Batman: Arkham Knight Review!

by on July 4, 2015

                I have
to be honest, a few years back materials with superheroes were not really my
thing. But after watching The Dark Knight I gave this culture another shot and surrendered
to my friend’s pressure to play Batman: Arkham Asylum. Surprisingly enough for
me, the game was extremely good and it stood out in a market without many good
action games on PC.
Rocksteady Studios’ series continued with Arkham City and a
prequel made by Warner Bros. depicting Batman’s beginning as a hero while the
main studio worked on the final act of the story.
                Nine
months after Joker’s cremation (spam space to incinerate the Joker for increased immersion!) things are about to get crazy one last time. A shocking opening scene reveals Scarecrow, still
obsessed with humiliating Batman and threatening Gotham City with a new version
of his powerful hallucinogenic gas. Over six million people are evacuated and
in less than twenty-four hours the city is out of the officials’ control leaving
the streets of Gotham to thugs, criminals and the insane villains. Only Batman
& Co stand in their way with little help from the overpowered yet still
courageous GCPD with Commissioner Gordon as their leader.
Scarecrow might be behind this madness but a new mysterious
villain has made an appearance in Gotham City and he is set on doing one thing:
kill the Dark Knight. Arkham Knight knows Batman’s moves and tactics and has
brought with him an army of heavily equipped mercenaries and drones to aid
Scarecrow with his plan and eventually see his wish fulfilled.
With the streets flooded in criminal chaos, many villains take
this opportunity to continue their dirty jobs unhindered. Penguin and Two-Face
are set on making money and the Riddler which is as annoying as ever has filled
the city with hundreds of challenges for Batman to complete (243). But the Dark
Knight isn’t alone. Nightwing has come from Blüdhaven to aid with the
situation, Robin is around doing an important job, Oracle is on support duty
together with Alfred and Mister Lucius Fox has some toys prepared to tip the
scale in Batman’s favor during this long night.
                After
the first few missions the story evolves in an unexpected way that brings to
the surface the best of the Arkham series. The ghosts of the past haunt Batman
and his inner fight can be seen everywhere creating a feeling of
unpredictability towards the hero’s actions. Friends and even foes are brought
together by the madness engulfing the city in order to aid Batman.
As the situation spins out of control everyone is on the
edge and things becomes harder to deal with leaving Batman in an almost
hopeless situation where he has to face his fear in order to protect the ones
he cares about and fight one last battle that will mark the end of the Arkham
series.
                The
story was great from the beginning to the very end. There weren’t many moments
when I was disappointed about what happened and the events unfolding always intrigued
me to see more.
I will stop you!
Batman’s tech puts everything to shame!
Tonight we dine in hell!
                To distract the players from the
main missions and provide some extra activities the world is filled with
secondary missions and challenges. Most of the secondary missions are designed
as a loop with multiple stages of progressions which are basically doing the
same thing in different locations. The secondary missions are far from the
quality of the main story but do stand out through their introduction of other
villains and heroes than the ones involved directly in the main story adding an
additional reason to complete them.  After destroying like four or five weapon
caches in what seemed like a banal mission chain, something happened which made
everything worthwhile.
I completed almost all these secondary missions and not only
because I’m a completist but because I was curious to discover what interesting
facets they added to the story. I skipped Riddler’s challenges, for which the
last part of his mission is more obnoxious than actually listening to his
constant self-gratification.
                The secondary
missions are disappointing even if I enjoyed them. More complexity and a better
connection with the game’s premise would have made the entire action feel as
part of the main story (imagine how great would have been).
                For
those who enjoy arcade missions, there are tones of challenges which put the
players in timed situations where they have to complete various tasks. The AR
challenges use everything that Batman has at his disposal. Batmobile races or
overwhelming fights against drones, taking down enemies or stopping bank
robberies are just some of the examples. Every challenge has a score rating and
even some rewards for high scores and the performance is registered on a ladder
where the players compete against their friends.
While these types of missions were never my style, I did
have some fun with some the challenges and tried to turn the score upside down.
Sick bastard!
You are such a pussy!
E-peen!
                The
gameplay has remained for the most part faithful to the series. As the game is
set in an open world environment, Batman can take full advantage of his gliding
cape to hover over large parts of the city. There is a wide variety of gadgets
at Batman’s disposal each more versatile than the others. The batarang,
batclaw, explosive gel and the now legendary detective mode make a return
accompanied by many others, old and new. Some of the gadgets are unlocked
progressively and together with them more content becomes available for
completion. The world might be open and big, but not everything can be accessed
at once and a balance should be found between advancing into the main story and
completing secondary missions in order to enjoy the content properly and not
hit roadblocks.
