[drop_cap type=”1/2/3″]I[/drop_cap] remember having a conversation with a friend about Arkham Origins. I’d mentioned to him that the Deathstroke boss fight was the highlight of that game for me, and he said that the Joker reveal was his personal favourite moment. We both made our cases. I argued that the Deathstroke fight was perfect from a gameplay perspective, being both mechanically interesting and challenging. He countered with an argument that makes more sense to me now than it did then—Arkham Origins was exploring the humble beginnings of what is arguably the greatest rivalry in fiction. Arkham Knight might be part of an entirely different trilogy, but by its end, it brings this rivalry to a conclusion in the best possible way.
What about Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight?
They’re in the game alright. Scarecrow has a devious plan to (once again) unleash the fear toxin (to which he’s strangely not immune) upon Gotham, while The Arkham Knight is a tool – both from a narrative standpoint, bringing a perceived sense of mystery to the proceedings, as well as a literal one, doing Scarecrow’s bidding out of misplaced hatred for our caped crusader. While the former is clearly not my favourite Batman villain, the latter’s first outing felt underwhelming.
Fortunately, the rest of the rogue’s gallery is well represented. You’ll encounter the Riddler (more on him in a bit), Two-Face, Deathstroke, Penguin, Firefly among others in side missions that are an assorted mix of fun and mundane. I found the Two-Face bank heist missions to be the most interesting because they gave me a sense of Déjà vu with closed area set pieces reminiscent of Arkham Asylum. The Penguin missions were interesting as well because they showed off the new Dual Play combat system. Switching seamlessly between Nightwing and Bats, you’ll be able to pull of some slick double team takedowns – it’s very impressive how this works not only mechanically, but from a cinematic perspective as well, with some neat looking camera work and superbly timed slow motion video. I should also point out that in order to experience the game’s “proper” ending, you will need to apprehend every single villain on Gotham’s Most Wanted list. Now let’s address the elephant in the room.
Batmobile: too much of a good thing?
You are force-fed the Batmobile for the first hour-and-a-half of Arkham Knight, forced to do everything from destroy drones with your 60mm cannon to the silliest of jumping puzzles. And yes, you do get the feeling that there’s way too much of it. However, it also provides some of the coolest moments in a Batman game to date—both in terms of combat as well as brute-force approach to puzzles. A wall blocking your path? Tear it down with the winch attachment, or just blow it up. Presented with overwhelming odds? Use nonlethal rounds for some quality crowd control.
The mobility this thing offers is immense, and goddamnit, it sure looks cool – not just in terms of its design, but thanks to the slow-mo footage that comes with it as Batman gets into and ejects from the driver seat and, not to mention, the Burnout-esque takedown camera. There’s a combat mode that makes it a breeze to control in tricky situations as well. However, the Batmobile introduces problems when there should be none. First, the Riddler challenges (which you must undertake to free Catwoman) might not be for everyone—there’s a lot of vehicular platforming and time-trial based driving around obstacle courses. From a puzzle design perspective, these are great, and might be something you’d want to give a shot after you’re done with the game. But they were too time consuming and tedious for my taste.
The Batmobile also breaks pacing at the most inopportune moments. There was one instance that was particularly annoying. Batman was in hot pursuit of the Arkham Knight, whom he follows into the Gotham subway and bam! See-saw puzzle after see-saw puzzle kills the urgency of the situation in an instant. But all things considered, it’s a good addition which offers some killer moments, but let’s hope its implementation is more judicious in future outings.
The Killing Joke
Arkham Knight has more than a few twists and turns in its story. But it’s the way Rocksteady handled The Joker which should be commended—after all, there’s no Batman without Joker. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that he’s back in a way that you might (or might not) expect, and that he provides more entertainment than the rest of Arkham Knight combined (including an appropriately unsettling musical number). Trust me, you will find yourself blankly staring into the nothingness on top of Gotham’s tallest building and listening to Joker ramble on about your predicament on more than one occasion. Mark Hamill shows us why he’s been the voice of Joker for so many years with one of his best performances to date (I should point out that John Noble is great as Scarecrow as well). If you’re at all invested in the fiction, the Joker arc alone is worth the entire price of the game.
|Note: The time I spent with Arkham Knight was on the PlayStation 4, and therefore, technical issues were few and far between. Frame rate drops during intense Batmobile combat situations were the only real complaint. The PC version, as you’re probably aware, experienced a catastrophic launch and Rocksteady has been in the process of fixing it. At the time of writing, the PC release was fairly stable (which is to stay it isn’t crashing anymore), but is still plagued by performance issues.|
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