Open mouthed, I sat watching the first 15 minutes or so of Batman Arkham Knight speechless. The visuals were stunning, the audio was spot on and the scene was pretty much set for Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham finale as Gotham City descended into chaos. Complete and utter chaos as normal.
I sat and hoped that the rest of the game would live up to its opening sequence.
With the largest open world Gotham City that Batman has ever had the pleasure of fighting crime in, Arkham Knight has seen Rocksteady most definitely conclude the series with the biggest of bangs.
Batman has been drafted in to save Gotham for one final time – this time from the clutches of Scarecrow, attempting to stop the madman from releasing his fear toxin throughout the city. With a starring role from the newly created Arkham Knight and many run ins with the likes of Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn, the Bat and his usual accomplices are up against time in their effort to prevent Gotham from being overrun by crime.
With each of the villains holding fairly sizeable side stories to accompany that of the main Scarecrow/Arkham Knight campaign, there are quite literally tens of hours of gameplay to be had, as the Bat swoops from rooftop to rooftop with ease. Add in the addition of The Riddler and his couple of hundred puzzles to solve and you can be sure you’ll still be venturing out and about in Gotham for a good few months.
With the whole city completely open to exploration from the very first minute right up to the very last, getting around Gotham has never been easier, as aside from the usual rooftop shenanigans that Batman and Robin usually get up to, Rocksteady have treated us to extensive use of the stunning Batmobile for the first time.
Driving through the streets in the world’s most nimblest tank takes some getting use to, but as soon as you nail down the controls, and the constant changing from road rocket to powerful armoured killing machine, then you’ll wonder how on earth we ever got by without it before. Gone are the days of relying solely on the Bat’s gliding and grappling abilities to get from point to point, as a quick look at the road and a call for the car sees it thundering into action, ready to take on automated drones, petty criminals and some of the most hardcore APC’s you’re ever likely to see. But none of those are a real match for the Batmobile and you’ll have great fun in taking on some of the underworld’s finest, especially once you’ve got it fully upgraded.
Manage to drag yourself away from the pure destruction caused by the car for a minute or two and the usual hand-to-hand combat that the Arkham series is famed for is present in abundance. With Batman kitted out with both new and old tech, the fighting is smooth and fluid, with you needing nimble fingers to despatch the biggest of crowds safely. Tag teaming with some of Batman’s most famous friends is delightful and it’s lovely to be able to spend some time in the shoes of Robin and Nightwing, even if that time is a little too brief for my liking. But whether you decide on the full frontal assault, hoping that your skills will be too much for the gangs of Gotham, or concluding that a more stealthy approach is needed with silent takedowns, hiding under grates or actioning the new ‘fear’ takedowns with their sexy slo-mo action shots to perfection, the combat in Arkham Knight is as solid as it has ever been. Gadgets are easily accessible via a fly wheel and quick changing of gadgets during combat is never a problem. Combos are yet again key in the Bat’s fight against crime and precision timing is a much needed commodity should you wish to rack up the required XP in order to upgrade a multitude of options. With the ability to focus on one specific ability or deciding to spread your upgrade bonuses across your combat skills, gadget skills or car control, Batman Arkham Knight can play out exactly how you want it to.
The story sees both cutscenes and preworked set pieces beautifully realised, with some of the more standout affairs strangely all featuring a character that we thought we had seen the last of. Without spoiling the story too much, the Joker still plays a huge role in the Dark Knight’s story and is, at least for me, the standout showstopper once again.
With the action taking place from the usual third person perspective, it’s nice to see a few minutes of first person action included from time to time. With the visuals being utterly outstanding and the audio resonating through your head with the sheer power of the Batmobile standing head and shoulders above anything else, there is very little doubt that Rocksteady have pulled an absolute blinder with Batman Arkham Knight – taking everything that was great about the previous games in the series and just topping it all with that X-factor which takes the Bat into the next generation of gaming in style.
Numerous AR challenges are also present for those times when you only have a few minutes to mess around in Gotham and whether you’re taking on some hand-to-hand combat scenarios, blasting the Batmobile down the streets of the city, or putting it up against some heavily armoured drones, the challenges fill a gap whenever you need a quick blast.
Batman Arkham Knight is so good, that I’m going to seriously struggle to find any negatives to point out. Yes, much of what is included has been seen before in the previous games, and yes there is the odd hiccup when in the midst of fighting crime the odd stutter rears its ugly head. I’ve even experienced a couple of complete game freezes during my time in Gotham. But none of that even detracts for a second from the well scripted scenes that the vast majority of Arkham Knight are made up of.
Does Batman Arkham Knight live up to its unbelievably atmospheric opening sequence?
It sure does! In fact, it’s quite possibly the best Xbox One game you can play today.