I’ve always felt to get a proper feel of a game one should spend some time with it and play around. 10 hours has always felt to be a pretty good length of time everything is still fresh but the initial joy (or dismay) has worn off a little and you are thinking a little clearer. By the way I’m playing on the PS4 version and it’s running like a dream its a real shame our PC friends can’t seem to experience this game its a true gem. Also these are just my personal thoughts on the game and not a review, so with that in mind in no particular order here are 10 things I’ve been thinking of in the 10 or so hours I’ve played Batman: Arkham Knight.
Warning There Will Be Major Spoilers for the early game from here on out
1) Voice Acting: To be honest one of the biggest draws to the original Arkham Asylum was the fact Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and the main cast of Batman: The Animated Series was going to be providing voices. For me the voices have always been a key part of the franchise as has its thematic connections to the seminal animated TV show. Actually the mere fact Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were not Batman and the Joker respectively had massively turned me off Arkham Origins, I didn’t even touch the game until I got it discounted by over 90% and even then never finished it. For me the voices were nothing but pale imitations especially the Joker.
That said I know with each passing game less of the TAS cast has returned however Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill have always provided the base and here that is no exception putting in so far pitch perfect performances each. However without any doubt its the supporting cast that shines with returning members like Grey Delisle as Catwoman hilariously using the same voice as Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender, as well as Johnathan Banks better known as Mike from Breaking Bad as Commissioner Gordon and the amazing English actor John Noble as Scarecrow. In fact I find John Noble TOO GOOD as Scarecrow has never really seemed to be an actually competent enemy until now showing why Rocksteady thought he could be a suitable antagonist alongside the titular Arkham Knight.
2) Combat: To say combat is improved is a criminal understatement. While the free roaming brawling has always been a strong feature of the series since Arkham City in this game it really shines. I’m not quite sure what it is but it just feels better; more visceral and less annoying. The increased amount of enemies where its not uncommon to fight a group of 20 or more random mooks coupled with the steady 30 FPS of the PS4 version (I assume same goes for the XB1) is an absolute joy. Furthermore due to sheer size of the game the battlefields are far more open allowing you to achieve combo’s of 30+ quite a bit easier then previous games. All around the combat feels almost the same as it did in Arkham Asylum all those years ago except tweaked to perfection in Arkham Knight. This is the first game where I was truly thankful for the new consoles power under the hood.
3) Batmobile: Ugh... god damn this car. I’ve gotten better with it but its still a damn pain to use and use it often one must. It’s now an intrical part of the design of the game as its oftentimes the fast way to get around the admitedly gigantic map. However whenever you get into a unskippable chace or race you have to hope to god the thing doesn’t do something stupid because often time it does. I’ve learned over my many hours with the thing to use it better most notably letting go of the acceleration trigger (full disclosure I hate racing games I’m no good at them) however give me Geralt’s Roach any day for transportation. Furthermore if you’ve read anything about the thing you’d know the controls are just weird; where there should be brakes is instead Battle Mode and so on. The funny thing is I’ve actually taken to using Battle Mode as an emergency break due to its better handling.
Speaking of Battle Mode this is where the Batmobile really shines as a slow (but manuverable) hulking piece of metal death. A few things stick out one somebody seriously like the Seige Tank from Starcraft 2 the Battle Mode is very reminiscent of its design and two Nolan’s influence over the character is complete. No longer is the Batmoble content to be just a car all be it one with a rocket boost, now it must be a full on tank and trust me the mooks even the Arkham Knight recognize this. Well I suppose when you go to a gun fight why not bring a bloody cannon.
4) Cinematic Feel: This is a tricky one as these games have always had a kind of cinematic feel to them however without any doubt this one take the cake in that regard. There are certain scenes that would feel right at home on a television or movie screen. One such scene happens realtivly early in the main quest where it perfectly adapts one of the most poignent and powerful moments in the comic books, I’d say more but this is one thing I really don’t want to spoil. Needless to say I feel its very well done and shows how much confidence Rocksteady has in their abilities as creators to handle of this beloved property.
Furthermore the incredible use of music to set the mood at times really adds to the tension of certain scenes. However I’ve started to notice a little over reliance on one particular trick from a directors handibag the jump scare. Seriously they are everywhere and sadly oftentimes come in tandem with strong emotional music to the point I almost expect something to happen because that kind of music starts playing. However that being said overall the game while certainly not the first to try to achieve this kind of cinematic feel is probably one of the better ones in executing on it.
