No, it unfortunately isn’t. The other two brought things to the table without it feeling cluttered, and the new additions in Batman: Arkham Knight just become the main focus of most of the in world gameplay. It is easier to just glide from island to island instead of using the car to get to my destination. There are so many errors in the creative aspects of the game that I’m just left feeling a bit disappointed. That being said, the game is absolutely beautiful on Playstation 4. With little to no lag at all in the world, it runs like a dream. The world of Gotham and its attention to little details to the Batman mythos is astounding. The music is what you’ve come to expect, epic on scale and dark when it needs to be.  Aesthetics and music are yet again flawless and what we’ve come to expect from Rocksteady. The key problem is to fully complete the game and get the final ending, one needs to fully complete the Riddler trophies. In the previous games, you didn’t need to gather them all to see the final cinematic, and it is just a little much to spend all your time for a lackluster ending cinematic.

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Batman: Arkham Knight is a good send off to a great series. Scarecrow turned out to be a great antagonist, even if he and the Arkham Knight were used poorly and their dialogue becomes either whiny or just like any other villain monologue. The various subplots in the main story are great and technically this game is a marvel. It just needed more creativity, which was shown in the previous Arkham titles by Rocksteady, making it just feel lackluster in comparison. Despite being disappointed in some elements, it is a good send-off to the Dark Knight. Kevin Conroy, its been a pleasure having you voice a great Batman yet again.

Similar Games Liked:
Batman Arkham Asylum (PS3)
Batman Arkham City (Xbox360)

Similar Games Disliked:
Batman Begins (PS2)

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