Review: Batman – Arkham Knight (2015)

Rocksteady brings its Batman saga to an end in style. Exciting and heart-breaking, shocking and terrifying, funny and sad: be the Batman.

Carried away in Batman’s arms at the end of Rocksteady’s masterpiece Batman: Arkham City, Joker’s reign of terror and laughter is over, a point made all the more real as Arkham Knight begins and we witness the cremation of the man himself.

A year on and Gotham is a safer place with a dramatic drop in crime and the disappearance of Batman’s enemies.  Well, that is until Halloween when Scarecrow threatens to unleash his incredibly powerful fear toxin over the entire city thus forcing the evacuation of the civilians and giving the many criminals in hiding a playground with one clear goal: kill the Batman.

I battled through Scarecrow’s and Arkham Knight’s main storyline, thwarted the most wanted list of criminals such as The Penguin and Two Face, rescued the many firefighters taken hostage by the criminals of Gotham City and destroyed the various militia tanks, drones, missile launchers and checkpoints dotted throughout the huge map.  I met characters from the entire Batman universe, visited iconic locations such as Wayne Tower and Falcone’s shipping yard, become immersed and shocked with the many references to the graphic novels and comics and gone about leaving a wave of destruction in my trusty Batmobile.  I have in fact become the Batman.

Scarecrow messes with the Bat’s mind and in aiding him, the mysterious Arkham Knight messes with the Bat’s body.

I loved the Scarecrow sections in Arkham Asylum so I was extremely pleased, and excited, to find out that he would be the main antagonist in Arkham Knight.  Voiced by John Noble, his play on fear and loss coupled with his many TV appearances on the massive screens in Gotham as he taunts and toys with Batman are nothing short of brilliant.  Scarecrow messes with the Bat’s mind and in aiding him, the mysterious Arkham Knight messes with the Bat’s body.  Who is he?  Why has he such hatred for Batman?  How can he match him in combat and wit so easily?  When have they met before?  The Arkham Knight‘s story is both brutal and heart-breaking.  Of course, it isn’t just Scarecrow and Arkham Knight giving Batman a hard time. Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and a host of others all make memorable appearances and some in ways you would never expect.

But, I hear you cry, who will help the Batman defeat these dastardly villains?  Surely even he cannot take on the might of Gotham’s greatest criminal minds. Of course he can but he does get some help in the form of The Oracle, James Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, Nightwing and again, a host of others showing up in ways you would not expect.  Oh, and he does have the use of the mighty Batmobile.  Making its first playable appearance in any of the Batman: Arkham games, it arrives with more than a hint of “is this going to work?” about it.  Well, it does work and work very well in fact.  It drives like a dream, is built like a tank and is armoured up with some real meaty weaponry, the addition of it into Rocksteady’s Batman universe is a logical and welcome one with whole sections revolving around the need for it, both being enjoyable and tricky.

Of course it wouldn’t mean jack if the world in which you can power slide the Batmobile around was not utilised to the fullest; and happily, Gotham City is outstanding.  Split into three different islands, it is both gorgeous and dangerous.  Crammed with unbelievable detail and brimming with life and activity, the city is its own character as much aiding Batman as trying to kill him off once and for all. You can actually feel it paining to be rid of Batman and the level of crime he has brought to its streets.

The new Batmobile drives like a dream, is built like a tank and is armoured up with some real meaty weaponry.

With the current next gen consoles now in full flow, we as gamers expect mind blowing graphics, Oscar winning soundtracks, gripping and nail biting stories, twists and turns round every corner and an experience that will live with us forever.  Arkham Knight does not disappoint.  A good example of this; the PS4 will automatically retain footage of the last 15 minutes of play, it actually disables this (and tells you it is doing so) several times during the game due to spoilers. Now that tells you how special this game is, it actively wants you to find out the twists, shocks and demonstrates the care and pure love Rocksteady has poured into Arkham Knight.  Believe me, there are moments in this game that left me speechless, cut scenes which actually made me gasp, twists and turns that left my jaw on the floor and gameplay snippets that made me jump out of my skin.  Something happens a few hours in which dictates the entire feel and mood of the entire game, a constant interplay between two characters that drags us to a conclusion both terrifying and sad; I am not joking when I say it is a stroke of actual genius!

Rocksteady have given us a game which improves on Arkham Asylum and Arkham City without compromise or fear.  The game lives and breathes, it gives you the tools to be the Batman, it retains the excellent fighting system and improves on the detective mode, it makes you laugh, it makes you cry.  The best advice I would give is to just go out, buy it and experience it because I can only say so much.

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