Be the Batman
Games based on comic books have always been a hit-or-miss affair. Most of the time they’re either light hearted kid’s games or poorly made cash grabs capitalising on upcoming blockbuster movies.
But every now and then you come across a diamond in the rough, a game so well crafted and filled with passion that it makes every other comic book romp look like a mere warm-up for the main event. A game so much of a powerhouse that no other developers dare to even release around the same time, for they know that Batman has donned his cowl and prepared for the long night ahead.
Note: Spoilers for Arkham City. If you haven’t finished it yet then hold off from Arkham Knight as it takes place pretty much right after.
It’s been six months after the events of Arkham City and crime is at an all time low in the city of Gotham, it’s almost as if criminals have finally learnt that trying to mug people only rewards you with a broken neck and a batarang in your shin. With the joker dead many a lunatic is rising up to try and take his place, the most dangerous of these being The Scarecrow and his band of merry misfits. Scarecrow warns the city of Gotham that his fear toxin will envelop the streets and drive everyone to the very brink of sanity.
With the city evacuated and crime once again at an all time high, Batman takes it upon himself to save the world one last time.
Not wanting to spoil too much since story is what drives the Arkham games, but it should be said that Arkham Knight is by far the biggest step up in the series in terms of overall story and development. The writing is more energetic, the narrative is better paced, character relationships are more believable and nods to the expanded universe are more obvious and detailed than ever before.
Knight is very much about indoctrinating players into the Batman universe. It throws large handfuls of characters and locations at the player that heavily suggest a much bigger world than the one found in the Arkham games.
And what’s more is that every time a character is introduced a short bio is unlocked along with information of their first (and sometimes last) appearance in the comic books. Don’t know who Firefly is? No worries, here a short essay as to why he’s a flaming psychopath who makes terrible puns. It gives you just enough to get by without overloading information and lets you jump back into the game as soon as possible.
And with a game so well crafted as Arkham Knight, you’ll be wanted to play over gaining knowledge any day. Every passing second is one where you feel like you’re Batman, and every moment you can feel yourself getting better at being the best. Every move and action taken makes you feel like a complete badass that rules the streets of the gorgeously crafted city. Honestly, my biggest difficulty was resisting skipping over cutscenes simply because I missed every moment I wasn’t The Dark Knight.
Batman has a host of new gadgets with him to help save Gotham, with the biggest (and most controversial) being the hulking tank that is the Batmobile. This behemoth of a battering ram speeds around Gotham like a F1 car overcharged on Berroca and Red Bull, wrecking everything that gets in its way. And if that doesn’t sound cool enough, it blooming thing can transform into a spider tank reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell to blast away at enemy drones like they were made from wet cardboard.
It’s a beastly machine that emphasises just how much of a one-man-army Batman really is. It’s just a shame how much the game relies on it and slowly turns what would be a cool feature into a gimmick. There are points where you’ll be sneaking around and sending thugs to dreamland when suddenly you have to stop and aim a ramp for the Batmobile so it can do a cool jump off it. Sometimes it feels like you’re playing a puzzle game and not being Batman.
When not being used to solve puzzles, the Batmobile is used to quickly traverse the madhouse once known as Gotham City. This time the entire cityscape is open to explore, with parts of the map slowly opening and closing up depending on the story. It’s almost uncanny how the city looks and feels like a real location thats been turned into a virtual playground. Just like a real city, at first you have no idea what’s going on or where anything is, but by the time you finish your adventure you’ll have the map so vividly ingrained into your memories you’ll be drifting round each corner as if you were in Fast & Furious.
In a short amount of time the dark and scary city becomes an unforgettable playground full of possibilities to do justice and apprehend dastardly villains.
A small gripe had with the game is the way it teases the player with optional characters. In Arkham City there was the option to explore the world with Catwoman, and downloadable challenges for both Knightwing and Robin. But in Arkham Knight, while the playable character count has gone up considerably, each character is reduced to a tiny segment that gets to the point of feeling needlessly tacked on.
Both Knightwing and Robin can only be used in very small sections in the game for combat scenarios. There’s no free roaming or detective work for the boy wonders, just some back street brawls and store house sneaking missions. It looks like down the road these characters will be released as DLC (as each of them has their own combos and gadgets) but right now it’s just a cock tease and feels cheap compared to the rest of the game.
Apart from one or two small issues, there’s not much to complain about with Arkham Knight. It’s a labour of love to both video game and comic book fans alike. It’s a game that seemingly has everything you could need or want from a video game done to near perfection. Be you a Batman fan or no, this game deserves your time as it’s one of the finest games to come out this generation.