Batman is back and better than ever in Rocksteady Studios’ newest title, Batman: Arkham Knight. The latest in the Arkham storyline boasts an impressive amount of upgrades to the tried but true formula of previous Arkham titles, and invites you to experience a bigger and badder Gotham City on current-gen platforms. Unless you’re scared. You’re not scared, are you?

The story of Arkham Knight centers around the typical evil plans that Gotham’s most wanted have in store for their city, only that this time they lack that creative spark the Joker used to bring to the table. After a period of relative calm on the streets, the police and villains alike are anxious as to when and where a new power will rise and a dark scheme will be hatched. The culprit this time is Scarecrow, who, since being fed to a sewer dwelling Crocodile in the first game, has had a major axe to grind with the Dark Knight. His plan is to unleash a weaponized fear toxin on not just the streets of Gotham, but the entire eastern coast of the United States, sending everyone into a nightmare-induced frenzy.

Rocksteady, Warner Bros. and DC Comics found themselves in a bit of a bind, since Arkham City’s ending left so much unexplained, and the prequel, Arkham Origins, only seemed to raise more questions. However, the final game in the series manages to at least deliver a satisfying story. What it doesn’t deliver is a compelling one. Anyone who has ever read, watched or played anything Batman, will be able to accurately guess what is about to happen a few missions before it happens, which in some cases will leave the player groaning in discontent when it actually comes to pass.

One of the more unpredictable elements in the game is the introduction of a new villain, since that doesn’t happen in the world of Batman very often. Joining Scarecrow is the mysterious Arkham Knight – a masked murderer who has an eerily accurate knowledge of everything Batman. This includes his weapons, fighting style and secret hideouts, resulting in a dangerous new foe who could very well be the one to finally put an end to the Caped Crusader.

To combat this new threat and everything it throws at him, Batman has his faithful gadgets and hand-to-hand fighting skills. The different combat styles and weapons taken off varying enemies keep the gameplay interesting, and you often need to re-adjust their own play style on the fly. Once you figure out the various enemy types and attacks, you can pick up speed and finish off an entire gang with an incredibly rewarding combo. The greatest upgrade to the combat however, is the new team based combat that occurs at certain areas of the game. This allows the player to take on even more people by teaming up with the likes of Catwoman, Nightwing and Robin. Players switch between two of the characters, controlling one at a time to take on crowds and occasionally trigger a team-up move that also takes down whichever enemy you unleash your fury on.

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When not pummeling bad guys into a pulp, Batman explores the city to find side missions and secret lore. Discovering them is one of the most intriguing aspects in the game, as even the smaller mysteries around the city could end in a thrilling boss battle with a villain the player might not have known much about before. Terrifying encounters with other creatures of the night, chases after flying arsonists through the streets of Gotham and plenty of callbacks to the previous three titles all ensure that the game is not over at the end of the story.

One of those side-activities is answering the Riddler’ challenges. They are even more fun this time around as they take advantage of all of the upgrades you get throughout the game, and get significantly harder harder from one challenge to the next. What’s endearing to the character of Riddler are his narcissistic qualities and who sure he is of his superiority to Batman. He even goes as far as to send you friendly reminders by hacking into television sets near your location just to let you know how much he misses your pathetic attempts at besting him.

And best him you shall, thanks to the newest addition to the Batman Arkham titles: the iconic Batmobile. Recklessly maneuvering the city’s terrain in Batman’s signature car is a sleek and incredibly cinematic experience, made even more fun and powerful due to an almost fully destructible environment. While the player could avoid destroying one of Poison Ivy’s priceless trees scattered around the city, there is always the notion in the back of the mind that it shouldn’t have been in the way in the first place. But the Batmobile is not just a fast and armored race car. It can also transform into a fully operational tank. The tank is impressive and in some ways more balanced than the driving , as this is where the Batmobile’s abilities really come into play.

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The idea of piloting such an incredible machine, with a unique set of abilities and firepower sounds like it would be a game-defining trait. The reality, however, is that after a while the player may start to view this as merely a distraction from the real fun of the traditional travel methods of gliding from rooftop to rooftop. The story relies heavily on the new vehicle and it can sometimes feel overbearing when you have to once again rid a certain area of tanks in order to progress through it. Although the Batmobile acts as a very useful tool, it never quite replaces the ability to travel around through the air and grappling on to the sides of buildings, making the it more like another addition to the utility belt than a new way of traversing the map.

Gotham City at nighttime is an imposing and impressive sight to behold. The streetlights and reflections littering the city are even more realistic in their reactions to one another, especially as the camera goes in and out of focus. The smoke and smog covering the streets make the city even more menacing, and may act as another obstacle in a fight. The unmistakable green flare of a hidden Riddler trophy, even if out of reach for now, tips off the player to at least mark it on their map, a feature that makes trophies easier to spot than in previous entries.

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The advancements in graphical quality and lighting are what really set this iteration apart from the rest. The new generation of console gaming ensures that players can travel from one end of the enormous new Gotham city to the other with out encountering a single loading screen, even while driving the Batmobile.

The newest title in Rocksteady’s Arkham series, Batman: Arkham Knight, brings back everything that fans love about the older games, with the added bonuses of next generation technology, smoother combat, upgraded gadgets, and more as it brings the narrative to a close. The story is just as interesting as any other entry, but due to the incredibly high anticipation, often stumbles in becoming a truly unique game. Overall, the developers succeed in satisfying the fans of the series, while also introducing new mini-games and storylines that fans love about not just the series, but the entire world of Batman.


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