Game Review: "Batman: Arkham Knight" (2015)

*takes a drag off a cigarillo* Was it good for you?

Batman: Arkham Knight as most of you are aware is the closing chapter to Rocksteadys' stellar Arkham Trilogy with the Dark Knight front-and-center doing what he does best- damn well everything. Set one year after the explosive events of Arkham City, Gotham finds itself terrorized by a very much alive and very much miffed Scarecrow who had previous suffered humiliating defeat to Batman at Arkham Asylum. Armed with a brand-spankin' new look and a far more potent variable of his fear gas, he forces the terrified citizens of Gotham to evacuate, leaving the metropolis to the whims of the predators who stalk it. Gotham has become the Ninth Circle of Hell and with only Batman and the GCPD standing between the devils who stalk it and outright disaster that will echo through the annals of time to come. Adding to this chaotic and volatile mix a new enemy, the Arkham Knight has allied himself with Scarecrow all with a single-minded view to make this the Dark Knights' final night.

To say the anticipation for this game was astronomical would merely be putting it lightly. It was pushed back several times from its' original release date because Rocksteady really needed to fine-tune this game as well as announce the product would ONLY be released on new generation consoles (which sucks for those on last gen tech). Rumors were surprisingly kept to a bare minimum since security was tighter than a chickens' bum. It wasn't until mid last year we got several concrete details about the elements of the game but even those were more cursory than intimate. In my opinion, that just made the game all the more worth waiting for. When the official images were released showing us just how big Gotham was going to be, just how much care and attention went into its creation as well as its cast of characters, I was Bram STOKED.

*Side note, I am a fan of Arkham Origins developed by WB Montreal- if they made another game in their own canon I'd be down!*

After a long, sometimes frustrating wait, June 23rd 2015 came around, there was not much to seperate a congress of warm human bodies vying for their copy of this long-awaited Holy Grail from a bunch of distempered sharks vying for a shred of chum during a feeding frenzy. Granted, if you were wise enough to pre-order the game, you didn't have to suffer the long wait and sight of this wild affair. But the question is, was it worth the wait?

Just what the HELL do you think? OF COURSE.

I'm not going to retread everything other reviewers have said- you know this game looks and sounds brilliant, you know how immersive it is, you know how everything in this game is well worth the money and wait. Not only that, determination and endurance is duly rewarded because in order to uncover the absolute final ending of this game, 100% is compulsory and trust me, when a passionate player is given that type of ultimatum they will see it through to the very end.

Almost everything about this game is supersized and polished to look incredible. As Batman, you are given the opportunity to either drive your Batmobile through the city or take to the skies and glide like a majestic creature of the night. You can't tell just how much pleasure I got from being able to ride the winds as I saw Batmans' cape become slick with rain and saw the air buffet across his body. This is part of what being Batman is all about.

On top of that, the Detective Mode makes a stunning return. While only barely touched in Arkham City and flirted a little more with in Arkham Origins, Arkham Knight makes it a point to really bring forth Batmans' skill as the alpha detective that he is so well known for. Reconstructing crime scenes and deconstructing the terrible events that occurred in them made me feel like I was the one wearing that cowl, using my mind to solve a puzzle that had been left for me to figure out. It's just... so... GOOD.

Despite what you also may have read/seen about the Batmobile (which isn't without it's problems, that's for damn sure) the game is nearly flawless in how it handles and just how much it draws you into Batmans' plight as he races against time to put a stop to Scarecrow and reveal the malevolent Arkham Knights' identity. Everything you have read about this game is absolutely true and there is absolutely nothing new I can add that could possibly sell you more about how Rocksteady really outdid themselves with this behemoth of a game. Batman: Arkham Knight is a console dream through and through. A word to PC users- my heart goes out to you, I hope the issues you encountered will be patched up in a timely fashion so you can have the pleasure.

So, you ask, why am I wasting your time by writing this review when you know all about these wonderful things? Well, here at W.I.G.S. where everything is wonderfully sexy and sexily wonderful we believe in collaboration and my fellow colleague zombievictim has decided to join this party by submitting his own personal thoughts about this game because it's simply not enough to read my caterwalling. Please note, spoilers are ahead, so in case you still haven't played this game or haven't completed it yet, cast your eyes away if you have never played or just don't care.





Zombievictims' Thoughts

The fear toxin being involved meant there was going to be some more incredible nightmarish scenes but this game takes that idea and pumps it up to 11. The different hallucinations are really one of the major highlights of an already spectacular game.

Every voice actor brings their A game, with Jonathan Banks as Gordon and Ashley Greene as Barbara being standouts. Certainly really enjoyed that.

*Lilith note: Dat John Noble as Scarecrow, doe. Dripping with menace like venomous treacle.

The poster for the Gray Ghost was a welcome treat to anyone that’s a fan of Batman The Animated Series, which Arkham takes heavy influence from (I’d even venture to say it takes place in the same universe).

*Lilith note: Easter eggs are the best type of eggs and this game is full of them. There is one very provocative phone call that hints of a next possible project of Rocksteady. No promises of course, but still...

The random dialogue throughout Gotham is at its best here with regular chatting between thugs with gems like this: "If you see Batman, just yell and charge him. That always works."

*Lilith note: Sure it works until Batman kindly introduces you to his fist.

The combat is really fluid compared to some past games (Origins) and very rarely feels off. Each punch and kick has impact both through the controller, and the sound system.

Playing as Robin, Catwoman, Nightwing, and even Azrael are quite fun in that they each bring a unique style. Azreal is more or less the same as Batman but his costume certainly gives him a different degree of badassery.

I wish that some of the other Rogues were used to a greater degree. Penguin and Two-Face are relegated to side missions that don’t really an impact on the story.

*Lilith note: Agreed.

The Batmobile is probably the worst controlled aspect of the game. It's hard to maneuver and it's easy to just plow over walls and pillars on accident. Even after 30+ hours invested, I found my skill with it only minimally improving.

*Lilith note: Two items; Cloudburst battle and drone fights. There is such a phenomenon as too much of a good thing.

I'm anxiously awaiting the Batgirl DLC that takes place before Barbara Gordon’s unfortunate incident with The Joker. The tease of seeing her suit (which looks awesome btw) was enough to make this Bat-fan salivate.

*Lilith note: Bring On Barb!

The Harley Quinn DLC, while awesome in that playing as Harley is extremely satisfying with how relentless she is in her attacks, is far too short to be considered anything more than filler. Still, it has some funny exchanges between Harley and Penguin, so that’s nice.

*Lilith note: I agree. I'm not a huge fan of Harley, but she is undoubtedly one of the most popular characters in the Batman universe and it is a shame she is still short changed even in this final game. A lot of fans were salivating at the possibility of playing as her, under the idea that she would at least get some meaty type of story, but nope. It's little more than the Catwoman episodes in Arkham City. Nice and entertaining but really of no substansial value to the overall product. A shame.

The Joker being included via hallucinations is genius in that it doesn't take away from Arkham City's ending but also utilizes Joker in a way that couldn't have been done otherwise. And Mark Hamill's return is absolutely a sight to behold. No one fills the role better than Hamill. How they kept that a secret is beyond me.

*Lilith note: His incorporation into the story is actually a brilliant sleight of hand and remains completely relevant to what is going on. 

The identity of the Arkham Knight was subtlety hinted at throughout the story with some fantastic exchanges between the Joker and a tied & beaten Jason Todd. 

*Lilith note: One of the best parts of the game for sure. Though if you are well versed in the universe it's not really a surprise. Still a brilliant execution though.

Additional observations

The Jason Todd DLC is one of my personal favourites. Red Hood really doesn't pull his punches because rather than knock you out cold, he will just kill you. It's awesome.

The character switching was brilliant. The only thing I wanted was more of it. 

I also wish Scarecrow was more of the shaker he was in Asylum. I adored listening to Noble growl and purr his promises and threats to Batman, I only wish he were a little more physical in the game. He's not the most physically impressive of Batmans' enemies I know, but the character has evolved in this story so to have seen him do more, that would have been massively welcomed. 

The soundtrack to Arkham Knight like that of Arkham City is one that could only be described as grandiose and sweeping. Make no mistake, this is a superhero opera, a passion play and a final bow. 

Although the story may not shift gears as much as Arkham City did and offer as many surprises to the narrative, Arkham Knight offers resolution which is far better than making you hang on just for the sake of it. Rocksteadys' tale of Arkham is done. The most prevalent themes in this game is not only finishing what you start, but also coming to terms with your past and reconciling it with your future. You can run long and fast from it, but there is no postponing the inevitable consequences of your actions... but you don't have to suffer them for the rest of your life if you are willing to face them and learn from your trespasses. 

The lack of boss fights in the game were actually a nice surprise. I personally don't believe every videogame requires a final boss battle in order to test your skills and in Arkham Knight, that is very much the case. Batman finds himself in various situations that demand particular sets of skills for the player to use in order to achieve. Having options when it comes to approaching difficult situations is a mandate being fostered in this game and I for one couldn't be happier. 

There was a little too much of an over-reliance on the Batmobile in several places I found. Sometimes it was as if the story was saying "NOPE. You need to use the car. No, no, you can't glide. CAR. USE CAR. USE CAAAAAAAAARRR!!!!" But each to their own. It was still a sundae to cause havoc in that beast. When it comes to combat with human thugs, rubber pellets are used and electrical shocks are delivered to anybody who is foolish to run into it's path. Not technically killing!
Additionally, on a smaller scale, I wish the city had civilian NPCs to interact with and save amongst this bigger crisis. Invest a sense of high stakes and danger, this is a fight for the city and the people, give Batman the reason why he does what he does.

In closing Batman: Arkham Knight is a mostly magnificent game. Completely flawless? Not at all, but damn it, does that stop you from looking on in awe, giggling like school boy peeking into the girls' locker room or taking absolute joy into stepping into the woven greaves and vambraces of the Dark Knight and becoming the character? HELL NO. You are justice. You are the night. You are Batman. Get this game. 
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About The Popcorn Unicorn

Fallen Botticelli Angel/Elightened Eldritch/Lunatic Fringe
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