TL;DR It’s not often that the final installment of a trilogy outclasses its predecessors in almost every aspect possible. But that’s the exact case here with Batman: Arkham Knight. Some way, somehow, Rocksteady managed to take their triumphs of adapting the Dark Knight into a video game– an accomplishment in its own right– and amped it up to another level. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are known as two of the best titles of the last generation of consoles, and this is a worthy finale to the trilogy. Not only does it perfectly balance combat and actual detective work, but it also introduces the ultimate weapon in the form of the Batmobile. It’s not just a gimmick, it actually influences the whole dynamic of the experience and that’s not me speaking in hyperbole. Not to mention that they accomplished all of this on their first crack at the new generation of consoles, all while making it visually brilliant.
Occurring after the events of Batman: Arkham City, Gotham is Joker-less, and thus, up for the taking. The inevitable power struggle promised from the city’s vulnerability never actually comes. Crane, a/k/a Scarecrow, takes advantage of this opportune time to kick start his evil plan to unleash a new fear toxin upon the thug-filled home of our bat friend. It sounds fairly cliché, but his cruelest of intentions rise to the surface as his plan unfolds. His ultimate goal is to not only kill the Batman, but to kill the myth. Proving that the hope inducing symbol is merely human and full of fear like everyone else.
“His ultimate goal is to not only kill The Batman, but to kill the myth.”
Not being able to match the caped crusader’s brawn, Crane recruits the Arkham Knight– a masked man who hates the hero as passionately as any other twisted mind in this forsaken city. Even worse, he seems to know everything about Bruce and all of his tricks. That, plus his full metal tank army, make him extremely dangerous.
So what’s a bat to do when cornered? How about enlisting the help of a giant tank of a car that maneuvers like the most nimble ballerina? As someone who believed that the Batmobile would only be a gimmick sparsely used, I was wrong. Everything about this new addition is impressive. It looks fierce, moves fast, can maneuver through the trickiest of corners (somewhat destructible environments help), and packs one hell of a punch. Just look at the thing. It’s intimidating! It’s also extremely functional. Going from high speed chases to battling an army of fully weaponized vehicles is as simple as holding down the left trigger. Doing so will open up the full artillery as it goes into battle mode. What once felt hefty turns into the most agile machine ever, almost like it’s hovering. In this mode, you can turn in any direction easily and side slide to avoid incoming projectiles. It handles beautifully– no Grand Theft Auto driving physics here.
“How about enlisting the help of a giant tank of a car that maneuvers like the most nimble ballerina?”
Every so often, the iconic transportation device will also be required during missions, including some parts of the main story. You will have to pull large items, race around in tunnels, and even take down giant bosses. There are even times where you can remotely control it to help you get out of sticky ambush situations. One particular boss fight requires the Batmobile in all of its glory in a way that’s reminiscent of the Killer Croc boss fight from the previous title. Just like the rest of the game, it consists of heart-pounding thrills until the very end. This is exactly what the doctor ordered. The final installment we will see of this franchise needed this breath of fresh air. Everything that you love is there but better, much better.
Hand to hand combat also introduces new techniques and finishers. The result, buttery smooth fight sequences that will allow you to take down crowds of 20 with ease. Fear takedowns are now a thing too. Sneaking up on your foes will grant you the ability to take down up to three (at first) baddies at a time as everything slows down, giving you the advantage if you work in a stealthy manner– which is required when facing armed men. No worries though, because detective mode is still there and so are the excellently built rooms which now have vertical chutes for traveling. Whether you utilize these tools is completely up to you. Friends are also in Batman’s corner, even if he doesn’t like to always acknowledge it, and there are certain moments where you will be able to have familiar faces help you out during battle.
“The result, buttery smooth fight sequences that will allow you to take down crowds of 20 with ease.”
Speaking of tools, the world’s greatest detective actually makes use of his unique detecting skills. Plenty of missions require you to solve puzzles and hunt down different people using environmental cues. Being Batman, like the box says you are, requires the brains aspect, not just the brawn. Balancing between pummeling the crude and actually solving mysteries is not an easy task, but there is a sense of zen here. You will never feel worn out by either task. Having a utility belt with some old and new toys will help in that department as well.
Traversal has always been a high for these titles– excluding Arkham Origins– and this one is no different. Soaring through the skies is still a joy ride worth taking. Of course, the Batmobile also helps here. If you don’t feel like floating around, jump into your whip and throw on the thrusters. This makes it fairly easy to get from one end of the giant map to the other. Just find an open road, click the bumper button on your controller, and the car will find you. This makes it hassle free to roam around to find side missions. And there are a ton of them, including AR challenges, Riddler trophies, and all sorts of quests.
“Soaring through the skies is still a joy ride worth taking.”
Now all of this is wrapped up in a nice story package that reminds me of the best of Christopher Nolan’s film trilogy, minus the plot holes. For the first time in this game trilogy, we get a closer look at Batman, not Bruce Wayne, but actually the masked man. He’s constantly having to fend off his inner demons. Any further discussion on the subject however, would head into spoiler territory. It’s an incredibly twisted and at times disturbing story that finally takes a look at the psyche of our favorite hero. A man running around in a bat suit is no sane man. That’s exactly what this game explores. How different is he really from those he loathes? The line is a lot thinner than you’d think. He will even go as far as lying to his closest friends for the sake of the mission, putting them in incredible danger. There’s one particular sequence that was a total trip and will be utterly satisfying for those that have stuck with this franchise up to this point. Including familiar faces and foes fleshes out the whole “Be the Batman” experience.
The team also took a very cinematic approach to everything, making said story, much more impactful. As soon as you pick up the controller you will notice how the camera moves to create more dramatic scenes. Even opening the doors looks dramatized. It also helps that this game is drop dead gorgeous. Seriously, Gotham has a gothic, dark feel to it, with lots of bright neon lights for contrast. This easily makes this game one of the best looking titles on the new consoles to date.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, let me make it clear: this game is as close to perfection as you can get. Not once did I run into a hiccup, which is much more impressive these days. It’s an absolute blast and I didn’t want to stop playing it. Thankfully, there’s plenty to do before Batman hangs up his cape, yet it’s still saddening that the end is here. Never did I think the final game in the trilogy would somehow be better the first two. Never. Yet, it was. Do not sleep on this, do not dismiss it, play this and enjoy it in all of its glory.
– The Batmobile is a beast. From racing through the streets, to taking down an army of tanks, this vehicle can handle it all. It’s the ultimate weapon that revolutionizes the gameplay.
– Hand-to-hand combat has been perfected. Arkham Asylum introduced the fighting that finally made sense for the Bats, this is the epitome of said mechanics. Taking down crowds of enemies has never felt this great.
– The ending of an era is handled perfectly. The story is brilliant and takes a look at what makes our hero tick. Everything about this game is bigger and better.
-It’s over. Rocksteady has done an incredible job of showing the world that a Batman game can work. Hopefully they move onto something like Superman or The Justice League. Either way, the sky is the limit for this team.
5 Out Of 5 Burritos
This review was completed using a PlayStation 4 copy of Batman: Arkham Knight, provided by Warner Bros. Interactive. The game hit stores Tuesday, July 23 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
Editors Note: We have heard about the issues that the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight has been experiencing and will continue to keep you updated as these issues are resolved.