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The Knight is dark and full of terrors

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    Batman: Arkham Knight

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    The Knight is dark and full of terrors

    So, here we are. The epic Batman video game trilogy that Rocksteady created with Arkham Asylum last-gen has finally reached its conclusion. Batman: Arkham Knight has been one of the most anticipated games of the year for many, but is it able to reach the bar set by its predecessors? The answer is both yes and no.

    The game is basically the same setup as Arkham City, wherein Batman is able to freely explore the game world, this time the majority of Gotham City itself, using a variety of abilities and gadgets. Players are free to pursue the main story mission and side missions at their leisure, or they can just glide around and beat up bad guys.

    The main new addition to the Arkham open world is the Batmobile, and it’s the most polarizing gameplay mechanic that the series has utilized to date. The Batmobile just had to be done, but I think Rocksteady went a little bit overboard with its implementation.

    In the game, the Batmobile is able to transform into a tank, which can be used to destroy the various enemy drones throughout the city. These enemy vehicles are extremely dangerous and if they spot Batman, he’s basically toast. This requires the player to utilize the Batmobile for exploration a lot more than is necessary, and while the Batmobile is really fun to drive and controls very smoothly, it gets old as Rocksteady relies on it way too much.

    Not only are players forced to use the Batmobile way too much in simply getting around the city, but it’s also a requirement to solve many of the Riddler puzzles and many of the puzzles in the game in general. Sometimes these are clever, and require the player to figure out how to utilize the vehicle’s gadgets in harmony in order to get through certain challenges, but most of the time, they’re bland. Simply put, the Batmobile is at its best when the player is choosing to use it, not when they’re forced to use it.

    Batmobile aside, the rest of the game plays like an improved version of its predecessors. Batman uses the tools in his utility belt to get through the game’s many obstacles, while relying on stealth takedowns and brutal hand to hand combat when necessary.

    The combat in the game is virtually untouched from the others, though it’s definitely improved. Batman has more moves than ever at his disposal, including tag team moves with the Batmobile and other heroes. The other heroes are a part of the game’s dual play functionality, which allows Batman to take on groups of thugs alongside the likes of Nightwing, Robin, and Catwoman, with the player able to switch between the playable characters at will.

    Speaking of playable characters, there are a couple of other instances in which the player is able to take control of someone other than Batman. This is very refreshing and while living the ultimate Batman fantasy is a blast, make no mistake, these little moments really help the game’s pace.

    More or less, this is the same experience that veterans of Arkham City can expect, except with more features. However, one area where Arkham Knight severely suffers is its side missions, which are unfortunately more reminiscent of Arkham Origins than Arkham City.

    While Arkham Knight has numerous side missions that stand out as a cut above the rest, the sad fact of the matter is the majority of them are highly boring and extremely repetitive. The game falls back on typical open world cliches, like forcing the player to complete a different flavor of the same task 10 to 15 times, or more, just to enjoy additional content. Putting giant roadblocks in front of better stuff is not really fun, unless the content itself is compelling. In Arkham Knight, it mostly feels like a chore.

    That being said, there are still enough side missions that are engaging and fun to make up for the stinkers. Furthermore, the side missions themselves feel to have more weight than before, as players can see the fruit of their efforts in the Gotham City Police Department. All supervillains and thugs that are apprehended by the police are taken to the lockup, and it’s cool to see the prison begin with just a spattering of baddies at the start to later be packed to the ceiling.

    Batman: Arkham Knight picks up after the events of Arkham City, and features the Scarecrow as well as the titular Arkham Knight as the main antagonists. Basically, Gotham has been mostly evacuated as Scarecrow has threatened to cover it in his fear toxin. This has allowed crime to run even more rampant than usual, and so Batman has to focus on taking down Scarecrow along with a multitude of others from his rogues gallery all in one thrilling night.

    The plot itself is not quite on the level of Arkham City, but it’s still enjoyable, satisfying, and brilliantly performed by the voice actors. The cut-scenes are absolutely gorgeous, and each one is a treat. I will say that the matter of the Arkham Knight’s identity, which was meant to be a big twist, is so blatantly obvious that it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed, but otherwise the writers did a superb job with the story of the game.

    Arkham Knight is one of the few games that is actually exclusive to the new-gen consoles, which I appreciate, and it definitely shows. There is a staggering amount of detail in the environment, with gorgeous lighting, character models, and destructibility. Better yet, there’s no load times after booting up the game for the first time, which is extremely impressive, even if the open world is mostly lifeless.

    While the open world itself doesn’t have much to do in terms of recreational activities like other games in the sandbox genre might, the game’s universe doesn’t feel shallow. There are references to a greater DC Universe scattered everywhere for eagle eyed (and eared) players to pick up on, and the characters and plot are fleshed out by the chattering of the thugs on the street. Like in previous games, batman can pick up the conversations of his enemies, and oftentimes their talks are really interesting to listen to, and truly add to the overall experience.

    This is just another testament to Arkham Knight’s sound design, which is really in a league of its own. The voice acting quality is absolutely off the charts, and the game’s music is pulled off perfectly. I have nothing bad to say about the sound design in Arkham Knight, and I applaud Rocksteady for pulling it off so well.

    Roughly, the main story and most of the side missions will take 20 hours to complete. However, the worst side missions, also the longest, should take on another 5 to 10 hours after that. Throw in the achievements to earn, challenges to master, and the various pre-order DLC packs that one may or may not have, and Arkham Knight has plenty to do and is well worth the asking price.

    While Batman: Arkham Knight didn’t meet the expectations set for me by Arkham City thanks to the overuse of the Batmobile and some disappointingly predictable plot developments, it’s still one of the best superhero games ever made, and I can’t stress that enough. It’s a gorgeous game with a fighting system that’s still the best around, coupled with the most genuine of Batman experiences. If you’ve been waiting for a game that’s good enough to justify upgrading from your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 to the Xbox One or PS4, Batman: Arkham Knight certainly fits that bill.

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