Tag Archives: Arkham

Game Review: Batman: Arkham Knight

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)

Game Review: Batman: Arkham Origins (PS3)

Batman: Arkham Origins starring Roger Craig Smith as Batman and Troy Baker as the Joker.

Warning: Spoilers!

I’ve finished Arkham Knight, but for the sake of completionism, here’s my review of the previous game in the series: Arkham Origins.

Arkham Origins takes place 5 years before Asylum when Batman (this time voiced by Roger Craig Smith) is beginning his crime fighting career – and features his first encounters with adversaries Bane, Penguin, Riddler, Killer Croc and the Joker. The plot is thus: crimelord Black Mask puts a bounty of 50 million on Batman’s head, leading to 8 assassins (Killer Croc, Electrocutioner, Deathstroke, Deadshot, Shiva, Firefly, Copperhead and Bane) arriving in Gotham trying to collect the prize. Herein lies one of Arkham Origins’ strengths – it has the best boss fights of any game in the series (Asylum’s were generally disappointing, City’s varied in quality a lot and Knight’s are equally variable). The battles with Firefly and Bane are two of the highlights in the series, and the fight with Deathstroke is easily the most difficult (a good reason to do your first playthrough on easy!). These may not be the most famous Batman villains, but they all add something to the game.

The game lacks the atmosphere of Asylum and the tension of City, but it’s storyline is gripping nonetheless. SPOILER WARNING (skip to next paragraph if you care – though the main twist is predictable). This is mainly due to the Joker plot. Black Mask is the main villain? No he isn’t (thank God, as he has no depth whatsoever and was wisely relegated to a side mission at the game’s halfway point) – instead it is revealed that he was being impersonated by Joker, who hired the assassins and then begins to become obsessed with Batman after the Bat saved his life. Troy Baker is great as Joker, playing him similar enough to Mark Hamill that the two characters are believably from the same series, but far enough away to leave his own mark on the character. The game is also the only game in the series (unless Knight has some DLC which changes this) to give us a great version of Bane. His Boss fight is great, and the character is the secondary villain and is fleshed out to an extent only the Dark Knight Rises has achieved (but with a traditional take on the brute).

The game also makes the best use of Batman’s ‘detective mode’, although that said some of the detective bits are slightly too long. The stealth predator sections have the exact same gameplay (barring one new gadget) as Arkham City, but it does improve the hand-to-hand combat sections, with new enemy types such as ninjas, who are immune to certain types of attacks, and Bane’s venom henchmen adding a bit more challenge to the combat sections. The predator maps are decent (better than Asylum’s, worse than City’s) so you can easily lose a few more hours on those. The Riddler sections are the least interesting of the four games, however, although it is worth doing them to unlock extra audio files on the games characters with a wealth of easter eggs for Batman fans. Penguin and Mad Hatter also have side missions that show Batman’s first encounters with them, but the majority of side missions are simply ways of killing time between main missions – the only one which leaves a lasting impression is newcomer Anarky, who has placed bombs around the city in an attempt to kill Gotham’s most corrupt (the bankers, the police the politicians etc.)This game, being larger than Asylum and City, also introduces fast travel, which can save you a lot of time.

The downloadable content, Cold, Cold Heart takes place a week later and focuses on Batman’s first encounter with Mr. Freeze, and is worth buying. Fans will recognise the comic-book storyline it is based on, and the final boss fight with Freeze is similarly challenging to the one in Arkham City, with Batman having to use multiple stealth takedowns to defeat the heavily armed Freeze.

Overall the gameplay is the best in the series with good boss fights and a gripping story. A lack of innovation and some by-the-numbers side missions are the two issues that prevent it surpassing City.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
DLC Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Next Time: My Review of Arkham Knight is finally here as the Batman’s story reaches its end…

Game Review: Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City starring Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as the voices of Batman and Joker.

Warning: Spoilers!

Having nearly finished Arkham Knight, here’s my review of its chronological predecessor: Arkham City. Arkham City is one of the highest rated games on previous gen consoles, and was considered by many the best of the first three Arkham games. It’s easy to see why, it expands on Arkham Asylum’s success and improves upon its predecessor in virtually every way. Detective Mode is still useful, though some enemies now have jammers to prevent you using it all the time in predator sections. The predator maps themselves are much better and will keep you busy for hours (particularly if you get the content allowing you to play as Nightwing, Robin and Catwoman on them) while combat has been drastically improved, with 5 quickfire gadgets and a host of new combat moves to help you deal with new enemy types (such as armoured enemies and ones carrying riot shields).

The plot? After the events at the Asylum, the prisoners and supervillains have been rehoused in a walled off section of Gotham, dubbed ‘Arkham City’, with three gangs led by Penguin, Two-Face and Joker controlling most of the streets. The facility is run by Hugo Strange, who captures Bruce Wayne in the game’s opening scene and reveals he has deduced his secret identity, before throwing him into Arkham City. The Joker is yet again the main villain, dying after his exposure to Titan in Asylum, he uses a blood transfusion to infect Batman with his tainted blood, forcing the bat to work with Joker to find a cure, leading him into confrontations with Penguin, Mr. Freeze and Ra’s al Ghul along the way.

