REVIEW: Batman is back, and this time he’s brought the car

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Batman Arkham Knight screen

  • reviewed on PS4 / Rated M / $59.99 / released June 2015
  • FINAL: You NEED this game. 5 out of 5 stars

At the beginning of “Batman: Arkham Knight,” Commissioner Gordon dramatically announces, “This is how the Batman dies.” Thus the tone is set for another grim adventure for the Dark Knight, presumably the final one until this game’s sales receipts come in.

“Arkham Knight” is the fourth in the “Arkham” series, the franchise that single-handedly broke the curse of disappointing super hero video games. “Knight” utilizes the same structure and controls – and the same man-brick art design for Batman and company – so fans of previous installments will know what to expect. The big differentiator for “Knight” is the arrival of the Batmobile.

The Batmobile brings a new slate of vehicle-based missions, most of which seem at odds with the usual Batman style of sneaking around in the shadows. The Batmobile transforms from a slippery race car to a squirrelly tank, with both modes feeling far lighter than you would expect of a massively weaponized, high performance super-vehicle. While the Batmobile’s presence does lead to some weird situations where the game forces you to use the car when you could probably get by without it, overall it is a fun addition. You get to careen through Gotham’s streets, exploding into police chases and ejecting Batman into the night sky when you need to hit the rooftops.

But how does the Batman die? Following up from events in previous games, “Knight” focuses on the return of the Scarecrow and his plan to detonate a fear bomb. Assisting Scarecrow is a new villain calling himself the Arkham Knight, who clearly holds a very personal grudge against Batman. The Knight’s identity is a mystery for Batman to solve, although longtime bat-fans can probably toss a single dart and hit the bullseye.

“Arkham Knight” is an “open world” video game, packed with side-quests and hidden collectibles that constantly threaten to pull Batman away from his fight against Scarecrow. Many of these are welcome distractions, as they allow other characters a chance on the stage. The Penguin, Catwoman, Nightwing and Man-Bat all appear in these smaller spotlights, although the Riddler again steals the show with his collection of hundreds of hidden puzzles and objects. Taking things to a ridiculous extreme, the Riddler now has secret underground racetracks and vehicle-based puzzles, just to give the Batmobile more to do.

When a game is as large as “Arkham Knight,” that just means it has more opportunities to stumble. Thankfully, the Riddler’s goofy racetracks – and other areas where gameplay needs trump story rationale – are easily forgotten and do not weigh down the greater part of the game. Gotham City is a blast to explore, both on the streets and in the sky, and Batman himself offers a mix of brutal physicality and ninja-like stealth skills. “Arkham Knight” delivers variety, freedom and DC Comics fan service, making this game a must-play.

This review is based on product provided by the publisher. “Batman: Arkham Knight” is available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The PC version of this game was removed from availability due to technical issues and was not included in this review. Image courtesy Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment.

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