Batman: Arkham Knight starring the voices of Kevin Conroy as Batman and John Noble as Scarecrow.
Warning: Major Spoilers for Arkham City and Minor Spoilers for Arkham Knight
This is it. The big one. The Finale. The entire Arkham series has built towards this point. From the very first line in the game you know its significance – ‘this is the night the Batman died’ says Commissioner Gordon – so one way or another, it’s clear Batman will lose in some way, either his life, his allies or his secret are going to be over by the end of the game. Knight does a great job of throwing red herrings throughout the game, there’s one moment shockingly early on where the game actually succeeds in making you believe the Bat’s had it – and another 2/3 of the way through where it looked like you might spend the remainder having to play as Robin or Nightwing. Arkham Knight is the first game in the series where the Joker isn’t the main villain, due to his death at the end of Arkham City, but Scarecrow proves an effective replacement – he always seems two steps ahead of Batman in a way the Joker never was in the preceding three games. You will also spend half (or more) of the game trying to work out who the titular Arkham Knight is – because it predictably isn’t an original character beneath that mask – I guessed who it was roughly at the halfway point, but only because i knew the comics. There were a lot of theories before release (i advise that you don’t read them, working it out for yourself is better) and again the game has a red herring or two thanks to Scarecrow’s hallucinations, but the reveal is worth waiting for.
Is the Joker Back? In one way yes, as Scarecrow’s fear gas causes Batman to repeatedly hallucinate Joker’s presence, and there’s another reason that the clown turns up so often (but it’s too spoilerly to mention) so don’t worry Joker fans, if you wanted him to be back so badly, you only had to ask… Scarecrow gets some fun bonus ‘Nightmare missions’ dlc in addition to being the main villain, probably to make up for the fact there isn’t a boss fight with him in the main game (instead you get one mind-bending sequence in Batman’s mind where he battles Joker one last time). The Arkham Knight however, appears for three boss fights, of which the first, in which he commands a heavily armoured tank and multiple escort drones against the outgunned batmobile, is the best and the most tense. The second fight (where he uses an armoured drill vehicle to chase the Batmobile through some tunnels) is less fun, and requires near perfect mastery of your ability to drive the car, but feels like it is killing time until the reveal (if they dragged it out any longer it wouldn’t work, the final third of the game loses too much intensity after the first boss fight and only regains it in the final section where Scarecrow captures Robin). The third boss fight is a multi-stage predator battle against the Knight, his identity now revealed, but isn’t as good as you’d expect for the final battle.
The game mechanics are largely unchanged, but there are a couple of decent additions such as the environment takedowns in combat (such as Batman slamming opponents into electrical generators to instantly knock them out), the ability to wield melee weapons like baseball bats temporarily in combat, and new ‘fear takedowns’ which allow Batman to takedown multiple foes in rapid succession if undetected, which is extremely useful in predator combat. However, while the game provides a good level of hand-to-hand combat sections, there isn’t as many predator sections as I’d like, mainly because of the over-emphasis placed on the batmobile. It’s integrated into most parts of the game – boss fights, riddler trophies etc. – you’ll probably spend around a third of the game in the thing either racing through the streets or battling the unmanned tank drones controlled by the Arkham Knight. However you spend so long in the batmobile that some of the elements that made the previous 3 games great, such as the predator sections and on foot boss fights, are neglected.
Many other supervillains are back as well, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn crop up in the main storyline, but its the side missions that excel. As well as teaming up with Nightwing to take down Penguin and stopping Two-Face from robbing Gotham’s various banks, several new villains, such as Man-Bat, Deacon Blackfire and Professor Pyg (no i hadn’t heard of those last two either!) make appearances. None of the new villains are that interesting save for Man-Bat, but their side quests are nevertheless good. The main side quest yet again is Riddler, who has kidnapped Catwoman and placed a bomb collar on her neck, forcing you to complete 9 challenges throughout the game (both on foot and with the batmobile) to rescue her – some of the batmobile races are really tough though! In addition, there are still plenty of Riddler trophies scattered about the place needing collecting and for anyone still claiming Origins doesn’t count as a true Arkham game, i’m happy to report this game proves you wrong by including the two characters whose boss fights were the highlight of Origins: Deathstroke and Firefly – though both of them have boss fights involving the Batmobile – which is fine for Firefly, but it’s disappointing not to be able to have a rematch hand-to-hand with Deathstroke after the vehicle combat. Some villains are conspicous by their absence (notably Bane and Mr. Freeze don’t appear, having been so prominent in the previous games) but given how much dlc is on the way, i guess this may be deliberate and that they’ll turn up eventually. The existing DLC includes the Red Hood and Harley Quinn episodes, which are fun but far too short – but getting the Red Hood version of the game gets you these and the Scarecrow Nightmares for £5 extra, so they are worth it.
Overall the game is a must buy for Batman fans and is another decent Arkham game, but an over-emphasis on the batmobile, a few weak boss fights and one or two overlong quests prevent it from being as perfect as I’d hoped. Now can DC give us a movie version of this series please? All 4 games have been cinematic material and the storylines up there with the Dark Knight Trilogy – it’d be worth it!
Rating: 4 out of 5.
So what is the best Arkham game?
Best Tone/Atmosphere/Setting: Arkham Asylum
Best Predator/Combat maps: Arkham City
Best Soundtrack/Best Gameplay: Arkham Origins
Most intense/Best Side Missions: Arkham Knight
Best Game: Arkham City (with Arkham Origins a VERY narrow second)