Batman: Arkham Knight (PlayStation 4) Review

By Chris Leebody 30.07.2015

Review for Batman: Arkham Knight on PlayStation 4

From its beginning with Batman: Arkham Asylum back in 2009 in the previous generation, the Arkham series has proved to be the new benchmark with which superhero games are now judged. Gone were the cheap cash-ins of previous times; Arkham Asylum was an extremely well-polished cinematic masterpiece, combining great superhero action with compelling storytelling. In 2011, Arkham City demonstrated that the experience could migrate seamlessly from the claustrophobic confines of the asylum, to the grand open-world of Arkham City, allowing what must have been most Batman fans' most cherished wish: the chance to navigate around a sprawling city as the Batman. 2013's Arkham Origins was a less memorable entry in the franchise, one which did little to progress the experience set by its predecessor. Now, on next-generation consoles, comes what developer Rocksteady claims is the concluding chapter of the Arkham franchise. No matter what, Rocksteady has set the bar very high for any future Batman titles and have been fine custodians to this famous hero. Is this a glorious finale?

What is immediately apparent and incredibly pleasing from the offset is that this is a very slick and polished experience. It is no surprise, as all the previous games have been; however, it is still a relief that a title can still come out that functions perfectly technically, while still looking like one of the best titles of the current generation so far.

What is so impressive is not simply the beautiful lighting effects, the fantastic character designs or the fabulous rain effects; but the scale of the whole experience. Although there are some irritatingly long loading screens when Batman dies, outside of that, the lack of loading screens is a joy. In a world of this density and size, it is impressive.

Navigating the vast city has been improved, yet with Arkham Knight's most publicised feature; that is to say the famous Batmobile is finally drivable at any time. There has been criticism in some quarters that the Batmobile is an irrelevance due to Batman's ability to sweep around the city much faster using his gliding feature; however, this misses the point that the Batmobile is just endless fun to drive. It handles in a fun arcade style without losing any of its gravitas. Additionally, it is an added facet in missions, allowing for some extra puzzle aspects, as well as the incredibly exhilarating and action packed vehicle battles, which, although are possibly overused a touch, provide a new style of gameplay to the experience.

Screenshot for Batman: Arkham Knight on PlayStation 4

Not that variety is much of a problem, since there is something for everyone here. Combat is as excellent as it ever has been. As Rocksteady has demonstrated, and many imitators have tried to copy, the Arkham series remains the king of combat gameplay. Fighting is buttery smooth, and it is simple and satisfying to rack up a great chain of kills and watch as Batman dances around his flailing foes. However, combat never becomes easy. Dying, especially on higher difficulties, can be a regular occurrence, for enemy variety goes a long way to mixing things up and forcing the need to adapt to new situations every time. There is also a significant upgrade system in place that grants Batman a lot of additional combat options and moves that do a good job of incentivising going beyond simply hammering the Square button. Combat can be summarised as being easy to pick up and play, but difficult and very satisfying to master.

The gadget system especially emphasises this, slowly dripping a more extensive roster of Batman's best gadgets to utilise both in combat and out in the field. With how well balanced the game is, these advantages never feel cheap or overpowered, rather compliment a system that allows a great deal of experimentation.

Combat isn't the only aspect, either. The Arkham games have always provided a bit of light puzzling interspersed. Detective mode is still here, although it does seem to have been a little more neglected than it possibly should, and this tends to reduce Batman to less of a smart and strategic investigator, and more of a bruiser. There is one particularly memorable section in which Batman has to recreate a car crash using his detective vision, and it is a shame this was not pursued more often. The Batmobile allows for situations in which Batman and the Batmobile must be used simultaneously to advance through an area. Some memorable puzzles include using camera footage to investigate the key code for a door control, as well as using Batman's detective mode to follow the trail of a man's fingerprints. Of course, Riddler's trophies are back in abundance yet again, and provide another layer of exploration and puzzle-solving.

Screenshot for Batman: Arkham Knight on PlayStation 4

It would be unfair to spoil any facet of what is a truly memorable story. Therefore, this review will simply state that the plot involved here is excellent. It doesn't really hit the heights of Arkham City, nor indeed Arkham Asylum; however, it is incredibly tight between all three. The plot is well realised and there are twists and turns in here. When it is combined with top cinematic scenes and a stellar voice cast, it really soars at certain points.

The antagonist is Scarecrow, and he is as menacing as ever, but it is the arrival of a new enemy who really stirs things up - namely the Arkham Knight, a mysterious and powerful man who rivals Batman in tenacity and strategic thinking. The identity of the Arkham Knight is a constant theme throughout the 15-20 hour main campaign, but observant players will have an idea before it is revealed, and it is well hinted, which does tend to lessen its impact a touch. Moreover, his rationale for his actions turns out to be rather clichéd.

Despite its success, it has to be said that it is a shame that the boss battles have been greatly reduced, and those that are here are not the most memorable. Some famous faces do show up during the adventure; however, they are mostly reduced to bit part side-quest roles. Of course, any Arkham fan will want to know about one particular Batman antagonist, the Joker. Well, not to spoil anything, but it is not exactly a stretch to say he may appear once or twice.

Screenshot for Batman: Arkham Knight on PlayStation 4

It would be easy to present a clichéd comic book story, but the impressive thing about all the Arkham titles, including this one, is that the writing and dialogue is very professionally done. Indeed, Arkham Knight involves a much more psychological examination of Batman than ever before, and there are some very dark moments to be had throughout. Batman is exposed as more than just a brooding killing machine, and his personality is carved out much clearer.

Thankfully, once the main campaign has been finished, there is still a lot of fun to be had in this adventure. Side missions mostly involve searching for people and things, as well as cleaning up the streets of Arkham City by ridding it of enemy outposts, radio towers, drones and tanks. Additionally, there are more fully realised side-quests, which involve the appearance of some of the series' more obscure figures and a stretch back into Batman comic lore.

Finally, special mention has to go to the game's musical score. This generation, for all its faults, has to be regarded as having some of the best soundtracks that gaming has to offer. Arkham Knight is certainly no exception, and the soundtrack could very easily have been ripped straight out of one of Christopher Nolan's films in terms of its epic breadth.

Screenshot for Batman: Arkham Knight on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Batman: Arkham Knight is a truly fitting end to a series that showed what a real comic book-based gaming title looks like. Everything is nailed down to a tee, from the graphics, to the sound, to the combat mechanics. The scale is also truly impressive. The story, while not being the finest of the series, certainly does a good job of throwing in some compelling moments, as well as giving plenty of twists and turns throughout. The Batmobile is also an impressive addition in terms of adding some vehicular combat that was missing from previous titles. This is definitely a series that has more mileage in it, for sure, and it is hopeful that Rocksteady decides that they do indeed have something to add in the future, for it would be a shame if this was the end of what has been a great ride.




Warner Bros.





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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