Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy has certainly been a high point in bringing Superheroes to games. Arkham Asylum was a real surprise when it first arrived and Arkham Knight has big boots to fill.
So it’s probably not surprising that the core of the game hasn’t really changed that much. Yes, it’s now an open world game, something that feels so natural as you soar through Gotham’s cloudy skies, that going back to Arkham Asylum or even the slightly-open world Arkham City would feel claustrophobic in comparison, but the combat and the mix of stealth and detective work are largely untouched with just a few modern flourishes taking advantage of the newer technology of this generation’s consoles.
Graphically, though, it’s clear that the PS4 and Xbox One are being used well and that this is a big step up, allowing Rocksteady to really delve into the murky streets and moonlit gothic architecture of Batman’s playground. Not that he has it all to himself, of course. Scarecrow is on the scene pretty early on and the story drags pretty much every major villain along with it in the process, even The Joker, despite meeting what seemed like a pretty permanent fate in Arkham City.
It’s the Arkham Knight of the title, though, that begins to take centre stage once Scarecrow’s plan is revealed. It may play out rather obviously for long term Batman fans from that point on, but the ride is well worth the admission and although the reveal may leave many screaming ‘I told you so’ at the screen, the game has at least one more trick up its sleeve once the campaign is done and dusted.
Aside from the open world, though, there’s the addition of the Batmobile; a cross between a racing car and a tank, which offers more than a little relief from the on-foot sections. The map, split in to three islands, is large enough to enjoy the ride and the Batmobile feels great while rushing through streets filled with gangs, all jumping out of the way of your black death-machine (not that you actually kill anyone, they’re conveniently electrocuted).
It’s a little unfortunate, then, that the Batmobile elements are used far too often to provide less-interesting micro-missions which involve facing off and side-stepping enemy vehicles while using as many guns and missiles as you can unlock through the progression screens to kill them before they kill you. Too many of these moments added together becomes tiresome during the many vehicle based battles dotted around the map and within the story, though you can take a break from the non-story based ones and go and do something else instead or just drive around Gotham scaring the locals.
There are plenty of different side-missions to get stuck into, too. All of them form part of a small story arc that involves one of the villains from Batman’s rogues gallery. They don’t need to be completed in order, so you can rescue fire-fighters one minute and stop Two Face’s gangs robbing a bank another. Progressing here unlocks other side-missions, as does progression in the main game and they nicely interlink with the main story, never feeling tacked on.
So Arkham Knight really does feel like the best of the series and a fitting bookend to the trilogy, too. Like Nolan’s trilogy, it feels as if Rocksteady had a plan from the start and while I prefer the wider Batman universe, this too feels like a self contained Gotham, away from the one in the DC Comics continuity, though it constantly borrows from and inter-twines with it. It’s safely the best Batman game to date and a tribute to the developers work on the series.