All good things must come to an end, and so does our coverage of the Arkham trilogy with its spectacular conclusion, “Batman: Arkham Knight.” We covered “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and “Batman: Arkham City” back-to-back and tried to give you an extensive look into those games and learn what made those games special without spoiling all the fun. You can expect the same here with “Arkham Knight” and all of its DLCs, of which there are a lot, and see if this game is truly the bombastic grand finale of this beloved franchise.
After “Arkham City’s” finale, a lingering question kept players up at night. What now? They killed the Joker at the end of that game, which was essentially Batman’s other half, and there’s no way that the story can go forward without the Joker, right? It can, and it did, and as much as I love The Joker, it was quite refreshing at that time for a possibility of a Batman property to exist without the Joker. Rocksteady had a lot of work on their plate, and to keep the iron from getting cold, Warner Bros. ordered their in-house studio, WB Games Montreal, to release a Batman game to act as filler while Rocksteady worked hard and quietly on their final game. That filler game came in the form of “Batman: Arkham Origins,” released in 2013, and acted as the canonical origin story of Arkham Batman. It was released to a mixed reception as the game didn’t bring anything new onto the table, with the standouts being its boss battles and a good story. It’s a very good Arkham game, regardless, and you should consider checking it out as well if you haven’t already. We are not here to talk about “Arkham Origins,” though; we are here to talk about “Arkham Knight,” so let’s do just that.
The hopes and expectations couldn’t be higher as “Arkham City” was an even bigger success, and fans were eager to see what the future of this franchise holds. In 2013, Rocksteady started teasing their next game and the finale to the Arkham trilogy, titled “Batman: Arkham Knight,” with a beautiful CGI trailer titled “Father and Son.” The trailer said the game would release in 2014, and everything went quiet for some time. Later, we got more information alongside new trailers and screenshots and were informed that the name “Arkham Knight” would be shared between the title and a brand-new character they created specifically for this game. That’s a big deal. The gameplay they showcased was impressive, with major improvements to the visuals and gameplay but the game got pushed to 2015. Everyone was excited about it, and when it came out, it blew everybody away. It was released to nearly universal praise and acclaim for how well-made and stunning it was, but everyone had a certain bone to pick with the game. Gotham City was your playground this time around, and they even added a fully drivable Batmobile. Everything looked as gorgeous as it could and somehow played even better than ever. With so much goodness packed into this game, how can something go wrong? Let’s dive deeper and learn what makes “Arkham Knight” so special while also looking at the things that drag it down a bit.
‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ Premise
“Batman Arkham Knight” begins with you, the player, cremating the Joker, cementing that he truly is dead and there will be no fakeouts, with Gordon narrating that and the scene that follows as he cryptically states, “This is how it happened. This is how The Batman died.”, excuse me? What? After the Joker is burned to a crisp, the game switches perspectives for a second and puts you in the shoes of a beat cop ordering a meal at a diner. He doesn’t get to eat it in peace, however, as he is interrupted by another patron asking for his help with a guy who’s smoking in the corner booth. The officer goes up to the said guy to let him know it’s no smoking inside the diner and gets assaulted by the man, who looks like a monster as the scene shifts, and the whole diner looks like something straight out of hell with demons pouncing and attacking each other. The news gets televised all across the city and is interrupted by Scarecrow, who boasts about this “demonstration,” taking a few ounces of his new toxin and demanding the city be evacuated or else he’ll unleash his fear toxin all across Gotham City.
Not long after, all of Gotham City is evacuated, and all that’s left are criminals and cops trying to arrest them. We get glimpses of the empty streets and a few villains like Two-Face and The Penguin killing cops as the camera zooms out and toward a tower with Gordon narrating, “Tonight, Gotham relies on one man to save us all.” as the music picks up and we see Batman for the first time, and you seamlessly get to control him as he makes his way to meet Gordon on top of the GCPD building. Let me just say this, the opening to this game is bone-chillingly badass, and the story that follows is equally good for the most part. The absence of Paul Dini is felt here, but I digress. It may not be the best tale, but it sure is one to remember. There’s a new character here, The Arkham Knight, who is interesting for the most part, and Scarecrow plays the main villain if that wasn’t obvious. The story here is much darker in tone and literally pushes Batman to his limits. That covers the basics of the plot for “Arkham Knight,” and the rest you can find out on your own. It’s a good plot despite some problems and a tale you’ll enjoy going through.
‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ Gameplay
The gameplay is the one area where this game shines brighter than any star you can see in the night sky. Everything is further improved and somehow made better. The combat flows near perfectly, with every strike landing and sounding like a landmine. More moves can be unlocked using the even bigger skill tree, and they flow so well and are smooth as butter. The free-flow system here is the most refined than it has ever been, with each move and gadget packing more punch, variety, and versatility. They also introduced a new mechanic called “fear takedowns,” in which Batman can take out anywhere between 3 to 5 enemies in quick succession before a combat encounter starts. This helps in clearing out a room super quickly, as the number of enemies per encounter here is staggeringly high, and that’s a good thing. The enemy units here also bring with them tons of variety, with new enemy types like ninjas who can counter your counters, medics who can revive downed enemies, big brawler-like enemies that take a lot of beating, and many more. The variety keeps the combat interesting, and with how well the systems work and flow with each other, it makes you feel like Batman indeed.
Certain combat sections also bring with them a new feature where an ally joins you. It could be Robin, Nightwing, or Catwoman, based on the villain or mission, and you can switch between them and Batman with the press of a button, which is just plain awesome. They all have their own unique move sets and play very differently when compared to Batman, who is pretty much the jack of all trades. The challenge maps are also back, and they are some of the best the series has ever produced. You can play these challenge maps as Batman, Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman, Azrael, Red Hood, and Harley Quinn based on what DLCs you own (more on that later), and the variety here is very much appreciated.
Predator also sees further major improvements and makes the rooms bigger with more ways to take enemies down and a huge variety of them on top of it. Enemies can camouflage themselves, jam your detective mode, or use a drone to scout areas, which makes encounters interesting. You also get a new tool, a voice synthesizer, that you can use to disband the pack or send them to isolated locations to easily take them down. I don’t understand how Rocksteady keeps improving on systems that were already near perfect, yet they did, and I absolutely love everything about it.
Completely new to this game is the addition of the Batmobile, and with it comes a new way to play. The Batmobile plays a big role overall in the game and is not just a gimmick. You can drive it across the city by calling it on command, and it’s fast, bulky, and tears through everything in its way, and my god, it sounds amazing. Another area where the Batmobile prevails is combat. The Arkham Knight’s militia has occupied Gotham quite literally and brought with them heaps of unmanned tanks, which the Batmobile can destroy. By holding the left trigger, the Batmobile enters battle mode and becomes a literal tank with a 50mm cannon, a Vulcan gun that shoots lethal rounds on tanks or riot-suppressing rounds on humans, and a missile barrage launcher. Batman came prepared for war; it seems. You feel indestructible inside the Bat-tank, and it is incredibly fun to drive or destroy militia tanks with it. They even managed to squeeze in stealth sections with the tanks by introducing Cobra tanks that cannot be destroyed from the front, so you have to sneak behind them to destroy them, which is smart. Overall, the Batmobile is awesome and is a very welcome addition; however, there’s a bone I have to pick with it. There’s too much of it in the game, and I never thought I’d use the phrase “too much Batmobile.” If they had cut the encounter rates to half of what they have in the game, it would have been perfect. It feels like they introduced a cool gameplay feature and relied on it way too much, which in turn, became laborious and boring rather quickly.
The traversal has also seen some changes here with the addition of the Batmobile, and with how tall and vertical the city of Gotham is, Batman gliding across it feels like he’s flying. You can also use your gadgets while gliding now, which is very neat indeed. The gliding mechanic from “Arkham City,” where you nosedive and pull up to build momentum, is back here as well and works better than ever. A special shout out to the guy who worked on Batman’s cape, as he really spent three years making sure the cape looks and feels right across the board. With the added verticality and the inclusion of the Batmobile, the Riddler returns here with a vengeance as well. He doesn’t have an egregious number of trophies hidden across this time, with the number going down from 400 to 243, but his challenges are much more thought-provoking this time, for the most part. He has even built racetracks across Gotham as well to test the Batmobile. I wonder who is funding him. He also has a giant robot army to his name that look cute despite him going for a menacing look, I am sure. All in all, the Riddler challenges are much more manageable this time around and dare I say, they are fun.
Overall, the gameplay of “Batman: Arkham Knight” is phenomenal, and every mechanic flows and works incredibly. Despite its near perfection, I still have two complaints with this game in the gameplay department that I cannot overlook. The overuse and reliance on the batmobile and the lack of boss fights. The Batmobile part I can live with, but the fact that this is the last game in Batman’s trilogy and features the most lethal and dangerous version of the caped crusader, facing his biggest threats and pushing him to his limits, and there are no boss encounters and that throws me off. Every game in the series prior to this had boss fights, and most of them were damn good. Why Rocksteady decided not to include them is a mind-boggling decision to me. Everything else, however? Solid across the board.
