Yep, we’re finally getting around to a list about Batman: Arkham Knight. We would have gotten to the finale (for now) of the Arkham Asylum series sooner, but the game having come out right before our Comic-Con coverage kind of made any attempts to get a timely list out sort of futile anyway.
Then again, it was also tricky deciding what approach to take with this list, largely due to the fact that all of the stuff in Arkham Knight that I wanted to talk about involves some rather hefty spoilers. So in the end, I just decided to catalog the moments in the game that stood out the most – for better and for worse – and highlight them all, spoilers be damned. Plus, enough time has passed for all of you to have picked through the entire game anyway, so why not have this all double as a SPOILER thread as well?
So without further ado – but with one last warning that those who have yet to complete the game should be wary – let’s see what Arkham Knight had to offer when it came to stuff worth shining a Bat-signal on!
For those of you unfamiliar with the game’s plot…well then, what the heck are you doing in a blatant SPOILER thread for the game? Dammit, I already gave you a final warning! But alright, here’s a quick summary of the game’s story: One year after the events of Arkham City and the Joker’s death and cremation, things in Gotham City have sort of calmed down. As it turns out, though, all of the major villains have been helping the Scarecrow fund a massive scheme along with his new partner, a mysterious unknown villain (I know, I know, but please hold your snark until we get to that) called the Arkham Knight. So after Scarecrow broadcasts a massive threat that clears out Gotham and allows the Arkham Knight to let his massive militia loose, Batman needs to step and sort things out (mostly with his fists, naturally). Unfortunately, Batman didn’t expect the return of some old friends…anyhow, on with the game’s most memorable moments!
1. The Batmobile
Okay, let’s start off by addressing the elephant in the room: The Batmobile. Rocksteady finally gave us the chance to drive around in it after we demanded it for so many years, only to find out that we had stumbled into some sort of “monkey’s paw” scenario.
It’s not that the control is awkward…well, it sort of is when you start out, but it’s easy to get a handle on it quickly. It’s not even that zipping through streets or engaging in tank battles with the Knight’s remote-controlled drones isn’t fun (although the Arkham Knight using unmanned tanks feels like a cheap way to get around Batman not killing); no, it definitely ends up being fun at times.
The flaw here is in how goddamn much the game forces the Batmobile section on the player. When given a chance, Arkham Knight will find a way to mandate that the player to use the Batmobile in a story mission no matter what, be it having to fend off a legion of tanks with it, or having to use it to rip apart industrial areas to create paths so you can advance. That’s not even counting all of the side missions involving it, right down to the Riddler creating time trial obstacle courses for his latest riddles (because now he’s apparently quizzing Batman on his knowledge of the Fast and Furious films this time around, apparently).
Also, for a game whose tagline is “Be the Batman,” it seems odd to practically center the game around the one gameplay element that makes me feel the least like Batman. When you glide around as Batman in the prior Arkham games, there’s always a natural grace to it, like, even when you miss your intended target, Batman will still land in a way that makes it seem natural. When I’m in the Batmobile, all it feels like I’m doing is crashing all around, shooting things up (with non-lethal ammo), and causing Man of Steel levels of damage. So yeah, what we ended up with here feels like wasted potential at best.
2. Barbara Gordon’s “Death”
Okay, there’s the obvious fact that this is pretty much a “women in fridges” moment, but frankly, I’d rather concentrate on how insulted I feel over Rocksteady believing that we might actually be tricked by this. Let’s see: a character already under the influence of fear toxin comes to an area where even more fear toxin is deployed, sees his ally get shot in a surprisingly bloodless death, then never bothers to examine the body or alert anyone else about the body so that they can examine it as well? Nope, nothing about that seems suspect, so I guess this major character must really be dead, guys! Ugh. Sure enough, Barbara turns up alive later on to nobody’s surprise, all while people wonder how the hell Scarecrow was able to get Batman to imagine an exact image of his friend committing suicide.
3. The Deathstroke Boss Battle
So after having defeated the Arkham Knight, Deathstroke pops up to take over his militia and finally defeat Batman, whom he has deemed his most worthy opponent after their encounter in Arkham Origins. Yeah, remember Deathstroke’s boss battle in that game?
