Let’s address the elephant in the room so you don’t miss it: you don’t want to play Batman: Arkham Knight on PC. At least not yet, anyway. Currently, the game is horribly unstable, despite being locked at 30FPS it’s plagued with framerate issues and, in an impressive feat of technical ineptitude, somehow manages to look worse on PC thanks to a variety of missing graphical options. Given that the game is largely unavailable for sale on PC after the embarrassing disaster that was the porting job, the choice probably isn’t even there anymore. Get it on PS4 or Xbox One instead.
Needless to say, I’ll update this paragraph as fixes are sure to follow but until then, you’ve been warned.
Anyway, Batman: Arkham Knight is the latest in the acclaimed Batman Arkham series. You play as the Dark Knight as he runs around Gotham City foiling super-villainous plots and beating the everliving crap out of bad guys. This is the third in original developer Rocksteady’s “trilogy” of Arkham games, preceded by Asylum and City, and the level of polish and detail on offer here really shows. There are plenty of new touches on top of simple refinement, however; ol’ Bruce has a new Batsuit, for instance, and of course you can now drive the Batmobile.
The Batmobile is Arkham Knight’s claim to fame, as you’ve probably guessed since it’s all over the marketing and coverage for the game. That’s unfortunate, since it’s not really the greatest addition to the series. It looks cool, sure. It’s even fun for the first couple of hours or so. There’s a fair number of interesting puzzles that are solved using different Batmobile gadgets, for instance, and pulling off the impossible with the help of your magical self-driving tank-car helps you feel like Batman. In the end, though, the Batmobile feels like a bit of wasted effort for several reasons.
First: it’s a car that’s not very good at taking you places. That IS the reason you drive a car, right? To get places more easily? Not the case here in Arkham Knight, where Batman has a much easier time gliding and swinging from point A to point B much like he did in Arkham City and Arkham Origins. The one saving grace here is that the car’s pretty good at just smashing through crap instead of getting stopped by every fence or pillar like you’d expect in an open-world driving game. Still, driving around in the Batmobile solely for transportation purposes is for suckers. It takes longer, it’s less direct and doing so is bound to attract the attention of yet another group of enemy drones to fight.
That’s the second reason, actually: the game really, really loves making you fight stuff in the Batmobile. You really get the sense that this was the pet project of one of the lead designers because you spend a ton of time blasting away at drone tanks, maybe even more than you spend fighting regular goons. The basic idea behind this – roll around aiming for the “head” for easier kills while staying out of enemies’ firing lines – is a good time for a bit, but the sheer volume of vehicular combat in the game is a little staggering. This becomes even more pronounced as the game adds in missile carriers and armored drones that further complicate Batmobile combat. You’ll end up dreading any mission that requires you to take the Batmobile somewhere, both because it’s slow and because you’re absolutely going to end up in a giant car-brawl.
The third reason is that, well, the rest of the game is so much better. Arkham Knight represents the most polished example we’ve yet seen of the Batman Arkham style of gameplay. Unlike Asylum or City, you don’t spend half the game fighting against hordes of faceless goons that aren’t capable of touching the Batman. Instead, you’ll need to play smart from the first few hours, and things only get tougher from there. This capitalizes on the main strength of the Arkham games: they’re really good at making you feel like Batman. The character isn’t all about his martial arts mastery allowing him to beat down goons by the dozen – he’s about taking on impossible odds and prevailing via stealth, guile and gadgetry. You’ve got a couple new tricks up your sleeve for dealing with armed enemies, who are traditionally Batman’s Kryptonite, but they’re still dangerous enough that you’ll need to carefully plan out your attacks.
That’s kind of the prevailing theme behind the whole game, actually. Arkham Knight pits Batman against some of his most dangerous foes yet, presenting a situation where maybe he’s not quite as in control as he was in previous games. The stakes are quickly raised early on and it’s made clear that Batman might not be able to save everyone this time around. As a result, the game feels much more tense; the increased difficulty of the combat encounters adds to this as well, since for the first time in an Arkham game you really feel that sense of overwhelming opposition that characterizes Batman’s best comic book appearances. Batman’s good…but he’s only one costumed crusader, and Arkham Knight makes it clear that this might not be enough.
Graphically and aurally, the game is magnificent, because of course it is. This is one of the year’s biggest AAA releases and we’ve come to expect the best from this series. Rain drips off Batman’s cowl, neon lights offer an eerie ambiance to an abandoned Gotham City and the Batmobile transforms with efficient grace. The action’s all punctuated with some of the best voice acting in the business. If you’re not playing on PC you’re in for a treat. If you are…well, uh…yeah, don’t play this on PC.
Suffice to say, if you’re a Batman fan you should absolutely check this game out. If you’re a fan of the Arkham series, you should double absolutely check it out. If you ever wanted to drive the Batmobile, you’re going to love this game because it just loves it when you drive the Batmobile. Finally, if you’re a PC gamer you should probably go buy a PS4 or Xbox One because I guarantee this isn’t the last time we see a shoddy PC port of a game developed primarily for consoles. All in all, though, Batman: Arkham Knight is a fantastic Batman adventure that’s worth a look.