Published on June 28th, 2015 | by Edwin Millheim
Batman Arkham Knight PS4 Review
Summary: Beautifully presented, slick gameplay and a storyline that in my books is better than the recent films, Batman Arkham Knight is a fitting way to end this franchise
After six years Rocksteady Studios ends the “Arkham” series with a splash of brilliance in presentation, story and gameplay with their final game, Batman Arkham Knight. Thankfully the curse of bad Batman games was broken long ago and with thanks to this series, it really took the superhero genre to a level of greatness which created a truly spectacular Dark Knight franchise which was also a blast to play!
The phrase of YOU are the Batman has always held true throughout the series which resonates just as strong now in the current title, Batman Arkham Knight. Even so and coming into the latest game of the series, we did have a sense of dread because not only was the franchise ending but how could they make it better? We were thinking… “Ok, I’ve seen this and played this before but it was just wrapped in a different story, how could they continue the ground breaking awesomeness from the previous games?”… also, someone once told us that there were no new ideas but rather the newness is how the ideas are utilised and Batman Arkham Knight does this very well.
- The Batmobile: Gamers have demanded it, and Batman: Arkham Knight delivers. The all new Batmobile sits at the heart of the gameplay experience and augments Batman’s abilities in every respect.
- Next-Gen Gotham City: Harnessing the power of the next generation of games systems, the entirety of Gotham City has been created in immense scale and with intimate detail offering players a truly legendary next-gen game world.rnessing the power of the next generation of games systems, the entirety of Gotham City has been created in immense scale and with intimate detail offering players a truly legendary next–gen game world.
- The Epic Conclusion to a Legendary Trilogy: Rocksteady Studios returns to the helm of the multi-award winning franchise. Scarecrow is back to wreak his revenge against Batman joined by a completely new and original character, the Arkham Knight.
- Be The Batman: Batman, the Batmobile, the entirety of Gotham City. Batman: Arkham Knight is the complete and ultimate Batman offering.
Story wise, Batman Arkham Knight is a little deceptive in its basic comic book action story approach but it’s far from simple. The story is full of so many twists and turns that at times it borders on convolution and at times leaves the player in awe once all the dots have connected together. At its core story, we see the first layer of this complex tale that is 9-months since The Joker’s death and crime has declined in Gotham City but everyone is holding their breath in anticipation for an all-out power struggle from the criminal underworld that never comes.
However on the night of Halloween, Scarecrow decides to strike and release his fear toxin into a diner which starts the catalyst for this story. Another interesting gameplay element is done here which allows the player to become a Gotham City Police Offer which is not the last time you play as someone besides Batman himself. Scarecrow follows up this attack with a warning, saying this was only a sample of his new toxin and due to the threat that is he is going to release it all over Gotham, the city is evacuated. Unfortunately the city’s criminal elements stay behind rioting and causing all kinds of mischief and as expected, the major villains also stay behind, setting the stage for all-out war in Gotham city and total supremacy.
So it was a careful balancing act by not only paying homage to the previous games but ensuring that something new was brought to the title so Batman Arkham Knight has enough familiarity to make it comfortable to the fans and then they inject incremental doses of twists and turns plus tweaked gameplay to make it fresh and exciting again. It’s bursting with the thrills of discovery again and developers Rocksteady once again came, saw and kicked some major butt with Batman Arkham Knight. Rocksteady even uses some basic film making story tricks to throw some major scares at the player which makes this an interactive movie experience which is done very well, especially with all the characters in the game.
The only drawback to the game is that most of the female cast become damsels in distress due to the villains using them against Batman. These strong women should never be the victim at least not without some major fighting going down. Perhaps the major shining light for a female character in the story is Oracle (Barbara Gordon) and although she does get herself into a predicament thanks to Batman, she still resists and never really seems like a victim, even when she does not have an upper hand. Female characters aside, there is a virtual Who’s Who of DC Comics characters in this title from villains to supporting cast.