                Compared
to the previous titles, the gameplay has an induced cinematic feeling which I
can’t say I liked as it stopped me from doing what I wanted and kept slowing me
down. Communicating with other characters by using the Batsuit incorporated screen
stops almost every action aside of moving slowly until the dialogue is over.
There are moments when hacking through systems locks out every other option in
the game including exiting that activity which I found extremely bizarre. All
these things felt like bad design choices as they took out my liberty and
forced me to do or watch things unwillingly.
Somehow I don’t fear the heights in this game!
                Rocksteady
Studios has always played it safe after the big success of Arkham Asylum and
the games to come have followed the same recipe with usually one major feature
to improve over the predecessor. Arkham City has received the open world now carried
on to Arkham Knight which in return got a controllable Batmobile as its new
feature.
                The
Batmobile is a versatile vehicle which allows Batman to travel extremely fast
in the now bigger world and it gives Batman the strength to fight the
paramilitary organization that is taking over the city. In its normal mode the
Batmobile can be used to cruise around the city using its high speed, decent
maneuverability and speed booster. The Batmobile tank like structure makes many
obstacles obsolete as it can smash them into pieces. But driving is every car’s
role so the Batmobile had to bring something more than that. With a simple
touch of a button the Batmobile switches to Battle Mode which transforms it
into an actual tank equipped with non-lethal weapons including a machinegun, a
60mm canon and a rocket launcher with more weapons added later on in the game.
It’s quite hard to understand how a 60mm canon can be non-lethal or how driving
with this enormous car over pedestrians doesn’t kill them and somehow electrocutes
them out of the way, but Batman doesn’t kill and this applies to his car as
well.
The Batmobile control defies the laws of physics. The switch
between the two modes happens in an instant and the Battle Mode stops the car
from cruising at a high speed in an instant with no momentum to it making this
the best way to take a steer at high speed without any risks of losing control.
                Rocksteady
has created something great with the Batmobile but they went too far. The world
feels designed around the car and not the other way around and at times this is
causing gameplay problems. There is more
driving in Arkham Knight than some would expect and this comes with a price.
The time spent with the Batmobile is time not spend as the actual Batman. Having
to solve lots of the Riddler’s puzzles with the car shows how forced in this
feature is. But the biggest problem comes from the fact that most of the boss
battles in the game are fought with the Batmobile. I was expecting epic battles
between the Dark Knight and the menaces of Gotham City like the fight with
Poison Ivy, Bane or Joker in Arkham Asylum. Instead all I got were some tank
battles that are nowhere near as challenging and fun as a hand to hand fight
would have been.
                I
actually loved the Batmobile. The versatility combined with the game’s physics
and particle effects were a feast for the eyes and a pleasure to control even
if the controls were arcady (I don’t think anyone was expecting a simulator).
But sometimes it felt like the car was more important than the hero itself and
it was taking away from the expected gameplay experience.
ABS!
Hmmm
                The
combat system in the Arkham series was never my cup of tea. The two buttons
spamming for attacks and counters with combos and finishers left room for more
complexity. But to my surprise this time I enjoyed the combat more than I did
in the previous games. Maybe because I’m coming after The Witcher 3 where the
combat experience was extremely glitchy and the problems of Arkham Knight are light
compared to it. Or it actually improved over the previous games but it has been
such a long time since I played an Arkham title that I can’t notice the changes.
But enjoying something doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
                The
first thing that comes to mind about the game’s combat system is the control
scheme. The PC controls use multifunctional keys and various combinations of multiple
keys in order to get things done. Multifunctional keys make no sense as this
game is not a complex simulator and doesn’t require an entire keyboard for its
control scheme so I don’t see the point of subjecting one key to multiple
tasks.
The combinations of multiple keys shouldn’t be a nuisance if
done properly, but the way they are used makes them so. The game requires the
press of two keys to go down a vent tunnel or to open a hatch door (really?!)
and the same goes for using a gadget in combat and perform many other actions
in or out of combat. The combinations sometimes overlap and in the heat of
battle doing one thing might result in doing another. This problem feels like
laziness in properly adjusting a rather simple game to the mouse and keyboard
controls.
