Developer(s) – Rocksteady Studios
Publisher(s) – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Director – Sefton Hill
Writer(s) – Sefton Hill, Martin Lancaster & Paul Crocker
PEGI – 18
Batman: Arkham Knight sees the return of the developmental handling of the series back with Rocksteady Studios after Batman: Arkham Origins, and expands on the concept of both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City with an even bigger open world, more gameplay options, and yet another engrossing story about the dark knight’s struggles to protect the city of Gotham. I was expecting a fantastic game from the moment it was announced, and when I first caught a glimpse of the trailer; and I was far from disappointed.
Graphics – 9.5/10
Set in a much bigger, darker, and grittier take on Gotham City, the graphics look stunning on both a technological and conceptual standpoint. The attention to detail undertaken with this game is phenomenal; even when looking at characters close up. But more important than this, the artistic direction the developers decided to employ this time around tops everything else seen in the Arkham series so far, as landscapes and settings sometimes change based on circumstances happening within the game, such as Batman having hallucinations, or how villains are effecting the city with what means to do so they have.
Gameplay – 10/10
Expanding largely upon what Rocksteady had thus far accomplished with the first two games in the series, the gameplay formula in Batman: Arkham Knight contains a plethora of new features, such as new gadgets, new combat options, new side quests, and an enhanced detective mode, switching combat between two characters seamlessly, and most notably, the option of using the Batmobile to traverse the streets of Gotham. It can be called at will and can be used to travel long distances, as well as a combat option from both inside and outside of it. The Batmobile combat sequences are especially satisfying to undertake since there is a skill to it incomparable to any other game I’ve ever played. There is also a great deal more side quests than Arkham City or Arkham Origins, giving it much more depth in gameplay than the two aforementioned titles, with the return of familiar villains and the introduction of new ones thrown in for good measure.
Controls – 9.5/10
The game’s control scheme is simply the same as what was seen for the rest of the Arkham series, so for the most part, no issues arise. It’s actually quite interesting to see what tweaks have been made to the formula; the ability to use the grapple hook much more fluently for example. The Batmobile can be a little bit tricky to get to grips with at first, but after a while, players will find ways of sorting out any issues they may have.
Lifespan – 8/10
Clocking in at around 35 to 40 hours, I found that it can be made to last fractionally longer than Arkham City, which whilst it’s a more than adequate lifespan for an action-adventure video game, I felt a little bit disappointed by it. I was expecting this game to last considerably longer than Arkham City since the map was much bigger, and more side quests could have been added from the start as opposed to making people wait for DLC to come out. Nevertheless, there are enough side quests and enough hours to put into the main story to keep players occupied for a more than decent amount of time, and the time is worth investing in it.
Storyline – 9/10
Carrying on from the events of Arkham City, Batman: Arkham Knight begins with Gotham evacuated after Dr. Jonathan Crane, AKA The Scarecrow, announces that he has an enhanced strain of his infamous fear toxin, which he plans to release throughout the city. Naturally, Batman is called in to stop The Scarecrow and save Gotham from his diabolical plan, and to also uncover the mystery behind the true identity of the commander of The Scarecrow’s ruthless militia; The Arkham Knight. The game’s story is even more phenomenal, and wonderfully disturbing than both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, as The Scarecrow, as well as every other villain, pose an even greater threat to Batman than they ever have done previously.
The Scarecrow is a much more effective Batman villain than some people may give him credit for, since whilst most are quick to point out that The Joker is the best Batman villain, the Scarecrow, like Batman, uses fear to subdue his adversaries; it’s just that both have different ways of going about it. Batman is afraid of bats and thus tries to project his own fears onto others, whereas The Scarecrow tries to project people’s own fears onto them to the point of driving them insane. Both tactics work very effectively, which is why The Scarecrow is a naturally formidable villain to Batman, and it all works flawlessly. Regardless, the presence of The Joker throughout the game was very cleverly handled, and the acting talents of both Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, who play Batman and The Joker respectively, do well to continue to convey the complicated and unsavory relationship they have with each other.
Originality – 8.5/10
Though the majority of the game focuses on the principles of an already refined gameplay formula, more than enough was added to it to keep it fresh and enjoyable to play the game too. The new features certainly make it stand out from the rest of the series in a largely positive way, as well as the many other action-adventure games to have been developed in recent years. My huge hope is that although the developers have categorically stated that this game will be the last in the Arkham series, that they ultimately agree with me that there is still even more scope for which to expand the gameplay formula even further; to the point where it becomes morbidly obese with ideas. Like what Just Cause 3 looks set to convey for example.
Overall, Batman: Arkham Knight is, in my opinion, the best game of 2015. It is recommended by me for gamers who may or may not be fans of the series and gives testament to just how far licensed games have come; from being considered as shovelware titles to becoming mainstream game of the year competitors.