Thursday 21 April 2016

Dark Game Review – Batman: Arkham Knight

Dark Game Review – Batman: Arkham Knight

Review Written By Casey Douglass

When I bought my new GPU last year, it came with a code for Batman: Arkham Knight. At the time, the PC port was being problematic, to say the least, so I shelved it and looked mournfully at the game on offer the following month when it turned out to be Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. A few weeks ago, I found myself at a bit of a loss when it came to my gaming time, so I decided to embark on a trip to the wet streets of Gotham once more, hoping that it wouldn’t be as bad as I feared.

In the time that has elapsed since its release last Summer, there have inevitably been patches that aimed to sort out some of the performance issues. I must admit that I didn’t bother to push the game too hard, I’ve never been one that fancies tinkering with graphic settings for ages trying to find the right balance of visuals and performance. I left all the usual settings at Normal for 1080p, but turned on the NVIDIA GameWorks Effects instead; stuff that makes the smoke and fog better, more litter on the streets and enhanced rain effects. I think it pushed the GPU memory estimate near the 4GB limit of my card, so I left things at that and played. I am happy to say that not once did I experience a noticeable frame-rate drop or graphical glitch. The only issue I had was when I went into the skill upgrade menu near the midpoint of the game and my PC hard-locked, requiring a physical powering off. I know shit happens but I hoped we’d be past software being able to hard-lock a PC. Crash to desktop gracefully if you like but don’t freeze the entire system. It didn’t happen again and I finished the game without further incident. Your own mileage may vary however.

I remember when all of this was fields...

Once you are in the game proper and in control of Batman, the graphical fidelity is very impressive indeed. When I'd seen screenshots of the game or even footage, it didn’t compare to how the game actually felt to experience. Rain trickles down surfaces, fog and smoke hangs in the air and the city is such a fantastic place to view and swoop through, it was quite simply, great! A particular thing I enjoyed was when Batman answered the video-calls that extend from his forearm, yet most of the time, you can still walk him around while it is happening. I don’t know why I was so impressed by that, I just was.

Smart watches can't touch Batman's technology!

The joy of most of the recent Batman games has been the combat however, and Batman: Arkham Knight doesn't disappoint on this front. The usual Predator type situations are there, taking out a cluster of goons using hanging take-downs, explosive gel and gadget-based sabotage. When things do go wrong however, you can fall back on the intuitive parry-based combat that makes you feel so uber. My own particular favourite move was using the bat-claw to launch an enemy towards me, Scorpian style and brutally clothes-lining him. The first time I did this, it was the last blow of the fight, which meant slo-mo was triggered. I can’t remember what I shouted, something naughty and fist-pumping.

I was impressed with the story. I am not the biggest Batman buff in the world, but I did enjoy the twisted and quite brutal narrative. I think Batman: Arkham Knight had the best story for me, of any of the recent games. It featured madness, trickery and sacrifice, what more could you want?

Talking of madness... look who's back!

Oh, I haven’t even mentioned the Batmobile, the ride of choice for Batman as he tears through the criminals on the streets. Batman can call it as he glides down to a road, it skidding to pick him up and drive on. Batman can also control it remotely, giving the opportunity for turning the tables at least a couple of times in the main story line, the car getting behind thugs that think they have the batty one trapped. Their cries of surprise as it takes them out are music to the ears. If the Batmobile is nearby, you can also make use of it in some of Batman’s fighting take-downs: throwing the thug into the air for the Batmobile’s gun to land the final thunderous hit.

Car-shaped carnage lurks in the background.

As I said, I enjoyed the main story, and the side missions were also really interesting, things like apprehending other named criminals such as Two-face and Penguin. The only side-boss that I didn’t beat was The Riddler, because he did a disappearing act and then broadcast that he'd only fight when I'd solved all of his riddles etc. I can understand the draw of exploring the city and looking for the stuff he has done but it isn’t for me this time, I just can’t be bothered. I finished everything else though and triggered the ending, which was serviceable, but nothing that really made me go "Wow!". I think I read that if you get a 100% completion (I had 96%) you get the full ending with extra cut-scene stuff but again, The Riddler’s bullshit would need to be solved for that. I could search YouTube and find the extra ending but I find myself not really caring, I got my ending and that’s all that matters, much like how I felt with Mass Effect 3 and why I can’t bring myself to replay the ME Trilogy again.

Batman: Arkham Knight exceeded my very low expectations and I am happy to say that it is probably one of the better games I have played in the last year or so. I don’t know how I would have fared if I had played at launch, but a year on, the experience was very enjoyable. If you are like me and you have Batman: Arkham Knight for PC and haven’t touched it yet, now might be the time to check it out.

I’d give the game 4.5/5.

Game Title: Batman: Arkham Knight
Platform: PC
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Screenshots from Batman: Arkham Knight © Copyright Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment