Reviewed by Mason Manuel
There was a time when the involvement of Batman meant certain death for video games. There was no one who could seemingly grasp the true unstoppable force of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego while still accounting for his most prevalent weakness of not being a super powered being. Even if they could, no one could find a way to make a player feel that they had control over the awesome might of the Batman. And then the players were gifted with Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum and superhero games would never be the same again. I would argue that no one has even come close to reaching the standard that Rocksteady has created for their Batman saga and I strongly doubt we will see one soon. Because now we have the finale to Rocksteady’s Batman trilogy, Batman: Arkham Knight and holy s**t, it’s a beauty.
Arkham Knight starts off one year after the heavy hitting moments of Arkham City. (SPOILER ALERT, DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU) Gotham City is experiencing one of its’ most peaceful times in recent memory thanks to the recent demise of the clown prince of crime, Joker himself. The public is enjoying their down time but Commissioner Gordon and Batman know that the power vacuum is just a ticking time bomb, and so spend their down time improving as much as possible. Good thing too, because Gotham gets thrown into chaos in a matter of minutes thanks to the reappearance of Scarecrow wielding a new face after his Croc incident at the Asylum and a more powerful fear toxin to boot. Just to give Batman more migraines, a new player is in town; the strong militarized Arkham Knight and his formidable militia. What follows is a series of twist and turns that nearly all hit right and keep you wanting more.
Gotham City has been recreated into a series of formidably sized islands, each with its’ own signature theme. There is the neon lit Chinatown, the construction laden Founder’s Island, and the crumbling Bleake Island which are all personified areas that really are characters in their own respect and riddled with detail. And speaking of riddles, the entire island is once again littered with Riddler challenges that easily add a good number of hours to the already extensive story plotline. In the past games completing these challenges has felt like a chore, but with the beautiful wreck that is Gotham and a few obstacle ridden race tracks, it makes the chore a little bit more bearable. The city isn’t the only thing that has gotten a graphical do-over, Batman himself has truly entered the next generation in style. The brand new metallic suit that perfectly reflects the constantly stormy skies that rain atop of the accursed city and a cape that has the most realistic cloth flapping animations I have ever seen in my life hands down are true masterpieces. When the game starts your cape billows full and strong but when you progress further and take more hits, your cape starts to get ripped like in previous games and begins to buck under the force of the wind and seems a lot more unsteady in the storm. The detail put into this simple piece of Batman’s arsenal reflects the amount of care put into every aspect of Arkham Knight; new and old.
Included in these new features is a brand new, completely functioning Batmobile, complete with 60 millimeter cannon and rocket powered afterburner. Gotham City might as well be tissue paper as your vehicle can power through practically any structure on the road without a hitch. But it’s not all fun and joyrides, the Arkham Knight has brought a sizeable amount of tanks to combat your arsenal and they can pile up to be more than a match for you and your baby. But if you spend enough time exploring and completing the sizeable amount of side missions you can earn experience points to upgrade your car with all new and imaginative abilities along with your suit, combat and gear. The system is easy to learn and doesn’t require you to have played the previous two games to get it, and that is a valuable quality for new players. Speaking of systems that are easy to learn, Rocksteady’s signature free flow combat is back with new combos and options (including a ridiculously fun environment takedown option that showcases some really gritty knock outs that make you feel guilty to enjoy) and is as easy to learn and impossible to master as its’ predecessors. Each punch feels great and is perfectly timed with an accompanied vibration from the controller that really physicalizes every punch thrown. You are never button mashing, you are scientifically taking apart your opponents, having to constantly take into account the various enemy archetypes including those donned in armor that makes them invisible to your detective mode and medics which can annoyingly revive the enemies you just put a lot of effort into taking down. It’s a hell of a good time and each victory feels well earned, not just because you are Batman, but because you tried to understand how your enemy would act.
A big thing for me considering any game or movie is the story and I am happy to say that Arkham Knight does not disappoint. The lore sometimes delves deeper into the comic universe more than simple gamers may be prepared for, but there is a handy character guide that can be referenced at any time in case you lose track of who that new villain is. My one complaint about the story is that the mysterious identity of the Arkham Knight gets pretty obvious around the halfway point of the game but does not officially get revealed till the ending act. Otherwise, Rocksteady gives us a tight nail biting tale. Along with a stellar story comes an equally stellar cast. Kevin Conroy has returned in force as the titular Batman with the voice that makes Christian Bale want to sob on the toilet. John Noble plays the main antagonist Scarecrow and brings a monotone deadpan that honestly gave me the chills no matter how many times I heard him. Also worth mentioning are Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad) as the gruff Commissioner Gordon and Last of Us alum Troy Baker as the mysterious Arkham Knight (and Two-Face but he has a pretty standard bad guy performance on that front). An old past character comes back too for a few memorable lines but I won’t spoil it for you here. The best advice I can give you is to get this game ASAP. You’ll thank me later. You’re welcome. A 9.8 out of 10.