Just as Rocksteady Studios says goodbye to the Arkham series with its last instalment, Insite’s Philip Attard gives us his thoughts on the game.
The Arkham videogames have been a highlight of the seventh generation of console gaming: not only do they make up some of the very best superhero videogames of all time, but they compete with the 1990s animated series and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy as the best depictions of the Caped Crusader in popular culture. Now, Rocksteady Studios return to deliver the final instalment of the Arkham series and bring Batman’s story to a glorious close. And, in truly dynamic form, they succeed, making good on their promise of delivering the ‘ultimate and complete Batman experience’.
When the game starts, it’s made immediately clear that Batman (Kevin Conroy) is going to have a particularly long night, as Gotham City is being confronted with possibly the largest threat it has ever known. Scarecrow (John Noble), along with the never before seen villain Arkham Knight (Troy Baker), is determined to bring Gotham and its famed vigilante to ruins. With the help of a vast array of gadgets, a few allies and something called the Batmobile, Batman must defend the city and the people he loves for one last time.
To put it simply, Arkham Knight is the Batman open world videogame experience that we all expect and deserve. Gotham is a joy to traverse, whether by gliding or driving, unless you wish to stay in one place and look at everything, in which case I won’t blame you. This is a Gotham hugely inspired by the one in Tim Burton’s films and everyone’s (not everyone’s? Okay, mine, then) favourite cartoon, and it’s beautiful. The fact that the weather remains rainy throughout the entire game adds to the gothic atmosphere and convinces you that this is a Gotham worth investing hours in. The city feels impressively populated, whether by your standard thugs or the more challenging militia.
Rocksteady’s interpretation of Batman’s world becomes even more assured when you face off against villains such as Scarecrow, irresistibly voiced by Noble, while Conroy is still the definitive Batman when it comes to non filmic depictions. The Arkham Knight himself is a terrific villain, even though his true identity shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone remotely familiar with the Batman mythos. At certain points the game allows you to play as other characters such as Catwoman and Robin, although Arkham Knight truly shines in this aspect when it comes to the innovative ending.
Playing as Batman himself is incredibly satisfying. The game can be initially challenging as it assumes that you’re continuing your learning curve from the previous games, but after a while the familiarity kicks over and you’ll be fighting crime like the best of them, while newcomers need not discourage themselves as the controls are easily accessible and pleasingly intuitive (I played the game on PS4).
There have been some well founded complaints on the Batmobile’s combat control system, but in reality it’s not too troublesome and the stupendous driving elements far outweigh the combat ones. After all, when the only thing to complain about is the world’s coolest vehicle, you know you have a solid game on your hands. Hand to hand combat is still amazing and the feeling of taking over enemies via fists and gadgets as Batman is a superhero fan’s dream come true.
What impressed me most subtly is the game’s non linearity. Arkham Knight will please any type of player’s wishes; you’ll be playing through the main story while Alfred or Oracle contact you and inform you of a new development. Do you continue pursuing Scarecrow, or do you take on Two-Face? Your choice, although I suggest you mix things up, as this will keep the main story from becoming too stagnant and provide a break from the increasingly dramatic and bleak plotline. Regardless of the manner you decide to go about things, though, you’re still Batman and you’ll take Batman through the journey he has to endure. The fact that the journey is so brilliant is the only thing that matters.
This final instalment of the Arkham series is one impressive swansong. Batman: Arkham Knight is a beautiful and rewarding game which doesn’t rely on the fact that you play as one of the most engrossing superheroes of all time to satisfy, although that surely helps. Whether you’ve been following the superb Arkham games from their beginning or just want to play a great Batman game, you’ll be impressed with Rocksteady’s cracking game.