I must admit I’m a little bit blind when it comes to superhero games. I played the two excellent Spider-Man games on PlayStation 1, and had goes here and there of other games, but that was about it. I missed Batman: Arkham Asylum entirely, and only got its sequel, Arkham City, because I had preordered a Wii U and didn’t fancy my chances at enjoying Zombi U or Nintendoland very much. The latter was fine, Zombi U was pants, but Arkham City… wow, that was a great game, even with the goofy Wii U tablet controls crowbarred in.
I missed Arkham Origins as well due to it being released as a “last-gen” game – I only really jump back a console for the odd truly special game, like South Park: The Stick of Truth. But when Arkham Knight was announced for the current generation, I figured it was worth diving back into the world of Batman. Here’s what I thought about it, having completed all of the game’s main and secondary missions and activating Knightfall.
What a beautiful, immersive rendition of Gotham City. Arkham Knight uses the heft of the upgraded console hardware effectively. Everything’s more detailed, rain and other such effects are absolutely gorgeous – the world gels and is a joy to navigate. I didn’t get sick of it despite the hefty playtime I needed to complete the game to Knightfall level.
I was worried to hear how prominent the Batmobile was in Arkham Knight – I loved Arkham City and would legitimately have been happy with Arkham Knight if it simply stuck a few extras onto the formula and called it a day. But the Batmobile sections weren’t just good – they were excellent. The Batmobile is a well-equipped, highly powerful vehicle which handles beautifully, is versatile, and is great fun to play with in every instance the game uses it, from races, to enemy unit destruction sequences, and in all the little unique bits like Riddler trophies and missions.
Speaking of, there was a ton to do, and it was for the most part a heck of a lot of fun. The main missions involving the Arkham Knight were great, but any game that gives me an open world and a massive clean-up job of fun distractions is very much my thing. Make some of those things lateral-thinking riddles and we’re onto a winner here. There were perhaps a few too many Riddler trophies, but since you can unlock map locations by taking down specific marked informants, it wasn’t a massive hassle.
Batman feels good to play with as well. I’ll get onto the niggles I have with some of the actions he can do, but the ability to propel yourself around the map using your retracting hook, gliding about the place and springboarding yourself with the Batmobile is satisfying in the same way the previous games, and other ones like Just Cause, achieve. On top of that, the game’s combat system is great too – very simple, very gratifying. And very Batman.
The control scheme, although fine once you’re used to it, is ridiculously convoluted. Gadgets, actions and controls for everything are all over the place, with even some of the more mundane actions being a chore to do. If you are presented with a destructible wall you want to progress through, you have to: hold a button to open your gadget wheel, push your stick left to select your explosive gel, let go of that button, move up to the wall, push another button to spray it with gel, back off a little, and then push yet another button to detonate the gel. All for an action which realistically could have just been a single button to punch through the damn thing.
Although I completed the game on PS4 and it ran great on that, I also got the PC version cheap for a later second playthrough. It appears to have since been patched and now works well, but my first attempt at playing it was met with a glitchy, laggy mess, not dissimilar to Mortal Kombat X, another 2015 WB release. I hope WB and its devs, going forward, can take more care in their launch PC ports and not just end up fixing them months later when, shockingly, they’re met with backlash as PC players complain in droves about their new games being unplayable.
I know Batman has a massive library of villains, but Arkham Knight feels like it’s trying far too hard to squeeze as many of them in as it possibly can – and it can be detrimental to the game’s story and logic. Arkham Knight is an interesting, brand-new villain, and I really wish the story could have used that character as a singular focal point. Unfortunately, the Arkham Knight is the co-main-villain of the big story with Scarecrow. And they’re cultivating a gas that turns everyone into the Joker. And Batman has been infected, so the entire game contains Joker hallucinations. Harley Quinn naturally gets involved too. So does Poison Ivy. And there must be 20 or more other villains that appear in the various side missions of the game. The entire events of Arkham Knight supposedly take place during a single Halloween evening – it almost becomes comically nonsensical how many different villains Batman is taking down in such a small time span, and makes you wonder what the hell Gotham’s police dept is there for.
Arkham Knight truly feels like the best kind of sequel anyone can hope for – it keeps everything that made people fall in love with its predecessors and adds a wealth of new stuff, including some fundamental additions, to make it a fresh game in its own right, potentially drawing in new fans without alienating more than a few old ones that are completely allergic to vehicular combat.
But if it gets a sequel, don’t preorder it on PC.