Let me tell you a story about my weekend. It starts with me getting paid. In the middle somewhere there’s Rocksteady withdrawing the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight due to massive failings on the part of the people who ported it. Now as you may or may not know, I didn’t own a fourth-generation console; my trusty Xbox 360 didn’t receive a Batman release and my plans to buy the PC version were rapidly falling through. Long story short, I now own a PS4 (to make myself seem a little less hedonistic, they gave me over £100 sterling off because I heartlessly traded in said trusty 360. They even gave it an A Rating for being in such good condition. I’m very proud of that, can you tell?)
So here comes to you a first impressions of Arkham Knight, because for various reasons (spoiler alert: I went to a party) I didn’t finish this impressively massive game. Oh and there would also be more screenshots, if the PS4 saved screenshots automatically without having to go into the share option after taking one. But that’s just a bugbear of mine.
A dark and stormy knight…
The eventual return of the Dark Knight to Rocksteady’s hands has been much awaited by both fans of the Batman: Arkham series and those of us who pride ourselves on being Batman nerds. Rocksteady, especially in their first installment (Arkham Asylum), did a lot of things right when translating a comic book, a non-interactive medium, to the world of gaming; from utilising the dualshock controller to add weight to your punches, to maintaining a beautiful art style whilst looking surprisingly dark and gritty. A lot of that is back in Arkham Knight – it looks stunning, but keeps true to its drawn roots; the radio is back and the background chatter from the goons is as comedic as always (whilst also adding valuable depth to the world); it’s dark and gritty and feels like a valid installment of the Batman franchise; and Gotham looks as seedy as ever, huge and sprawling and hedonistic beyond all belief.
|Gotham by Batsignal|
U-turn if you must
However, some things seem a little lacking. For example, fighting just feels like mashing a button, rather than the pow, zap of what Batman combat should be (and what it felt like in previous games; perhaps the dualshock vibration is not as vicious in this installment), and the snap seems to have been taken out of the grapple. Perhaps I should have seen this coming after the huge u-turn over the PC release, but the game just feels different. Not bad, exactly, but different. The huge gap between Arkham City and Arkham Knight, in which control was wrestled from the studio for the awkward and out-of-place Arkham Origins, is showing, and whilst I feel like all the ingredients of a good game are there, the spirit of the series is missing. But then perhaps I’m just a die-hard fangirl looking to recapture her gaming glory days.
Being Batman – Or Not
My main problem with the game, or at least the portion I played, is that for what seemed like large chunks of the story I wasn’t actually playing as Batman. In fact, for a while I was even playing at the Batmobile. Not Batman in the Batmobile, but the Batmobile itself. It was jarring, confusing, and very stressful – especially when the game’s contextual information didn’t tell me half of what I needed to know about controlling the thing. On the flipside, I thought the game’s intro (spoiler alerts here) was exceptionally well-done; I’ve always had a soft spot for Gotham’s Finest, and being Officer Owens was an interesting aside – you could almost feel the effects of the Scarecrow’s toxin taking over his body as you struggled to fight off his imaginary demons. Being the Batmobile was just… weird, by comparison. Especially since it can crab-shuffle on its wheels to strafe out the way of incoming fire.
|Being the Batmobile|
A Curve like a Sine Wave
There also seems to be something incredibly wrong with the game’s difficulty. Perhaps relating to the issues where the game only tells you half of what you need to know when switching characters, the difficulty curve seems to undulate up and down like a sine wave (it’s a maths reference, look it up). For example, the opening of the game – after the Officer Owens interlude – involves bat-grappling around the city and finding objectives. A nice, gentle start. The batmobile sections are frantic and difficult, by comparison, before the game goes back to just moseying around Gotham taking on various henchmen (which still involves only pressing one button, for the most part). Perhaps I’m being finickety, or maybe it’s the fault of the game for not telling all I need to know, but the difficulty curve seems a little less smooth than previous installments.
To Play, or Not?
If you’re a fan of Batman there’s no doubt you’ll get a kick out of beating up thugs and bat-grappling around the city, but be warned that this game takes a while to pick up and that the transition into becoming the Batman is not as smooth as it has been in previous installments. On the whole, I had a lot of fun, and it’s more small niggles than big, game-stopping annoyances that I pick up on in this article. And it’s only because I love the franchise so much that I pick up on them. This game is not perfect, by any means, but then I’m yet to play a perfect title, but it’s definitely worth picking up if you’re a fan of the franchise (and even if you’re not, it might just convince you to get into Batman).