Batman: Arkham Knight review

I’ve been hankering for an 18-rated Batman game for a long time. The last Batman title I played was LEGO Batman 3, which while fantastic, was more 60’s Batman than current Batman. I’ve made my position clear on how much I’d like an 18-rated movie. Will Batman: Arkham Knight fulfil my need for a more violent and edgy game?

Firstly, the game itself, if you opted for a digital copy, is a whopping 40-odd GB. It took an absolute age to download, even on my super-speedy up-to-152MB broadband. In the end, I altered the power settings on my hardware and left it overnight. It had finished by the time I’d had a damn good sleep.

It was with trepidation that I fired the game up – the wait had nearly bumped me off! The first thing that hits you is the visuals. They pound at the eyes like so many gossamer sledgehammers. They are simply sumptuous. I could wax lyrical about the batsuit, how it glistens in the rain, how the wind rush affects the cape as you take to the air in glide mode, how detailed the features are, how the environment is as dark as the mood of the City of Gotham as years of relative peace is shattered by a single act from the game’s main protagonist, The Scarecrow. I can’t though, I’ve only got a certain number of words to play with.

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As we all know though, visuals alone don’t make a game. It has to play well. Rocksteady has made noises about how this is the final chapter in the series for the Batman Arkham series. They’d have to top the likes of the maligned Arkham Origins and improve on the quirky combat elements that weren’t to everyone’s taste.

At first the sheer scale of the game is almost overwhelming. Rocksteady appears to have created a behemoth capable of swallowing an experienced gamer whole. All is not lost though, far from it. Small steps and some slight adjustments in the way your gaming synapses fire and you should be barreling through the dank, rain-swept streets of Gotham in your $1bn Batmobile-shaped tank in no time.

The story is fairly free-flowing, although the gameplay in sections doesn’t quite feel as polished as other titles, the scumbag-infested streets are ripe for Batman’s unique style of knuckled justice. There’s nothing quite like the sound of breaking bones. I was lost at first. I’m getting used to games leading me around by the nose. The introduction leads you into a particular scenario, Batman tells Commissioner Gordon that he’ll deal with it and then, POW! You’re left pretty much to get on with it. You’re almost pushed to think to yourself, ‘What would Batman do?’ It’s a refreshing change from the tried and tested ‘Go here, do this’ storylines that pass for games now. The bar has been raised, but the game is so much more than just a story.

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Behind the cowl of the main campaign lies multiple side-quests that will challenge not only your mental powers, but your dexterity and accuracy as well. The training missions are presented as optional portions of the game throughout, especially where new Waynetech is introduced. This could serve to distract from the main campaign, but as this is a free-roaming world, you’re pretty much free to visit these, almost as you’re passing, or take them on as they’re offered. The beauty is, it’s your choice. The Bat, he’d get on with the campaign I’m certain, and saving the innocent. The Fire-fighter quest is one such example. You’re given the location of one of the brave GCFD personnel to save and the rest, well, that’s up to you.

The size and scope of the game will simply blow you away. It’s immense. If it took a walk around itself, it would come back with souvenirs. There’s a reason it’s 40-odd GB. Gotham City is presented in all of its dirty glory. The game manages to make the localised areas seem accessible yet huge at the same time, and you’re never sure what’s coming around the next corner as you speed to whatever waypoint you’ve set in the game-map as your next mission. Batman’s equipment stash is at your disposal to deal with these. Stalwarts like the Explosive Gel make a welcome return, but you get some new toys to play with, like the previously mentioned Batmobile.

This armoured monster is, at first, an absolute beast to control, especially for anyone who is used to piloting the Warthog in Halo. There is a battle mode on theBatmobile that is initiated by the left trigger. Initially I spent the time I should have been braking, transforming into battle mode. This was all part of the learning curve though and you soon get used to the controls. After visiting theGCPD detention centre, you get the option to change these controls in the settings. Quite why it’s not available until after this segment is anyone’s guess, unless it’s to give them a fair crack of the criminal’s jawbone. The battle mode gives you access to the weapons system and allows for greater maneuverability of the vehicle and I found myself using this more and more. There are other aspects to the Batmobile though, like the ability to control it remotely or to call it in to you location to provide support in the form of a winch or to provide generated electrical power.

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I don’t want to give too much of the story away, however, but I’m aware that I’ve only touched on this lightly. There are plot twists by the bucketful and the mechanics of this feature blend brilliantly well. You’ll just have to play it to see why – let’s just say that once the penny drops it makes for a stunning mechanic to Batman’s mental stability. The plain fact of the matter is, that this Batman storyline would quite easily fill several seasons of graphic novel. There’s twists, turns, surprises and deductions that I’ve made about the future plot. The future plot? Yes, I’ve not nearly got to the end yet – there’s just so much to see and do!

And there’s also so much more in the game that I’ve barely touched on, like the co-op takedowns. These are great fun, but do feel a bit like an afterthought, a gimmick in a game that really doesn’t need any more rammed into it. The graphics are absolutely amazing, there’s not quite as much variation in the combat, and there’s a slight over-reliance on the Batmobile-cum-tank sequences, but the storyline should be more than enough to sway fans and non-fans alike. I wondered if Batman: Arkham Knight would satisfy my bat-based violent desires, despite the brutality involved. The Bat famously tries not to kill his opponents, preferring to render them a threat no longer, minus a few teeth. I do draw the line at ploughing through the crowds in the Batmobile. Happily, though, it doesn’t really detract from the rest of the game and quite simply, Batman: Arkham Knight is the game you must own this year so far.

Thanks to Xbox for their support

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