Realistically this could be a one line review; if you enjoyed the previous Arkham games then you’ll like this. But then you wouldn’t get a couple hundred words of my ranting and raving and who wants to miss out on that? More importantly though, if we talk a little more about Arkham Knight it becomes clear that perfect it ain’t, so let’s dive in.
Much like The Dark Knight Rises, this game is the less than perfect conclusion to what was promising to be a perfect trilogy. Arkham Asylum defied all odds to become one of the best games of 2009 and the follow-up, Arkham City was just spectacular in its detail, plot and performances. Much like Christopher Nolan after his first two Bat-films, the pressure was on Rocksteady Studios in a big way to see out the trilogy. Firstly, the PC port was a disaster. I’m not a PC gamer but I’ve read the reports and heard the cries. Not a big deal to me but definitely the first stumbling block that should’ve been avoided. Secondly though the evolutionary changes with this final instalment have created the most split opinions. City got the time and money to expand into an open world Batman game that encouraged hours upon hours of investment. Arkham Knight got the time and investment to give us the Batmobile.
Before picking up this game I heard nothing but arguments over whether this was a smart addition or not. When I finally picked the game up I spent roughly the first hour calling in the Batmobile for no other reason except the bad ass visual it presented to me on screen. I drove it a bit but Gotham is still easier to navigate with a grappling hook. Then came the Bat-tank. Again, loved it initially. Come the third or fourth time the game forced it down my throat by throwing me into a situation where I had to use it? Not so much. Let me clarify this, Rocksteady made a fantastic addition to their series by giving us this wonderful new toy to play with, then threw away all that goodwill by trying too hard to get their money’s worth out of it. These games have always asked the player to invest heavily in the narrative, to literally become Batman as you play, so when it starts to look like he would literally use the Bat-tank to drive down the shops for some milk, things get a little cloudy with regard our attachment to the plot.
Speaking of the narrative, what the hell is this game all about? Basically, Scarecrow has revealed his greatest threat yet, a widespread release of fear toxin that will engulf Gotham. Working alongside him/for him is the titular Arkham Knight, the anti-Batman if you will who is trained in all the same skills as the Bat and harbours a pulsating hatred for him. Rocksteady made waves when this game was revealed when the claim was made that the Knight would be an original character to the Batman lore, both their own and the comic’s. I won’t go into detail on the unmasking of this character but suffice to say I, and many others, felt as though they pulled a little bait and switch with this one. Furthermore, Arkham Knight is nowhere near the primary antagonist, that title belongs to Scarecrow. This isn’t much of a big deal given that John Noble absolutely knocks it out of the park with his performance as the fear mongering “psychiatrist” but it feels like a slight cop out once again. Little things in the grand scheme of the game though I suppose.
As with the previous entries in the series, Arkham Knight goes out of its way to spoil players with alternate content outside of the main storyline. This time around too, aside from the Riddler Trophies which may be the death of me, everything appears a little easier to achieve 100% completion on. As someone who will likely never 100% City, this is very welcome. Like it’s somewhat stablemate GTA, Arkham Knight gives the player a living and breathing world to inhabit too. A hell of a lot of work goes into these games, just as anyone who played Arkham Origins to discover how lacking a non-Rocksteady game is in this department, and for that reason alone the longevity is amazing.
It would be grossly incorrect for me to make any broad stroke statement that this is a lesser entry in the series. There’s more to do, see and accomplish than any of the previous titles and it’s never looked, played and sounded as good. There are a few game play hitches though and how avoidable they were makes it a little disappointing. Still, it’ll be the best game of this console generation you’ve played thus far, tied for first place with The Witcher 3 maybe from what I hear. Is it a fine end to a slightly more perfect two thirds of a trilogy? Yeah, that’ll do I guess.