The game now has various side missions to complete, where you take on the Batman villians who aren’t key to the main plot, such as Mad Hatter, Hush, Deadshot and Zsasz. These are all pretty good, although they’re aren’t many boss fights, meaning many of the side villains seem to be dealt with rather easily. The most prominent is Riddler, who in addition to posing more riddles and hiding riddler trophies everywhere, has kidnapped several people and trapped them in deadly Riddle rooms from which Batman has to use a wide variety of his gadgets to rescue them. Finding all 400 riddles (plus another 40 which only Catwoman can retrieve) is arguably just as time consuming as the main game.

On the subject of gadgets, Batman’s arsenal has been greatly expanded from the first game: in addition to the batclaw, explosive gel and batarangs he now has some ice grenades (made by Mr. Freeze), a disruptor capable of disabling enemy weapons and a REC (Remote electrical charge) launcher that can power up generators, as well as shocking enemies mid combat. All of his gadgets have a part to play, especially while solving Riddles or in the boss fight with Mr. Freeze (the most lauded in the entire game, as you have to use all of Batman’s different stealth moves, plus gadgets, to take him down). The other boss fights range from the fun (the one with Clayface and the one with Ra’s al Ghul mid-game) to the by the numbers (catwoman’s one against Two-Face) or the downright terrible (the one against Solomon Grundy, which is basically just spamming explosive gel for a few minutes). The two hardest ones are Ra’s and Freeze’s, though neither rival Poison Ivy’s in Asylum or Deathstroke’s in Origins for difficulty.

Overall a great Batman game, and one that should be played before moving onto Arkham Knight, only a few weak bosses and some frustratingly difficult Riddler trophies let it down.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

As for the downloadable content, apart from the novelty of playing as Robin (with various new gadgets) Harley Quinn’s Revenge doesn’t add much, but if you want another 1 and a half of game time, it’s worth getting. The catwoman episodes and playing as Robin and Nightwing on challenge maps are much more fun, they’re recommended.

DLC (Harley Quinn’s revenge) Rating: 3 out of 5

Next Up: The divisive prequel Arkham Origins: an equal to City or a game that fails to add anything to the series? Read on to find out…

Game Review: Batman Arkham Asylum (PS3)

With Arkham Knight due in the next few weeks, it gives me an excuse to revisit the three Arkham games so far – Asylum, City and the prequel Arkham Origins. These are the only decent superhero games out there atm, and I enjoyed all of them immensely, but i suspect Arkham Knight will be the best of the four (how can it fail to be when you can drive the bloody batmobile in it???)

But back to the first game in the series: Arkham Asylum, starring the voices of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker. The Joker’s been the main villain in all three Arkham games so far, played twice by Mark Hamill (who has voiced the character many times for TV and animation) and once by veteran voice actor Troy Baker. Hamill is possibly my favourite version of the Joker, he’s more menacing than Nicholson and closer to the comics than Ledger (though both of them gave great intrepretations), and this game’s success is largely due to how well the characters like Joker are realised. Alongside the Joker there are numerous other villains, with Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Bane, Poison Ivy and Killer Croc all making appearances, and the Riddler is a constant presence throughout, leaving you various puzzles to solve all over Arkham Island as a sideline to the main story. The Asylum itself is a great environment and the game has the best, most comic-book esque atmosphere of the Arkham games so far, helped by its tense soundtrack. The plot is also good, with Batman left stranded in the Asylum, which has been taken over by the inmates and Joker’s thugs, with only a few guards left to help him. Thus, the characters, setting, plot and soundtrack combine to make the first genuinely good Batman game. There is, however, a problem.

While the game was ground-breaking when it first came out, it had a few issues – which its more polished sequels show up all the more clearly. While you have several of Batman’s gadgets available in this game (Batarangs, Batclaws, Explosive Gel etc.) you have half of what the later games give you, and there are fewer enemy types to deal with. Gameplay, as with all the Arkham games, is split into two types – a combat sim beat-em-up where you use Batman’s fighting prowess against various thugs, and a stealth takedown sim where you have to incapicate Joker’s armed followers in various ways (silent takedowns, knocking them off ledges, stringing them up from Gargoyles etc.). While the stealth segments are still good fun (helped by Batman’s ‘detective mode’ vision, which lets you keep track of where various enemies are), the combat isn’t as slick or free-flowing as it is in the sequels (though it’s by no means bad). Some of the boss fights also are somewhat dissapointing (especially Bane’s and the final one with Joker) though this is countered by the nightmare platformer sequences you have to play through when fighting Scarecrow (which are brilliant) and the challenging fight with Poison Ivy (surprisingly the hardest boss in the game). There isn’t any multiplayer, but there are various challenge maps for both stealth and combat which you can lose a couple of hours on.

Ultimately, while this was a breakthrough game and is still an enjoyable Batman sim, it has dated somewhat. For completionists who want to playthrough the entire series or Batman fans who will love the story and characters, it’s a good choice. For the more casual gamer however – i’d recommend starting with prequel Arkham Origins, then playing Arkham City and Knight, as those three all have superior gameplay.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Next: Arkham City – a game which improves in almost every way and introduces Two-Face, Penguin and Ra’s al Ghul to the series…