“It's the freakin' bat!”
Thirty seconds prior you are sailing over Gotham, looking for a Riddler trophy or another one of the games many side quests, then you overhear a lowly thugs' plan to take the dark knight down. So you decide to prove him wrong and glide in while tossing a few batarangs, and after a flurry of punches, counters, and a timely quick gadget later you finish the lone combatant with a batmobile assisted takedown. You dust yourself off in the spectacular neon lights, jump into the batmobile and drive off without looking back.
Welcome to a Gotham that you have never seen before.
From the moment you begin the game, you can tell that Arkham Knight is going to be a dour yet beautiful affair. The clown prince of crime is dead and the power vacuum is filled by Scarecrow, who against all odds has turned Gotham into the haunted house he always wanted it to be. However he has an ally, A mysterious figure called the Arkham Knight who makes his disdain for Batman known from their first encounter. The mystery and intrigue that surrounds the identity of the Arkham knight always beckons you to plow through the story, but yet you find yourself torn between doing a story mission and a side mission.
If you are familiar with the series, you will feel right at home-the control scheme that worked so well in the past remains, however Rocksteady (and the Arkham Knight) has made sure that no seasoned veteran of the series cannot simply stroll (or rather glide) into battle. Predator scenarios in the past could be achieved by a 'glide in, zip out' approach as you slowly and silently pick off cronies. It's not so simple now. There are enemies that deploy sentry guns or control drones, Medics that revive downed comrades, and brutes with miniguns that will patrol an objective. Predator situations require a more measured approach and careful consideration, however there are more gadgets at your disposal and it will reward the more patient of players.
As for the open melee combat, the days of wailing on a dozen punching bags are long gone as well. on any given Sunday there could be half a dozen armed thugs; two with stun batons, two with shields, a medic or two and the always present brute. Just like the predator scenarios, the tension is heightened and you just can't jump in useless you have a plan or things can go south very quickly.
Then there is the batmobile.
It is easily the most contentious aspect of the game as many fans will either love it or hate it. From the start the control scheme is not user friendly, thankfully the controls can be changed after the tutorial. The real problem is that so much of the game revolves around the Dark Knight rider and it is the least consistent mechanic in the game. When you are pursuing one of Gothams most wanted through the streets, you can plow through many destructible objects and not bat an eyelid, but yet you can lose traction on a slight incline and lose your mind.
Then there is the Batmobiles battle mode which is quite basic; string together a combo without getting hit and you unlock a variety of special moves that will aid in battle, rinse and repeat. The Batmobile combat is the least rewarding aspect of the game, and when you do finally get to drive it in pursuit mode it is the slowest way to traverse Gotham (unless you prefer running) and many side quests require the batmobile and they could become tedious even for the many ardent completionists out there.
However by car or by air, Rocksteady may have created the greatest representation of Gotham city to date. As you are perched atop of one of Gothams many buildings, you can see the beads of rain drip from Batmans cape in the foreground as you gaze upon lights of Wayne tower in the distance. And as you soar over the city The bat's cape ripples in the breeze as the lightning cracks, then you can drop down into a plaza and see Zatannas magic shop, or you can drive the streets and spot John Constatines office while looking for yet another riddle. Although Gotham was not ever intended to be pretty place, it has life and vibrancy that is accentuated by the superb lighting effects, and the various familiar (and not so familiar) cameos leaves you thinking that Arkham knight was made by fans for the fans.
In the end, Arkham knight will make you sad, happy, then sad again. The engaging story will make you sad when it comes to an end, the gameplay will make you happy when you think back to the fun you've had, then you'll become sad again knowing that this awesome series has come to a close.