Review: Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4)

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Title: Batman: Arkham Knight
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (49.5 GB)
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Batman: Arkham Knight is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Batman: Arkham Knight is the final game in Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy. It does a great job wrapping up the events of the previous two games. This one begins near Halloween when the Scarecrow starts to terrorize Gotham City. This event clears out the city like Batman:Arkham Origins, so there are no civilians in the streets.

The story, as in the rest of the trilogy, is one of the strongest parts of the game. Arkham Knight introduces Rocksteady’s first new character to the Bat-verse, the Arkham Knight. It’s full of twists and turns and while you can see some coming, most of the story still gives you a rollercoaster ride. This is my favorite storyline in the three Arkham games and is deep in Batman lore. The main story will take anywhere from ten to fourteen hours to finish, with even more in the side quests.

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Another highlight of the series is the game’s combat, and boy, it does not disappoint. While there have been no major changes, there have been small tweaks and additions. One new addition is the multiple Fear Takedowns that are fun and exciting when you are able to make them happen. Another change is the multiple counters, which, while not exactly new, work even better this time around.

As you progress through the story you gain experience, and can upgrade your equipment, moves, and gadgets. By the end of the game, Batman is even more powerful. These new additions are smart and made me want to just take down thugs to get even more experience points.

… Gotham City is now fully explorable …
The gadgets are mostly unchanged this time around with only one new addition. As with the combat moves, you can upgrade your gadgets to even greater effect. The newest upgrade is only used in certain areas, and once in awhile with Riddler Trophies. I was a little disappointed that there were not more new gadgets, but the older ones still work well in combat and puzzle situations.

Challenges have made a return but to a lesser degree. In Arkham Asylum, I played these one-off maps for more experience. With the games getting larger and with more things to do, these maps were relegated to novelties. This remains true for Arkham Knight, but Rocksteady does try to integrate them more into the gameplay as they are located on the map as well as in their own menu.

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With Arkham Knight, Gotham City is now fully explorable for the first time in the form of three separate islands. The map is large and it will take some time to travel through the whole city. The nice part is that each island has its own feel while keeping a uniform look. The map is designed not only to grapple through the city, but also to drive the Batmobile through. The nice things is that part of the city is somewhat destructible.

The Batmobile is the most notable addition to Arkham Knight hands down. It is fully upgradeable like Batman and his gadgets, and is a force to be reckoned with. There has been a lot of chatter with the handling, be it with the driving or the tank combat. For me, the driving is shaky at best. I have trouble keeping from crashing into everything and it is somewhat frustrating. I feel they needed more time to get right and it doesn’t feel as polished as the rest of the game.

… the deep world of the Batman mythos …
My favorite part of the Batmobile is the tank combat. Compared to the driving, this is more fleshed out and is a better fit. The combat is fast and deep, and very enjoyable, especially after you do some upgrades. I had tons of fun going through the scripted events and loved the idea of in-vehicle combat.

Side quests make up a large part of the game just like the others in the series. From stopping Two-Face to racing through the Riddler’s death traps, the side quests add to the story. One of the best things in Arkham City was that Rocksteady delved into the deep world of the Batman mythos, and does so again.

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The side quests here range from saving firemen, to stopping Two-Face from robbing Gotham’s banks. Once again, the developers do a fantastic job with these side quests and rely heavily on the history of the franchise to great effect. As with the other games, Riddler trophies are back in full force. This time, a major component to that part of the game is the Batmobile, where you must defeat the Riddler’s death defying tracks. At times these were difficult due to the handling of the vehicle.

Season Passes has always been a mixed bag since their arrival, and Arkham Knight’s is no different. Rocksteady has been releasing DLC for the last five months, ranging from level packs to AR Challenges and skins for the Bat-Family and Batmobile. While the skins have been okay, I have only used three or four more than once.

… graphics are still a highlight to the series …
The Batmobile has received some of the better skins and there are two or three I always use. The AR Challenges are basically the same as the regular challenges, the difference being that most of them allow you to play as different members of the Bat-Family such as Robin or Nightwing.

Some story DLC has been added to stretch the game out to varying degrees of success. A Matter of Family showcases Batgirl as she faces the Joker. This was actually developed by Warner Brothers Montreal and is the longest of the story-based DLC. Catwoman’s Revenge has Selina facing the Riddler after the story events of the main game. This, along with Nightwing’s GCPD Lockdown, are very short and light on story. Depending on what you like, this content will last you only a few hours, up to a dozen. It was nice to get more story, but I was hoping for more depth and length.

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Visuals:
It’s amazing how a dark color palette can look so good on the PlayStation 4, but it’s not without issues. The graphics are still a highlight to the series, although I still wish the shiny skin of the Unreal Engine would be more life like. But Gotham City is beautiful in darkness and haze and really well done.

The vast improvements between games can really be seen, and the extra power of the PS4 helps. There are some hiccups though, and the framerate drops when the combat really gets heavy, especially in tank combat. Also I have noticed hitching while driving through the city, although this does not occur very often. Overall this is the prettiest and most graphically impressive game of the series and year.

… a phenomenal job on the final chapter …
Audio:
As for the soundtrack, I never got bored of a single song. That’s saying something after spending thirty hours in the game. The music, as always, is moody, mysterious, and spooky, sometimes all at once. The orchestral score really works well here and provides the mood, be it a twist in the plot or when you’re roaming the streets looking for thugs.

Another audio highlight is the voice work in the game. All of the cast came back for the finale. Kevin Conroy returns as Batman, and notable actor John Noble takes center stage as the Scarecrow. The highlight here is how much voice work there is, it’s really quite amazing. From conversations between street thugs to main story points, there was no time that a bad line or voice took me out of the game.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Rocksteady did a phenomenal job on the final chapter of its Arkham Trilogy, and this game should be played by everyone. From the exciting storyline to the excellent gameplay, Batman: Arkham Knight delivers on all points.

Even with the less than stellar driving portions, the developers took what could have been a game breaker and mostly delivered on a huge new component to the franchise. Another point of praise is the graphics. They really used the power of the PS4 to deliver a stellar game. Batman: Arkham Knight should not be missed and should be a contender for Game of the Year.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Shawn Hiers

Shawn Hiers

Disabled gamer. Married Father of 3, and playing since the Atari days. I have a passion for all things Lego and an avid Toy Collector. I am also an huge Doctor Who Fan and can talk all things Who for hours 🙂

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