You may know that I was rather excited for the release of Arkham Knight. I was through the moon. That was largely because I loved the other two games so much, yes I’m excluding Arkham Origins because that was not by Rocksteady, but WB Montreal. I was excited to delve back into the world. There would be new mechanics with the Batmobile. There would be more story. Best of all there would just be more Batman greatness. I was looking forward to that, but what I got was a complex mush of feelings that I’m still sorting out two weeks after I finished the game.
You have to understand, Arkham Knight brought back a lot of what I loved in interesting ways. From the jump you are given a number of Batman’s gadgets. yes, you still need to earn some of them back, but the basic stuff is all there. I was happy not having to checkpoint various points in the story just to get certain items back in my roster. There were still some gadgets you didn’t get right away, but I liked that those gadgets you previously had but didn’t at game start were tweaked in some way. In most of these cases there was some sort of added functionality that only helped enhance the game.
The fighting mechanics were as fluid as always. The majority of the time Batman does what you want, when you want, and to whatever character you are currently beating down. It was satisfying, yet frustrating at times. There were moments, particularly when executing a blade dodge where the camera would suddenly swing and what was a successful blade dodge ended in you getting hit. It sucked on occasion, but at the end of the day I enjoyed most brawling in the game. It was fulfilling to hit people in the face and some of the new takedown animations were pretty cool. To make the fights a little bit tougher there are often medics running around in the group who will not only revive people you’ve already taken down, but will also electrify some of your opponents. You learn pretty quickly that your fights will go easiest if you can take out the medics and the big guys first.
I really enjoyed the ability to switch off with other characters as Batman received help from some of his allies. Being able to play as other characters was a nice little highlight, that I would have enjoyed if there was more of it. It happened so infrequently that I longed for it, but enough that it left a standing impression. As always, I really enjoyed the fluid nature of playing with Catwoman. Considering Arkham City had an entire DLC set, I wasn’t surprised to fall right back into the rhythm of playing her character. Jumping in as Nightwing and Robin also left me feeling like playing as other characters was enjoyable. Also the noticeable speed boosts made it feel like you were playing a different character even if the mechanics weren’t that different. Another commendable thing from the different characters was that they did play slightly different, but not so much that you would get lost.
Stealth was notably more difficult in this game for a few reasons. The first being that Arkham Knight is said to have trained a subsect of the thugs you fight against. That means he taught them your methods of stealth. The result was that moving through grates required caution. Also the henchmen would pick up pretty quickly on your methods and learned. You took out someone from a grate? Well hope that no one found the body other wise you had maybe one more grate takedown if one of the incendiaries didn’t get you first. You used a vantage point and someone saw you retreat back to one? Watch out because they are going to start mining them. You took out someone randomly when no one was around? Then you better disable that sentry gun before it’s deployed. Not to mention that some of the locations weren’t as friendly to stealth as others and it made for more complicated stealth sequences. That was not a bad thing. Instead it made it a tiny bit more challenging and as a result more fulfilling when you took them all down.
The game is titled Arkham Knight and rightly so. That doesn’t mean that he’s the main villain in this, he’s just the only one that matters. No the big bad in this game is Scarecrow who makes his appearances and is satisfactory. However, you never really feel any connection to Scarecrow. Much of the credit and the most interesting aspects of the game all tied back to the titular Arkham Knight. he is this mysterious figure who knows Batman almost better than he does. In some ways it’s like he’s fighting a militarized version of himself. That was a very interesting element to play with. As the game went on you were feed subtle hints toward his identity and motivations. This ended up working really well for me. I ended up loving the Arkham Knight and his reveal. Heck, all the little elements of this story just really worked for me, except when they focused just on Scarecrow ( and I do not include the finale with him). I was invested in that story and thus everything else felt like it was getting in the way.
The biggest irritation that I felt playing the game was the prevalence of the Batmobile. When they announced that the Batmobile was coming to this game a lot of people were excited. I was not. I hate driving in games. The main reason that I stopped playing Watch Dogs was because the city was so big that running around it was not really feasible if you wanted to play the game in any sort of timely manner. You had to drive and I hated it so I put it down. Now, Batman I had a much larger investment in, but still the Batmobile was not selling me. As time went on, I did grow more intrigued by this Batmobile, but I still wasn’t sold.
Honestly, the execution of the Batmobile is what turned me off. Don’t get me wrong, it looks fine. It also handles okay. My real problem was how heavily the game relied on this stupid Batmobile. So much of the game became reliant on using the Batmobile to finish certain aspects of the game. The only Batmobile centric parts of the game were the puzzle like platforming that you had to do with the Batmobile. Every time I had to do a tank battle, my excitement dwindled. For the most part I could get through those. They were annoying, occasionally satisfying, but doable. Then there were the races. Nope. Just plain nope. I do not play racing games for a reason. However doing that became integral to finishing certain parts of the game and they still remain unfinished. Sorry Catwoman I guess you’ll never be free (which is a shame because I loved playing as her). I just don’t care enough.
When it became clear that I wouldn’t be finishing this game because of the Batmobile, my interest in collecting all the Riddler trophies dwindled. Still I went about every so often collecting them. I did after all collect them all in the first two games. It was fun and challenging, but enjoyable. Then I headed for one Riddler trophy that I attained by beating up a thug (was that necessary? I kind of liked just finding maps by exploring) and it turned out to be a race. Yes. Another race requiring me to climb back into the Batmobile and race across part of the city under a time limit. Nope. I was done right then and there. It was clear that so much of this game was designed for the Batmobile not just to be a useful addition like a gadget. No, the Batmobile was like another playable character in the game, only I hated the mechanics.
Oops, I forgot to mention that many of the side missions just felt like ticking things off a list rather than legitimate additions to the story or the world. I probably enjoyed the Opera missions the most. I actually got to be a detective with those. I just stopped caring about the missions.
Ultimately, I ended up feeling so lukewarm about the game. Despite the great story, I just don’t think I will ever replay this game. Again, I need to reiterate that I don’t think that this game was bad. However, it just wasn’t the game I wanted when I signed up for another Batman game. It was too much Batmobile and not enough Batman. It was too much indifference when I stepped away from the main story line. It just didn’t hold the same charm and excitement that the other games did.
What did you think of the game?