I’m certainly living up to the series title with this one, but now that I’m the proud owner of a PS4, I’ve spent the last few months gallivanting around Gotham in the (supposedly) final installment of one of my favorite game series. Batman: Arkham Knight had some issues but I’m willing to bet it was still a better Batman entry than that whole Superman fiasco that I still haven’t seen. Spoilers for the full game follow because of course they do.
Let’s get one thing out of the way at the top: I hated the Batmobile from the word go, and despite everyone telling me I’d get used to it and grow to love it, by endgame I still really hated it. The controls were messy and imprecise, the required chases were frustrating to the point of rage-quit-inducing, and I outright celebrated when it was blown up. When a new and improved version of it appeared close to end game, I was even more bitter, since all that did was prove to me the controls could have been less glitchy from the beginning. I hate cars in video games as a general rule, and the Batmobile reminded me why at basically every turn. Its only saving grace were the (all too frequent) battles with armored cars – they did allow for some kickass explosions.
The story for Batman: Arkham Knight was pretty fantastic, thanks in no small part to Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Troy Baker absolutely destroying their voice acting. Mark Hamill is the ultimate Joker, and telling this story, which is riddled (heh, sorry) with references to the problematic Killing Joke, he was let off the chain to explore what we all know to be true – that Batman and the Joker are two sides of the same coin. (That one wasn’t on purpose, I swear.) Mark Hamill’s Joker is horrific, and every time this game allowed him to sneak up on the player, I physically jumped. While the Jason-as-Arkham Knight reveal was pretty predictable, the brutality we saw from the Joker never felt similarly expected. His goading of Batman was perhaps more successful than in the Killing Joke – having the Joker’s machinations work from beyond the grave added a sense of hopelessness and haunting to the plot. The Joker will never truly leave Bruce Wayne’s mind, and Arkham Knight drove that point home better than any other Batman tale in recent memory.
The gameplay is exceptionally strong (with the exception of the aforementioned Batmobile) and as always, flying around Gotham with night vision on feels bloody fantastic. The toolbelt play continues to be incredibly natural, and the new toys fit in nicely with the familiar and loved tools that came before. Some of the side-quests were arguably the best parts of the game; I found myself wishing the detective work from Perfect Crime would pop up in other segments, to no avail, and Gunrunner allowed for some actual teamwork with Nightwing, which helped explore some of the emotional beats surrounding Bruce and his assistant drama.
However, while I appreciated the mentality of the game requiring all but the Riddler and one other mission of your choice to be finished before launching Knightfall Protocol, it was ultimately frustrating. I felt “done” with Arkham Knight for at least two gameplay sessions before I was able to see the ending, and driving around trying to find one last hole in the ground for multiple gaming hours didn’t do much to endear me to the series.
As for that endgame, we’re left with a frankly surreal vision of the Bat, after Bruce’s presumed death, continuing to burn fear into the eyes of any criminals who dare act out in Gotham. Did it work? Mostly. Do I think we’ll have another entry in this series after all? Definitely. Will I play it? Oh who’re we kidding. Of course I will.