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Game Review – Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight
Warner 
PS4 • XB1 • PC

It was a long time coming but the real ‘next gen’ has finally and fully arrived. Last issue we had the sweeping metal epic of The Witcher 3 proving that the current crop of consoles were more than just shinier versions of their predecessors. Now with the arrival of Batman: Arkham Knight we can prove that it wasn’t a fluke. Developers Rocksteady are back at the helm, thankfully, for the final instalment of the series and if you’ve played any of the others you’ll know that they know Batman inside and out. If you haven’t played the others, go do it now. We’ll wait.

With an incredible knack for putting you in the shoes, and armoured suit, of the Dark Knight, Rocksteady’s vision this time is gargantuan and envelops the entirety of Gotham City. In typical Batman fashion, Gotham is under siege. A city-wide evacuation due to threats of a Scarecrow nerve-gas attack have turned the streets into war-zones. A bizarrely unlimited amount of near-identical henchman have run riot on the streets and the classic rogues gallery of Batman villains have carte-blanche to do as they please, when they please, and how they please, while newcomer the Arkham Knight uses the chaos to destroy Batman.

Thankfully, and typically, Bruce Wayne, his pals and his enormous bank account have stuck around to clean up the mess. And what a mess. This realisation of Gotham is one of the most stylish imaginings of Batman’s home-court that we can remember seeing. Every corner is dripping with atmosphere, from the neon signs to the grand Art Deco-inspired architecture. Rain hammers the city periodically and you’ll find yourself absently atop a skyscraper looking down upon the city as if re-creating Jim Lee’s comic book aesthetic was actually an objective.

The Batmobile plays a huge part in navigating the city and is integrated seamlessly into Batman’s movements. Jump from a building, glide a few blocks, nosedive to the street and land in the cockpit of the Batmobile before tearing off down the highway. It’s all so smooth and so very Batman.

Combat, like the Batman games before, is a rock solid combination of stealthiness, parries and timed strikes, smoke bombs and batarangs. You can purposefully walk toward a group of enemies and take them all on in a fist fight or slink through the shadows taking them all out before the last one even realises his mates have been thumped.

A strange focus on tank battles is the only thing that really breaks the immersion along the way of being Batman. Here and there we could understand the Batmobile needing to release a few missiles into heavy artillery but as constant bullet sponges before exploration levels or just arbitrary tank fight roadblocks they make little sense in the world at large. The other niggle is that the game has a persistent need to tell you what button to press. Every time you’re required to dive into your tool belt and figure out a problem, the game jumps up and says, “Hey press X here, mate”, which would be fine as a tutorial, but it becomes patronising as the game progresses. We’re trying to be Batman here.

Those issues aside, it’s such a slick production. The movies wish they could do Batman like this. It’s constantly jaw-dropping, always action packed, brilliantly realised and most importantly, so god-damned Batman.

Batman: Arkham Knight is out now through Warner.

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