Batman: Arkham Knight Review

July 7, 2015

The Arkham series no longer needs an elaborate introduction. Unless you’ve been in a coma since 2009, you should be fully aware of Rocksteady’s monumental rise to the top of this industry. They have become an elite developer in a very competitive and unpredictable time. Despite all odds, they’ve managed to create a trilogy about arguably the most fascinating hero of the comic book world. The ambition on show in Batman: Arkham Knight is admirable and ultimately pays off with a fully realised Gotham and the most deadly, efficient and ruthless iteration of the protagonist so far. There’s no point wasting time on precious words on control schemes and camera angles because the majority of Arkham Knight is more of the same and you’re probably going to love it.

Immediately, you’re going to revel in just how good this game looks. The visual upgrade here is remarkable. Gotham looks absolutely stunning in thirty frames per-second. Of course, it would look better on a properly optimised PC version. However, don’t be deterred by the abundance of negative comments – Arkham Knight looks downright fabulous, possibly even surpassing The Witcher 3 (although, keep in mind this is a significantly smaller affair). This rain-soaked Gotham is a beautiful dark sandbox littered with criminal activity and hidden treasures in the form of glowing green Riddler trophies (and some other nods to the world of DC comics). Seeing the raindrops trickle down Batman’s newly crafted suit is reminiscent of playing through ‘Belly of the Beast’ in the original Gears of War. Those defining moments in groundbreaking visuals are becoming few and far between these days, but rest assured in knowing that Arkham Knight will make the purchase of a new console feel entirely worthwhile. The game feels much like prior titles, but from a visual standpoint this is brand new territory. Yet, not all of Rocksteady’s new moves are welcome ones.

Cue Batman’s trusty steed – the Batmobile. This transforming behemoth of a vehicle has been plastered all over the advertising material for Arkham Knight and it’s easily the most prominent change in the gameplay we’ve become so familiar with. For the most part, it’s a welcome new addition and adds even more versatility to Batman’s constantly expanding amount of traversal techniques. Ignoring its size, there’s a certain grace to this new Batmobile. Arkham Knight allows you to dive from Gotham’s highest buildings, summon your favourite form of transport and instantly drift your way around a network of gritty urban streets. There’s no real advantage to doing this but it looks mightily impressive, and most importantly, it makes you feel fantastic about sitting on the couch and avoiding all social contact. As far as transportation is concerned, Rocksteady really have outdone themselves here and the poise on display rapidly becomes second nature as you find yourself gliding, diving, swooping and accelerating all in one gloriously strategised manoeuvre.


Arkham Knight’s flaws really only begin to appear when the Batmobile is forced upon you (and chances are, you’ll notice this from the get-go). It’s easy to forgive Rocksteady’s insistence on getting you in the driver’s seat and for the vast majority of the game, you probably won’t care, but towards the end you’ll likely become very irritable. Throughout the main story Batman will have to dispose of a variety of tanks roaming Gotham’s streets. This is easily achieved by transforming the Batmobile into a fortified beast with an assortment of weapons. It might take some adjustments because of how different it controls, but generally speaking, this isn’t an issue. The vehicular combat is servicable but terribly underwhelming when compared with Batman’s satisfyingly smooth hand-to-hand fisticuffs.

The gameplay really only takes a turn for the worse with the introduction of a certain ‘Cobra’ tank. This is by far Rocksteady’s poorest decision as a mainstream publisher outside of the recent PC debacle. Essentially, these tanks force you into patrolling a specific section of the city stealthily, in a giant transforming Batmobile no less. Cobra tanks can only be destroyed by locking on from the rear and once you successfully destroy one, its buddies will join the party. It’s slightly less infuriating when dealing with one or two, but when the numbers hit six or seven it becomes a battle of patience with shoddy game design rather than skill. These sections become far too frequent and are even included in one of Batman’s several encounters with the Arkham Knight himself. And as a special treat for the enthusiasts who want to rid Gotham of the niggling side missions, you’ll be treated to an extra-special Cobra battle as a reward. It’s terrible stuff.

From a design perspective it’s such an appalling decision when everything else is just so damn good. Everything you know and love about the Arkham games is here in abundance. The vast array of characters, a reasonably engaging story with Scarecrow at the helm and plenty of extra activities to participate in. Some of these are genuine highlights of the game. Batman will team up with Nightwing to take down Penguin’s gang, you’ll have to keep an eye out for fires if you want to stop Firefly, the ringing bank alarms signal a robbery instigated by Two Face, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.


Arkham Knight’s main story is really only the beginning of a much greater experience where you’ll encounter beloved and hated people from Batman’s universe. To Rocksteady’s credit, they’ve done an outstanding job of including so many iconic faces in a single adventure. The unquestionable zenith is the terrific integration of The Joker, now dead but still very much alive and brimming with problems inside Batman’s mind. You’ll have several encounters with him, some by design and others by chance. Who’s that figure perched on the rooftop ledge? Why don’t you glide on over and have a discussion with a demented lunatic? These moments are frequent and a testament to the care Rocksteady has taken with such cherished lore.

Structurally, the game is every bit as competent as Arkham City, whose only real flaw came in the form of a few dull boss battles. Arkham Knight has, at the very least, learned from that mistake and has opted for a fairly linear main story devoid of any major boss battles while on two feet. Boss battles are generally left for side missions and one particularly infuriating stealthy tank battle with the Knight. The threat of Scarecrow and his toxins will be enough to satisfy most fans, even if the game’s primary secret can be worked out prior to the big reveal. The emotional strings are plucked lightly on a couple of occasions, but in reality this isn’t a particularly strong element of Arkham Knight. The story will definitely hold your attention but after several clashes where Batman could (and should) have dealt with the Knight, you’ll be left with a sensation that you’re just being dragged along to extend a reveal which might ultimately disappoint. The grand finale is an interesting one signaling the end of Rocksteady’s presence in Gotham, as mentioned at the very beginning of the game with the following quote – “This is how the Batman died.”

By ignoring the disappointments of Arkham Knight, you’ll find yourself enthralled in another top-tier Batman experience. Were these flaws present in any other sandbox game, they may well have been overlooked rather than being picked apart. Unfortunately for Rocksteady, gamers now have very high expectations for their final product and even though much of what’s on display here is executed perfectly, there are simply too many moments where you’ll want to drive the Batmobile into a watery grave. The franchise is similar to that of Nolan’s cinematic interpretations, with the highlight being the second entry in the trilogy. Rocksteady is no different, and in the end, their master plan has come back to bite off some of Batman’s overall quality. Arkham Knight on Xbox One and PS4 is still one of the best games you’ll play in 2015, just be prepared for a few rough rides behind the wheel.


• Stunning visuals • The same excellent mechanics • Well integrated characters


• The bloody Batmobile • PC nightmare • Tedious Riddler challenges

Overall Score: