Batman: Arkham Knight bookended Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy that began all the way back in 2009 with Arkham Asylum. While 2013’s Arkham Origins is technically a spinoff game, I think it deserves to make the trilogy into a tetralogy. With the upcoming Suicide Squad game to be set in the same universe, and to carry on some story threads, the Arkham series is still relevant half a decade after it officially finished.
Arkham Knight was left in an awkward position after the previous game City, with the story leading to somewhat of a dead end. This led some to be greatly concerned over the content of Knight prior to its release. These concerns were swiftly and effectively disproven. Arkham Knight is an excellent Batman story making effective use of a wide range of heroes and villains, and even having the best Joker in the entire Arkham trilogy. Better yet, Knight managed something rarely seen in the world of comic book games and movies; it ended Batman’s story. There’s an overwhelming feeling throughout the entire game that Batman’s time is up, his story is over, and there’s little he can do. It’s a powerful motivator and a very effective way to tell this kind of story. It also attempts to end the stories of some of Batman’s villains, which is equally as effective. This feeling goes together with the overall darker tone of Arkham Knight – the intro in particular casts a darker shadow over the actions of Batman’s enemy Scarecrow, as you experience his fear toxin first-hand as an innocent civilian. Though an overused phrase, the game feels cinematic. The large overarching story, dramatic changing perspectives, and realistic graphics all create this feeling.
The gameplay of Arkham Knight is an excellent push-forward of the mechanics established in previous games. New enemy variations and new ways of fighting foes advance the fighting system without unnecessarily reinventing the wheel. No other game that’s attempted to copy the kind of rhythm-combat gameplay the Arkham series perfected, even today, has managed to top Arkham Knight. Perhaps the only exception to the excellent gameplay are the gimmicky elements; there are moments where you fight as two heroes, but these are very few and far between, and perhaps the greater injustice is the usage of the Batmobile. Obviously, everyone wants a Batman game where you drive the Batmobile, but Arkham Knight sought to make up for the last 3 games lacking it too. Far too much of the central story seems to revolve around forcing the usefulness of the vehicle. The titular Arkham Knight brings tanks onto the streets of Gotham to kill Batman, but he’s also presumably spent millions of extra dollars making these tanks autonomous, purely for reason that Batman can’t kill. I’m sure there’s some weird in-story explanation, but it’s clear this is the true reason. Diluting the story for arguably the weakest aspect of the game feels wrong. The Batmobile is still fun, it’s just overused. The main appeal of Batman is in part that he’s human, striking from the shadows, not that he has a three-tonne tank for a car.
The graphical fidelity of Arkham Knight is something that’s persevered particularly well over half a decade. I maintain that it’s more attractive than a lot of the games that have come out recently. There’s also excellent attention to detail, shops in Gotham city are seemingly completely unique, the edges of buildings are destructible so you can slam into them when you corner poorly and many of the costumes featured are references to other incarnations in the DC universe. A particular favourite detail of mine is the racetracks based around the set of the 60s Batman TV show and the Christopher Nolan Batman film trilogy. Drifting around the dock from the original Batman film, in the 60s Batmobile, while the original theme plays, is oddly joyous and shows a good appreciation for the roots of the character. Another surprising feature in Arkham Knight was the use of some new voice actors, most importantly for me is Jonathan Banks as Commissioner Gordon and John Noble as Scarecrow. Banks is best known for playing Mike from Better Call Saul, and Noble for playing Denethor in The Lord of the Rings. Despite neither being particularly prolific in voice-acting they are standout in their respective roles.
Arkham Knight was in 2015, and is now, an excellent video game deserving of praise. The game feels as though it came out last year, and the story manages to produce a unique Batman tale that is genuinely very interesting. Suicide Squad has a lot to live up to.
You can watch a trailer for Batman: Arkham Knight below.