Oh yeah, that’s the stuff! Regardless of Origins’ shortcomings, the fight against Deathstroke was basically everything I had wanted in an Arkham boss battle: a tense, action-packed battle between Batman and a foe that’s his equal in combat, with success riding on the player’s quick reflexes and timing. Great stuff.
And for his Arkham Knight battle? He gets a recycled boss battle, first taking the form of a tank bout you’ve already had against the Arkham Knight earlier. And after finally disabling the tank, this happens…
One of DC’s most legendary and deadliest, defeated by one punch in a cutscene. Wheeee. Aside from being yet another example of putting too much focus on the damn Batmobile at the expense of everything else, it also highlights how extremely weak the bosses in Arkham Knight are. And if you need another example for that…
4. The Arkham Knight’s Giant Drill
So after basically having waited long enough, the Arkham Knight decides to just flat-out kill Batman using…a massive drilling machine. And if I have to be honest, this just feels a bit too over-the-top for this game, and considering that one of your side missions involves dive-bombing a half-human/half-bat hybrid from sixty feet in the air, that’s saying something.
Anyhow, the goal is to lure the Knight’s drill into a series of passages lined with explosives, all while trying to avoid getting rammed by the one-hit-kill machine. Supposedly, people have called this one of the game’s most frustrating boss fights.
Me, I thought it was pathetically easy.
I mean, as seen in the above video, all you have to do is drive to the entrances to the bomb-filled tunnels located on the map, park, then wait for the Knight to drive by and notice you, at which point you just drive down the tunnel and watch as the drill collides with the blatantly obvious explosives in a moment that feels almost cartoonish, like you almost expect to hear “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down” play after each successful lure. Mr. Freeze, these bosses ain’t.
5. Jason Todd as the Arkham Knight
Okay, so the Arkham Knight is a young-sounding person who claims to know everything about Batman and has a vendetta against him, constantly alluding to how Batman failed and let him down. Throw in the fact that the game’s pre-order bonus is a set of Red Hood DLC missions, and I think it’s safe to say that things become a wee bit predictable.
But impressively enough, just simply having Jason Todd be your supposedly new villain, only to have him turn out to be Red Hood again and the fact that it’s so blatantly obvious aren’t my major beefs here. No, those are annoyances, but my biggest beef concerning Jason Todd as the villain involves something I noticed once these sequences started popping up during the section where Harley Quinn invades Batman’s hideout…
It was at this moment that I realized something: I was halfway through the game at this point and only now is the damn game actually even mentioning Jason Todd! In fact, I actually went back to see if Jason Todd is alluded to at all in any other Arkham game, and apparently there are all of two throwaway lines about him, one in Asylum and the other in a challenge map for City. Up until this point in the whole damn series, Jason’s name hadn’t even come up at all.
My point is that somehow, Jason Todd being the Arkham Knight is both something that’s completely obvious and something pulled out of the writers’ asses at the same time! Quite the incredible feat!
Oh, and for bonus points, Jason Todd never actually died in this version. Instead, he was locked up by the Joker in Arkham Asylum for a year, tortured and brainwashed Batman Beyond-style. This means that Batman actually believed the Joker when he said that he had killed Jason despite a complete lack of a body, and didn’t know where the hell Jason was this whole time despite him being in the Joker’s freaking second home, and a place Batman should know inside and out. Between this and the incident with Barbara earlier, I’m starting to doubt his status as “World’s Greatest Detective.”
6. The Ending (and How It’s Held Hostage)
I was initially confused by Arkham Knight’s finale. I had defeated Scarecrow, dropped him off at the GCPD, and then…the game just went straight back to regular gameplay. Then Batman told Alfred to prepare the Knightfall protocol while he still had some work to do.
