I still remember the time before this game came out. Everyone was waiting for a new Arkham game (that wasn’t Origins) and everyone had one request: for the next game to include the Batmobile. It is one of the most iconic aspects of the Batman mythos, after all. Asylum and City were great, but they were missing one of the biggest key features to the Dark Knight’s arsenal.
But then we got it. Hoo boy, did we all start to sing a different tune after that.
While I do think the criticism of the car is valid (and I intend to add more of my own later on in this review), I think there are many more issues to this game that people tend to overlook. Problems with the narrative, for example. But there are also plenty of strengths that get overlooked, as well. Refinements to the series’ core gameplay that make this the strongest game in the trilogy.
Arkham Knight is an odd paradox. On one hand, you have what is undoubtedly the best game in the trilogy. On the other, you have what is arguably the worst. Both smashed together into a single game.
Some time after the events of Arkham City, Gotham is once again plunged into chaos. Scarecrow has returned with a fear gas more potent than ever. The civilian populace flees immediately, leaving the city in the hands of its most dangerous criminals and the seemingly unstoppable militia, led by the mysterious Arkham Knight. Now, it’s up to Batman to clean up the city. But against a threat this large, will the Dark Knight be able to pull off yet another miracle? Or will this be the end of the Batman?
You can tell that this game is trying to be much more dramatic and serious than the first two games. Asylum and City were dark, sure, but they mostly embraced the inherent comic book silliness. Arkham Knight is trying to be much more serious, like one of the Noland Batman films. I’d say it’s about 90% serious, 10% comic book goofiness.
There are tons of creative moments in this game that make it stand out compared to the other games. Every time the game starts a hallucination sequence, everything becomes way more interesting. From the cliff notes version of Killing Joke to the moment the Joker takes over, these sequences are absolutely incredible!
On the subject of the Joker, I absolutely love how they implement him into the story! He voices all of Batman’s doubts in the most gruesome and psychotic way possible, giving us a twisted glimpse into our stoic hero’s head. Plus, the dude is just fun to be around! He injects some much needed charisma into the narrative!
Cause god knows that Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight aren’t doing it.
Scarecrow in Asylum was goofy and cartoonish and a ton of fun. Scarecrow in Knight is a boring monologue machine that churns out the same two lines about fear and failure. His design is infinitely worse and his voice makes me want to turn the sound off. The Arkham Knight is even worse. He’s whiny, not intimidating, and anyone who knows literally anything about Batman lore will know his true identity before they even start playing. Hell, not even then! The game makes his true identity super obvious!
I also hate how this game handles its tension. Early on, you think one of the most important characters has been killed off. This did a great job of raising the stakes. But then later on, its revealed that said character was, in fact, still alive. And just like that, the tension evaporates. Sure, the twist is foreshadowed if you pay attention. But that is hardly any better!
It’s not an awful story by any means. It’s still my least favorite in the Arkham series, but it isn’t hilariously bad. As a conclusion to the trilogy, it feels pretty unsatisfying for the most part. Still, it has its moments.
The presentation still looks good to this day, though! Yes, it is yet another hyper-realistic triple-A game. But this one has aged better than most of those do! The models still look fantastic, the animations are solid, and all of the environments are gorgeous! It’s a bit drab in terms of colors, but it’s Batman; that’s just what it is.
My biggest problem is with the music. The previous Arkham games had some pretty memorable soundtracks. But this one just… didn’t. I legit don’t even know if it had music! I found myself yearning for the dramatic and tense orchestral pieces of City.
Now it’s time to talk about the game itself. Which is where things get really divisive.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: the Batmobile. Initially, this thing is awesome! It feels good to race through the city, even if the controls are a little rough. Tank combat is pretty cool! At first. But then the game makes you do it over and over and over and over and over again. By the three hour mark of the game, you’ll have already fought half a dozen tank battles, if not more.
“Why’s that a problem?” you ask. “You already have to fight goons and do stealth often enough!” True. But those two modes are each rich with variety, refined over the course of the trilogy to a razor edge. The Batmobile is not nearly so refined. You don’t have nearly as many routes to take. So, whether you’re in a high-speed chase or a tank battle, it gets repetitive extremely quickly.
It doesn’t help that the damn car is constantly shoved down your throat. Batman’s solution to every puzzle is to just grab the fucking car. Every time the car isn’t in use, he may as well be looking at the camera and asking “Where’s the Batmobile?” like fucking Dora the Explorer! Never once does he consider another option! It’s always just straight to the god damn car!
Also, tank stealth is the worst thing to ever be put in a video game and it makes me want to snap the disc in half.
To be fair: I do think the Riddler challenges in this game are pretty good. They make use of the car, too, but that actually helps them stand out. They were starting to get really repetitive in City, so changing them up completely gives them some much needed variety. As many as there are, I actually had fun doing the Riddler quest this time around!
Although I hate the stupid race tracks. How in the fuck did Riddler even build those? And why? How the fuck is a race track a riddle?!
I do think the Batmobile was needed for this game, given how high the demand for it was. But I wish it weren’t shoved down your throat at every possible turn. If it were optional more of the time rather than mandatory, it would’ve been fine. As it is, you have to play as the Batmobile more often than you do as Batman himself.
Which is a shame. Because the Batman gameplay is the best it’s ever been.
Combat and stealth are more refined than they have ever been. You have so many options for both that it can be pretty overwhelming! Sure, you don’t have as many gadgets as before. But you can use the environment to take down enemies, use the Fear Multi-Takedown to eliminate up to five dudes at the same time, and much, much more! There are more tools to use here than in any other Arkham game!
Even mobility is better than ever! Why bother driving around in the Batmobile when gliding has been made the coolest thing ever?! The controls are smoother than ever and it’s insanely fun to just send yourself flying at insane speeds! You can even throw gadgets while gliding now!
There are also tag-team battles where you can work with other members of the Bat-Family! Team up with Robin, Nightwing, or even Catwoman! It’s sick as fuck to tag team an enemy, and even sicker to seamlessly switch characters right in the middle of battle!
All of this is bolstered by the largest variety of enemies in any Arkham game. You’ve got brutes, medics that can heal or buff enemies, ninjas, goons with stealth-detecting abilities, on and on it goes! Better yet: no TITANs! These all add a huge variety to any encounter, be it a brawl or stealth!
Unfortunately, the boss fights are fucking terrible. Even worse than they were in Asylum! Most of them are generic robots you fight in the Batmobile. The few that you fight as Batman are super boring and forgettable. Not one of them is enjoyable to fight. Every time I saw a boss health bar, I resisted the urge to turn the game off right there and then.
Overall, I found Arkham Knight to be a mixed experience. I loved all the Batman gameplay! But it was always cut short by the Batmobile, which I quickly came to loathe. The story is mediocre at best, being incredibly predictable and emotionally hollow. The graphics are stylistically lacking, but impressive; they still hold up to this day, even with the new generation stepping into the limelight.
Is Arkham Knight a good conclusion to the Arkham trilogy? Eh, kind of? It is the best game in the trilogy in many ways, and the worst in many others. Personally, I still prefer City over this one. But I can still say that this one is worth playing. Flaws and all, it’s still a good game.
This is normally the part where I say some kind of farewell to the series. But we’re not quite done yet. There’s still one game left. A game that even the developers seem eager to forget ever existed.
But I won’t forget.