Batman Arkham Knight PS4 Review: Knightfall is Coming

Rocksteady brings the story of its Batman to a strong conclusion.

Review by Mike Williams, .

We have come to the end of the Dark Knight. The journey Rocksteady began in 2009 with Batman: Arkham Asylum finally ends this year with Batman: Arkham Knight. Knight is the story of Batman's end while also standing as the definitive coda to Rocksteady's trilogy.

The core of the Batman: Arkham games remains the same. The combat is still the same counter-and-punish affair you've played in previous Arkham games. Batman still takes to the rooftops with his trademark grappling hook. The Dark Knight and his rogues gallery are still the heavier, darker versions of their classic counterparts. Rocksteady has crafted a great trilogy of Batman games, and its tale tells the story of a very specific Batman. Warner Bros can continue to make Batman: Arkham games, but they'll have to take place within the confines of this trilogy.

Once again, a reason is contrived for the city of Gotham to be devoid of the average citizen. The Joker is dead, but Gotham remains in peril. The primary antagonist for Batman's crusade is the Scarecrow, returning to the Arkham games with a brand-new voice. (Given the Scarecrow's extensive verbal sparring with Batman, Rocksteady has understandably upgraded his voice actor to Fringe and Sleepy Hollow's John Noble.) The Scarecrow has plunged Gotham into chaos, causing most of the citizens to leave the city. Dr. Jonathan Crane's villainous alter ego is joined by the eponymous Arkham Knight, a highly-trained foe with extensive mercenary backing.

Arkham Knight's story is a worthy end to Rocksteady's Batman saga. The Dark Knight takes on a surprising new parter for his final night, but the new addition works perfectly. I admit, I had some issues with the specific direction of the plot at times, but the developer ultimately brought the game and the series to a satisfying conclusion. As a comic fan the identity of the Arkham Knight, the game's primary mystery, was apparent within the game's first third. If you're like me, a few educated guesses will definitely put you on the right track. Despite that, there are a few major twists that keep the tale moving forward.

I say "primary quest" because Arkham Knight has a new "Most Wanted" mission system. The missions available all fall into different categories on an in-game menu. Everything flows into what I call "the mission wheel". Each mission type occupies a certain section on the wheel, counting up to 100 percent as you slowly complete objectives. These missions include the primary plot under the "City of Fear" line, expanding outward to things like the "Perfect Crime" missions that have Batman investigating several corpses that have been mounted around Gotham.

There are dual combat sequences, but they don't really change the way you play.

Some of the quests are story- or character-driven, but a number of them are open-world busywork. You'll have to destroy watchtowers, flying drones, city checkpoints, and mines around the city to free Gotham's three islands from the Arkham Knight's control. I finished all of these missions, but I feel like it's possible to complete the game without diving into the generic open-world quests.

Together, the three islands provide a wide expanse for Batman to fight crime in. The zipline-gliding gameplay pioneered in Arkham Asylum/City still works here; in fact, floating around the city with the zipline>reel-in>glide loop is still immensely satisfying. You can move across the entirety of Gotham rather easily by gliding along, but Rocksteady added Batmobile as a new option.

The Batmobile itself is more of a large metal boat than a car. I got a handle on Batman's iconic vehicle early in the game, but I never really felt like I had precise control of it. My guess is Rocksteady wanted the Batmobile to feel like a big, powerful machine, but that doesn't translate across to the precision you need for certain missions and objectives. When you're tackling the "Armored and Dangerous" missions for example, which feature the Batmobile chasing down armored personnel carriers, you'll wish the vehicle's handling was a bit tighter.

Holding down the L2 trigger (I played on PlayStation 4) turns the Batmobile into its Tank mode. This mode is needed to fight the Arkham Knight's drones around the city; drones will paint their line of fire on the battlefield before taking a shot. You'll shoot down the drones in waves, dodging their attacks while you do so. This is fine early on, but some of the later missions will throw 40-50 drones your way; it can get tedious dodging and shooting for so long.

This tedium extends to the classic Batman: Arkham combat. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are more powerful than their predecessors, but that power isn't used to create smarter enemies. Instead, Arkham Knight features larger groups of thugs and mercenaries. These groups will usually contain various enhanced enemies, including larger brutes, medics, ninjas, and shock troopers. The issue I had is winning is usually about finishing off the hierarchy of foes in the right order. Medics revive and power-up soldiers so you can't attack them directly. Brutes have to be stunned and finished off with a lengthy combo. Some soldiers carry shields or swords; you can disarm them, but other soldiers will pick those items up.

