Batman: Arkham Knight Review

I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman!

I don't consider myself a hardcore Batman fan. I never read the comics, I barely watched the TV shows, only when they came on conveniently as I played with my Power Rangers toys, and I didn't flock to midnight screenings of Christopher Nolan's movies, instead opting to see them a few weeks later when the theaters weren't so crowded. The same can be said for the Arkham games. I only played Asylum months after its release and the price was drastically lower on the 360, and likewise with Arkham City, picking it up for a price of a McDonalds lunch on Steam. What I'm trying to say is that I'm as unbiased as they come when it comes to Batman media. Which makes it even easier for me to confidently say that Batman: Arkham Knight is a masterpiece, and easily the best game released this year. 

Rocksteady have proved, once again, that they are the masters of their craft when it comes to Batman. The great gameplay elements introduced in Arkham Asylum, then expanded in Arkham City have been so meticulously polished to perfection in Arkham Knight.

It all starts with the story. The new villain in town (or at least somewhat new) is Scarecrow, with a plan to (you guessed it) release toxin into Gotham that will drive everyone crazy with fear. While there is a far more sinister plan in mind, I'll keep that out of this review. Standing at Scarecrows side is the enigmatic Arkham Knight, the titular villain who seems to be the only one able to stand toe-to-toe with Batman, and will be primarily the major focus of the game. Rocksteady has made sure to keep any clues and hints as to his identity a complete secret, but I can confirm that even as a casual Batman fan, I was able to figure out his identity about halfway through the game.

Arkham Knight

Scarecrow and Arkham Knight are far from the only two villains in the game, as you'll have to deal with the likes of goons like Two Face, Penguin, the Riddler, and more. All those villains are tied to their own separate side-missions that you can tackle freely when you want to take a break from pursuing the Arkham Knight. While they're not all winners, most are certainly worth delving into, as they all have their own stories associated with them.

The story is but one piece of this mastercrafted experience. It's the gameplay and the mechanics that really show just how dedicated Rocksteady is to this franchise. I will say that initially, when the game throws a whole bunch of different systems on you, it was somewhat overwhelming, but it's something you ease into over time. The game does a fantastic job at not only making you feel like a badass crime fighter, but also a top-notch detective.

Detective Mode is back, and once again, highlights important items that can be interacted with, as well as shows enemies through walls, enabling Batman to sneak up on them undetected and take them out quietly. But it goes further. CCTV camera feeds can be scrolled through and rewound to find clues. Entire crime scenes can be virtually reconstructed and replayed. Batman's Detective Mode also has a new mode which lets you scan multiple layers of a person's body, flesh, muscles and bone. You'll also reconfigure voice samples and fingerprints in order to get access to various locked out technology. Granted, all of these are situational and only happen in certain missions, but they enhance the core experience. You really do feel like a genius detective with million dollar technology at your every disposal.


Speaking of multi-million dollar technology, this time Batman can take to the streets in the signature Batmobile, which seems like it's a bit of a hybrid of the Tumbler from the Dark Knight movies, and the more sleek Batmobile from the cartoons. I was worried about driving in a game that was primarily a third-person action game, but Rocksteady has once again exceeded my expectations. The Batmobile is a very agile vehicle. It's fast but never at the cost of handling, ensuring that corners are always easily taken. You also won't have to worry about getting stuck on various obstacles as the Batmobile drives through them with ease. It's obvious that Rocksteady made some sacrifices to realism in favor of playability, and with the Batmobile being more or less a tank, it's certainly appreciated.

The Batmobile also has a Battle Mode which you can switch to freely and on the fly. This turns the Batmobile into a more agile tank, allowing you to strafe and fire off the Vulcan Cannon and the 60mm Cannon. Throughout the game you'll also get various upgrades to the Batmobile like being able to fire off EMP blasts or even make enemy drones fight for you. 

The same great combat that was introduced in Arkham Asylum is still very much present in Arkham Knight, though with a few new additions and refinements. The bulk still consists of timing button presses to either land hits or counter enemies, but soon you'll have to deal with different counters that deal with charging enemies or enemies using weapons. While it may seem like Arkham Knight is a button masher at first, the game introduces so many layers of difficulty already by the halfway point, that simply button mashing is the quickest way to Batman's death.

Then there are the new dual-takedowns, which allow you to team up with various other characters like Robin, Nightwing and even Catwoman, to perform a finishing combo on an enemy. While these look cool, don't expect to be using them a lot in the game. They're also situational, depending ont he mission that you're doing.

You'll once again spend a myriad of skill points on various upgrades such as enhanced combat strength, a more powerful grappling hook, better armor for Batman and the Batmobile as well as completely new moves. However, many of the skills acquired in previous games are already available from the start. For example, you'll be able to use the grapple to zip yourself up a building into the air and continue to chain that to keep flying. While the Batmobile is an amazing addition, nothing beats soaring the skies of Gotham City.

Batman Arkham Knight

I tip my hat to Rocksteady at the insane amount of detail that went into the game. Not only is it unbelievable gorgeous, but it's so meticulously designed that it will fool you into believing that this kind of technology could indeed exist. Even the Batmobile has an insane amount of detail, with tiny moving parts shifting as you drive to the back opening to reveal passenger seats. What's even more impressive is that it doesn't seem to impact performance whatsoever. It's one of those instances where I had a hard time believing the screenshots and videos prior to release, until I actually played the game. I would definitely call these true next-gen visuals.

I only have two complaints about the game, one trivial and one rather annoying. Firstly, I wish Rocksteady had made it an option to turn off thug chatter through Batman's radio. Every 5-10 seconds you hear a thug say something completely stupid and often out of place, it completely ruins the immersion. "It sounds like you have good bowel movement man," isn't something that I feel like I need to hear a thug say to another in order to get a full immersive Batman experience. In stark contrast to the dark tones of the story and the fantastic writing of the main characters and villains, the thug commentary sounds like its stripped right out of a Saturday morning cartoon.

Secondly, the last act of the game needlessly throws a massive amount of bad guys at you, which to me seems to serve two functions; time padding and artificially raising the difficulty. Since you'll have to take on so many enemies at once, chances are you might fail once or twice, prolonging the whole experience. I'd rather have a tougher fight against a fewer amount of thugs that might be more powerful, than be swarmed by pawns.

After the somewhat disappointing Batman: Arkham Origins, it's nice to see Rocksteady back at the wheel, delivering what is this year's best game. It's been quite some time since I've seen a game so polished, so visceral and so fun. The game also proves that you don't need thousands of square miles to explore just to get your money's worth. What's the bottom line? If you're a Batman fan, chances are you already own it. If you're not a Batman fan but appreciate well designed games with a ton of variety, great story and a visceral combat system, definitely check out Arkham Knight.

*My review is based on the PS4 retail disc and my score reflects the console versions. I unfortunately cannot comment on the PC version, which has since yesterday been suspended from being sold, and won't release until later this year.