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Monday, July 27, 2015

"Batman: Arkham Knight" Review

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the entire Arkham series. 

It's been one year since The Joker tried to poison Gotham with his tainted Titan blood. He's now dead and cremated. Gotham is no longer segregated for the sake of a city prison, and for once everything in life sees to be fine. That is, until Scarecrow threatens the city with his fear toxin, causing a mass evacuation and leaving none but the city's scum and villainy behind. Well... them and Batman of course. Is the caped crusader's final Arkham game a well thought out send off? Or is it a disappointing finale? Let's find out... 

On the surface, Arkham Knight is a story of Batman working to stop Scarecrow from poisoning Gotham with fear toxin, but really it's much more intricate than that. On the surface it is a straightforward Batman story where he breaks bones first and asks questions later, but deep down it's actually a psychological adventure about Batman's most inner struggle with his deepest fear: failure. 

Early on in the game we learn that Batman has a few unlucky souls locked up for experimentation and analysis. Why? Well because it turns out they didn't find all of the Joker blood and now a few unfortunate souls have succumbed to a bad case of Jokeritis, which, to put it bluntly; turns whoever's infected into Joker. QUite literally actually. Gordon questions the empty cell and Batman ominously replies "He'll be here soon" while looking into the cage and staring at his reflection, as if that wasn't a HUGE giveaway. 

My suspicions were confirmed when you first confront Scarecrow and he injects you with fear toxin and the Joker shows up not moments later. But it's not actually him. See, Batman has a high tolerance for Scarecrow's toxin but he's not completely immune, but his fears manifest themselves in the form of his innermost demon: Joker. In many ways Batman and Joker are one in the same. The two go hand-in-hand. It's hard to have one without the other. Rocksteady found a clever and symbolic way to bring him into this game and still keep him dead. 

But, let's focus on the Joker for a moment, shall we? I understand what Rocksteady was trying to do but it seems in every major Arkham game Joker somehow ends up being the main villain focus. In Origins, Black mask turned out to be Joker in disguise, in Asylum he was the main villain, in City Hugo Strange was the main villain but Joker presents the final boss fight and climatic ending, plus he's a major threat in most of the game, and of course now in Knight, Scarecrow gets thrown on the back-burner a lot in favor of Joker hallucinations. In many ways Joker is still the main villain because he's taunting Batman from within his own mind and trying to get him to become... well, him. As if Batman didn't have enough to deal with tonight already. I will say, the Joker not being real means he can break the laws of physics and it makes for some great cartoon like moments where he'll be behind you one moment and pop up randomly on a beam in front of you lounging about like Kefka from Final Fantasy VI just to toss a random one-liner in there and throw you of focus. It's funny in a morbid Looney Tunes kind of way. 

That being said, even though Joker is a heavy focus I feel like the main threat of the game isn't Scarecrow, but his new-found sidekick the Arkham Knight. Halfway through the game they drop hints at his true identity and it's more for the comic fans. If you've only played the games or watched the movies the name "Jason Todd" is of no relevance to you but he was the next Robin after Dick Grayson became Nightwing, then he was kidnapped and tortured by... guess who? Yep, Joker. He was presumed dead and replaced with Tim Drake. Turns out he wasn't dead and he blames Batman for what happened to him. Now he's out for vengeance. I was hoping it would be someone else but at least hardcore Batman fans will get a taste of nostalgia. Also, the Red Hood DLC kind of gives it away too if you know that Red Hood = Jason Todd. 

As far as gameplay, Arkham Knight excels at what the other games did. The gadgets are essentially the same but you can do more with them. The combat is more fluent now, combos are easier to pull off and guns don't provide as much of a threat as they used to. It's not like it matters though as you'll spend 70% of the game in the Batmobile anyways. There's a good chance when you first get the Batmobile you'll use it a lot, but the game assumes you prefer gliding as it shoves Batmobile missions down your throat every fifteen minutes. This is especially annoying because 2 of the 3 Arkham Knight boss fights take place in the Batmobile and both are harder than shit even on easy. It doesn't help that the damn thing controls like a walrus on a riding mower, leaving very minimal room for error.

The Riddler makes a triumphant return in what can only be explained as SAW meets NASCAR. He's also kidnapped Catwoman and forces her and Batman to work together to solve traps to get keys to unlock a bomb collar. Sound familiar?

A lot of the bad guys aren't really up to much otherwise, besides the usual mischief. Some of them, like Two-Face, have gone back to petty shit like robbing banks. The sidequests in the previous games are better. For one thing there's way too much militia shit, and the Riddler collectibles are just way too damn hard this time.

Overall, it's a decent end to a trilogy (yes I said TRILOGY), but it was lacking in a lot of the polish and wow factor that made Arkham City such an amazing game. Most of it is genuinely good but a lot of it feels rushed and a little jumpy. Batman himself this time sounds like he swallowed a tin can and shows little to no emotion about literally anything. He's also a dick this time. Half of the game could have been so much easier if he would just lay down his Bat Pride and let his friends help for once!

Anyways, decent game, amazing combat, fun gameplay, too much Batmobile, beautiful graphics (dat bloom shader tho), and Batman sounds like a piece of wood on heroin.

My Rating: 7/10      

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