I decided to dig up a long and forgotten series from years past rather than do a traditional “review” of sorts for Rocksteady’s final Arkham game, Batman: Arkham Knight. For those not familiar (and I don’t blame you considering this is a pretty old feature I’m resurrecting), “The End” represents a discussion of sorts regarding some of the more spoilery elements of a game including the ending and other tidbits.
Considering this is the last hoorah (not a spoiler, Rocksteady has admitted this many times prior to the game’s launch) for Batman and the Arkham universe of games from Rocksteady, the game featured a ton of content, story twists and a brand new mechanic in the Batmobile for players to experience. Some of it worked and some of it…well, it came up a bit short. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time with the game and if you’re a fan of the series in general, there’s a lot to love here including the familiar combat and gameplay systems at work. After wrapping up the game, there’s a bunch of stuff I need to get off my chest.
Be warned wary traveler, the road ahead is fraught with spoilers and things that will ruin your experience in Batman: Arkham Knight. If you’re currently playing or plan to at some point in the future, bookmark this post for a later date.
I’m serious, there’s like a ton of spoilers below the jump here. Enter at your own risk.
For everyone else, lets continue!
Being the third (technically fourth, sorry WB Montreal!) game in the series, Rocksteady has established a pattern of expectations that players expect coming in. The first being the free-flow combat and the second being Batman’s affinity for gadgets and stealth. While that’s well represented here, Rocksteady set out to add in a number of “gamechangers” to the final game in the series, with the first being the Batmobile to help players navigate the huge sandbox for players to navigate through with Gotham City.
On paper, the Batmobile sounded like a cool addition and considering Rocksteady’s track record, I was on board. Unfortunately, after tooling around with the car a bit, it simply wore on me. The biggest reason is that the game heavily relies on the car, always forcing the player to use it either to defeat a bunch of tanks or use it to solve some puzzle. It’s almost like the game is forcing it on the player as there was never a huge gap of time where the game didn’t throw it at me especially in story missions. The car’s handling felt a bit loose especially for some of the tight turns needed, and the tank combat, while much better than the driving aspects, got pretty repetitive after a while. And please, don’t even mention that ridiculous Batmobile section against the Arkham Knight’s underground drill machine. I can’t tell you the number of times I wanted to toss my controller…
Ultimately, I would find myself using the Batmobile’s eject button more often than not as I found gliding around the city much more fun and satisfying, something Arkham City had in spades.
The Arkham Knight
The big story element this time doesn’t lie with Scarecrow, who mainly looms over Batman as a big bad end boss through the entire game, but the game’s namesake, the Arkham Knight. Rocksteady goes to great lengths to establish this “new” character as an immediate threat, unleashing a small army on the streets of Gotham City. While Scarecrow communicates through the cities PA system, the Arkham Knight poses as the games immediate threat, physically confronting Batman at numerous junctions and also remotely controlling a slew of tanks and drones. He’s a character that is constantly in front of the player whether through radio communication, or using his army to hamper your progress.
For those who have played the game, it’s revealed by the end that Jason Todd, the former second Robin who was seemingly killed by The Joker in the famous Death in the Family comic arc, is the man under the hood. Personally, I liked the twist but the problem that I had is that once he was unmasked, the character pretty much disappeared from the game until the very end. I would have loved to have gotten the reveal earlier in the game so there would be more interaction and dialogue between the characters without all of the secrecy.
Obviously, finding out that Jason is alive after all these years is a huge shock to Batman and one that should leave him reeling longer than it seemed in the game. I felt like there wasn’t enough time to really explore this element and would have loved to see how the relationship or rivalry evolved once the reveal of Jason Todd/Red Hood was made.
Joke’s On You
Rocksteady worked hard to pound home the idea that the ending to Arkham City was indeed fact and that the Joker was very much dead. Hell, they have the player basically cremate the Joker at the start of the game! Interestingly enough, one of the absolute best elements to come out of the main story is the fact that the Joker is technically still around! Yes, Mark Hamill is back in the drivers seat as everyone’s favorite demented clown, this time, a fragment of Batman subconscious over the blood transfusion incident during the events of Arkham City. Having Joker appear at various points to comment on all sorts of topics either relating to story events or otherwise was a huge treat and easily one of the best aspects of the game.
This also extends into the ending of the game, which was just fantastic. I loved the parallels made between the first game, as Batman is wheeled into a now closed and run down Arkham Asylum the same way Joker was during the start of the very first title. Things quickly got weird as Scarecrow not only forces Batman to unmask in front of the public, but after pumping him full of fear toxin, the Joker personality takes over, leading into some of the craziest and most psychological missions in the game.
Taking place inside of Batman’s head, the Joker is now in control. Outfitted with guns and a demented looking Batmobile (I like to call it the Clownmobile), the player starts to unleash all sorts of chaos in the virtual city of Gotham even going as far as massacring thugs and villains like Penguin and Two-Face. As things look their worst, the script flips and suddenly, traces of Batman start to bleed back into Joker’s world until the Dark Knight once again appears and mentally takes back control.
What I loved about this section is the fact that players got a chance to experience what it’s like to be on the other side of the coin. Even while being a super villain, the constant threat of being hunted by Batman is terrifying. It was a very cool way to flip the gameplay on it’s head. Plus, having statues of Batman appear and all face you at the same time is the stuff of nightmares.
Most Wanted? Please…
As with any Arkham game, this one came chock full of side missions to keep the player busy and also influence the final ending a bit. While most of them were pretty good, I felt that there were a bunch that could be considered throwaway or fluff content. A good portion of the side missions revolved around the Arkham Knight’s militia army and trying to bring them down by chasing down APC trucks, disarm live mines hidden around the city, or either beating up a group of enemies on a tower or the ground. Certainly not the most inventive stuff especially considering the huge amount of them to complete.
Deathstroke. This one really hurt. For those of you that played the underrated Arkham Origins, one of the highlights was the 1 on 1 fight between Batman and Deathstroke. Such a cool and unique boss fight and I was thrilled to see Deathstroke return and even reference how he was still pissed at Batman from that fight. After teasing and hyping a rematch after finishing off all of the militia side missions, I was expecting a similar and epic rematch with the skilled mercenary. My jaw crashed through the floor when I found out that the epic fight between these two warriors I was expecting turned out to be a rehashed stealth tank battle basically reused from an earlier section in the game. Talk about disappointing.
As this is the last Arkham game from Rocksteady, you’d have thought they would have unleashed the full power of Batman’s gallery of villains. Instead of familiar and powerful foes like Bane, Mr. Freeze, and Ra’s al Ghul, we got a lot of D-list villains like Professor Pyg, Firefly, Man-Bat, and Deacon Blackfire. Granted, I know Rocksteady is preparing new DLC around adding those missing super-villains back in as new “Most-Wanted” missions but still, I feel like there should have been a better representation from the start.
The Wrap Up
I know I complained a lot here, and this list may have gotten more nit-picky and negative than I would have liked, but like I said, these are things I had to get off my chest. While Arkham Knight isn’t my favorite entry in the series, I still had a good time with the game and would recommend it to fans of the franchise in general. It’s a well made and visually stunning game held down by a few flaws which don’t do the end product any favors.