Batman: Arkham Knight is a brash attention-hungry action game, but it’s at its best when nothing is happening. Gliding through the depressed, rain-sodden streets of Gotham is arguably this series fi nale’s richest experience, and with his new batsuit, Bruce Wayne can move through the dark dystopia with grace and fi nesse. As far as video game worlds go, Gotham is among the most beautiful and atmospheric hellscapes ever made: it’s a broken, evacuated city, but you never feel like you want to join the exodus. If you loved the previous games in the series, or if you just love Batman, you’ll already have played and probably completed Arkham Knight.
It’s undeniably polished, and the Batman power fantasy has never felt better than it does here. Picking up after the previous game, Joker is emphatically dead (he’s cremated in the very fi rst scene in the game), but now Gotham has another foe to contend with in the form of the mysterious ‘Arkham Knight’. The city has been evacuated, Scarecrow’s meatheaded underlings are roaming the streets for violent distractions, and the series’ fresh mix of puzzle solving, stealth and head punching is all intact. The last thing anyone ever asked of a Batman game is tank warfare though, but inexplicably, that’s the major new feature Rocksteady has ushered in with Arkham Knight. Game audiences want novelty (under the guise of ‘innovation’), but it’s rare for a new feature to be as tone deaf as Arkham Knight’s Batmobile, which disrupts the oddly meditative pace of the previous games in the series.
Cruising around in the Batmobile is fun, but not as fun as swooping quietly through the streets. Meanwhile, the Batmobile’s tank combat setting — which activates strafi ng and weapons — is well executed but an unwelcome change of pace. I dreaded every wheeled combat scenario, but the game keeps them coming thick and fast. The Batmobile isn’t used solely for combat and tearing chunks off Gotham tenement buildings at high speed. You can use a winch to manipulate the game world, and you’ll be regularly called upon to use this feature in Arkham Knight’s puzzle scenarios, where Batman’s ability to control the vehicle remotely comes in handy. While the Batmobile is hit and miss and the other staple gameplay elements orthodox, Arkham Knight really nails storytelling and presentation.
It’s hard to convey without spoiling certain plot beats, but the way Arkham Knight melds cinematic moments with exploration cements Rocksteady as a master of video game storytelling: no easy task in an open world game. It’s a shame then, that the final Arkham outing is marred with an overburden of features: in addition to the Batmobile, Batman’s array of tools and attack combos consistently put the player at the bottom of a learning curve. Despite its shortcomings though, Arkham Knight will be remembered for its atmosphere and roleplaying. Whether you love the Batman fantasy or not, it’s difficult to resist the pull of this bleak city.