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Review: Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

Gameplay

OK, the story won’t be the main attraction for some people, but instead the idea of being able to run (or glide) around Gotham and stomp on thugs heads will be what convinces some to part with their hard-earned money.

Thankfully, then, the gameplay is pretty much spot on. In previous Arkham games I’d get frustrated with the camera work, the combat would sometimes not be quite on-point due to frame-rate drops, as well as some other gripes. That’s not the case this time around. Combat is brutal, bone crunching mayhem. You can be surrounded by twenty thugs all wanting to take your head off and then a couple of minutes later you’ll be stood atop a pile of unconscious bodies, cape flowing in the wind, moon dancing off your massive chin. Very bloody super-hero-y.

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The combat system hasn’t changed much from previous entries. It’s still a case of press the triangle button to counter, press cross to jump etc etc. If you’ve played any of the other Arkham games, you’ll be instantly familiar with how to use Batman as a thug-breaking machine. What won’t be instantly familiar is the Batmobile. Yes, this time around Rocksteady has given us a proper tank-style Batmobile to whip around Gotham in.

I’m gonna be brutally honest – I’m not a fan of the thing. I was for the first few Batmobile-orientated missions, but after a while it did start to wear thin. Driving around the streets at high-speed is a decent thrill but it does take its toll on the frame-rate. The game usually runs pretty smoothly, but once you start whizzing around the city in the tank/car it soon stutters. It’s not especially terrible, but it’s not as smooth as one would have liked.

Batman is often refered to as ‘The World’s Best Detective’ and with good reason. In the comics and the Christopher Nolan films he’s quite adept at tracking down his targets using all sorts of gadgets. However, Arkham Knight takes something of a step back in the detective gameplay. There’ll be a handful of missions where you have to examine a scene, but it’s nowhere near as good as it could have been. Still, it’s not what most Batman players want to be doing, is it?

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Gadgets make a comeback with familiar tools being used as well as a couple of new ones. Unfortunately there are a few which are only usable with the Batmobile, but maybe you’ll find the experience a little better than I did? I just prefer to swoop in on my prey like a bird of prey rather than a crazed murderer in GTA V…

The city of Gotham is great fun to explore and it’s never a chore to glide around. It’s actually quite easy. You simply aim at a grapple point, fire, and then release at the top, propelling Batman into the air with the option of gliding around or dashing down to the ground. I actually found this to be great fun, almost as good as the first time I swung across Manhattan in Spiderman 2 for the first time. Yeah, it’s that good!

There’s still a lot of depth in how you go about your Bat-business. You can tackle a group of enemies head on and hope that you’ve upgraded Batman’s suit enough to be able to withstand the onslaught of enemies, or you can take the stealthy route and pick them off one by one. In some sections of the game you’ll be forced to go one way or the other, but for the most part it’s up to you.

In all, the gameplay is tight as hell and even with the sometimes iffy camera, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Graphics

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t immediately impressed with Batman: Arkham Knight. Now I feel like a fool. During the first few minutes of gameplay it’s immediately obvious that it’s a well made game with high production values, but it’s not until you take to the streets and rooftops that you really get to appreciate the hard work that’s gone into crafting this interactive world that’s been presented to us. Gotham, despite being a gritty and pretty ugly place to live, looks fantastic as the neon lights from city building cast their glare. The ever-persistent moonlight casts a constant glow that doesn’t seem out of place. Usually in games that have night-time sections they stumble, but as Arkham Knight takes place exclusively in the dead of night it has been made with that in mind. It’s never too dark and it’s never too bright to break the illusion.

Characters look great, too. Not just in how they look but also how they move and react. Batman is as limber as ever and it really does show when he’s flipping from one thug to the other dealing out brutal blows. Enemies used to be quite rigid and ‘flat’ in previous games, but with the extra horsepower being provided by the next-gen consoles they’ve got a much more human-like way of falling. It’s quite satisfying, actually…


 

Batman: Arkham Knight take the series and sends it on its way in style. Easy enough to pick up and play, but it does take some time to master being the Batman. The story is deep enough to keep players engaged and even includes a few nods to the hardcore Batman fans who’ve followed the comics, cartoons and just about every other media that the Caped Crusader has appeared in. In short – it’s bloody awesome.

If you’ve still not bought into the hype of Arkham Knight, you can pick up your copy here from Amazon for a fairly decent price.

Disclaimer: Review copy was not provided by Warner Bros but was instead purchased by the reviewer. For our review policy, see here.

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