Advertisement
Advertisement

Batman: Arkham Knight review

Tom Morgan
3 Jul 2015
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Batman Arkham Knight
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
38
inc VAT

Arkham Knight brings Gotham to life like never before, and takes Batman to seriously dark places

Advertisement

Specifications

Available formats: PC, Xbox One, PS4

Arkham Knight was billed as the final chapter to the Arkham series of games – arguably some of the best comic book adaptations we'd ever had the pleasure of playing. Expectations were high for Rocksteady's latest take on the Caped Crusader, but not only has the developer delivered, but it has managed to craft one of the most absorbing, intelligent breakdowns of what actually makes Batman the man he is, and what force could ever be strong enough to put an end to his journey. We just weren't prepared for how much of a dark journey it would be.

The entire game takes place over the course of a single night, with Gotham evacuated after Scarecrow threatens to unleash a toxic attack across the city. Only thugs, convicts and the most famous faces from Batman's rogues gallery remain, roaming the streets and causing chaos while you try to prevent the attack and save the members of Gotham's police force that stayed to help. It sounds straightforward enough, but the addition of the mysterious Arkham Knight, a mercenary that somehow knows Batman's deepest secrets, a recurring plot from Arkham City that we can't go into details for fear of spoiling the surprise, and haunting flashbacks from Batman's past all add up to a truly multi-layered story with some wildly dark twists and turns that even fans of the comics won't see coming.

Rocksteady carefully controls how much of the city you can access, without it becoming obvious - you're free to explore the further island from the outset, but you'll quickly get gunned down by an opposition force that vastly outnumbers you. Open the bridges, however, and the Batmobile will help you turn the tides in your favour. The excellent pacing of the story helps propel you forwards, so you're ready for what lies ahead when you unlock each new section.

Batman: Arkham Knight Batmobile driving

^ The Batmobile might be a brute, but it's a rocket when you activate the afterburners

Batman might finally have free reign to explore his city, but you don't have to do it on foot; the Batmobile makes its first appearance in an Arkham game, and what an appearance it is. Taking heavy inspiration from Christopher Nolan's Tumbler, Rocksteady's take on the iconic car is big, black and brutal. You can smash through obstacles and crash through weak walls as you drive through Gotham's streets, with electricity arcing from the wheels to stun anyone foolish enough to get in your way. As long as you can see the road, you can call the car to you, even landing in the cockpit from a glide if you call it while in the air. Enter tank mode and it becomes an entirely different beast. The wheels rotate 90 degrees and give you full freedom of movement, while a gun turret emerges from the top to help you take down more powerful opponents.

We think the Batmobile almost outstays its welcome, however; the majority of the optional side missions use it to some degree, with more traditional stealth and combat missions often taking a back seat to the driving. The car feels oddly light and oversteers wildly when driving at speed, which is totally out of character for a heavily armoured, massively heavy vehicle. It's also very convenient that the killing-averse Caped Crusader has what is essentially a battle tank equipped with all manner of weapons when Scarecrow's drone army marches on Gotham.

Batman: Arkham Knight batmobile tank

^ Batman can pack a serious punch with the Batmobile turret, but only against unmanned drones 

There's a huge number of missions and optional objectives to tackle, many of which let you explore on foot, but thankfully they don't litter the map – instead local radio chatter alerts you to nearby missions as you approach them. Diving into a menu lets you place a particular task on your HUD, with the bat signal appearing over it to guide you in the right direction. These escalate in a much more satisfying way than Arkham City's limp side quests, making more sense within the context of the plot and occuring naturally as you explore the city. Guard towers and airborne drones can be spotted from a distance thanks to their distinctive red searchlights, letting you decide whether to take a detour from your current objective to bring them down.

We felt most at home using the Batclaw to soar high into Gotham's skies, gliding between missions and sticking to the shadows to get the drop on our enemies. Hiding in air ducts and hanging from grotesques on the side of buildings lets you stealthily take down multiple enemies, avoiding combat until you get spotted. Detective mode still lets you spot enemies from a distance, although new tracker soldiers can find your location if you rely on it too much.

Batman: Arkham Knight gliding

^ Gliding above the chaos is still a highlight, especially when Gotham looks so pretty

Fights are guaranteed to happen eventually though. Combat feels largely familiar to the previous Arkham games, with a mix of attacks, blocks and counters, multiple enemies and acrobatic moves making each encounter feel like a free-flowing brawl rather than a series of individual fights. However, the introduction of multiple new enemy types make combat feel a lot fiddlier this time around. We liked having to focus on medics, who can bring incapacitated grunts back into the fight, but having to make liberal use of the batclaw, electrical charge and explosive gel to counter specific enemy types gets messy very quickly.

The addition of computer-controlled allies, and the ability to take control of them at any time during a fight is a welcome addition, however. Catwoman, Nightwing and Robin all get involved at various points throughout the campaign, and each one has their own set of unique moves and abilities to add some variety. These are fleeting moments, however, and for the most part you're on your own.

The puzzle-solving elements are almost entirely resigned to the Riddler's optional missions, with only one or two major story set pieces forcing you to experiment with Batman's gadgets. Even then, we rarely had to use multiple gadgets to solve anything; most puzzles are simple affairs, and feel considerably dumbed down from the complexities of Arkham Asylum's back-and-forth mindbenders.

Batman: Arkham Knight combat

^ Fist fights are gloriously hectic at the start of the game, but quickly get more complicated still

Ultimately though, there's much fun to be had simply gliding through the city simply being Batman. Gotham is huge and looks absolutely stunning, with rain dripping realistically off Batman's cowl as he perches on the edge of buildings and the wind ripples across his cape as he soars through the skies above. It's all far more convincing than Arkham City, with both a bigger area to explore but also a larger population - even with the residents evacuated, there are still plenty of people on Gotham's streets. Neon lights also glow with a potent ambiency while smoke billows from the Batmobile's tires as you power slide to a halt – and that's all despite running on a previous version of the Unreal engine.

The PS4 and Xbox One versions of Arkham Knight are a stunning example of what's possible with the hardware; everything is open and accessible, with no mid-game loading screens at all. It's a shame the same can't be said about the PC version, at least at the time of writing – the publisher has pulled the game from sale following major performance issues. There's no word on when it will be fixed, either, meaning at the time of writing a console is the only way to play.

Arkham Knight might not introduce many new gameplay elements to the series, Batmobile aside, but the masterful story, willingness to go places the comics have yet to tread, and the addition of entirely new characters breathes fresh life into the formula. Gotham is hauntingly beautiful, yet busy and a genuine joy to explore, either on foot, on four wheels or from the sky. The intricate and intense story shines a new light on Batman that will genuinely surprise even the most ardent of fans. It's a shame the PC version is so incredibly broken at the moment, but console gamers should snap this up right away.

Availability
Available formatsPC, Xbox One, PS4
PC requirements
OS SupportWindows 7, Windows 8.1 64-bit
Minimum CPU2.67GHz quad-core Intel, 3.4GHz quad-core AMD
Minimum GPUAMD Radeon R9 270 3GB, Nvidia GeForce GTX 660
Minimum RAM6GB
Hard disk space45GB