All the villains are handled in unique ways that tie cleverly into different aspects of the game. Firefly for instance is a pyromaniac and Batman needs to utilise the Batmobile’s systems and equipment to reinitialize a buildings fire suppression system. Then Batman is chasing Firefly through the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile as the villain is raining down blasts of napalm that must be avoided as you race down the narrow streets which is not only a thrill but gives us some great adrenalin rushes. The Batmobile also feels like something out of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy because it almost acts as a partner for Batman which he can control remotely but also uses it to solve puzzles.
Another win for Rocksteady is the flawless characterisation of the cast from the Batman universe. One standout character is Man-Bat who stands out due to his introduction which is a classic film technique that we never saw it coming and even reading this, you’ll still not know it’s coming until it gets to you first. Man-Bat appears with a warning screech and in such a sudden way that I literally stiffened and screamed out a blasphemy. I jumped so suddenly that my head phones flew from my head as the sound of Man-Bat’s screech echoing out from them as they lay on the floor. It was such a memorable gaming moment.
Given that, Man-Bat has always been a favourite character of mine and even though some writers may say he has as supernatural influence, I don’t agree because it’s more like a science fiction character meets a mad comic book science theory gone wrong which works extremely well. Originally Man-Bat was introduced in 1970 in Detective Comics issue 400 and at that time, Kirk Langstrom (his alter ego) was a scientist specializing in bats. Langstrom at the time was going deaf, so he developed a serum intended for humans to give them the use of the sonar sense that bats used. In classic comic book fashion, it all goes wrong and he transformed into a human and bat hybrid so no magic was involved, just comic book science. Apologies for digressing here but I wanted to show you how well this game has been written, especially in light with the Batman universe.
Needless to say and without going into details and other gameplay aspects for each character, we also have Scarecrow, Penguin, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Firefly, Man-Bat, The Joker (will explain that one later), Deathstroke, Deacon Blackfire, Hush, Professor Pyg and Simon Stagg which is quite a stellar line-up. If gamers get the Red Hood Story Pack they even get an appearance by Black Mask, another great villain from the comic books. Then you have the big bad with his freaking military army and this villain, the Arkham Knight is introduced quite well who is a central component to the story and the overarching mystery. He also hates Batman!
Thankfully for our Dark Knight, he has extra support from Police Commissioner Gordon, Barbara Gordon (Oracle), Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman, Azrael, Alfred Pennyworth and Lucius Fox. Some of these characters even support Batman in battles which is a great moment when it happens for the first time in the game. Now as I noted, The Joker does play a role in this story but as we all know, he died in the previous game but there is an awesome “Oh Wow… No Way!” moment in the game that I won’t spoil but it’s definitely not what you would expect. So all I will say is this… sometimes evil spits at their adversaries even from their grave and as we all know, The Joker is the true epitome of evil!
In relation to the PlayStation 4 version, there is a 3.8GB patch which needs to be installed but you can skip this option and jump straight into the game while it downloads in the background. So once the game has loaded, the menu definitely looks slicker then previous games and as soon as you jump into the title as Batman, you have access to several Bat gadgets. Menus to choose between gadgets and also Missions has now been replaced with a kind of menu wheel which feels more comfortable than the use of the directional pad.
Although you start as a Gotham PD Officer, as soon as you become Batman, the world is definitely yours for the taking and wow… Gotham city is living breathing city that almost feels quite real. Controlling Batman on the DualShock controller works flawlessly and the developers even make use of the internal speaker on this controller which does add to the overall realism level. So while you use your batclaw, glide through the city or sneak through the shadows, everything feels just right. Stealth is back in a big way and it has been improved upon. Things are tenser as the enemy will react to the tactics Batman uses and try to counter them. It’s not uncommon for the enemy to lob a grenade in a grating or plant an explosive on a high perch that is set to explode with movement.
Fighting is even more pleasing than previous titles and Rocksteady has added several new moves to the title character that not only pays homage to the previous games but ensures that fans of this series and the character Batman are right at home. We also have some new bone crunching moves and when I say bone crunching I mean it because his alter ego Bruce Wayne is not afraid to use force anymore. Furthermore, the smooth flow of our heroes moves are mixed with strikes and counters that not only look devastating but sound just as devastating thanks to the incredible meaty sounds of fist meeting flesh plus those sounds of crunches as bones get broken.
