By Matthew Soall
As gaming is more Tommy’s wheelhouse than mine, I will do my best to adequately review Batman: Arkham Knight to the best of my ability.
After multiple delays and setbacks, Arkham Knight finally hit shelves last month and, in my opinion, the wait was worth it. But was the game the gem it was promised to be, or was it more or less the same as those that have come before?
Even if Arkham Knight was just Arkham City but a little bigger, it would still make for an entertaining installment in the series. Thankfully, there are enough new bells and whistles to make the game feel newer than Arkham City.
So let’s start with the first major addition: the Batmobile. I am going to be honest here and say this was not my favorite addition to the game. The Batmobile can be a clunky behemoth as you navigate around the streets of Gotham City. I found that I did get my head around the Batmobile towards the middle of the game, but overcoming the initial maneuvering difficulty really put a dampener on what should have been an awesome addition to a beloved franchise.
At times, I felt like game developer Rock Steady crammed the Batmobile into levels where it wasn’t required. At the start of the game, you need to get the Batmobile into Ace Chemicals. During this mission, I couldn’t help but think that the mission would have been a lot more engaging if I didn’t have to muck around to get the Batmobile into the compound.
Batmobile vs Tank combat was pretty enjoyable. When you switched into Battle mode, the tank turned into more of a spider-like creature, allowing you to manoeuvre around other vehicles, blowing them to pieces with the tank’s cannon.
Another cool little feature was cruising around the city and having enemies bounce off the hood, electrocuted with automated defenses.
But it’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy some aspects of the Dark Knight’s vehicle of choice. Cruising around Gotham was pretty cool. Calling the vehicle on demand to your location and remote controlling the car proved to be pretty enjoyable, and using the vehicle to aid in enemy takedowns as part of the new duel combat system was also pretty sweet.
Now speaking of the new duel combat system, I have to say it was pretty cool, if not just a showy animation. In certain missions and fights, you have the option of working with a partner. In the case of one level, you instruct Robin to do a vertical takedown while you remove a different enemy at the same time. In a group fight situation, you can power up the meter, activating dual takedowns. In my fight with the Penguin’s goons, I could tag in Nightwing, who would help me finish the takedown. The game would then leave you with Nightwing, or you could manually switch back to Batman.
So those are the new additions. But what about the improvements to established gameplay? Well, there are actually quite a few improvements made to classic gameplay functions. For example, the fight chains are so much smoother than they have ever been before. The animations are nice and clean, and Batman has never looked so good fighting crime.
Some other cool additions involve your equipment. You don’t really get any new gadgets this time around, but most have been improved. You can zip-line four times faster. This gives you a lot more height as you glide around the city (power ejecting from the Batmobile also serves this purpose). Your hacking equipment is also supped up to the max, allowing you to take over drones and turn them on the enemy.
The only new gadget was the voice synthesiser, allowing you to mimic voices. Sending henchmen into booby traps fast became favourite a pastime of mine.
The map has also undergone a massive upgrade. It’s three times the size of Arkham City and is now comprised of three islands. Exploring every aspect and back ally of the city yields some pretty cool Easter Eggs.
The story elements are all there and are pretty engaging, but if you’ve read a few Batman comics, you might find a few familiar beats here, which might affect your enjoyment of the storyline.
When you sum it all up, Batman: Arkham Knight is a solid addition to the series. The downside is that it just isn’t as ground breaking as the two previous installments. But for Batman’s first foray into the next gen scene, it’s a pretty enjoyable experience, and one that will have you coming back time and time again.