Batman: Arkham Knight is a polished, action-packed game with an ambitious plot that tries harder than it should please everyone.
!!LIGHT SPOILERS, YOU WERE WARNED!!
A BEATEN PATH
At this point, we’ve seen a whole line of Batman Arkham games. There has been an attempt to line the stories together, with no exception to Origins, which took place 10 years before the first Arkham game.
The thing is, I was satisfied with the story’s conclusion in Arkham City. Don’t get me wrong, I loved how they integrated a dead joker in the storyline, but there is a fatigue of having to deal with the same antagonist in 4 games.
THE CAST: A REPRISE
We are always given a whole cast of characters from the Batman universe; small Easter egg styled cameos, multiple minor villains with their independent story arcs, and the main campaign antagonist. Even with the evolution of the game over the years, the formula remains the same and it gets repetitive.The cast of heroes in this game is solid, and more than we’ve seen to date. Commissioner Jim Gordon is our go-to guy for breaking
The cast of heroes in this game is solid, and more than we’ve seen to date. Commissioner Jim Gordon is our go-to guy for breaking news. We have 3 Robins in the game, including Nightwing. Barbara Gordon, or Oracle, plays a larger role in this story too. We get to use some of these characters briefly, but more on that in Gameplay.The enemies are really nothing we haven’t seen before. Firefly is setting fires in Gotham, Two-Face is robbing banks, Cobblepot is smuggling something, and the Riddler has set up extravagant, over elaborate traps to kill Batman throughout the city.
The enemies are really nothing we haven’t seen before. Firefly is setting fires in Gotham, Two-Face is robbing banks, Cobblepot is smuggling something, and the Riddler has set up extravagant, over elaborate traps to kill Batman throughout the city.This game’s main villain is Scarecrow, and although it may seem like it’s about him, the Arkham Knight and Joker both take as much time and levity as the Scarecrow, ultimately giving him only a backseat in this story that revolves around Batman.
This game’s main villain is Scarecrow, and although it may seem like it’s about him, the Arkham Knight and Joker both take as much time and levity as the Scarecrow, ultimately giving him only a backseat in this story that revolves around Batman.
Honestly, I’m tired of the formula. I don’t want to collect any more riddler trophies. I don’t want to shoot any more tanks that overwhelm me 30 to 1 and kill me in a few shots. I’m almost happy it’s the last. No more.
The main campaign takes roughly 10-15 hours to complete, and the side missions will push you another 20 hours. After which the leaderboards, new game plus, and repayable missions will push you through 6o play hours.
I AM THE NIGHT
In script writing, plot and conflict are derived from obstacles fabricated by the writer. For obstacles to be believable, they need to realistic and relevant enough to the protagonist to want, or have to, tackle.
The underlining obstacle to every Arkham game to date is Batman himself. It’s his struggle with his morals, the temptation to break them, and his tendency to seclusion and taking on the responsibility of everything unto himself. It is this quality that has made Batman who he is in the comics, and is what makes the Arkham stories so enthralling to play.
Batman attempts to thwart Scarecrows’s plans to poison Gotham City with his proprietary humidifier machine, coined “Cloudburst” patent pending. Scarecrow also has a larger plan to reveal and then kill the Batman, in an attempt to demystify Gotham’s savior.
However, this simple task would be then made harder by Joker’s blood taking over Batman, making him hallucinate at the worst of times. Joker constantly pesters Batman, rattles him, and is constantly on the brink of taking over Batman’s mind. It’s a persistent threat through the game, and something that keeps a player wondering if what they’re seeing at any time is real or not.
A very active character in this game is the city itself. Architecture is unique, and the landscape is constantly changing based on the progression of the game. You get to experience different states Gotham goes through, and every shift dramatically changes the way you play.
The city is also scattered with red lit watchtowers, drones, and bases to clear. These are owned by the Arkham Knight and these watchtowers are mini encounters by themselves. If left untouched, passing by these places will invite enemy gunfire. Clear these to earn points, and it’s really visually rewarding when the jarring red lights recede as you clear the city of threat.
Waypoints are removed, in place of slightly faster suit travel and the inclusion of the Batmobile. The Batmobile comes with its own sets of pros and cons, but generally, the inclusion of having to travel everywhere manually increases the immersion of the game. Hit or miss, really.
Rife with thousands of identical respawning thugs, Gotham City just seems neigh impossible to clean up once the campaign is over. Of course, a safe city is one that is unplayable, but the lack of change or progression makes exploring Gotham to eliminate threats lackluster.
