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The wait has been long and ridden with unfortunate delays, but Batman: Arkham Knight has finally arrived and it has a lot to live up to. Batman: Arkham Asylum completely redefined what a licensed video game could be and its follow-up, Batman: Arkham City, did an amazing job of pushing the formula to the next level. Uh, and Batman: Arkham Origins was also a game that existed.
Developer Rocksteady Studios has promised Arkham Knight will be a suitable grand finale to the the Arkham series, but has the franchise already peaked? Has the addition of the Batmobile and the power of current-generation consoles resulted in the ultimate Batman experience?
Batman: Arkham Knight (PC, Xbox One & PS4)
Warning: The following review doesn’t contain any Arkham Knight spoilers, but it does spoil the heck out of earlier games in the series.
As mentioned, Batman: Arkham Knight is being pushed as the grand finale of the Arkham series, but let’s be honest, from a storyline standpoint, Arkham City was the real culmination of this franchise. Arkham Asylum and its rogues take over the entire city! Batman faces all his top adversaries in one long, grueling gauntlet! The goddamn Joker dies!
The writers of Arkham Knight try, and mostly fail, to come up with something equally weighty. Not that the story is necessarily bad, it features a few moments that are among the most effective in the series, but if Arkham Knight was a comic-book story, it would be a nice little three- or four-issue arc. Most of the big events the story teases are fakeouts, and the twists it actually does follow through on are fairly predictable. That’s fine, the writers probably only had so much leeway, but again, just for comparison’s sake, in Arkham City’s main mission you face off against Hugo Strange, Joker, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Solomon Grundy, Clayface, Talia and Ra’s al Ghul. In Arkham Knight you fight Penguin, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow and some dude they just made up for the game. A bit lacking for what’s being sold as Batman’s final adventure.
If only creepiness translated to credibility.
Visually, Arkham Knight is certainly the most impressive game in the series, although it looks more like a very polished version of Arkham City than a truly next-level experience. Character models are incredibly detailed, but they still have a somewhat inexpressive, plastic quality. The environments are strewn with more little details than ever, but they’re far from photorealistic. Batman: Arkham Knight was built on a souped up version of the now-dated Unreal Engine 3, and ultimately it feels like a last-gen PC game with all the settings turned up to maximum.
Arkham Knight is definitely the most aurally impressive game in the series. Rocksteady has gotten away from the obvious Danny Elfman homages, providing a more original score, and the voice acting is top-notch as usual (with the exception of Tara Strong’s Harley Quinn, which is tooth-gratingly shrill).