I’ll briefly touch on this as I plan to cover the world of “Arkham Knight” in a separate article, but I must say, Rocksteady’s vision of Gotham City is incredible. The Gotham City they have created is somehow both believable and looks like it’s an amusement park attraction at the same time. Towering skyscrapers, neon signs, wide roads covered in the rain, a murky, filthy, and gloomy aesthetic, all the while maintaining their gothic vision from the past two games. The city they have created is a work of art. The city is packed to the brim with Easter eggs and shoutouts to other characters from the Batman universe and is just plain gorgeous no matter where you look. I’ll have a detailed and thorough look at the Gotham City of “Arkham Knight” soon, so I apologize for skipping this section and not giving you a more detailed account. The city they have created here is a sight to behold and deserves all the love it can get for its artistry and beauty. I am also going to skip the characters section here, as I am sure you are aware of what you can and should expect when it comes to the roster of this game, and if I mention everyone here, I’d pretty much spoil the entire game for you. Just know that pretty much everyone is here, and they want Batman dead and are working extra hard to make that dream a reality this time. Let’s take a look at the DLC for this game, shall we?
This game also comes packed with a ton of DLC, most of which are short but still worth checking out. There are one-off episodes taking place after the story that can be beaten in about 15 to 20 minutes each and feature characters like Robin taking down Two-Face, Nightwing taking down Penguin, Catwoman taking down the Riddler, and Red Hood taking down Black Mask. There’s another episode that takes place before the story where you play Harley Quinn helping Poison Ivy break out of the Bludhaven police department. Then there are two sizable DLCs, the first of which is called “A Matter of Family” and lets you play as Batgirl trying to save her father, Jim Gordon, from the Joker inside an amusement park. This DLC is also very short but brings with it a new area, some new mechanics, and a story with proper cutscenes. Then you have “The Season of Infamy,” which adds four new villains and side quests to Gotham City. This DLC is also very short, but it is nice to see some returning faces, and more content is always welcome. Despite it being good, I cannot shake the feeling that this was supposed to be in the game but was cut from it for some reason, and they later decided to sell it as an extra. Finally, you have a ton of challenge maps and character skins alongside racetracks for the Batmobile, and all of this is definitely a welcome addition. Some of the maps and tracks are crazy here and test your skill, mastery, and patience in all sorts of ways. The skins also include Batmobile skins, and I love most of them. There’s something really nice about driving the Tumbler from The Dark Knight while wearing the suit from the movie. Equally, you can also drive the Batman v. Superman Batmobile while wearing the suit from that movie. You can’t tell me that’s not cool. The DLCs for this game are short and sweet and are worth your money, especially if you get the season pass at a discount or buy the complete/game of the year edition of this game as it comes bundled with them.
The Technical Stuff
On consoles, the game runs like a dream. Everything from the visuals to the art style to the voice and audio work has seen a major uplift here. At this point, it goes without saying that the voice acting is top-notch, and the music for this game is just plain phenomenal. The graphics, in particular, are insanely good; the game is almost eight years old, and it still looks good with crazy particle effects, incredible detail, and, as I mentioned in both my “Arkham Asylum” and “Arkham City” reviews, a timeless art style. Rocksteady, please give this game a next-gen patch, upping its resolution and framerate. You can even add raytracing here, I am not asking too much; just a bump to the resolution and doubling the frame rate would make this game look as crisp as a new one. My experience on the console for this game has been flawless, and I have nothing bad to say about this department. It’s a banger.
“Batman: Arkham Knight” indeed closed this trilogy with a bang and was worth the wait for the most part. It’s near perfection in what it does right, and the marketing wasn’t lying when they said, “Be the Batman,” as the game literally transforms you into The Batman. I wanted to say, “this game makes you feel like The Batman,” but we know how cliche and overused that line is by now. Despite singing high praise, however, I must say that “Batman: Arkham Knight” is the best Batman game ever made, but it is by far the worst “Arkham” game there is. Don’t get me wrong, I love this game and would and am recommending it to you. I cannot overlook the lack of boss fights, the somewhat disappointing story, and the overreliance on the Batmobile. And it’s not like all these negatives are completely bad; no, the story is somewhat disappointing but overall decent; the Batmobile is overused but is still fun; there are some boss fights but not very good or memorable ones. Some tweaks and changes would have made this game the ultimate Batman experience, but despite that, “Batman: Arkham Knight” is one of the best superhero games ever made in the best superhero trilogy ever made, and you should definitely go and play this game if you haven’t already.
See more: ‘Batman: Arkham City’ Review & Gameplay, Explained: What Makes ‘Batman: Arkham City’ Worth Playing?