Friday, 17 July 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight (Xbox One) - Review

Batman: Arkham Knight is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £59.99 in the Xbox Store. Obviously other retailers will vary.

I'm gonna start this review with a confession. This is the FIRST Batman game I have played. Please don't take my gamer status away from me. I have always had the intention to play them, but not done so well with the making the time to play them. So I had my fella (who's a massive fan and has played them all) give me a run down of the story from the previous games and I begun my foray into Gotham. Hopefully you don't hate me too much after that previous statement. I'll hazard a guess that at least some of you will stick around to listen to what I have to say about this game. Hell, maybe some of you will respect the opinion of a newcomer to the game universe. I'm guessing anyone who is annoyed about my lack of prior experience has already closed off this tab in a rage. But I'll continue...

I'm gonna keep this review spoiler free. It is my belief that you can review a game well without ruining the experience for people. Don't get me wrong, spoilers don't really annoy me, they usually get me more excited if I'm honest, but I know there are many people who hate them. My fella included. If you want spoilers or to chat about the game with me you can email me (danniekittengaming[at]gmail[dot]com) or come chat on Twitter (@DannieKitten).

The Arkham Knight.
The story of Arkham Knight I thought was pretty good although it took awhile to warm up. I think I was about 40% of the way through the main storyline before I felt like it was good. And it still had moments where it dropped off slightly but the last half an hour is pretty much gaming perfection, both the story and the gameplay. It has moments where it really shines, but just as many where the quality of the storytelling dips and isn't as exciting as a Batman game should be. I have to be honest and say that I was surprised when it was revealed that the Arkham Knight of the title wasn't Batman. I honestly went into the game believing it was another name Batman was known as, or would be known as, and was very surprised when he was introduced as a villain. I mean it all makes sense now, but I was really surprised at first. 

The bone of contention with many players...
Now unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about the Batmobile. You've no doubt heard some very bad things about it. It has caused quite the stir. I hated it. At least until I switched Battle Mode to 'Toggle On'. Then I spent a good while loving the freedom it gave me, the speed at which I could race between missions and the destruction I could cause along the way. It was fast and armoured so I could knock thugs off the road as I raced through Gotham. But this soon became a little tired. And more than that, it felt like it got in the way of the 'true' Batman experience. When you're playing as Batman, you want to glide around the rooftops, drop down on unsuspecting enemies and then grapple your way to safety only to come down on another unsuspecting bad guy. The Batmobile removed that aspect of the game, unless you made the effort to slowly and methodically work your way across Gotham. The Batmobile also spends a massive amount of time in this game being forced upon you. You have to use it to solve so many puzzles and kill so many tanks that you start to wonder whether the real superhero is actually the car, and begin to really dread seeing another bloody tank or winch hook. 
Be prepared to fight a LOT of artillery.
Actually I feel like I spent more than half my time in game in the Batmobile. There are a lot of tank battles. I mean A LOT. The bad guys seem to have a never ending supply of them. Don't get me wrong Battle Mode (especially when its 'toggle on') is slick and uber-responsive, control wise. And for a good while its lots of fun too, but you can have too much of a good thing. The driving of the Batmobile did feel very arcade-y, especially when you consider how much that thing must weigh! It took a lot of getting used to, and at first I was smashing everything up on my way to a mission. 

Flying around Gotham is not to be missed.
When I made the effort to leave the Batmobile behind unless it was absolutely necessary I had a blast. Roaming through Gotham as the Dark Knight is a great experience, one made even more great because of the spectacular visuals. No one can deny that this game looks absolutely beautiful, well except the poor PC lot. It is graphically stunning in every way, and most shots would make a great background for your Xbox dash. 

I had a few issues with the actual flying around Gotham. I found a lot of times my grapple wouldn't go where I intended it too, and instead sent me flying half a mile away from the battle I was engaged in. To be fair this is probably more down to me and my panicked pressing of the RB button, but it was pretty frustrating. When I got it to do what I wanted though I was in my element, Gotham is a great city to view from the sky. 

Combat was mostly super-responsive. 
The combat mechanic in this series of games has long been lauded for how responsive it is, and surprise(!) it still is. Batman's movements are slick and easy to control. The charging enemies did bug me slightly, many times I had just the one guy left and was running towards him myself pressing the counter button yet was still knocked on my arse. To knock down charging enemies you have to use LT too, something which I feel makes sense when there are more enemies, but when one-on-one doesn't. Come on, Batman could floor him! 

The side quests are what stood out for me in this game. From speaking to other gamers the Riddler ones seems to be the most popular. I did enjoy saving Catwoman, but the Riddler trophies are just soooo annoying. There are far too many of them and I found myself sighing every time I spotted another. I couldn't be bothered, and for the last part of the game, I just scanned them in to come back to when I was less tired of them. I loved the Man-Bat side quest, and the serial killer stuff too, gliding through Gotham and hearing the haunting music that meant another body was nearby was brilliant. Other Batman bad guys make their appearance through side quests too, which is probably why I found them to be such a rich source of entertainment. Don't skip the side quests in this game, they are truly enjoyable. The side quests where you're getting rid of mines though are not so enjoyable, and yet another time that you HAD to use the Batmobile. 

Every. Single. Time. 
Another thing I really enjoyed about this game was the hacking. It's a simple task of twiddling the thumbsticks till you get it just right, but I thought it worked perfectly. There are times that you have to scan back through CCTV too, to find evidence and the like which was really well done and so enjoyable. I want more games to draw on the detective side of this game, as I felt it was done perfectly. The Voice Synthesiser was another of my favourite gadgets, and I loved fiddling around with the voice to get it to 100% accuracy. 

I have to admit to rather immaturely entertaining myself whenever I got a phone call (see above pic). Honestly, every time someone phoned me, no matter how grave the content of the call, I spent the entire time lining the callers head up with Batman's ears and screenshotting it. Don't judge me, I enjoyed it. 

Overall I'd say that Batman: Arkham Knight is a thoroughly enjoyable jaunt into Gotham. Yeah the story falls apart in places, but honestly the good bits more than make up for that. After the last half hour of this game I am desperate for Rocksteady to make a horror game, it feels like it would be a prefect fit. The Batmobile is annoying yes, but you can slightly counteract that annoyance by not using it when you don't need to. Once I stopped using it to travel between missions I found myself enjoying it a lot more when I did have to use it. Yes it feels forced in to the game with a shoe horn sometimes, especially when I found myself having to use it to winch down a fan that was so big I could have just walked through it (it was off), but you know what, it's there now and there's no point being upset about it. I don't feel like I lost anything coming to this as someone who hasn't played the games before, I still really enjoyed my time in Gotham, so for anyone I'd say this game is a must buy. 

Keep an eye here in the future too as I will be reviewing all of the DLC. 

9/10 BUY IT!
A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.