'Batman: Arkham Knight' (PS4) review
Going down a deep, dark and psychologically rich rabbit hole
- Introduces the Batmobile
- Psychologically dark
- Leans on Batman folklore
- Excellent fighting dynamic
- Limited playback appeal
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
The Dark Knight walks across the room slowly, holding the cure to Scarecrow’s fear toxin, as the building around him begins to give way. Alfred offers him sage advice: “Master Bruce, you must get out of there. Save yourself...” If he leaves, Scarecrow’s toxin will cause the east coast of Gotham to tear the rest of the city apart. If he stays, the crumbling building will cost him his life. He says it with conviction: “Goodbye Alfred.”
Scarecrow’s plan is calculated and long bearing. It starts with a taste; dousting a small diner with his toxin. That’s enough to turn an officer of the law into a murderer. The next step in his plan involves spreading it to the rest of Gotham, while Batman watches helplessly.
A mysterious villain complicates matters further. Batman only knows he is called ‘The Arkham Knight’. The Joker may have been a reflection of Batman’s skewed psychology, but it is the Arkham Knight who matches him in wit, physicality and determination.
Part of Scarecrow’s plan involves a soiree of Gotham’s underworld thugs. Two face, Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Firefly and more are all up to no good. Scarecrow hopes they will keep Batman busy, while they in turn hope Batman will be busy with Scarecrow. These villains provide the fodder for plenty of side missions and flesh out the gameplay.
Innocent people die and this infinitely raises the stakes. Gamers need to pay attention if they hope to be the best possible Batman. In this sense, the game is more true to Batman’s story than Christopher Nolan’s famed trilogy.
The Joker’s posthumous return is cunning and psychologically rich. He is our best measure of seeing what makes Batman tick; his dialogue is written with black comedy and harrowing insight.
Loyal fans and newcomers alike will take something away from this game. Those familiar with the comics will hold their breath when Barbara Gordon faces the Joker in a scene from Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Other graphic novels are referenced, and anyone who spent their childhood watching Batman: The animated series will be thrilled to see posters for The Gray Ghost.
Batman: Arkham Knight is the only game to date that makes use of the Batmobile. It proves to be the best kit on Batman’s proverbial tool belt. Fantastic animations create a sense of drama every time Batman enters it, swooning downwards from rooftops into the driver’s seat, or is catapulted by it into flight over a gloomy Gotham.
The Batmobile is no half-baked inclusion. It has a range of weapons and each wheel is independent, so that it moves in the same way as a computer chair. This unique trait allows for bouts of tank warfare, as the Batmobile is pitted against trucks, tanks and drones from the Arkham Knight’s army.
Forgivingly, the game resorts to Batman making his way across Gotham using his grapnel gun and the wingspan of his cape. The visual of Batman gliding over Gotham, casting a watchful eye, is too dark and poetically rich to swap for trinkets on a car. Including both of them is to the game’s benefit.
This is one of the few games that has been baked enough in development to take advantage of the PlayStation 4’s graphics. Backgrounds are richer and ancillary characters, such as the common thugs Batman so often beats, are more realistic in dimension and detail.
Gotham is a city almost always coloured in shadows and dark greys. It is a place where crime thrives, death lingers and promise wilts. Officers of the law run in fear and the powerless are left defenceless. It’s also a place where villains can become heroes and you can be the god-damn Batman.
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