Frequently, you'll find yourself using the correct move to finish a specific enemy, only to be stopped by countering another foe. Batman: Arkham's combat is enjoyable overall, but occasionally having your combos stopped and being pinged in the back of your head feels annoying more than anything else. Seeing Brutes, shield troops, and medics in the same encounter tended to elicit a tired sigh from me more than real excitement and a sense of challenge.

While these are real issues, Batman: Arkham Knight's essential gameplay is still a ton of fun. The stealth gameplay is given bigger playgrounds for Batman to be a scary predator in. There's more mini-games and diversions to reinforce that Batman is as much a detective as he is a pugilist. Gotham's level design is an amazing triumph; once you get to the high rises of Founder's Island, Arkham Knight handily outdoes Arkham City. Rocksteady even breaks up the largely open-world Gotham with enclosed, focused sections, allowing Arkham Knight to split the difference between the tight Arkham Asylum and wider Arkham City.

Jeremy previously wrote about one of his major problems with open-world games: a lack of real exploration. Instead, many open-world titles are simply maps full of icons for players to clear. In Arkham Knight, while some missions have clear waypoints, others are vague in an attempt to make the player explore more. One series of missions has Batman putting out an arsonist's fires, but there's no waypoints; instead you have to look for the smoke billowing out of the city's skyline.

Another series of missions involves finding firefighters that have been taken hostage. You'll get hints from radio chatter between the police helicopters, but otherwise, you're left to your own devices to find the hostages. Once again, slight tedium rears its head, as the helicopters will note specific districts, but the game's maps doesn't clearly mark district names. At one point, I simply floated around an island for 30 minutes looking for the last firefighter. I knew which district the hostage was sighted in, but I didn't know where that district was.

I had issues with Arkham Knight, but the truth is I finished it. I powered my way through the critical path, but I also 100 percent completed many of the additional missions. The Riddler trophies were the only missions or collectibles I simply ignored. Rocksteady absolutely nailed the feeling of being Batman and Arkham Knight only increases the scope of the original games. Yes, I got annoyed, but the moment-to-moment play of Batman: Arkham Knight is still amazing. If you've saved the Asylum and cleaned up the City, it's worth finishing the Knight off.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Lasting appeal: Once you finish the main quest, there's still the rest of the Most Wanted missions and the Knightfall Protocol to keep you occupied.
  • Visuals: Batman: Arkham Knight is an amazing looking game.

Rocksteady brings the story of its version of Batman to a satisfying conclusion. There's some moments of tedium to be found, but if you want to be the Batman, this is one of the best experiences available.

4 /5

Batman Arkham Knight PS4 Review: Knightfall is Coming Mike Williams Rocksteady brings the story of its Batman to a strong conclusion. 2015-06-20T13:00:00-04:00 4 5

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Comments 24

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  • Avatar for Neifirst #1 Neifirst 3 years ago
    A very well written review, as always. I loved Asylum to death, but was overwhelmed by City and its open world environment. I've got this pre-ordered, but when "tedium," "tired," and "power through" are used in a review by an admitted huge fan of open world games, I'm a bit nervous!
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  • Avatar for Thusian #2 Thusian 3 years ago
    This is one of those games where, because I know its coming, I will just wait for the Game of the Year or Ultimate edition or whatever they call it. I will get all the DLC, for one buy in and all of the bugs will be worked out. Or I'll wait till its on sale later on whichever, but buying it at release feels silly.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #3 VotesForCows 3 years ago
    @Neifirst I'm in the same boat - this review confirmed my fears about AK. I think I'll be skipping it, as I found the combat becoming a little wearying by the end of City.
    @Thusian That's increasingly becoming the only sensible way to buy high-profile games!
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  • Avatar for Ralek #4 Ralek 3 years ago
    @Neifirst I hear you, City fleshed out and improved some of the mechanics of Arkham, but lost the overall intimiacy of the whole thing. I still enjoyed it, but not quite as much, and I thus ignored more stuff than in Arkham, like the Riddler challenges. In Asylum, I basically did everything, in City not nearily.
    @Thusian@VotesForCows I'd say that depends ^^ For this game it might be true, but for others it might not. There is a lot of DLC out there, some of it is good, most of it is not though. I think there is even plenty DLC available, again more than otherwise, which is actually not worth playing - at least unless it is attached to your most favourite game ever! :-P
    So you could ask "Can I wait a while longer for this game?", but you could also aks "Is there any chance in hell, the DLC will be worth waiting and/or paying for it?", before you make a call ^^
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 3 years ago
    @Ralek Aye, I bought the Witcher now, and won't buy the DLC. Its big enough to have a complete experience without DLC!
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  • Avatar for Thusian #6 Thusian 3 years ago
    @Ralek I see your point, and maybe its more me, the summer release is a tough time. I'll be out in the yard later into the evening and nor really have it in me to play an expansive game. I'll likely just run a round of Splatoon or two before hitting the hay. Not planning to take much vacation this summer does not help. So it makes it easier for me to take a wait and see approach.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #7 Kuni-Nino 3 years ago
    This isn't the review I wanted.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #8 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @Kuni-Nino wanted something completely glowing?
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #9 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @Kuni-Nino wanted something completely glowing?
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  • Avatar for Ralek #10 Ralek 3 years ago
    @Thusian That's a good point of course. If you are not like "I really want to play this right away", then waiting makes a lot of sense. Gives you the option to go for the "complete version" later on, or in case that's not worth it, go for the by-then dirt cheap vanilla game.
    Either way, it also applies to the holiday releases, I think, in sofar, that noone has time to play all those games right away. So I get, what I want most, and I feel like playing "right now", the rest are suitable candidates for GotY or bargain purchases.

