Batman: Arkham Knight

Title: Batman: Arkham Knight
Platform: Xbox One, PS4, PC
MSRP: $60

“I’ll never get past those tanks without the car.”

And therein lies the biggest problem with Batman: Arkham Knight. After an extended batmobile segment, I blew the wall open to a building and glided in, only to hear Batman utter the above statement once I reached some enemies. I literally cursed aloud when I heard that; Batman never needed a super-mech-Transformers-style car before, why now?

Batman: Arkham KnightAt the end of the day, Batman: AK is a good game. It features a huge open world with tons of interesting challenges, a good storyline, and of course Rocksteady’s super solid combat mechanics. Unfortunately, several layers of cheese, including the batmobile, taint the otherwise well-constructed experience.

Early on, just about every part of this game screams shallowness. I know Batman has always had a bunch of awesome gadgets at his disposal, including his batmobile, but the over-the-top car sequences just do not fit in the Batman universe that we’ve grown to love. Everyone knows Batman won’t kill, but Batman AK has you rolling around in a super fast car, running pedestrians over left and right, and eventually morphing into a tank that demolishes literally hundreds of “drone tanks” – it’s ridiculous! I’m all for experimentation and trying to mix things up, but this is not the Batman I’ve grown to love.

Most of my frustrations in this area happened early in the game. While having a solid core story, the Riddler introducing himself feels tired and boring; it’s a game we’ve played before. His supportive cast are incredibly one-dimensional, and the NPCs only offer enlightening sound bites like “Batman, just wanna say that it’s good to have you on board.” Of course it’s good to have him on board, he’s Batman!

Batman: Arkham KnightSome aspects feel phoned in. Conversations with Robin are scripted, uninspired, and predictable. Without going into details, it’s the same song and dance almost every time you speak, and it feels like a real missed opportunity. I would have enjoyed exploring his character in more detail.

The previous Rocksteady Batman games were true gems of the last generation. Unfortunately, this third entry ends up feeling tired in its reuse of assets from previous games. Where it does innovate, it stumbles, effectively turning the Batman universe into a somewhat generic open world superhero game, which is just a shame. Most of the things that make batman special either aren’t here or they are grossly exaggerated.

Even the chatter of the thugs gets old much quicker than in games past. Constant reminders of the 1v1000s was funny the first time, not so much the next 50 times. One thug exclaims “He’s got a tank, that’s not fair!” despite their forces having literally hundreds of tanks (of course, these are unmanned drones). It’s silly how often we’re reminded these are unmanned, and how somehow running people over with the car just “shocks” them and doesn’t kill them.

Batman-Arkham-Knight-screenshot-GlidingThe batmobile feels forced upon the player at every turn, and it’s just not that fun. Batman AK takes one of the coolest, most unique things about any Batman game, gliding around the city and swinging from rooftop to rooftop, and actively takes the controller out of your hands, instead forcing you to traverse with this difficult to control mess of a vehicle.

I recently resolved to stop playing games if I’m not enjoying them. But the sad fact is that there are just enough good things in this to get me to keep coming back and enduring the sloppy parts. Combat is terrific and as smooth as ever, and traversing the city with the grapple is just wonderful. At least one of the main characters is fairly entertaining, though most feel boring, uninspired, and cliche. The game is gorgeous, and Gotham feels real.

It’s no secret that there is some very limited sections where you can play different characters, and I really enjoyed those as well. It’s intense to switch between characters on the fly and mow down enemies; I wish there were more opportunities in the main storyline to explore these interactions.

Speaking of storylines, Rocksteady has added a very efficient method to select side missions, as their menu allows for a quick display of all available quests, including the percentage of completion for each individual one. I really appreciated that addition; in a climate of messy menus in games, they did a great job constructing this interface. Many of the side quests are interesting, and the overall scope of the game is commendable. However, the Riddler trophies are completely over-the-top; I can’t imagine having the desire to collect 243 trophies.

Despite featuring mostly one-dimensional characters, the main mission has an excellent story, and I was really captivated by the last two hours of the game. I can’t go into detail here without spoiling it, but suffice to say it made the rest of my struggles and frustrations worth it.

All in all, Batman AK is a good but deeply flawed game. I wish I could say more good things about it, as I loved Rocksteady’s previous entries and was looking forward to this one for a long time. There’s enough good here that I recommend you play it if you’re a fan of the series, but just be sure to adjust your expectations, and be prepared to pilot a tank while mowing down enemy drones. One of the best lines in the game comes from a common thug talking to the main villain: “Sir, I don’t think five tanks was enough.” Actually, I should note that there are literally hundreds of tanks in the game. Which is sadly hundreds too many.

Final score: 7.5/10

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