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Jonzor's Video Game Reviews (41)

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Batman: Arkham Knight 4.5/5
Magicka 4/5
Bravely Default 4/5
Awesomenauts 4/5
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon 4/5
Far Cry 3 4/5
Halo: Combat Evolved An... 4/5
Crysis Warhead 4.5/5
Crysis 4.5/5
Final Fantasy: The 4 He... 1.5/5
The Legend of Zelda: A ... 4.5/5
Borderlands 2 4/5
Final Fight 3/5
Command & Conquer 4: Ti... 1.5/5
Resident Evil: Revelati... 3.5/5
Bastion 4/5
Defense Grid: The Awake... 4.5/5
Borderlands 4/5
Mass Effect 3 4.5/5
Mass Effect 2 4.5/5
Mass Effect 4/5
Batman: Arkham Asylum 4.5/5
Ikaruga 4/5
The Legend of Zelda: Oc... 5/5
Mario Kart: Double Dash... 4.5/5

Next 16
 

Batman: Arkham Knight   PlayStation 4 

Vehicular Man-severely-injure-but-NOT-slaughter    4.5/5 stars

Did you like the previous Batman: Arkham *insert noun* games? Well then you can probably guess how you’ll feel about this one. Rocksteady’s magnum opus for the Caped Crusader does a good job of not fixing what isn’t broke, and also managing to find one or two new things in the Batman universe it hasn’t wrung for nostalgia to throw into a game.

Full disclosure: I’ve played Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, but NOT Arkham Origins (made by a different developer than the other Arkham games), so when I reference “the other games” I speak only to those two games. Apparently, so does Rocksteady, who considers this game the end of a “trilogy”.

(I am going to do a little spoiling here and there to set the stage for you, so be warned. If you haven’t played Arkham City and/or Arkham Knight, tread lightly till I say otherwise)

*SPOILER WARNING*

The story of Arkham Knight picks up where Arkham City left off, almost quite literally. Arkham City ended with the Joker succumbing to his disease and apparently dying. Arkham Knight doubles down on this with the opening of the game being Joker’s cremation. Scarecrow then threatens Gotham with a cloud of fear gas, and the majority of the town is evacuated. This leaves behind only the scummiest of the scum (or as I like to think of them “People you don’t mind running over with the Batmobile”) to loot and pillage.

Batman quickly springs into action and begins the adventure of stopping Scarecrow, but is thrown a twist when it is revealed that Scarecrow isn’t alone. He has an ally in the never-before-seen Arkham Knight, who seems AWFULLY well-versed on the Batman. The Knight has brought a literal army with him, complete with a supply of tanks and aircraft that Bruce Wayne wouldn’t have had the coin to pay for.

You’ll chase these two all over the city in your sweet-ass Batmobile, and as always, stumble across a few other well-known associates and villains from the comics history.

As an added narrative twist here, as Batman battles the Scarecrow and his fear gas, he begins hallucinating the Joker. This gives you Mark Hamil’s timeless Joker one more go around as your snarky, cackling sidekick, despite his body going up in smoke at the start of the game. You find yourself constantly running across the Joker atop buildings you land on or commenting on decisions you just made in the story. It’s sort of a testament to how close Batman and the Joker were that Batman’s subconscious does a spot-on Joker.

All the characters is the game are well-voiced, and the game wisely finds a way to wrangle Kevin Conroy as Batman back alongside Mark Hamil as the Joker, DOESN’T land Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn (boo) but DOES get Tara Strong to do the voice (yay) but DOESN’T get Tara Strong to do Barbra Gordon (boo), for some reason. Newcomer to the Batman voice world (but not the acting world proper) is John Noble, who does a fantastic job as Scarecrow and hopefully will turn up in more video games.

*SPOILER ENDS*

The main story is of the usually high quality seen in previous games, plenty of reason to Batman around the city and pull in multiple characters for fan service, and still better than we’re used to seeing in video games.

Side quests come in a variety of forms, both in terms of gameplay AND narrative. While some are strictly reasons to get into fights, other side quests have you playing more detective than strong man. Some have you working solo, some bring in people to assist you, giving the game a chance to build on more relationships for Batman than previous games. The game also finds ways to strain and test those relationships in meaningful ways, so the characters aren’t just there for the sake of making the game bigger. The game does a good job of often slipping these side objectives to you through in-game chatter. You may hear a police helicopter talking about seeing a body on a building, so if you head over to where the chopper is and hunt around, you’ll find the body they speak of for a side quest. Other times, Alfred will chime in with new info from a partner, telling you that you can make new progress in this specific quest now if you so choose.