THE BAT TANK
One of the most exciting and controversial additions to the Arkham Knight game is the Batmobile. It comes with its own combat and puzzle segments, along with Riddler’s weird timed racetracks.
Personally, I think the inclusion of the tank missions is great. I also think there’s too much of it. These segments break form and the monotony of long gameplay sessions. Ninja Gaiden has platformers to slow the pacing of the game down, but it’s not why we play the game. The same goes for this. We bought the game to be Batman, not to drive around in a semi tank mowing down bad guys.
Batmobile combat is action-packed as well. There was a portion that was supposed to be stealthy, but it was short and didn’t really make sense. Despite being responsive and varied, it ended up feeling like a twin stick shooter more than anything else.
The cinematics in this game is breathtaking. Immersive and interactive first person cutscenes really sit you in front of the action. They are also seamless and blend perfectly into gameplay, telling the story unobtrusively.
However, there were still parts of the game that bothered me. For the initiated, the term railroading loosely means to lead a player down a linear path with no options to choose from, whether they want to or not.
The game railroaded me into making certain decisions that I felt were circumventable and put in only for the purpose of additional, false conflict. I understand that stories are not easy to write, but obstacles can’t be put into a game as padding to extend gameplay. It’s unethical and takes the players out of the experience.
Many times I felt that Batman wouldn’t have been stupid enough to fall for simple traps, other times why enemies ran away when they were perfectly capable, and HAVE, taken me down in the game before. The disconnect was silly and very jarring.
My next problem was stakes. This game never took risks. Batman is a serious game, and the levity of his actions come with their consequences. There are many times where the game hints at or pretends to take the leap. This leads to massive internal conflicts that make us connect with the character. But the game decides to be a pussy about it EVERY single time and reveals that nothing is lost.
Batman is about lost. Batman is supposed to be about a man who lives every day with the pain of his dead parents, his broken sidekicks, his destroyed relationships, yet continues to struggle for what he believes in. It’s about a man who never gives up.
Yet for half the game, I believed someone to be dead only to be perfectly fine. I believed that I broke the trust of the people closest to me. I believed that I had to suffer the repercussions of my actions only to realize that everything was a field of sunshine and daisies.
Halo 4 wouldn’t be without Cortona’s death. Final fantasy wouldn’t be if Aerith pretended to be dead. But this damn game wouldn’t even let the Batmobile be wrecked for 5 minutes without going “oh bt dubs, we have a spare.” A world where consequences don’t exist is an utterly boring one. Furthermore, the one altruistic death in the game came at a point where the character was not needed anymore. Meaningless.
PUNISHING VS CHALLENGING
I know I’m starting to gripe a lot. It was a beautiful game and something that still stands above all the trash that we’re getting in this day and age. With great history comes greater expectations, and this game falls shy of them.
Many of the important parts of the game, I felt powerless. Minor bosses or enemies that if you’re not careful will defeat you in one to two hits. In major tank fights, the Batmobile felt like paper, ripped to shreds while my cannons felt like I was prodding a bear with a stick.
This was mostly kept in the tank fights with their impeccable aim, although one sniper encounter with the Arkham Knight had me repeating the section nearly the whole night because his gun was unbelievably overpowered. Least said it wasn’t fun.
Done with care, the vulnerability can be put to great effect. The Bane fight in City was particularly remarkable. It demonstrated how much Bane’s toxin strengthened him, making him an undefeatable adversary in face to face combat. It gave an opportunity for the game to show Batman’s stealth and wit. It was beautifully executed and remains one of the most memorable fights to me.
Done correctly, a game should feel challenging, but never punishing. Dark Souls has had a reputation for being unforgivable. However, no matter how many times I died in Dark Souls, I would never feel that winning was about luck and not skill. I would learn new things from every lost encounter until I as a player grew to overcome the particularly nasty encounter.
The punishing parts of Batman were never like that. I didn’t learn anything from losing, and it felt like I was facing an undefeatable enemy which I only had to pull off a lucky shot to overcome. Defeating a tough enemy never left me feeling like I achieved anything. Instead, I felt drained and pissed at the game for handing me a knife for a gunfight. It was unfair. I hated those with every ounce of my being.
Side note. The hand to hand encounters have been perfected to a tee from all the previous games, and the balance of enemies are fun, exciting, and very rewarding to fight.
Batman Arkham Knight is an excellent addition to the list of amazing and fantastic Arkham games. The story is solid through and through despite railroading, and the addition of the Batmobile was more than welcome, despite running its welcome short halfway through.
You still feel like Batman, badass, and everything. If you like Arkham, it’s a must buy. If you’re new to the series, latest is not the best. Arkham City is hands down the pinnacle of the series.