                 Aside of the annoying controls another problem
that I have with the combat comes from the highlighted animations of Batman’s
powerful hits. These animations are completely out of place in a game that
takes itself more seriously. They might have worked if the artistic style was different and the game used onomatopoeias and other comic books related themes, but it doesn’t go
along with the current imagining of the Gotham City. I think better body
physics would have been a greater way to make Batman’s devastating hits more
visible on his targets than coloring around his punches and kicks.
                The last
but not least of Arkham Knight’s combat problems stands in the difficulty. The
AI isn’t the greatest and the lack of serious boss fights diminishes greatly
the level of enjoyment. The only real challenge stands in the uneven odds that
Batman has to fight. At first the groups of enemies are small enough to defeat
easily, but as the game progresses they grow in size and receive numerous
abilities and weapons to stop Batman making things more complicated. The space
is not always in Batman’s favor and sometimes these battles turn out into an
everlasting hit and run scenario until most of the easy enemies are knocked out
so there is enough space to deal with the stronger guys.
                In spite
of its problems the combat system in Arkham Knight has to offer more than most
of the latest 3rd person games do. The play style can be easily
adjusted by the player as Batman always has options.
Going rampage on a group of enemies and kicking them until
they are down can be one of the ways to solve things for almost every situation
in the game even if most of the times it’s the hardest way.
Taking a more tactical approach by disabling the enemy’s
guns, hacking into their security system and laying some traps crippling the
enemy forces before the fight begins it’s another way to do things.
Even stealth is an option with the help of detective mode
and some of the gadgets. By taking advantage of the great level design which
allows for multiple pathways, Batman can sneak around and take the enemies down
one by one.
                The styles
can be combined and adjusted on the fly resulting in spectacular improvised
moments that feel great to pull off.  And
when things go crazy and even Batman isn’t enough, Catwoman, Nightwing or Robin
might lend a hand if they are around. The fights with the help of other heroes
are extremely fun as the game allows switching from one hero to another and
executing dual takedowns on enemies. The only downside is that these duet
moments aren’t seen very often in the game.
Blurry combat!
Acrobatics!
Let’s see what happens if I detonate this here!
                Almost
everything that Batman can use is subject to upgrades. There is a leveling
system based on the experience gained through fights or missions awarding Wayne
points which can be spent on various upgrades. Batman’s combat moves can be
enhanced with new combos and finishers enhancing the existing ones. The Batsuit
can receive numerous upgrades to sustain more damage from both melee weapons
and firearms and other combat enhancements and the same way goes for the
Batmobile. Even the gadgets can be heavily upgraded increasing not only their
utility in the world, but also their combat usefulness.
The leveling system is nothing too complex, but opens up
more options for different play styles and adds greater value to completing
secondary missions and challenges.
I need to grind more!
                All
things put together, Arkham Knight might not have the best combat and it doesn’t lack problems, but has enough options to it to make it enjoyable
for the entire duration of the game. The Carmageddon style car chases and the
tank battles from which the game switches easily to violent and dynamic hand to
hand combat or stealth sections create an action cocktail that has to be at
least slightly tasteful for anyone.
                So far
so good, the game has its ups and downs but everything is rounded in a positive
way, but apparently Rocksteady Studios and Warner Bros. couldn’t keep this tone
until the very end. There have been AAA games that messed up badly in the past
like Watch Dogs or Assassin’s Creed: Unity, but these games messed with no
discrimination and had problems on all the platforms, but such is not the case
for Arkham Knight. While the game runs smoothly and without problems on
consoles, on the PC things are more of a slideshow than an actual game (you
know… cinematic experience).
                The
game is unplayable for the most players and having a powerful rig hardly makes
any difference. The fps is locked at 30 (because what PC gamer doesn’t want
that, right?!?!) and has problems even staying at 30 with constant freezes and
fps drops. A violent motion blur is slapped on to cover for this without any
way to remove it or tune it down from the graphics options menu. Because of the
amount of blur it was impossible for me to take a proper combat screenshot, but
things get even worse. The game has such memory leak problems on a scale I’ve never
seen before, there are reports of the game taking up to 12gb of RAM memory
causing even more performance problems.
The graphics options menu looks like more like a commercial
to Nvidia than what a graphics menu for a AAA title should look in 2015 (or you
can pick any year since pixel shader 2.0) with the Nvidia GameWorks settings
being as many as the standard settings (to be more precise: four). There are no
options for high quality textures (because parity!) and the textures themselves
have problems loading up in-game. The ambient occlusion and enhanced lighting
are nowhere to be found in the options or in game (some of the features can be disabled or adjusted from the game’s .ini).
