The caped crusader returns in Rocksteady's final entry to the Arkham series
The end is Knight.
Review by Gareth Smith
eveloper Rocksteady return to Gotham for the final entry in the critically acclaimed Arkham series. What an explosive send off it is, too. Rocksteady are calling Arkham Knight the ultimate and complete Batman experience. It's easy to see why. It builds on the previous two games in almost every way. Gotham is five times larger than it was in Arkham City, and there's no loading screens to spoil the fun. The enemy count has increased, missions are more varied, and there's greater depth to combat.
Arkham Knight continues after the events of Arkham City. It's opening is rather grim, with a major spoiler for those who haven't played it's predecessor. The Joker is dead, and you have the privilege of cremating him. With the psychopathic clown gone, Gotham has a new threat. Scarecrow has unleashed a fear toxin across the city, causing a wide-spread evacuation. That's not all, Batman also has other problems with a mysterious foe known as the Dark Knight. He's a brand new foe to the series that mimics Batman's cowl and armour. Although it's nice to see a new adversary for Batman, he's a rather weak character overall. Still, the narrative is solid with some surprising twists.
The Batmobile is the big new addition to the series, but it comes with mixed results. Only teased in previous games, Arkham Knight finally lets you blast through Gotham's streets at leisure. The more wide-open structure make racing and power sliding around corners a blast. The controls are rather slippery, but I rarely crashed due to the environmental destruction. Anything not nailed down can be destroyed. You can smash through road blocks, trees and other obstacles. Even pillars and corner walls crumble as you knock them, making you feel like an unstoppable force. You can summon the Batmobile at anytime, even while gliding. It looks amazing, and the transition is surprisingly fluid and responsive.
Yes, it comes in black.
You'll be required to switch between Batman and the Batmobile throughout the story. Rocksteady make use of the automobile in creative ways. Many platforming and puzzle sequences require the vehicles presence. It comes with an array of gadgets, such as the Power wrench, capable of tearing down structures and lowering platforms. Then there's the electric charge, used for powering generators, allowing Batman to reach restricted areas. It's moments like this when the Batmobile is at it's strongest.
It's a shame, then, there's not more moments like these. Most of your time with the Batmobile is spent in battle mode. This sees you transform into a slower, tank form. On many occasions, you'll need to transform in order to take out swarms of unmanned tanks and drones. They provide a refreshing change of pace, but are overused. New upgrades are given to the tank as you progress, but it doesn't stop them becoming tedious. They seem a little out of place, too, as it's not very Batman-like.
The free-flow combat is Arkham Knight's hallmark. It's back and as brutal as ever. You can expect the same fluid control scheme, with a wide range of gadgets and huge combo list. Flowing from enemy to enemy is just as responsive and enjoyable as before. It's even better now, due to some brand new additions. The duel-takedown, for instance, lets you performing a finishing move with a sidekick, such as Robin, Catwomen or Nightwing. They don't add any greater challenge, other than look awesome. Still, there a neat addition and fun to watch.
Then there's Fear take-downs, which allow you to dispatch up to five enemies without been fired upon. Doing so enters slow-mo, as you mark and target enemies one by one. Although it's a very simplistic form of attack, there's a great amount of depth to balance it out. You have to remain undetected for it to work, and the increased enemy count helps increase the difficulty. The amount of combinations tied to combat can be overwhelming. Throughout the story, I was constantly finding new ways to dispatch foes. Weather it's dueling up with the Batmobile, or spicing up combat with the range of gadgetry. New additions, such as environments take-downs and the ability to pick up enemy weapons expands the depth further, too. There's far more to deal with now, and sometime, it can seem too much.
Rocksteady capture the dark, gritty atmosphere of Gotham wonderfully. The streets are once again empty, due to the evacuation, but it's not completely lifeless. There's plenty of distractions to keep you busy between the story. Weather it's defusing bombs using the Batmobile's power wrench, collecting riddler trophies, taking out outposts, or stopping thugs during random police pursuits. There's also a variety of side missions, featuring many of Batman's notorious adversaries. These are like following mini stories. Two Face and his thugs are robbing banks, Firefly is burning down fire stations, and Penguin is smuggling weapon crates. Each one can be accessed easily from a wheel-shaped menu, and completed in any order
Visually, Arkham Knight looks truly remarkable. From Batman's modelling, the way water trickles down batman's cape and cowl dynamically, to Gotham itself. The city is beautifully detailed, with a more attractive colour palette than in Arkham City. New locations, such as China Town, provide lots of neon glows across the skyline. Lights reflect off puddles, and roads glisten due to the near constant downpours. With three islands joining Gotham, there's far less restrictions, too. You can now glide for longer distances, visit Wayne Tower, and it's all seamless with no loading screens.
Arkham Knight is a remarkable end to the Arkham trilogy. The Batmobile's integration is hit and miss, with some tedious tank battles. Yet, Rocksteady don't forget what made the series a success. It builds on the first two games wonderfully, keeping the series core mechanics intact.