Batman: Arkham Knight, The Long Awaited PS4 Review

First off I’d like to apologize that it has taken me so long to get this review together, however as you know I’m not always afforded as much time as I’d like to dig in and play games because everyday life tends to get in the way. And let’s face, it if I was going to review this game it was only going to be after 100% completion of the story and all side quests…

Rocksteady has built such an amazing franchise in the Batman:Arkham series, Arkham Asylum reignited my passion for gaming, Arkham City proved that you could improve upon perfection, and of course while Rocksteady was developing Arkham Knight WB games developed Arkham Origins which wasn’t perfect but they managed to prove they could tell a truly classic Batman story while taking full advantage of the groundwork that Rocksteady developed. Why make mention of any of this, how is this relevant to my review of Batman: Arkham Knight?

It’s simple. Batman: Arkham Knight is the game that I’ve most anticipated for the last few years, it’s the only reason that I stepped out and bought a PS4 when I did. My expectations for this game couldn’t possibly be any higher. The question remains, is it actually possible for Rocksteady to live up to my unrealistic expectations as they deliver their final entry into the Batman: Arkham franchise?

Please be warned, there are spoilers ahead… If you’ve not yet beaten the game and/ or have yet to play it, then please do yourself a favor and read the spoiler free review here
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Visuals

From the very beginning it’s obvious that Rocksteady spent a lot of time ensuring every last detail within the game was perfect, everything from; the appearance of Gotham City and the structures within it, the characters and how they relate to each other, and even elements that most would overlook like the rain and water. There aren’t any elements within the game that detract you from the story or make you feel as if it’s been shoehorned in because they needed to incorporate it into the world.

The team has proven they not only have an intimate understanding of the characters and how they relate, but that they have a deep appreciation for them as well. They’ve taken all of the classically iconic elements for each character and applied their distinct Rocksteady signature to each, further tying them to the world they’ve created within Batman: Arkham Knight. Aside from the design of the characters, the skin and clothing textures are phenomenal. There are moments within the game when you could easily mistake the ingame cinematics for being live action.

The design and layout of Gotham is incredibly well done, you not only feel as if it’s a living breathing city but that it is in fact Gotham City. However much like what they’ve done with the character design, they’ve taken the iconic structures that are mainstays within the Batman Universe and applied their own unique Rocksteady point of view to ensure that everything ties together to create a beautifully cohesive world design. However they weren’t afraid to make a mess of their beautiful city, the Batmobile leaves a pretty destructive wake as you tear through the city. But if you ask me, one of the most beautiful aspects of the game is the attention to detail they display with the raindrops and water as a whole. If you’re paying attention you can watch as the water cascades off of Batman and the rest of the environment, it also reflects the right about of light as it pools. And if you happen to be down by the water’s edge, watch as the water ebbs and flows against the rocks and boats. It’s truly beautiful.

Story

Batman: Arkham Knight begins one year after the events of Rocksteady’s Arkham City, the citizens of Gotham have had an opportunity to begin rebuilding their lives and remember what it’s like to live without fear. That is until the Scarecrow wages war against Gotham, unifying the Rogues Gallery in a focused attack against the city in an effort to destroy the Batman. Of course Scarecrow is aided by the mysterious Arkham Knight, who provides the Scarecrow with an unparamounted military presence and the necessary strategic planning to make the death of Batman seem possible. As you proceed through the game, it becomes clear that the Arkham Knight has a very personal vendetta against you and won’t let anything stand in his way of killing you.

There isn’t any denying it, whether you’re a fan of the rich history of Batman in all of it’s many forms or simply a fan of the Batman: Arkham videogame franchise, the storytelling exhibited within Batman: Arkham Knight is perfection. The creative team behind the creation of this story has managed to deliver an experience that not only kept me on the edge of my seat as I wanted to see what was going to unfold next, but they made me experience a range of emotion like no videogame has managed to accomplish before it.

As the villains of Gotham wage their war against Batman, it’s Batman’s allies that have become the targets of their terror in an effort to weaken you. They ultimately become collateral damage as you’re haunted by the realization that no one is safe as long as you’re Batman. Whether it’s past or present, we’re made to suffer as a result. Here are a few of the moments that were the most impactful to me…

  • We’re forced to re-live one of the most painful moments in Batman history, when The Joker paralyzes Barbara Gordon thus ending her career as Batgirl and the beginning of her role as Oracle.
  • The moment when Batman reveals to Commissioner Gordon that not only didn’t his daughter, Barbara Gordon, evacuate Gotham with the rest of the civilians, but she’s been aiding Batman for all these years as Oracle and has been taken by the Scarecrow as a result.
  • After Barbara Gordon is taken by the Scarecrow, we witness a heartbreaking moment when Barbara Gordon succumbs to the fear toxin and takes her own life as a result.
  • We’re forced to re-live Batman’s greatest failure, the moment when The Joker murdered Jason Todd. However it’s much worse than that, Joker spends several months torturing and brainwashing Jason until he’s no longer himself.
  • The moment of Poison Ivy’s death as she made one last sacrifice to ensure nature would survive Scarecrow’s toxin and thrive afterwards.

“This is how the Batman dies.” If you’ve not yet completed the game and want to skip to the ending, below you’ll find an overview of the main story ending as well as the Knightfall Protocol. I chose to include this, because of how it relates to the overall storytelling within the game.

As you reach the conclusion of the main story, you learn that Scarecrow used Commissioner Gordon to access Panessa Studios where you have Tim Drake, Robin, locked in a prison cell in the hopes of protecting him from the fallout of this night. You arrive to discover that Scarecrow has murdered the other inhabitants of the prison cells and taken Commissioner Gordon and Robin, providing you with instructions on where to find him. You arrive to the location where you surrender your utility belt and agree to be taken by Scarecrow to ensure their safety. While en route to the Scarecrow’s location, Alfred makes note that someone is tracking your location. Scarecrow forces Commissioner Gordon to unmask you on live television, revealing you as Bruce Wayne to all of Gotham. In the hopes of dismantling you on live TV, destroying any hope that the citizens of Gotham may have left, Scarecrow hits you with a heavy dose of fear toxin.

While under the influence of the toxin, you slip into your mind and become your worst nightmare… a sadistically savage killer, The Joker. You’re delivered to a warehouse where the Rogues Gallery is holed up, you summon the Jokermobile and kill everyone. You then walk the halls as the Joker with a high powered shotgun, you kill The Penguin, The Riddler, and Two Face which turns out to be Commissioner Gordon. You exit the building and take pride in the destruction of Gotham, as the city burns. However Batman struggles to regain control of his mind and body, where Batman reminds himself what it is to strike fear within the enemy. In the end, you overcome your fear and lock the Joker away within the deepest recesses of your mind.

As we return to where the Scarecrow has you held captive, having revealed your identity, and dosed you with an incredible amount of fear toxin. You’ve conquered your fear and the toxin no longer has an effect on you, which frustrates the Scarecrow to the point of holding a gun to your head. The Red Hood arrives, shooting the gun from Scarecrow’s hand and shooting the shackles that bind you. You struggle with the Scarecrow and dose him with his own fear toxin, revealing his greatest fear to be Nightmare Batman.Commissioner Gordon knocks out the fear stricken Scarecrow and you deliver him to Aaron Cash at GCPD.

Once you’ve completed the entire game 100%, you’ll unlock the Knightfall Protocol ending.