                Basically,
Batman: Arkham Knight PC version received little attention and was released
together with the other version of the game in disregard to its state (it is
absolutely impossible for the publisher and the developer of this game not to be
aware about the situation of the PC version). The PC customers sank the game in
bad reviews and Warner Bros. first response was to increase the price on Steam
from 50 to 55 (…).  As a result to the
huge number of complaints and the pilling stacks of refund tickets the game was
retracted from most authorized stores (long live the first protecting law for
the consumers of digital products!!!).
                I feel
sorry for the fate of this game, it deserved much more than a simple port and
the same goes for its fans (ironically enough aside of the optimization problems the game is bugs free). The quality of Arkham Knight surpasses that of most
of the action games released on PC in the past years and I’d be lying if I said
that the game doesn’t look good despite its lack of common graphical effects
and high resolution textures.
                A night
in Gotham City has never looked better, but also never symbolized as much as it
does now. The rainy night combined with the dark tone of the graphics create a
shady atmosphere that intensifies the intrigue of the story and the fact that
this is the last game in the series.
The world design is amazing and the game’s verticality plays
right into Batman’s hand allowing him to use the gadgets as he pleases. The
attention to graphic details is high and there seems to be nothing out of place
in the world.
Something is clearly not right!
That smoke!
                The
thing that impressed me the most about this game’s technical part and that
doesn’t get used enough in other games is the physics. Gotham City could easily
be a map for a Carmageddon match as the amount of destructible environment is
impressive. In the Batmobile there are hardly any obstacles. Cars, gates,
supporting pillars and so many other things can be destroyed. Batman runs
through everything in his way in order to save Gotham City one last time and
probably causes millions of dollars worth of property damage, but who cares when
it’s so much fun (!!!). Almost everything that seems destructible is
destructible with few exceptions and I had a blast using the Batmobile’s power
to wreak havoc in the city. Arkham Knight stands as a great example of how important
physics is in a video game and how underrated and ignored this technology is
right now and proves once again its valor in a game’s feeling and enjoyment.
Fireworks!
                On
the audio part I have nothing to reproach. The sound effects are top notch
quality and the music is in tone with the series. Yet the technical part
doesn’t stand out as much as the voice acting does.  With Kevin Conroy back to reprise his role as
Batman and many of the previous voice actors coming back for the last part of
the series, the voice acting is excellent and the actors do a great job to
enter in the mind of some of the insane characters and bring them to life
through their work.
 
Apparently I can’t get rid of you.
Batman & Co.
There’s something wrong with your face!
Superman confirmed?!?!
 
 
                I
liked this game a lot (this is quite clear from the fact that I continued to play it
in the current state), but the terrible quality of the port cannot be ignored and the
publisher has to be condemned for outsourcing the PC version to a small studio
of twelve people for a game with a price tag of 50 euros (55?! Plus DLCs). It
shows a lack of respect for the PC market and its customers and they probably
would have gotten away and sold millions (just like Watch Dogs did) if there
wasn’t the option for refunds. Let this be a lesson to any publisher that tries
to screw up the PC gamers, as we are vocal and we made ourselves heard, through
refunds and overwhelmingly negative scores that are not necessarily justifiable
to the game’s quality but reflect our frustration towards this treachery.
But is the problematic port making
Batman: Arkham Knight a bad game? Nowhere near close to that. It is a true and
true action game, without selectable dialogues or moral choices just for the
sake of it as this is not a role playing but rather a very interactive
experience as Batman following his rules and his unchangeable story. The story
is flawlessly written and plays out in an unpredictable way putting an end to a
six years long series that has done to superheroes video games what the Dark
Knight series has done with superheroes movies (Can I get a Green Lantern series
like these ones?!).
                I
can’t say that the game is worth buying now as its technical state is still a
mess and playing at 30fps with heavily forced in motion blur is tiring. But in
a few weeks or months when most of the problems are fixed it might be a title
that should not be missed by fans of the genre and Batman alike.
Pros:
+ Excellent story
+ Great world design
+ Good graphics and physics
+ High quality voice acting
+ Lots of villains and heroes from the Batman
universe
+ Addictive gameplay
+ Batmobile
+ 40+ hours of gameplay
+ Puzzles
+ Completist’s
heaven
Cons:
– Horrible performance problems
– Locked at 30fps (even if it’s unlocked from .ini it is still unstable)
– Lacks important graphics features and
options
– Multifunctional keys
– Secondary missions can be repetitive
– No serious boss fights
– Batmobile is overused



 
 
Nodrim