In many respects, Batman: Arkham Knight is purpose-built to deliver the ultimate Batman power fantasy. It’s an opportunity to don the caped crusader’s cowl and, for the first time, utilise everything the billion-dollar baby of Gotham has to offer.
You can tear through streets in the Batmobile, eject into the air and glide out across the mesmerising skyline and, most importantly, stand atop Wayne Tower and look broodingly down upon the populous.
But as Arkham Knight tries so hard to be the complete package, it fails to make the game fun on a basic and consistent level, opting to force the Batmobile down your throat at every opportunity instead of building on the gameplay we all know and have loved from Rocksteady over the years.
The third and final entry in the Arkham series is set across a much larger playground
than the one you encountered in Arkham City, this time under attack from Scarecrow and the titular – and forever whining – Arkham Knight. It’s a beautiful space, a collection of three distinctive environments that feel genuinely breathtaking to traverse via Batman’s returning grapple-and-glide combination.
In fact, most of the elements that have returned from both Asylum and City play fantastically here. The free-flow combat is as slick as ever; there’s nothing quite as satisfying as blitzing through a room of ten-plus thugs, leaving them a mess of crippled bones and disfigured faces, without getting so much as a scratch in return.
Equally as exciting is the opportunity to once again become the world’s greatest predator, ‘incapacitating’ enemies with swift attacks from the shadows and the new Fear Takedowns that let Batman take multiple enemies out of the game instantly with coma-inducing strikes.
What’s less enjoyable, however, is how Rocksteady has unnecessarily forced vehicle combat via the Batmobile into proceedings as a third pillar of the core gameplay loop.
We understand, Rocksteady. You’ve spent four years developing this sequel, and it contains barely any new gameplay options or mechanics, of course you’d want to show off the biggest. But where the Batmobile feels like it naturally should be used as (in)frequently as any of Batman’s other gadgets strapped to the utility belt, it’s forced upon you at every opportunity.
It slows the pace of the game to a crawl at times, as it’s integrated into the most monotonous of puzzles, while the Batman-versus-robot-tank-army segments that pervade almost every instance of combat are without question a chore. The novelty of blasting thugs in the head with rubber bullets fired from a tank-mounted cannon – which apparently doesn’t render death – quickly wears off.
The stealth vehicle combat is dispiriting, if not enjoyment-crippling, to the point where it begins to spoil the Batmobile’s primary focus: actually using it to explore the city.
If you can overlook the disappointing inclusion and over-reliance on the Batmobile in both the main story and plentiful side-quests that litter Gotham, you’ll find an enjoyable and well-constructed end to the Arkham trilogy waiting, not to mention plenty of fan-service for the avid Bat-fan.
Just don’t be surprised if you begin brooding like Bruce Wayne when it forces you back into the driving seat for yet another round of Bats versus robots – only you won’t have a billion dollars to distract you from the pain; only the sinking feeling that you wasted £40 on driving a tank, not busting skulls, as the Caped Crusader this last time around.