The knight is darkest before dawn

I will admit I wasn’t sold on Batman: Arkham Asylum when it first came out. I thought it was gonna be like every other superhero game on the market. I was dead wrong. However, I did not get into the series until Batman: Arkham City. That game changed everything I thought was possible about a Batman game. I fell in love with the combat system which pretty much laid the blueprint for all other sandboxes to follow. Rocksteady knows their audience with the nods to the comics and on top of that it has an immersive story.

I was blown the hell away and Rocksteady Studios made me a believer ever since. I felt just like everyone else felt when they first played Arkham Asylum. “This is the best Batman game I’ve ever played”. The series took a little detour with Batman: Arkham Origins (developed by WB Montreal). So Rocksteady are back in the driver’s seat of the Batmobile in Batman: Arkham Knight, the final chapter of the trilogy and the first game on the newer generation of consoles.

You can get to explore Gotham City for the first time ever and let me tell you…it’s gorgeous! The game’s world is about five times bigger than Arkham City and the differences are apparent. The attention to detail in Arkham Knight is borderline obsessive. It’s one of the best open worlds I’ve ever seen and it’s such a joy to glide around town.

Quite a view

Quite a view

The story takes place about a year after Arkham City. The Joker has died and Gotham City has never felt safer. However, something sinister awaits Gotham in the form of the Scarecrow. He causes a city wide evacuation and Two-Face, Penguin, The Riddler, Harley Quinn and the Arkham Knight are fighting to pry Gotham out of Batman’s hands.

BATMAN™: ARKHAM KNIGHT_20150624115650

Good night, sweet Prince…

I’m not going to go into too much detail regarding the story because it is unbelievable. I was hurling obscenities, I was cheering, I was giggling and more often than not my heart skipped a beat. There’s just so many awesome moments that it’s so hard to pick just one. This is a story that you need to experience yourself. That’s all I’m gonna say.

The gameplay is broken into several pillars: Combat, stealth and the Batmobile. The brilliant combat system from the first two games is refined to perfection. This time around. The rest of the Bat-family joins the fray. Dual play makes the already fun combat even better. You can switch from Batman to either Robin, Nightwing or Catwoman. I love that it took a page out of the GTA V playbook. It enhances what worked in the beginning. Also, you can throw gadgets in mid-air. What?!?!

Stealth is so, so fun. It begs for repeated plays and I always get a kick out of taking out armed thugs without being seen. For instance, you can use a smoke grenade to blind them and you can take out two or three guys and hide or you can use the disruptor to disable their guns. There’s so many routes to take during these sequences and the enemy variation has stepped up from the last game. There are thugs that can track your location when you’re in Detective mode. So be careful.

While Arkham Origins is seen as the weak link in the series. There are things that the game did get right. Such as crime reconstruction. One part, in particular, involves a car crash. where you have to find clues, which is awesome.

The Batmobile is a focal point of this game and it is amazing to drive around the three islands. However, it’s relied on too heavily. Most of the game’s major sequences involve the Batmobile, despite that, it keeps the gameplay varied without having to do the same thing for long. The Batmobile controls were a little clunky at first but there’s an option to trigger Battle mode on/off which makes things simpler.

Get over here!

Get over here!

There all also side-missions to keep players busy after the credits have rolled. And the Riddler returns with more trophies and puzzles. The voice acting is also fantastic. Kevin Conroy proves once again that he’s the definitive voice of Batman. Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) voices Commissioner Gordon and Ashley Greene (Twilight) voices Oracle (FKA Batgirl).

I also loved the easter eggs. Rocksteady have such an eye and ear for their audience. There’s so many references to past games and, by extension, the Batman lore. In fact, there are references to key events during the main story and it kept me on edge the whole time.

It’s not often that a series goes out on top. Rocksteady have once again exceeded expectations. They took what worked in the past (amazing gameplay, captivating storytelling, expansive setting) and refined to near perfection. The Batmobile is the icing on this rather delicious Bat-shaped cake. I’ve stayed up until 5:30 in the morning just to see the ending. It really is incredible. Batman: Arkham Knight is the definitive swan song for a phenomenal series, a love letter of all things Batman and one of the best games I’ve played all year. Thank you for making me a believer.

To the Batmobile!!!

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