Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive
Release Date: 6/23/2015
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The Batman Arkham games are some of the greatest things to grace the video game industry in the past decade. With the most advanced combat system since God of War; and not to mention the best superhero video games series ever made; Arkham Knight continues this trend. While Origins was a bit of a snag, I don’t count it as part of the Arkham trilogy. Arkham Knight is another masterpiece that any Batman fan will love.
Scarecrow and the new Arkham Knight are the main villains in this game but don’t worry, there’s plenty of Joker as well despite being dead. Joker is a manifestation in Bruce’s mind and he constantly appears everywhere putting his two senses into everything Batman does; it’s great to hear him again. Arkham Knight is also probably the best structured Arkham game yet. Instead of a hodgepodge of little repetitive missions everywhere, the game has a Most Wanted mission wheel. Known Batman villains are to be stopped and captured through missions branches that are a blast. Firefly, Penguin, Two-Face, and various other villains have their own little sub-plot. This brings Arkham Knight to a meaty and well-balanced missions structure that the game desperately needed. The only other side things you can perform are AR missions that include fight and Batmobile challenges and Riddler trophies. Oh yeah, I said Batmobile.
It’s finally here! The one and only Batmobile. It plays just like you think, controls like you think, and is as badass as you think. The Batmobile can transform into a tank allowing you to engage in battles with enemy tanks, but the best use of the Batmobile is puzzles. Sadly, the tank battles are probably the worst thing in the game. While they work, they are the same thing over and over and over again; nothing changes. Enemy tanks will have a white line go across the screen showing the trajectory of their shot. This allows you to dodge enemy missiles and shots. That’s great and all, but why does combat have to be this slow? Towards the end the battles just get bigger with 50+ tanks in one area, that’s not exactly fun in my book. While the tank battles aren’t very frequent, they are happening often enough for you to sigh and wish it was over. As for the puzzle-solving, the Batmobile fits better here. Using the power wench to crawl downsides of buildings, using the wench to power things up, ejecting out of the Batmobile to glide into a tunnel. All of this feels just like in the movies and comics; no disappointment there.
Combat has been perfected in Arkham Knight with added moves to make an extremely complex fight system that is so simple to learn. Outside of the counter system that we are all used to, knew knock-out moves are introduced. Using your gadgets is much easier as the button combos for them are easier to remember. LT for Batarang, LT+B for an electric shock to enemies with taser sticks, LT+Y for Batclaw, RT+RT for Freeze Blast. Very easy to remember and the controls pop up on the screen to help you out when the option is available. The same goes for the knock-out moves, as well as fighting heavy enemies. These guys have their own system all to themselves. Do a fast punch combo, parry a guy behind you, a red exclamation pops up at a guy with a taser stick, LT+B, he’s down, continue pummeling the heavy, three more counters, then knock the heavy out. All of this is one big combo and it’s so fluid and fast and one of my favorite fighting systems I have ever used.
The second combat system in Arkham is the stealth part. This has been expanded exponentially in Arkham Knight. There are more gadgets introduced which allow more ways to take down opponents. The stealth areas are much larger and allow for multiple ways of taking people down. We’re used to stealth takedowns in various ways from hanging, grates, and gliding behind people. Multi-level grate combat is introduced as well as enemies being able to destroy grates so you can no longer use them. Using a voice synthesizer allows you to give commands to enemies and set up traps with your electric gun or disruptor. The disruptor allows you to sabotage weapons and drones to knock out enemies (yeah, can’t say kill since Batman doesn’t do that). The stealth combat is fantastic and so much fun and allows for strategy over beating everyone up.
Outside of these new gameplay elements is the story. Arkham Knight has a long and well-told story that you actually care about. There are some great moments in the game that really gets you hooked and the ending is satisfying. I really felt the strengths and weaknesses of Batman come out through the story several times as well as the other characters. My favorite part of the game is the ending with Scarecrow, but I can’t give it away except it’s a first-person shooter sequence. WHAT?! Play it to find out!
Let’s talk about visuals. I know that the entire world knows how terribly optimized the game was for PC, however, if you have a powerful rig it is very playable. Not perfect, but enough to not be really noticeable. This requires tweaks (there is a tool available on the Steam forums) to the game settings to get it to work. Out of the box, the game won’t run very well at all. There are some nice new effects like RainWorks, Interactive Smoke and Fog, and various other effects. They look amazing and Arkham Knight is one of the most detailed and good-looking games in a long time. However, a game should ship working and this is just unacceptable. Most people don’t know how to tweak a PC game and will get frustrated and demand their money back (which happened and suspended the sales on Steam). The other issue is you need a very new and powerful system to get the game to run well. I tried a GTX 670 and while I got 60 FPS when I was above the city it dropped below 30 on the ground. Interactive Smoke and Fog dropped the game to 5 FPS, however on a GTX 970 there were few issues. The frame rate will vary constantly. You will jump between 60 and 30 a lot, but the tweaks available make it less noticeable. Anyone running a GPU older than a year will have issues for sure and should play the game on a console for now.
As it stands, Arkham Knight is a fantastic game and the pinnacle of the Batman video game franchise and superhero games in general. Taking all of what made the series great and optimizing and compiling the best of what everyone loves. More villains, more story, more Batman. That’s what we came to see and we got what we want.