    Looking back at like the last 1.5 years, I bought quite a few games right away. Some I played (and finished) others not so much. But as far as DLC goes, I got Storm Island to expand FH2, Destiny SP eventually, to be able to play ToO, and I'm looking to get the TEW DLC, since that looks mostly pretty good and I loved the maingame.
    Other than that, I might pick up some DLC once it's way down in price, like Wolfenstein: Old Blood (not really DLC, but still), but as far as stuff that I really want goes, that was about it. For example, I have zero interest in the Shadow Of Mordor DLC barrage, or all the BF4, CoD and whatnot stuff. So I say the vast majority of DLC passed me by, and I don't feel I missed out on anything really.
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  • Avatar for internisus #11 internisus 3 years ago
    "There's more mini-games and diversions to reinforce that Batman is as much a detective as he is a pugilist."

    I'm very happy to hear this. Batman as detective has been completely absent from the marketing for this game.
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  • Avatar for christopherhughes97 #12 christopherhughes97 3 years ago
    What is up with that design for Tim? I'm not sure I get how you approach the character in the batfamily mostly defined by being dorky and earnest and get... that.

    If the game design is in between Asylum and City, then that sounds like a step in the right direction to me.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #13 hal9k 3 years ago
    It's the review we deserve, but not the one we need right now (sorry - am I doing this right?).
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #14 Kuni-Nino 3 years ago
    @MHWilliams Kind of. For some reason, I'm having trouble summoning the enthusiasm to play this game and hearing that it's a bit of a slog is killing what little desire I have. I don't have any problems with the review. It's just not what I want to hear. Hopefully it changes when I have the controller in my hands and I'm finally playing it.

    That's what happened with Origins anyway. It got knocked around a lot by critics and it killed my desire to play it. I ended up buying it a few months later on a deal and had a complete blast. I think it might be my favorite of the Arkham games to be honest. It was so good.
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  • Avatar for vincentgoodwin88 #15 vincentgoodwin88 3 years ago
    @photoboy When I play these games, Batman also dies in the middle. And at the beginning. Batman is not a very good crimefighter in my hands.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #16 Roto13 3 years ago
  • Avatar for #17 3 years ago
    @MHWilliams Which is exactly why you and the others at USgamer are my favorite reviews. You don't forget to list the bad with the good to give a more accurate feel to what I'll experience. Especially when your critiques are reasonable and justified in being listed.
    Another great review from a reader who appreciates it. Well balanced reviews are extremely rare these days.
    I hope you guys never change.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #18 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @Kuni-Nino If you dug Origins I think you'll be fine. I completed most of the extra missions for example, so I probably did a bit more in the game than most people will, which feeds into the feeling of slog.
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  • Avatar for chrismith85 #19 chrismith85 3 years ago
    @MHWilliams Speaking of Origins, how much does it tie into Arkham Knight? I just finished re-playing Asylum and am making my way through City now. Does Origins feel like a natural part of the series when followed by Knight, or would you recommend skipping it and just playing the Rocksteady Trilogy?
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #20 riderkicker 3 years ago
    Maybe the next Batman game should be more of a closed world game with lots to explore and do, a little closer to the Yakuza series. But such a thing would require Batman to behave more like the tv show counterpart, and we can't have that because it's not gritty.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #21 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @chrismith85 two of the villains from Origins make an appearance, and others are mentioned, so Rocksteady isn't completely ignoring it.
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  • Avatar for gamer1234cv #22 gamer1234cv 3 years ago
    Why the review only shows Lasting appeal and Visuals? What happen to the Audio and other things?
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #23 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @gamer1234cv Our system now lets us remove callout categories we feel we have nothing to say about.Edited 2 times. Last edited June 2015 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for konjkavkonjkavsite63 #24 konjkavkonjkavsite63 7 months ago