On top of GCPD Headquarters, you leave behind the cowl, summon the Batwing, and destroy the Bat Signal. We then go to Wayne Manor where reporters stand outside of the gates, hoping for a comment from Bruce Wayne. You land the Batwing right in front of them and walk inside of Wayne Manor, which suddenly erupts in an explosion subsequently killing The Batman. The camera then focuses on Jim Gordon, he says “A friend once told me that criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot. That the only way to beat them was to give them something to be scared of. I understand now. As his world grew darker, so did ours. When his war ended, our lives could begin again. He set us free. To Live. To Love.” as it would appear that Tim Drake and Barbara Gordon are getting married. “There was an inquest of course. Hundreds of suspects. Who killed Bruce Wayne? I guess we’ll never know for sure.” at this point the camera trains off of Jim Gordon and focuses on a nicely dressed family, turning down a dark alley. Jim Gordon’s monologue continues, “So what’s next? Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot. What happens when they have nothing to be scared of? Who will protect Gotham now that the Batman is dead?” A couple of Two Face’s former goons, catch the family off guard with the intent of relieving them of their valuables. As if we were reliving the moment that the Wayne’s were murdered, the goons turn their attention to a figure standing on the roof. Rising, as if not human, the figure bursts into a nightmare flurry of chaos as Nightmare Batman descends upon them in a flash.

It’s painfully obvious that Bruce Wayne faked his own death, however in doing so he’s taken the idea of Batman from being a mere man back to it’s early beginnings as a myth/ legend of Gotham. The idea that there’s something prowling the streets of Gotham by night, stalking those that would prey upon the innocent and striking fear in their hearts. Although it does appear that he’s manipulated Scarecrow’s fear toxin to assist in enhancing the mythos, perhaps invoking the idea that Batman has returned from the grave to protect the citizens of Gotham? Whatever the reasoning, it’s certainly effective.

Gameplay

There isn’t any question in my mind as to whether or not Rocksteady captured the essence of Batman and all of his unyielding baddies, from their general movements, mannerisms, and fighting styles the team has managed to bring these characters to life.

When you’re playing as Batman, there isn’t ever going to be a moment when you won’t find yourself saying “I Am Batman”. There was a lot of thought in terms of maximizing the control structure, even though there are only so many buttons on the controller they managed to utilize every single one in an intelligent manner to provide the player with a wide range of offensive and defensive capabilities. While you’re in the heat of battle, the quick fire buttons continue to be my best friend as they allow you to utilize a number of the tools at your disposal without breaking the flow of combat to access them. Of course you’re able to upgrade Batman’s abilities and capabilities as proceed throughout the game, if you plan on going toe to toe with the enemy you’ll definitely want to upgrade wisely.

One of the biggest additions to the Batman: Arkham franchise is the Batmobile, this is one of the elements that fans have been asking Rocksteady to deliver since the very beginning. Not only does it allow you to quickly traverse the mean streets of Gotham City, but it’s also an invaluable asset in combating the Arkham Knight’s drones. Just like Batman, you’re able to upgrade the Batmobile to make it stronger and faster. Believe me as you progress further in the game, you’ll need the Batmobile to be as upgraded as you can get it. I’ll admit that I was surprised by how dependant on the Batmobile you really need to be in this game, several of the missions specifically revolved around the use of the Batmobile as you try to survive wave after wave of tanks. There were times when I was locked in a mission involving the Batmobile and I just wasn’t in the mood to battle against the drones, so I’d put the game down and walk away until I was ready for that kind of gameplay. It isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that when I sit down to play a Batman game I want to be the Batman. Not a militarized Batmobile.

Even though we have the ability to call upon the Batmobile whenever we choose, I still love the beautiful simplicity of the Grapnel Gun and gliding. What better way to see the sights of Gotham.

Side Note

I can’t stress enough, it’s crucial that you pay a lot of attention to the Batmobile when choosing your upgrade structure. I focused a lot on Batman as I tend to prefer playing as Batman, however I found myself frustratingly screwed when I’d run into a story mission where I was locked in battle against the drone tanks. I’d have to make several attempts before I could finally clear the mission, however had I paid more attention to upgrading the Batmobile those moments would’ve been a little easier.

Verdict

There really isn’t much else I can say at this point, if you haven’t played it then you really just need to Buy It Now. Not only did Rocksteady meet my incredibly unrealistic expectations, they managed to surpass them in storytelling alone. Batman: Arkham Knight is a truly beautiful game on so many levels.

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