Overall, the combat is fast and brutal that makes this The Dark Knight we all know and love, especially the new Fear Takedowns that gives Batman an advantage when he first surprises his enemies. It basically allows you to target multiple enemies and take them down one at a time. Another interesting twist is that the enemies are also considerably smarter because you can’t just hide in the shadows or under grills all the time because once they know you are here, they will keep looking for you which requires you to change your tactics.
So with that said, Batman needs all of his abilities to take down a mix of thugs, specialised fighters and bosses to give you a good challenge. As you complete missions and defeat enemies, Batman is awarded experience which is then used to purchase additional abilities that really keep our hero quite busy. From sword wielding and fast moving fighters, to heavily armour padded fighters, each enemy must be dealt with a certain way which makes this game more than just a button masher. We even have some fighters that when they get their courage up, they charge Batman in a tackling move that brings him to the ground. It’s gaming at its best!
Then you have the Batmobile! The introduction of the Batmobile does not feel overly forced, although some of its uses do seem rather contrived for the sheer sake of having to use the Batmobile for more than just driving around and chases. Its battle mode is over the top comic fun as it moves in ways that mock any sense of physics whatsoever but it works quite well, especially when taking out enemy tanks or using it to solve puzzles like lifting broken lifts or smashing through walls. The controls also work quite well, especially as you race through the streets of Gotham, smashing through signs, cars and all sorts of obstacles in your way. Sure, it may not be a racing game in terms of controls but it actually works very well considering the genre of this game. All in all, it’s a blast to use and the chase are quite nerve racking at times but oozing with excitement. Riddler Challenges are once again back and offer the player over 200 different puzzles to solve which does break up the main storyline. You can even engage in a variety of different side missions such as supporting Gotham Police or hunting down other villains who threaten the citizens of Gotham who remained behind. Overall, the gameplay just works in Batman Arkham Knight!
So let’s talk about the amazing graphics as we ride into the Dark Knight’s world via the PlayStation 4. The visual nuances and effects look amazing and considering how great the last games look, Rocksteady have once again done it again as the title really has this next-gen console feel. However like the previous games, there are some bug eyed moments with some of characters but thankfully it is of an acceptable level but at times, it does skewer the illusion. Nonetheless the visuals are a real treat and when our hero is doing his dark brooding thing in a super high place like Wayne Tower while looking down over Gotham, it looks incredible. Gotham itself also looks huge and taking your first diving leap as you glide over the city is another breath taking moment and really adds to the excitement level of the game. The attention detail is another awe-inspiring moment but unfortunately due to the fast paced nature of the game, you do miss out on some of these and the dark palette doesn’t help either. Gotham is such a dark place!
Sounds effects go hand in hand with the gameplay as does the amazing music thanks to Nick Arundel and David Buckley. To assist with the characters and the story, the voice acting is perfect with Kevin Conroy once again lending his voice to Batman (aka Bruce Wayne). Other notable voice actors include Troy Baker (Two-Face/Arkham Knight), Nolan North (Penguin), Tara Strong (Harley Quinn), Jonathan Banks (James Gordon), Ashley Greene (Barbara Goden), Wally Wingert (Riddler), Scott Porter (Nightwing), Matthew Mercer (Robin) plus the brilliant John Noble as the quite frightful Scarecrow. It’s definitely a Hollywood line-up of stars which once again make this game a true interactive movie experience that stars YOU as Batman.
Batman Arkham Knight is another success story for Rocksteady Studios who once again create one of the most flawless Batman experiences to date that really dwarfs what came before it. Sure it has some parallels to the previous game but the new tweaks, challenges and storyline really takes this franchise to a new level and good luck to any other developer who tries to make the next instalment of a superhero game. Beautifully presented, slick gameplay and a storyline that in my books is better than the recent films, Batman Arkham Knight is a fitting way to end this franchise on a true high!
Primary Format – Games – Playstation 4
Game Genre – Action & Adventure
Rating – M
Game Developer – Rocksteady Studios
Game Publisher – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Reviewer(s) – Edwin Millheim & Andrew Bistak