Licensed games are stigmatized for being crunched out year after year. Superheroes have had it the worst. While there were some of higher quality, the world wouldn’t see a great superhero game until Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. The Arkham series has been held to a higher pedigree than any other licensed game series in history. Rocksteady wanted 2015’s Batman: Arkham Knight to be a swan-song, but I was just excited for another video game based on one of my favorite superheroes. Arkham Knight was THE game I wanted an eighth-gen console for. I spent dozens of hours playing Arkham City. When I unwrapped a glorious Xbox One that Christmas, and Disney Infinity 3.0, I rejoiced for what I would be able to experience! I never got around to Arkham Knight. In fact, I never even bought it. On the verge of the next generation, and a reboot developed by WB Montreal, I felt it was time I got around to seeing what Arkham Knight was truly made of.
The Scarecrow has developed a much more potent version of his fear toxin. After unleashing it upon a cafe, he forces Gotham City to hit the road or be consumed. After the city evacuated, the Arkham Knight, and his militia, were enlisted to keep Gotham out of Batman’s control. After being doused with this new toxin, Batman is forced to deal with the Joker, now living as an extra personality in his head, and stay in control of his body.
The game does a decent job of telling its story, but it wasn’t satisfying. Seeing the Joker pop up as the main villain for the fourth game in a row was annoying. After Arkham Origins ruined the Black Mask, I had hoped they were done with Mr. J. The Arkham Knight himself is another issue. In a major plot twist that will surprise nobody with a basic understanding of Batman’s history, the Arkham Knight is… just Jason Todd… I hated that twist when I first heard of it five years ago, and I hate it today. Jason Todd was the low hanging fruit that ruined a potentially intriguing villain. The game goes so far out of its way to make sure you know it’s Jason too. While he’s never been prominent in other Arkham games, you’ll watch many, fear-toxin induced, scenes featuring Robin’s bloody beat-down at the hand of the clown prince of crime. If they were so insistent on only using established characters, I’d had just used Slade Wilson.
Arkham Knight’s basic formula is barely changed, but the gameplay loop is altered drastically. Batman still runs, grapples, and glides around with the aid of many gadgets and his detective mode, but you’ll fight dozens of remote-controlled militia tanks with the Batmobile. While there’s still no Batwing, the car was something fans were clamoring for.
It might’ve been a wish best left unanswered. It controls extremely poorly normally, and in battle mode, it turns into a literal tank. You’ll have quite a few missions that are more tower defense than they are Batman. Unlike racing around, tank controls didn’t feel awful, but the mediocrity quickly got to me. I would groan every time I was forced to take the car.
Regular encounters don’t fare much better. Basic combat is unchanged. Batman is still just as fast and fluid as ever. Having to deal with medics, who revive knocked out foes, makes combat a chore. Fortunately, you can disable their backpacks with the disruptor. Predator missions are still just as fun to sneak around and pick foes off, but now you have to deal with giant thugs, cronies who can track your detective vision, and drones. Giant thugs must be saved for last as they take an eternity to beat down. Detective vision itself is annoying but required, and I found it hard to even find the guy tracking my vision. With the remote hacking device, drones become much easier to deal with at the end of the game, but they still see a ton and deal way too much damage.
A big flaw in previous entries was the lack of the Bat-Family. Alfred has always been around, but it didn’t make sense that Robin, Nightwing, or even Oracle were never called on for assistance. Arkham City did prominently feature Catwoman, but everyone else was relegated to DLC maps. In Arkham Knight, Batman runs into his partners quite commonly. You’ll even take on tag-team missions! In these missions, both heroes work at the same time to wipe out an army of thugs or a boss. The player can control either hero and is working to keep up a combo and perform a duel-team takedown. I loved these segments, but wish Robin and Nightwing were accessible to freeroam within Gotham. Oh well, I suppose the LEGO Batman 2 will remain the best Batman game.
Arkham Knight was a middle of the road experience. I experienced tons of bugs and glitches on my journey. Because I didn’t feel the need to 100% the game, I saw no reward or true ending. The main campaign just sort of drops off. “Congratulations, Scarecrow is in Arkham and Jason Todd just kinda disappeared!” There certainly was a reason I lost interest in checking this one out. It just took me five years to find out exactly why.