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Batman: Arkham Knight Review - Predictable Story, Fantastic Game

Jonathan Bolding | 22 Jun 2015 19:00
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All the core gameplay is still superb, and the variety of different fights you're thrown into is a real challenge to players' skills on higher difficulties - requiring you to master your quick gadgets and tactics, as well as your fight positioning, to progress. It's hard to argue with the core gameplay loop of punch and counterpunch, timed hit and specialty attack sequence. Even if sometimes the field gets cluttered, the hardest fights in the game have pretty convenient outs or clever tricks that let you accomplish them without too many restarts. The teamup fights that were added for this game are incredibly dynamic and fun, though far less challenging than solo fights thanks to the addition of powerful team takedowns that eliminate even the strongest enemies instantly. New players to the series should be warned that there's not much time spent tutorializing or teaching you about the things you could do in previous games which make repeat appearances from the start in this one, but you can practice in "VR Training" mode to get a re-teach on the basics. Everyone else can skip that.

Sadly, the fights in the Batmobile aren't nearly as interesting, as they're more about dodging while your cannon reloads - and I can't say that the dodge-based tank combat makes me feel very much like Batman. Likewise, the racing and pursuit content in the Batmobile is decent but occasionally frustrating because of the sluggish way the beast controls at full speed and its huge turn radius. Thankfully for most of the game the Batmobile segments are nothing more than short distractions that break up the monotony of beating on thugs and solving puzzles.

Speaking of puzzles, the game is chock full of them, from riddler riddles and hidden trophies to solvable segments that require using every tool available to you in order to progress. There's a certain amount of optional difficulty there, because the main storyline puzzles hold your hand pretty thoroughly through dialogue, but some of the side puzzles are really fiendish tests I had to abandon and come back to with a fresh head hours later. In true Arkham fashion, minigames abound, from unlocking doors by controller rumble to synthesizing DNA matches or voices. Some of them are truly obnoxious, some fun, and others appear only once - they're all short, and suffice to say that the worst or most gimmicky of them don't overstay their welcome.

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Exploring turns out to be a big facet of the Gotham presented in Akrham Knight. Since the world went bigger, a real worry was that it'd feel empty of content or meaning like some of the areas in Arkham Origins did. However, there's real enjoyment to be had scouting the nooks and crannies of the city for trophies or things. For example, most missions have to be discovered before they're marked with waypoints for easy navigation. A mission chain requiring you to find burning buildings really does require batman to climb to the highest points he can and look for plumes of smoke. It's something games often lack - a real sense of exploration, rather than having your nose guided directly to the goal.

The game performs well, but required a large day one patch - about 3.5 gigs - to function. Bugs were rare, but present, including two hard locks that crashed the Xbox One during my play through. Both occured during a key event that changes the face of the city, so it's unclear if that was their cause, but because the game frequently autosaves even in the open world I didn't lose any progress either time. An occasional bug caused enemies in stealth segments to forget they saw batman mid-fight, but that was rare and more amusing than troubling.

The game is long and filled with content - I'd guess at about 45-50 hours for most to get a 100% rating. Much of that is going to be busywork for some players, like hunting down the riddler trophies or step-and-fetching items around the city. For those who complete the game to that level, you get a special, different ending. The Story+ function likewise allows you to keep your progress on collectibles, but restart the storylines with all your gear and experience from a completed playthrough - which is nice if you'd rather get the things that were inaccessible the first time around by experiencing the story again. I'd expect that maximizing your Batman will require a play in that mode as well - I didn't have nearly all the game's upgrades just playing through once.

But despite any concerns you might have, this is one solid game. From the variety of minigames and puzzles to the tried-and-true brawling combat the series is known for, Batman: Arkham Knight delivers. The flawless core gameplay, the beautifully designed environments, and the sheer fun of throwing yourself at the challenges of the game are fun for hours on end. This is a game that delivers more than your money's worth, and gives up precisely what fans of the series wanted: More Batman, bigger and better than before.

Bottom Line: The core gameplay of Arkham Knight is nearly flawless, and most players won't even notice my problems with story or dialogue.

Recommendation: Yes.

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