Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Thoughts on Batman Arkham Knight

I have been lost in the crime ridden streets of Gotham since I got my hands on Batman Arkham Knight just a few weeks ago. I have been soaking in every gorgeous detail and cherishing my time with some of the greatest villains ever created. Unfortunately, it wasn't much time because I finished the main story in about 3 days. Now that I have finished the game, with the exception of all Riddler activities, I figured I would share some final thoughts. So this would be a good time to mention that this post will be full of SPOILERS. Seriously, all of the SPOILERS! SPOILERS upon SPOILERS. And just in case we aren't clear...

The Batmobile

This seems to be quite the divisive topic when it comes to this game. Some people love it, some people absolutely hate it. I would say I'm somewhat in the middle. I didn't absolutely hate the batmobile, but I most certainly could have gone without it. I will say, it is extremely polished. Going in and out of battle mode was seamless and the tank drone fights were really well done. However, later battles in the game that pit you up against the Arkham Knight and his ridiculously armored tank and drill were some of the most frustrating gaming moments I have encountered in recent years. Something about him being in pursuit of the batmobile seemed to change the handling in a way that it felt like the game world was suddenly butter, and the batmobile would slide in every direction except the one you wanted it to go. Derpy camera angles and the searchlight from his drill going through the underground tunnels made things all the more difficult. So difficult and frustrating that I shamelessly changed the difficulty to "easy" for those particular battles. Maybe I just suck at this game, but I was sick of him getting in the way of finishing the main missions. I also didn't want my frustrations to taint my perception of what is a near perfect game. Which brings us to...

Glitches and Other Weirdness

This won't be a very long section considering I played this on PS4 and not on PC. During my time in Gotham I only encountered two major glitches. One near the very beginning of the game while going into the clock tower. The cut scene began but there was no audio, I tried to switch on subtitles so I could at least read the conversation happening but that caused my game to crash. I quit to the Playstation main menu but it suddenly jumped back into the frozen game and crashed the entire system. The second happened near the very end of the game. One last time for good measure, SPOILERS! I had just had the shock of a lifetime finding out that Barbara was alive. After a dramatic showdown with Batman, Gordon, Barbara, and Scarecrow I was able to rescue Oracle and bring her back to the GCPD. Only when Batman carried her in, she wasn't in his arms. I thought maybe Batman really was losing his mind and she really wasn't alive. So after an awkward scene of Batman talking to the air around him, gameplay resumed and I could finally see Barbara. Other weirdness I encountered mostly had to do with weird camera angles when trying to maneuver the batmobile and really weird combat when it came to trying to fight someone on a set of stairs. 

The Story

When I first heard that Scarecrow was to be one of the main antagonists of Arkham Knight, I was stoked. I loved his segments in Arkham Asylum, they were so well done and caught you by complete surprise. Particularly when it made you think your system had crashed. Even though his demeanor is quite a departure from Asylum, I still really enjoyed all of the bits where he actually made an appearance. Particular high points included the movie studios takeover by Harley Quinn, the eerie airship battle when suddenly all the henchmen rise like zombies, any chance you got to use those incredible dual takedowns with your sidekicks, and the ending of course. My only real complaint with the story is that I wish it was longer. But you can't fully delve into talking about the story without mentioning...

The Reveals

After the ending of Arkham City I sat in shock in a dark room with endless credits rolling by while being serenaded by the Joker and what seemed to be his last words. After that, websites everywhere went crazy about Mark Hamill saying that was his final performance as the Joker and he was retiring the voice. I believed it. I was interested to see what kind of a Joker-less Batman game they were going to bring to the table. Who could have guessed that killing off the character meant you would see them more than you ever have before. In what would be the first of many jump scares in the game, (that weren't ruined by E3 demos) you are confronted by Joker. You assume it is Scarecrow's fear toxin working its magic when you are suddenly transported to a flashback at Batman's movie studio hideout. There you discover the patients who were poisoned with the Joker's blood in Arkham City who are now transforming into him. Only there is one empty cell reserved for the dark knight himself. That's when you realize it wasn't Crane's toxin after all, he is really in our head. From then on he is the little devil on your shoulder, popping up constantly to give you his point of view on things. His transitions in and out of scenes are flawless and his commentary is absolute perfection. And I haven't even mentioned the incredible musical number...Oh, how good it was to have him back!

But that wasn't even the big reveal. Of course the big reveal was who was going to be the Arkham Knight. For a lot of people, this wasn't a huge surprise. For many people, this was a crushing disappointment. As someone with minimal knowledge of the Batman universe other than info provided by the games and quick google searches to understand things better, I knew immediately after the first trip down Joker's torture lane. Was I surprised by the Jason Todd reveal? Obviously not. Was I disappointed? No. I mean, who else could it have been? It made sense, (even though I'm still somewhat confused on where he was able to pull the funds for an army and advanced military equipment.) In fact the only thing that disappointed me about his reveal was his weak boss battle.

Of course the final reveal, that I spoiled already, was Oracle being alive and well. I mean, as well as one could be after spending some time with Scarecrow. I wasn't exactly surprised by this, but I was happy. I guess if comic books and comic book films have taught me anything, it's that no one really ever dies, (looking at you Captain America: The Winter Soldier.)

But even once you've finished the story, there are still a number of things to keep you busy in Gotham. Which brings us to...

Side Missions

Arkham City had some of the greatest side missions to grace any video game. You got to interact with the likes of Bane, Zsasz, the Mad Hatter, the ever cryptic Azrael, and more even though they weren't central to the story. Arkham Knight continues this trend and adds even more. The murder mystery and reveal of Pyg was interesting and unsettling in the best way possible. Tracking down Penguins weapons caches was a nice little treat if only to use those very well done dual takedowns with Knighwing. It was nice to see the Riddler integrated more into the story by including Catwomen. The Two-Face bank robberies were hectic fun. And the Man-Bat was a terrifying and fun surprise. It was also nice to see continuations of side missions from City, like the conclusion to all those cryptic messages from Azrael. However, some continuations were a tad disappointing. What was setting up to be one of the most interesting side missions when all communication with Lucius is lost turns out to be a continuation of what happened with that Bruce Wayne identity thief Hush from City. The start of the mission was incredible with you assuming you are in control of Bruce Wayne only to violently be told you are actually in control of the baddie. But, almost as quickly as it begins, it is over within minutes after a simple counter move. I guess I was hoping for a series of missions involving Hush after all of the set up in Arkham City. Other frustrations include the endless bombs and watch towers which just get monotonous after a while and the painful Firefly batmobile chases....Okay, maybe I just really suck at driving the batmobile. Seriously, I think I did more damage to Gotham than the criminals. It should be a pile of rubble with the amount of support pillars I demolished...but we're getting off topic now. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, it was an incredible game and was the first game that made my PS4 purchase feel worth it and has got me even more excited for what's to come. It's hard to say if it is my favorite of the series, I will have to go back and revisit Asylum and City before I can say. But it was a damn good game and I am a tad bummed I finished it so quickly. Here's to hoping the Batgirl DLC will be awesome!