Batman: Arkham Knight

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It’s a lot bigger than before and much more detailed. The question is: Is it better? The third outing for the Dark Knight courtesy of Rocksteady Studios, Batman: Arkham Knight is a sometimes-wearing swan-song for the Batman – in this game series at least.

There are no spoilers here, the game’s opening sequence straight out says that Arkham Knight is a story about the death of Batman but it’s not what you’re thinking. None of it is, something that you’ll find as you traverse the lengthy story mode and its various enthralling side missions.

Fear of the Dark

AK1Batman: Arkham Knight carries on from the events of Batman: Arkham City – The Joker is out of the picture and crime in Gotham is down. Way down. Until, that is, there is a chemical weapon attack in a diner – courtesy of the Scarecrow – which ignites a near-complete evacuation of Gotham City. Only the police and the criminals have remained behind, as well as the Batman, and the race is on to stop Scarecrow from engulfing the city in his patented Fear Toxin and turning all of the residents into ravening maniacs.

Scarecrow’s not alone though, he’s brought along a mysterious figure called the Arkham Knight who has got an entire army of mercenaries, drones and unmanned tanks at his command. Their sole aim is to take down the Batman and they’ve expended a colossal amount of money to make that happen. Also tagging along is a full roster of Batman’s greatest enemies – The Riddler, Two-Face, the Penguin and more make appearances to a greater or lesser extent. One thing that they have in common is that every case Batman has to solve is fine-tuned to within an inch of its life. The story-based stuff is brilliant.

Fast and Furious

AK4Batman isn’t wielding his dinky little arsenal from the last few games though. There’s a new set of gadgetry available for the Dark Knight. Chief among these is the Batmobile, which is drivable, loveable and a whole lot of fun once you’ve had a chance to get used to the controls – of which there are many.

Seriously, there are so many weapon and control options – both in-car and on foot – that Rocksteady have stretched the limits of the human hand to give players complete control of Batman. It can be overwhelming for even seasoned gamers to undertake, switching between three distinct control scheme that use every single button on the PlayStation 4 gamepad is taxing on the digits. But once you’ve had some practise, controlling the Bat is second nature.

Back to the Batmobile, which combines the speed of a racer (think Burnout) with afterburners with the firepower of a tank. Players are tasked with chasing down enemies, defending points against waves of unmanned tanks or using the Batmobile as a tool in a puzzle. The latter happens mostly in the Riddler sections, though the main campaign will call for some creative Batmobile use as well. Players can also use it as an offensive weapon, taking down large crowds with a single powerslide or transitioning in or out of the car during combat.

Speaking of combat, Arkham Knight also introduces Dual Combat. Further complicating taking on mobs is an ally character, AI controlled for the most part, fighting alongside Batman which players can switch to at will. Usefully, there are impressive-looking dual takedowns, but the concept is only really fully used in the AR challenge modes and a small portion of the main campaign. Understandable, as controlling two characters throughout would get a bit much.

Toys R Us

AK3Aside from the tank car, players will have their old favourites on hand. The grapnel gun, batarang, line launcher and explosive gel – all so useful in inspiring terror in the criminal heart – are there from the start but players will soon get a remote hacker, which is far more useful than the previous outings. There’s also the disruptor gun to toy with, a tactical tool that gives the Bat a decided edge if you’re willing to put in a spot of planning. There are a host of other gadgets to play with but I’m not going to mention them. That way lies spoilers. Given the proliferation of drones and unmanned weaponry in Arkham Knight, Rocksteady have given Batman the right tools for the job without overpowering him. You always feel as though you’re fighting against the odds on this one.

Hard At Work

AK5But you can’t look at the elements of Batman: Arkham Knight in isolation. The tools, the stories, the combat (vehicular, hand-to-hand and the upgraded Predator gameplay) all come together to form an experience that is tighter and more controlled than that seen in Arkham City. It’s not up to the fine narrative of Batman: Arkham Asylum but very few games are.

The city, though massive and even intimidating at the outset, seems to grow smaller as players put in the hours slamming criminals behind bars at GCPD, with the cells gradually filling up as players complete objectives. It goes from being a vast, crime-filled cesspool to the Batman’s domain, where everything is under his watchful eye.

There is some repetition to be had though. There are threats that need to be taken out, in the form of checkpoints and watchtowers, with more appearing during the course of the story. Each objective is the same though, take down enemies until you’re able to shut down the barriers or sentry guns that threaten your freedom of movement. It’s a nice idea but one that falls into repetition. Never mind though, there’s more than enough story to make up for this.

Verdict

Everything comes together to create a game that makes players feel like they’re actually the Batman and the result is actually tiring. How do you face overwhelming odds constantly without giving in to despair? But players, like the Bat, will persevere and they will be rewarded for doing so. Rocksteady have made Arkham Knight darker than the previous games and there are moments that will rock you back in your seat but they keep control of the adventure right to the very end and beyond. Prepare to lost at least twenty hours and quite probably more – it’s worth it.

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