Years ago the perception surrounding the development behind video games based off existing IPs was thought to be something little more than a marketing tool usually attached to a bigger product, such as a movie to simply capitalize on hype. Then in 2006, Rocksteady Studios turned the industry upside down by re-imagining how a comic book super hero could be done in gaming by creating the Batman Arkham series, a franchise that has not only won game of the year awards, but also influenced a number of games since then. Now, Rocksteady is back with their final chapter Batman: Arkham Knight, and it is by far the best entry in the series to date.
An Interactive Experience
Simply by looking at Batman: Arkham Knight, it’s easy to see just how far along the series has come since it first debuted last generation. Not only by looking at the game’s incredibly visual fidelity that puts the players in the shoes of the caped crusader better than anything we have ever seen before, the sheer scale and production value that accompany Rocksteady’s latest entry makes in one of the most pure interactive experiences I have ever had in the games industry. This is mainly due to the amount of control and direction that is put behind its usage of its camera to keep the player injected into the scene, but never so much that it removes the player from the experience or leaves them waiting on the next quick-time event.
While it’s easy to spoil many of the plot points to help explain many of the game’s nuances, I will do my best to avoid stating anything that could ruin someone’s first run in the game. Where normally a game is designed to let the player interact with its constructed world, waiting simply on the player to push or direct a scene, Arkham Knight uses a number of directional techniques that lets its cast dynamically interact with the player naturally. This gives the game a sense of atmosphere that sets the stage for the situation at hand, without ever really breaking the experience or becoming overly forced. It simply works, and is something that other studios will have to start paying attention to.
Only as Strong
This is not to say that Arkham Knight is perfect, as one of its biggest snags has to do with the game’s evolution of the series and how it uses some of its content. While the Arkham series has become known for its method of handling combat, BAK does suffer slightly from being a bit convoluted in regards to what it asks from its users. As an obvious way to mix up combat, players will need to learn a number of new mechanics to help them deal with the mobs of enemies that the game will constantly throw at them. This normally wouldn’t be an issue, but as you need to learn that the bigger enemies need to be stunned before you can hurt them, electric guys can’t be punched only shot with a gadget, guys with weapons need to be dodged in a specific manner, and a handful of other enemy specific standards, it can become a bit congested, especially since the game asks you to deal with combinations of everything all at the same time.
This is a perfect example of the game simply trying to accomplish too much to help increase the difficulty, or trying to create a unique feeling of its own, but ultimately making many of the fights arduous and agonizing. The same thing can also be attributed to BAK’s over usage of the new Batmobile. While the vehicle itself is a fantastic addition to the franchise, it generally becomes the answer to any problem that Batman can have in the game. On top of that, he will also have to use it to take down hundreds of enemy tanks and drones throughout the game, which feels repetitive and like little more than a way to fill in action sequences.
Batman: Arkham Knight Review - Knight's End (PS4) - PlayStation LifeStyle
What Lies Within
The thing is, BAK doesn’t need the forced action sequences or added content to expand its gameplay, as it contains more than enough content and intrigue to make it one the strongest additions to the series. With the ever looming threat of Scarecrow’s latest fear toxin, and the mystery surrounding Batman’s greatest threat yet, the Arkham Knight, there is more than enough for the game to stand on its own. Pushing the visuals further than we have seen, its usage of characters gives the game a stronger method of storytelling that can really help sell many of the game’s narratives. As such, the question regarding who the Arkham Knight is becomes a strong selling point for players to push forward, and is something that Batman fans are not going to want to miss.
On top of that, BAK offers a number of other side-quests and challenges to keep players busy for some time. Fans who have played the originals will find that Edward Nygma (a.k.a. The Riddler) is back, and has a whole new set of hidden Trophies for you to unlock, as well as a specific storyline that forces players to race through the sewers of Gotham. This is also followed by the usual cast of misfits looking to take down the Batman, each with their own side story. While I would love to fill you in more on who makes an appearance, some surprises are too good to spoil.
Be the Batman
The biggest thing that the Arkham series has done, besides its great combat system, is how well it was able to put the players in the shoes, or cowl, of the Dark Knight. BAK is no exception to this, and has been able to find a way to push the gameplay further than we have seen before. Given the size of Gotham city, players are now able to fire the Batclaw and pull themselves forward, launching themselves into the air and letting themselves glide to the next destination. This concept is also compatible with the Batmobile, which can be called into battle on the streets at almost any time, whether you are landing or simply needing to control it remotely, its addition to the game’s mechanics fit perfectly.
All of this is also tied into the improved combat system, while I did say earlier it can become a bit convoluted, the new animations and take down mechanics are still fantastic and fluid as ever. Honestly, after spending almost 20 hours in the game, I was still finding myself performing new maneuvers, takedowns and group takedowns. New gadgets are also present, and they do help add to the mix, as many of them can also be utilized mid combat, but at the expense of adding a more complexity to an already overly designed system. It is possible to get a rein on the controls, but players will more than likely find themselves having to micro-manage for little reward.
The End of an Era
The thing to remember is that this will be Rocksteady Studios’ last entry into the Batman Arkham universe, so if you have been playing the previous entries in the series, and enjoyed them, this is going to be a no-brainer, just go get it. Not only is this a testament to how far we have come as a medium in our ability to develop stories on existing IPs, it is one that shows that games are also able to deliver stories in a cinematic and logical way, without having to force a players hand to push the narrative in a straight line.
Batman Arkham Knight review copy provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.