Batman: Arkham Knight – Effortless Fighting Meets Cumbersome Combat Driving – Video Game First Impressions

Batman: Arkham Knight is a single-player, action-adventure game that was initially released in 2015 for Windows (PC), Xbox One, and the PlayStation 4, and concludes the epic Batman: Arkham series of games. It was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. After playing through both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, and loving the bleeding hell out of them, I finally decided to wrap-up my time with this trilogy by making my way through Arkham Knight. Here are my raw and unfiltered first impressions, as such they may be a bit all over the place.

Batman: Arkham Knight picks up about nine months after the events of Arkham City, where Scarecrow has launched an attack against Gotham, forcing a city-wide evacuation and mass chaos between criminals and law enforcement folx. With some assistance from a mysterious bloke named Arkham Knight, Scarecrow finally has a chance at uniting all the baddies against the Dark Knight to take his arse down once and for all.

After I finished the preceding title, Arkham City, I was actually supremely hesitant in picking this up. Between some of the mixed reviews that I heard about specific gameplay mechanics, and the design of Poison Ivy (she looks like a forty-year-old meth-head, please, fuck that), I knew in my heart that I was not going to like this as much as I did the first two. However, my curiosity got the better of me, which was further intensified by my recent readings of my favourite arcs (comics) from the franchise.  In many ways, I am supremely impressed by the graphical and technical evolution that Rocksteady has brought to this trilogy. Even so, my number one most-anticipated element ended up becoming the most frustrating aspect of the game thus far, making me contemplate dropping it entire. Granted, I’m only an hour or so into it.

The first thing that I noticed was the scope of the cinematics and graphics. In the previous games, especially in Arkham Asylum, the cut-scenes were grossly disjointed with the gameplay aesthetics and not as crisp or beautiful (even pixelated in certain parts). The sequel pretty much fixed that as the cinematics are incorporated into the actual gaming rather than being a separate entity for the most part, which made it so breath-taking. In the third instalment, the details are what makes it so damn stunning. The tiniest drops of rain literally splatter upon Batman’s cowl and cape and then roll away in all directions, the well-defined dimension of the cityscape and it’s plethora of old battered and shiny new buildings, the fact that the NPC characters’ costumes move with their bodies rather than appearing plastered on—it’s all fucking gorgeous and becomes irresistibly immersive.

The second aspect is the fighting. I thought it was extremely fluid and smooth in City, but I had no idea how flawlessly effortless is could become. Seamlessly moving from one asshole baddy to the next feels so much more natural and instinctive now. Some of the clunkiness that I experienced when these blokes were armed has almost completely disappeared. This creates such a fun experience with the battles. I spent the better part of my intro period just going around the city searching for people to beat up, particularly large masses of folx because I love the flow of going from one to the next to the next to the next. I’m really curious to see how the implementation of gadgets shall impact the agility of the fighting, and whether it shall complement it or create some sort of resistance. My hope—and expectation, honestly—is that it’ll just enhance everything even more.

I didn’t get a chance to truly take in the scope of the city and the different locations yet, to see how the map is set-up and aids with tackling down quests, so I can’t comment on whether I like it or hate it. With it being five times the scale of Arkham City’s map, I’m sure that I shall get lost quite often and for extended periods of time, which I’m eagerly looking forward to it. Half the fun in City was just roaming around mindlessly and discovering all that it had to offer.

One thing that the conclusion has that none of the previous titles did is the implementation of the Batmobile. I remember distinctly how fucking stoked everyone was to be able to take control of the Dark Knight’s badass villain slaying vehicle. As someone who loves racing and driving, whether in video games or in real life, this facet was definitely my most-anticipated portion. I have played a lot of games with cars and driving features in them, yet never has any of them been so godawfully unintuitive as the Batmobile. This is probably a severely unpopular opinion, which I’m well-aware of, but it’s the honest fucking truth. I hate the Batmobile. By far, it’s going to be the most unpleasant part of the gaming experience for me.

My preferred method of playing Arkham Knight (and most video games in general) is on the PC. Initially, I thought the keyboard and mouse would not be the greatest way to experience the car of all cars, so I switched to a controller. It still fucking blows. The controls are heavy and super cumbersome. Trying to manoeuvre it around turns, even the widest ones, feels like I’m trying to control a heavily sedated blue whale. It just doesn’t fucking work. First-person perspective does improve a lot of the issues that I had in terms of camera controls and its impact on the overall driving experience, and it’s the only real saving grace for me with the Batmobile, however, it’s still so poorly crafted. The entire time that I was engaged in these specific vehicular quests, all I could wonder was if the developers had ever played a racing game?

The argument can be made that the Batmobile is a beast of a vehicle and because of that it’s supposed to be a lot more unwieldy, to which I would answer, yes. Of course I agree with that sentiment. Nevertheless, it’s also supposed to be an incredible feat of mechanical and technological engineering. The car is designed to be able to effortlessly squeeze into tight places and make severely sharp turns in the chase against evil bastards. You see this in the films and even read about it in the comics. Yet, the contraption that players are stuck with in Arkham Knight is nothing more than a flat lorry masquerading as Batman’s badass ass-kicker on wheels. Just… just no, bro. Fuck no. To say that it is a colossal disappointment would be as big of an understatement.

Now, with that being said, I do like Battle Mode on the Batmobile. It’s so much easier to steer and move around in a way that responds to what the player is actually trying to accomplish. Plus, shooting missiles and things is kind of cathartic in a way after dealing with the hot fucking mess that is trying to go in a straight-ish line when one is not in said Battle Mode.

Overall, my first impressions of Arkham Knight, driving notwithstanding, are rather excellent. The fighting is magnificently on point. The graphics are absolutely lovely. The atmosphere is so dark and dreary and perfectly bleak (I expect nothing less from anything with the word “Batman” slapped on it). The fact that one of my favourite villains from the franchise is taking centre point is also wicked awesome. I only wish that the Batmobile proved to be as pleasant an experience as all of the other characteristics. Learning that the vast majority of the game actually involves said Bat-car, does have me feeling apprehensive and anxious about getting deeper into the story and gameplay because I’m afraid it’s going to make me hate the overall experience. Even so, I shall muster on forth…

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2 thoughts on “Batman: Arkham Knight – Effortless Fighting Meets Cumbersome Combat Driving – Video Game First Impressions

  1. I’m nowhere near finishing this, but I’ve enjoyed it when I’ve ahd the chance to play. The combat in particular really is worth praising. I think my brother summed it up well when he said it made him powerful. It’s easy to pick up and so much fun!

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