My Top 12 Games of 2015: #12 Batman: Arkham Knight
This list will be somewhat in order of which game I liked the most to the game I liked the least (of those games I liked the most). That isn’t to say any game on this list is “bad” it’s just that they are all good, but some are better than others. In all cases I feel like if you play these games you’ll be in for a good time. In the case of Batman: Arkham Knight, I don’t have quick access to my screenshots, so hopefully the small wall of text won’t be too daunting. There will be some light spoilers but it’s mostly stuff that you experience minutes into the game. For the most part, marketing fucked it up long before this post.
Of all the games I’ll be talking about over the next 12 days, this one was the most controversial I think. The PC release for it was absolutely awful. It was like they didn’t even try, which might have been the case. WB is becoming somewhat infamous for just being an awful POS company to buy games from. They are a bit like herpes, not an ideal thing to have, but a lot of people deal with them regardless. Before this game I enjoyed the first three, yes, even Origins. For me Origins was an integral part of the relationship between Batman and the Joker. The story it told was touching in some weird, psychotic, fashion. And with that said, a reminder that I’m about to lightly spoil the game but if you’ve seen any promotional material for it you probably already know.
This title is no different. Very early in the game you are greeted with a statistical impossibility. Alone in a room you turn to find the Joker staring you square in the eyes. With a pull of the trigger from his trademark pistol the game, in my opinion, starts proper. This game is a bit like the Batman version of Injustice. What would happen if Batman lost his goddamn mind? Throughout the game you catch glimpses of such a dark reality in various stages of progress. Worse still, your primary villain is the Scarecrow. His entire MO is screwing with your mind, it couldn’t be a less ideal situation for Batman if it tried.
Well, I suppose it did try. As you are also faced with the Arkham Knight. Any fan of the cartoons or the comics immediately knew who this was, long before the game was released. That didn’t really take away from the game in my opinion. The way they explain the backstory is fresh and fairly dark at times. You wonder if Batman is really a hero or just a man fulfilling his urges by allowing for the cycle of violence to continue unending. He’s getting older, at least one of the side mission characters notices this and is deeply concerned. The Batman might be a legend but he is also mortal. There will come a time when he will die and the evil he has cultivated over all this time will be let loose.
I played through this game thinking about this. The game isn’t oblivious to these facts either. Anyone who is as dumb as I was to complete all the side content will find a lot of content that suggests that Batman is on the far end of his life. He’s not getting healthier and he’s not getting stronger. Each punch, each fall, they are taking their toll on his body. The story is overall very strong. The place where it falls hardest is unfortunately the most important part as far as memories are concerned. The ending is weak, extremely weak. And when you finish the game tells you “If you finished all the Riddler shit you could see the >real< ending!”
So, being a moron, I did.
The riddler trophies are awful. There are, by memory’s count, over 200 over them. It might be less, but it still remains at least 150 more than it should have been. The best moments of the Riddler’s story are those where it’s a complex puzzle and he’s bantering along beside you. Collecting Riddler Trophies is more or less awful. Finding the answer to riddler…riddles…is pretty great. But those are far and few between. I really enjoyed assaulting the Riddler’s goons, that mechanic is neat, but I wish the payoff was a little less agonizing.
Once you finish the agonizingly long riddler arc, you are then met with the real ending. It adds more questions than it answers, because it answers none. It’s the worst “art” ending to a game I can recall in recent years. I remember sitting there with my mouth open thinking I had just been conned hard. It was a hard contrast to the “Help Me…” moment of a few scenes prior in the story. How the same writers could do something that touching (and make me feel bad for a serial killer) and then this awful, just peculiar.
The controls are rock solid. I greatly enjoyed controlling Batman, not much, if anything, has changed in the four installations of the game. Combat is smooth as butter and I almost always felt like it was my fault when I got hit. There was some bullshit moments in the game but overall it was pretty fun. I also had little issue personally with the Batmobile, even if the idea of Batman running over people with a multiton vehicle and not killing them was basically immersion breaking for me.
Graphically the game looked great to me. And the voice acting, sound design, and music were all just dandy. None of it stood out as a problem to me. Additionally I felt that the Scarecrow’s plans, and how they unfolded, were all pretty well executed by the writers and designers. There are quite a few moments that I enjoyed. Frankly, it was the Knight that I found tedious. Scarecrow intrigued me, and seeing that he too is an aging man, the back and forth between two people on the downswing of their life was fun. Like a 90s film about grumpy old men.
Surprisingly I never gave this a proper game review back when I finished it. I think now that I’ve left the sting of the Riddler content behind me I can give my overall feelings on it more clearly. And this only covers the console release. The PC release is a giant fucking mess and I can’t recommend that to anyone. But this on console? It’s really really good! Not game of the year or anything but I had a really good time nearly from start to finish. Playing as Batman has been an experience for me that I won’t soon forget nor would I have ever grown tired of it. I would love to see this kind of quality for characters like Daredevil, or Iron Man, or Spider-man. I want more comic book heroes represented by developers who really love the material.
It’s a damn tragedy that basically no other hero has gotten this kind of care for so many issues. Sure the PC ports (and DLC) have been dogshit but the games themselves have been just fantastic. I wouldn’t list any of them in my top 10 games of all time, but they’d all easily make it into the top 100 (or possibly top 50). As I said though, it gets my final rating of Good!
A fitting end to the series. The DLC is shit, the PC port is shit, but the game itself is really good! I had such a good time when I played it and it is something I'll never have regretted purchasing. I'm genuinely sad that some folks only experienced it through the PC port and might have (rightfully so) not been willing to pay for the console versions after that.