Batman: Arkham Knight is the final installation of Rocksteady's Batman Arkham series. Did they save the best for last?
For: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Action / Adventure with stealth tactics.
Six months after the Joker died during Batman: Arkham City, Gotham city has become quiet. The first image is even of Joker's body being sent to the crematorium. All's quiet.
And then the attack came.
Scarecrow, who has been in hiding since Arkham Asylum, is set for a final gambit that will bring Gotham to its knees, and destroy Batman once and for all. And this time, there's no way out. With an army at his beck and call, and a knew alley called the Arkham Knight, Scarecrow is all ready to win the day.
This would be bad enough, except for one little detail. When Batman was poisoned with Joker's blood during Arkham City, it had lasting effects. And after Batman is exposed to Scarecrow's fear toxin, it leads to one serious problem: The Joker is in Batman's head, and the dark knight is turning into the killer clown from Hell.
So, Batman has to save the city, preferably before he becomes a psychotic killer.
Arkham Knight is even more of an open world “sandbox” game than any of the other installments – which basically means that you’re not locked into any one storyline or direct narrative. To some extent, this means that you can do anything in any direction at any point. In one sense, that's good. The player can wander about solving over 200 Riddler challenges, including a racetrack designed by Bosch, or disarm bombs around Gotham, or take out control centers for the invading army that's all over Gotham.
There is a solid story here, but you can play through it however you like. There are even a collection of gadgets at the player’s disposal – from smoke bombs, to freeze grenades, to devices that disable guns.
Like the previous installments, a large part of my difficulties with the game comes during gameplay. It can be violent. And I don’t even mean “watch Batman punch someone in the face,” I mean that the player can use special “one-shot” moves that automatically disable opponents. These moves include bone-jarring, and bone-crunching moves that allow you to hear the snap and crunch of bones. It may be because I’ve taken self-defense courses in Krav Maga, the self defense system of the Israeli military, but some of these hurt to even LOOK at. There are probably some adults who would have problems looking at some of these moves.
However, none of the violence is very far beyond the early 1990s Batman the Animated Series – where several elements of the voice talent comes from. So, in purchasing this, you might want to look at a few online walkthroughs on Youtube before playing.
One of the latest pieces of technology at Batman's disposal is the Batmobile, which in this case is a cross between the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy, and a tank. It fires "nonlethal rounds," explosives for the unmanned drones, and if it touches anyone other than Batman, it delivers a nasty shock. This is mostly a way for the producers to say that "Hey, you're not running people over, you're just shocking them if they get close."
This game is beautifully rendered. It’s highly detailed, and it feels like a real city with people who live there. The background holds endless in-jokes, and is even part of a subplot involving The Riddler and his endless puzzles: to solve the puzzle and save his hostage (Catwoman), there are some riddles where the answers are in the city streets.
The music, this time, really only delivers at the highest points of tension in the game. Other than that, I've forgotten almost all of it.
Violence aside, this has some you have a definite divide between good, evil, and being insane. The morally abhorrent acts are taken by the villains. Our heroes don’t kill, don’t swear, but have no problems dealing out appropriate levels of violence to counter threats to self or others. Villains like the Joker and Penquin are pure evil, while other enemies, like Mr. Freeze or Mad Hatter, are obviously deranged, and more pitiable than evil. Even Catwoman, the player character who is more gray than black-and-white, chooses to do the right thing at the end of the day.
The biggest problems of the game, on the morality / appropriateness of the game comes with the violence and the language. We already covered the violence a bit.
Keep in mind, the ESRB rating is M for mature, and we'll get to that in a bit. The violence is not seriously awful, just highly realistic. Again, judge for yourself – online walkthroughs on Youtube are not hard to find. You should be able to judge the appropriateness in about ten minutes or less.
This might be a problem. I played this game, sometimes, at 6 hours at a stretch, and didn't even notice. At the end of the day, it took me 55 HOURS to get through all of it. I solved every riddle, ran every race, and picked up every last little detail, aside from the optional training missions.
I liked this game, and it had some surprisingly touching moments in the story. Unfortunately, many of the primary Batman villains were relegated to semi-optional side missions (nonoptional if you want 100% completion). They are only connected to the main story if it's "Scarecrow has cleared out Gotham of every civilian, now every villain can play." One villain is setting firehouses on fire, another is robbing all the banks, a third is running guns, and they're all barely connected to each other.
There will be moments that make the player jump -- including a part where you grapple up to a ledge, and are attacked by a giant bat.
Also, listening to the Riddler's constant taunts makes you want to put this on mute.
And I never want to do another tank game ever again.
Rating: 8/10. A great game, and a must own if you want the end to the series. Though I wouldn't allow any child under the age of 14 to play. It’s a fun game. Possibly more for you than for your kids, though. Enjoy.
ESRB Link: M for Mature ... Though I'm not entirely certain I agree with that rating. Even on the language issue, I don't recall any of the words they're insisting are present, and I was reading the closed captioning.
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Copyright 2016 John Konecsni.
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