What IS there for the sake of making the game bigger is the Batmobile. There’s been plenty of talk about whether or not the Batmobile gameplay “fits” with the rest of the gameplay outlined by the franchise, and this isn’t a pointless discussion, but one thing I DO feel solidly about is that the Batmobile is largely AWESOME. I really dig the tank combat sequences, I love how indestructible it feels slamming into buildings on wide turns and crashing through statues, I love running over jerks trying to hassle me in the streets when I’m not in the mood to punch my way out of a fight, I love the look of the thing, I liked how it was used in Riddler puzzles, I like how it was mandatory for some things and just a helpful shortcut on other things… I really just liked the whole thing. My one Batmobile-beef is car chase sequences. When the Batmobile has to chase down a car of people for whatever reason, it shouldn’t be THIS hard. Heavily armored personnel transports shouldn’t be turning on a dime at top speed like that, and crappy, busted up taxis shouldn’t be pacing the Batmobile on straight stretches of road. The Batmobile can be crazy fast and crazy armored and turn on a dime, but that’s because IT’S THE BATMOBILE. So, some of the chase sequences really got on my nerves, but other than that the Batmobile was a huge success.

When outside the Batmobile, the game is more or less what you remember. I like how some of the gimmicks during the “stalk a group of people and pick them off” portions are gone, so campy setups like the thugs being on heart rate monitors so you can’t knock them out have been left out. The soldiers trained by the Arkham Knight pick up on (and will try to outright counter) some of your tricks, pushing you to inject some variety into your takedowns. This is for your own benefit, the game is much more satisfying when you don’t play as a one-trick pony and instead leverage the full range of Bat-abilities at your disposal. The fist fights are as fluid as ever, and the sections where Batman has help from a partner work far better than I would have initially thought.

When the combat wholly stops, the game still can be quite entertaining. I really enjoyed the investigation of a car crash, piecing together what happened, and also enjoyed sections where Batman reviews footage of a set of security cameras looking for a hint about where to go next. Despite not being combat related, these sections still hold your attention as they’ll require an attention to detail in order for you to not miss anything.

As you move through the game, you’ll collect points leveling up to upgrade abilities, equipment, and the Batmobile. Some of these are fairly essential moving forward, but most of them are pretty voluntary. I think I finished with unspent points, as I just didn’t really feel like I needed anything the game was offering by then. Getting points for completing missions as well as earning XP means the stream of upgrades is quick and pretty constant. And for every twist the Arkham Knight’s army throws at you, you likely have an upgrade or two to counter, which makes for a fun arm’s race throughout the game. Many fights turn into you assessing which threats you’d like to disable before the fight starts and then finishing off what remains, so everyone will play a different way, depending on whether or not you want to get rid of medics or guys with stun guns or guys with guns and so on.

The visuals in this game continue the franchise’s tradition of exceptional looking games. Load times nearly exist only when starting a save file, making the technical achievement even more impressive. Batman looks great. Rain falling on the suit looks great. Concrete rubble flying off of buildings you crash into looks great. The draw distance is nearly infinite, so from the top of the tallest building you can see basically the whole city. Gotham is broken up into three separate islands, with each island having its own visual style and landmarks, so at a glance it’s fairly easy to tell where you are and which island you’re traveling to. While (admittedly) the city isn’t as big as I thought it would be leading up to the game’s release, it’s still a plenty big environment to play around in. It’s just not Grand Theft Auto, and it’s not really trying to be.

As with previous games, this game comes complete with a set of online challenges with enabled leaderboards. These are great for letting you spend more time with portions of the game you really enjoy, so if you like the Batmobile combat, there’s more of that to do. If you like the predator missions as you take out a room of people without being spotted, there’s more of that, too. And if you want to do it faster and better than anyone else on the planet, then you’re a lunatic, but best of luck to you.

Many of my complaints are of the small variety. Some Riddler challenges were unreasonably hidden or a little too hard to pull off even once you’d figured out what to do. There’s some pretty impressive suspension of disbelief required occasionally to keep you from wondering how on Earth did the Riddler building an underground race track/obstacle course for the Batmobile with just a handful of goons and without anyone noticing? And where the HELL is the Arkham Knight actually keeping all these tanks, because I swear I’ve blown up enough heavy armor to retake and hold Crimea.

All in all, I really don’t know what’s left for Rocksteady and the Arkham games after this. They’ve basically done everything they can think of, and they meant it when they said this game would end a trilogy. If no one ever made a Batman game again, it’d be okay, because it’s been done, and been done basically perfectly. By the time you play all of the Arkham series, if your Bat-lust isn’t satisfied, I don’t know what more you’re looking for.

In truth, we really need to be hoping that Batman gets a break, and someone picks another superhero universe to do this well. I can only hope one day Superman gets ONE game as good as any of the Arkham games have been.

 

 


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