5) Nostalgia: As I mentioned above one of the key aspects of the Arkham series for me is its respect for the Batman lore. Key elements of Batman exist within these games that for a fan is just so sweet. However if you’re a fan of The Animated Series this feeling is even more so. Why is that because Rocksteady has put Easter Eggs and Quests just for you. Remember the Grey Ghost as voiced by Adam West? Well the movie posters are all over Gotham. How about the Man Bat which memorably appeared in The Animated Series pilot episode he’s a full on villain (yes I know he’s in the comics too). Seriously just ten hours in and this really feels like playing an episode of the series sometimes, far more then Arkham Asylum or Arkham City ever did.
6) Character Progression: The more I play the game the more I come to realize how much I like it. Rather then the standard new level new upgrade progression of previous games Arkham Knight really shakes things up. Now its more of six seperate webs of upgrades that focus on powering up aspects of gameplay. I personally prefer as always to upgrade the Batsuit to get the passive bonus’ following first then go for the more advanced stuff.
You of course power up through Wayne Tech points however now they are very common. Basically every time you do a section of the quest you get Wayne Tech points, hell at one point I had over 10 just hanging around unused because I forgot about them. This is good because everything costs more to get the really good upgrades you need to use anywhere from six to eight Wayne Tech points, to fully upgrade your armor you need 20 points. It forces a level of thought in character progression that is actually more advanced then some JRPG’s I’ve played. Overall its a welcome improvement and really increases my enjoyment of the game.
7) Puzzles: Well these are everywhere the Riddler really upped his game in this one and I’ve found them to be both infuriating and some of the best moments in the game. They’re infuriating as they’re so obvious at times of what you need to do but you just cant seem to do them. However once you realize the error of your ways you can clear them in minutes and the euphoria of victory is so good. Really I’m not sure if I love or hate them by this point but they certainly keep me glued to my controller. I’m not joking last night I had noticed 35 minutes had passed when I FINALLY beat this one Riddler Challenge where despite figuring out the trick almost instantly I could just not pull it off... until I could which just seems to be how these things go.
8) Gotham: While not a feature in its own regard like Rapture was in Bioshock, Gotham really comes alive. The perpetual rain, the art deco style of the buildings this is the Gotham I’ve always imagined since I was a kid. Clearly taking influence from The Animated Series Gotham is gorgeous. With every detail loving etched it’s a real pleasure to just fly across and admire the city. However at the same time is a great pleasure to go around and destroy it as well and man do I destroy it. With so much of the city being destructible it’s a real pleasure to trash actually. It’s a weird combination of reverence and malice I take when running around Gotham from peacefully gliding through the air to crushing everything under the tires of the Batmobile. Really I’m happy Rocksteady finally had the power available to realize this city that feels really feels alive and vibrant.
9) Technical Performance: Remember this is the PS4 I’m talking about our poor PC friends really have a reason to be sour about this game as on the PS4 its amazing. To be honest I’m not even sure of where to begin here the game is that good. While other recent games like the Witcher 3 experienced some form of uneven frame rates for every version (minus PC) Arkham Knight plays amazingly smooth. Even doing battle with 20 mooks and 10 tanks (I’m exaggerating) the game still runs perfectly, while some purists will be turned off by the 30 FPS lock I can assure you while 60 would be nice it’s certainly not a requirement for the enjoyment of the game.
Beyond that at native 1920x1080 the game is gorgeous and the difference in detail is noticeable over the previous games 720p native resolution. Normally I don’t care about resolution and instead point to art direction however here the resolution really allows the beautiful style of the game to pop in every regard. From the shine of Batman’s armor due to the rain or the beautiful vistas when gliding above Gotham the game looks amazing. Really I’m amazed the thing actually is still running on the Unreal Engine 3 even if heavily modified by this point.
10) Overall: Arkham Knight is the game Batman has always deserved and is finally able to see realized due to the power of the new consoles. Despite its infuriatingly glaring flaws it’s still an amazing game and one fans of Batman must play or fans of action games in general should too. It’s big, it’s bad, it’s Batman. What more is there to say?