Batman: Arkham Knight – The goods and the bads

Disclaimer the first: I am not very versed in the comics or history of Batman. My biggest influences with this particular hero comes from the Arkham-series of games and the pre Nolan movies.

As of writing this, I just finished Batman: Arkham knight. According to the game, my completion rating was 89%. I got the “incomplete knightfall ending”. The three side-quests I left open were: The Riddler, the roadblocks and the bomb defusing. So, was it a good game? Sure, it was good. Some things could have been better, but a whole lot could've also been worse. I want to talk a little bit about some of the things I found interesting with the game. I am fore-going the usual setup and will from here on assume that you, the reader, have played the game. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Na-na-na-na-BAT-TANK!

Early reviews and comments about the game critiqued the Batmobile for various reasons. While I seem to have liked the Batmobile more than the average reviewer, I do see why people quickly grew tired of the new addition to Batmans tool-belt. Yes, I meant what I wrote. The batmobile is not just there for transportation, it is also a puzzle and problem solving tool. A tool which is the size of large car and about as useful in the realistic sense. To provide a small example: Batman needs to get to a control-room at the top of a shaft. To solve this, Batman winches the car to a strong-point, drives it down a slope so it stand vertically against the wall and shoots the floor of the control-room to allow himself to rappel up to the room. The puzzle, as a puzzle, is fine. It's not to difficult or challenging. The problem I am having with it is that it doesn't make much sense. The same problem could be solved with Batmans Line-launcher, bat-claw and his explosive spray. But the game-designers felt compelled to utilize the Batmobile as much as possible and made the puzzle for it.

The Batmobile in Arkham Knight is practically a light tank. It's big, heavily armored and capable of deploying a 60mm cannon and mini-gun. This, again, doesn't make too much sense. For a character hell-bent on not killing anyone, Batman surely likes to play with dangerous guns. This is excused in the game by also having a rubber-bullet-gun on the Batmobile that fires whenever you try to use force against any flesh-and-blood humans. The other weird thing about the relative power of the Batmobile is how the open-world design allows the player to go wherever they please around Gotham, smashing everything in their way. You see, the Batmobile is fast, but not very nimble. So I think that most players would drive much like how I did. By hurtling down the road, smashing signs, light-posts and everything else in your way. While this is fun and the deformation-technology in the game is commendable, it makes little sense for Batman, guardian of Gotham, to play so fast and loose with Gotham-city property.


Scarecrow and the other Knight

In Arkham Knight it is now Scarecrows turn to put the screws into Batman. He does this by partnering up with series newcomer Arkham Knight and together they start a campaign of terror that makes the population of Gotham evacuate, well, the only people who are evacuated are the so called innocents. Leaving the city to Batman and pretty much every bad egg in town. This, as a setup, worked reasonably well for me. While it feels more like a setup that allows the designers to design a game in which Batman will never be faced with the very real problem of maybe hurting civilians or “innocents”.

The thing that really didn't sit well with me, however, is that the Scarecrow doesn't really work as a “terrorist leader”. To me, he seems like a character who prefers to work alone, much like The Riddler. I get that the militia is technically controlled by the Arkham Knight, but them working together in the first place feels highly contrived. At the end of the game, after you defeat the Arkham Knight, some of the militia still follow Scarecrow. For a bunch of mercenaries, they sure are loyal. Loyal to a man who only has one tool in his box, a tool that is fear.

The Arkham Knight, on the other hand, works. His skill and general mystique works well for a guy who supposedly could defeat the Batman. Unfortunately, the game shows its hand too early by having the Batman start hallucinating about Jason Todd. Anyone who has seen the animated Batman film “Under the red hood” should get the idea very quickly, and in my opinion, the early reveal kind of spoils the character.

Probably the best and the worst part with this games rouges gallery is the Joker. Yes, the Joker is back, again. And they even got Mark Hamill back as the voice. This time around, though, the Joker is dead, and the one we are seeing is just in Batmans head. A strange mix of fear toxin and Jokers blood back in Arkham City brings the Joker back as a hallucination/split-personality in Bruce Wayne. Mr. Hamill does an excellent performance, as usual, and up-stages each and every one else in the cast, as usual. Again, this is hardly a complaint, I love what they did with the Joker, he gets some great lines and some really good moments. The sad part is that no one else even comes close to this level of quality, though. Maybe that isn't the Jokers problem, but it would be fun to see someone else go toe-to-toe with Batman as much as the Joker gets to do.


The fourth game in a trilogy

This is less of a complaint about Arkham Knight and more of a commentary on how WB have treated the franchise overall. While Arkahm Knight is a quality game, it does however suffer a bit for its legacy. You see, just looking at the games, Arkham Knight seems like the fourth game in a trilogy. Rocksteady has gone on record to say that Arkham Origins isn't part of THEIR cannon, but trying to convince the browsing eye of that is harder. And personally, I didn't care for Arkham Origins. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was reminded of that bad taste the minute I put Arkham Knight in the disc-tray. Now, most of that was unfounded, since Arkham Knight turned out to be quite the good game, but the stains of its legacy are still there.

The Arkham-series used to be famous for its very easy, very fluid and very exciting combat. While this still is the case, it is really hard to give this compliment to Arkham Knight, since in between Asylum and Knight, the “Arkham-style-combat” has been used by quite the few games, so it no longer feels fresh or novel. While I believe that games like Shadow of Mordor and Sleeping dogs fail at making the combat as nice as in the Arkham games, they still take away much of the novelty by so blatantly copying the design. The last statement might have sounded like an indictment of both Sleeping Dogs and Shadow of Mordor but it really isn't, I liked both games and they stand as pretty quality games. Their similarity to the Arkham-series does however hurt all of the games novelties respectivly. Arkham Asylum was new and fresh, but with all of these iterations on the same basic mechanic it has started to get pretty stale.

Still quality

Up to this point, it seems like this article seems to be dedicated to me complaining about Arkham Knight. The game does have problems, and some things that are down right stupid. But it is still a quality game. The game opens pretty slowly, but once it has gotten some momentum, it opens up and shines. All in all, the story is robust, the side-quests are fun and the mechanics are strong, if a bit stale. I guess it's just that Rocksteady really set the bar high with Asylum, then payed off well in City and now in Knight, they seem to have lost a bit of steam. Maybe they did the right thing by making this the last game in the Asylum-series. Unfortunately, I do not think that WB will manage to let it lie for very long. I heard that the PC-release for this game was disastrous. I wasn't afflicted by this because I bought it on ps4 about a month after release, but the fact that the release was bad still needs to be noted. It was a shame, since it hampered an otherwise fine game. I hope that they have ironed out those quirks by now, so people can enjoy the game for what it is. Also, for everyone who demanded their money back for that specific fiasco, I want to say: Good! You did the right thing. Never pay for a broken game! Only a shame that it ruined your experience.

Hopefully Rocksteadys next game will both have their high standard of quality and a new fresh IP that is filled with potential and excitement. After playing Arkham knight, I would love to see Rocksteady work on a horror title. Hear me out, Rocksteady has proven themselves to be masters at scripting. The many Joker-scenes in this game, and many other scenes in the previous Arkham-games proves this. So, it is my opinion, that they would be able to make a truly horrifying experience putting their knowledge of scripting (and animation) into a much more sinister game.


/R