As frustrated as we are, we feel sorry for Rocksteady. We’d been looking forward to a new Batman game for what felt like ages, teased with amazing looking footage of the batmobile and a truly open Gotham. When release day finally came, we booted up the PC version, were blown away by the opening scenes, then we got in the batmobile. Unlike many, we don’t mind the gameplay that’s been introduced with the batmobile; it’s a nice change of pace, cruising around Gotham feels appropriately chaotic and the new design looks pretty great. No, our problem was that the batmobile essentially killed the game. With framerate drops into the low teens (while running an AMD r9 290 4gb and an i7 4790k and 16GM RAM) it made the game completely unplayable. So you can imagine our excitement was dulled when we realised to play the game anytime soon we had to buy the Xbox One version (that is considerably more expensive) while the PC version still isn’t fixed (as of 11th July).
Thankfully the Xbox One version runs amazingly well. True it’s only at 900p/30fps but it stays true to that almost constantly, and it’s even better on PS4 from what we’ve seen. On consoles the technical issues simply aren’t present and you can enjoy the game as it was intended. Now we’ve finished the game, here’s what we think.
At it’s heart, this is an Arkham game like any other. The combat has been refined over the years, but it’s still the same mix of rhythm-game brawling, dropping down from the rafters in predator mode and occasionally using gadgets to control your enemies. As ever, it really does make you feel like Batman. If anything, the almost mandatory requirement for a sequel to contain new gadgets has made the predator mode too easy. A new voice synthesiser allows you to give orders to the hired goons, taking out the most difficult targets through a combination of booby trapping crates and sending unwitting goons to their doom. Thankfully Rocksteady were aware of this and sensibly after a couple of ‘accidents’ enemies will become wise to your method of attack, but usually by then you’ve done enough damage to finish the rest off easily.
The elephant in the room of course is the Batmobile. For a hero who prides himself on not commiting too many murders, it seems odd that he would choose to bring a literal tank to the streets of Gotham. It even has a main cannon that can destroy drone tanks as well as some ‘non-lethal’ rounds to take down pedestrians. We don’t know a lot about police tactics but we’re pretty sure a round that’s strong enough to send you flying across a street is likely to do some lasting damage. A little too much of the game is taken up with the batmobile sections. While we found some of them exciting and the races in particular were a huge amount of fun even if they don’t really ‘fit’ with the rest of the game, having nearly every boss fight and important part of the story take place in the batmobile, where you’re simply driving around hitting weak spots gets a little repetitive. For the open world it’s a great new feature, but when we play a Batman story, we want to actually be playing as Batman, not as some kind of robot tank commander.
Graphically the game is absolutely beautiful Gotham is realised in an art style that’s a little different to what we’ve seen before, but completely fits the lore with neon signs next to gothic architecture. It’s nearly constantly raining in the game and the water pours down your cape and across the batmobile (which also gets covered in mud if you’re not very careful) in a completely convincing way. 30fps isn’t a problem at all here and the complete lack of load times between interiors, exteriors, and other islands is stunning. This is a detailed and impressive city, and to get it working and looking this good on the current-gen consoles is spectacular.
Although most of Gotham is included, it’s a shame that we don’t get to go to Wayne Manor or Arkham Aslyum, everything takes place with three islands within the city and although you can see other landmarks in the distance, they’re simply there to look pretty.
The plot is a great Batman story for comic fans, with loads of familiar faces and some genuinely high stakes. We can’t help but feel anyone not familiar with the Batman universe would find it difficult to care about a few of the beats but there’s a fair amount of information hidden away in the menus and in the police stations to get most people up to date. This feels like it was a game made for fans of the comics rather than the films and it’s these people that are going to get the most out of it.
Overall, Arkham Knight is a triumph. Yes it’s broken on PC, yes there’s too much batmobile, and the fact the ‘real’ ending is hidden behind completing 249 (mostly mind-numbingly boring) riddler challenges is ridiculous and you should just watch in on Youtube. But these are the only real issues in what is otherwise an outstanding game. We really hope this is the last of the Arkham series and Rocksteady turn their attention to another character soon. Constantine anyone?