Yes, Arkham Knight won’t even show you the freaking credits until you’ve defeated Deathstroke, which requires you to first take down a few dozen of the AK militia’s checkpoints, watchtowers, Armored Personnel Carriers, and explosive devices, all while wondering if the developers actually understand the definition of a side mission. And even when the game actually lets you activate Knightfall, all you see is Bruce Wayne pull a Dark Knight Returns and fake his death, where you’re then greeted with this after the credits:
Yes, in order to unlock the “true” ending, you need to complete ALL of the side missions, including having to find all 243 Riddler Trophies. Seriously, Rocksteady? Offering a reward for 100% completion is natural, sure, but refusing to let players know how the story to one of the greatest modern gaming franchises ends unless they solve everything? Not cool, guys. Thankfully, we live in an age where YouTube exists, so as you can see here, the true ending is…
…honestly kind of a disappointment. Yep, they decided to leave the supposed final game in the series on a completely ambiguous note and a potential cliffhanger. Who is the new Batman? Is it still Bruce? Why does he look like the demon version of Batman from Scarecrow’s earlier hallucination? Will Warner Bros. continue to milk this series without Rocksteady to answer these questions? Frankly, I don’t care at the moment, because I’m still pissed at what we had to go through just for a tease instead of an actual conclusion.
Sorry, have I been too harsh on the game so far? I did say these were for better or for worse, and now that the latter is over…
7. The Joker Hallucinations
Oh, did you really think these games were done with him? We all guessed that the Joker would at least come back as a flashback or a hallucination or some sort, but as a villainous trickster guide throughout the entire game brought on by Scarecrow’s fear toxin? And he’s voiced by Mark Hamill again? Oh yes (and props to marketing for actually successfully keeping his inclusion a secret, unlike with Origins).
And what’s more, his tainted blood from Arkham City is causing his personality to manifest in several untreated people it was injected into (which admittedly causes a mess of continuity problems with these games) and turning them all into new Jokers…including Batman himself, trying to essentially take over his body and become a murderous, crazed vigilante. So not only is the game spiked with several hilarious moments courtesy of Hamill as Batsy’s old friend, taunting him at every turn, but it also has several billboards and statues around Gotham changing randomly to reflect the Joker’s growing influence, subliminally urging Batman to give in and even start killing in some glorious mindfuckery.
But while we’re on the subject of the Joker…
8. The Final Level
After being taken hostage in order to save Robin and Gordon, Batman finds himself at Arkham Asylum, strapped up by Scarecrow, with his secret identity having just been revealed to the entire world. But not content with merely killing the Batman, Scarecrow wants to break him, so in goes the fear toxin and out comes the Joker in Batman’s mind.
Now, the playable Joker section in Arkham Origins was a tough act to follow indeed, but a twisted third-person shooter segment where the Joker massacres Batman’s rogues, followed by an FPS bit where Batman actually screws with the Joker and defeats him with his greatest fear, is at least on par with all of that. Plus, there’s…the Jokermobile.
Note to all action figure manufacturers: Get on this. ASAP.
9. The Easter Eggs
Okay, so Easter Eggs are pretty common in the Arkham games, but Arkham Knight just really seems to go all out with them. At times, it almost feels like Rocksteady is deliberately trying to tease us about other potential DC games to follow afterwards, as both scenery and character dialogue drop nods to Superman, The Flash, Green Arrow, Birds of Prey, Suicide Squad and many more.
But the moment that stood out for me, hands down, is just casually toying with the answering machine in the Wayne Enterprises office and hearing a message from a fully-voiced Lex Luthor pop up. I’m not going to deny that I grinned with glee over seeing DC’s other big-name villain show up in Arkham Knight. I’d say he’s probably scheming to make some No Man’s Land-style where he rebuilds Gotham territory, but considering that the game has an entire district named Otisburg, it looks like his henchmen may be ahead of him…
10. The Riddler’s Unlockable Story
…But really, it’s about ethics in vigilantism.
11. Professor Pyg
The actual fight against Professor Pyg is a bit brief, but I chose to highlight it here for three reasons: 1. Before you can even get to Pyg, you have to track down and identify a series of crucified bodies in a rare moment of actual detective work in this game (albeit rather simplistic detective work), 2. Pyg himself is delightfully deranged and creepy, with a nice helping of ham (pun not intended), and 3. Any time the series remembers that there are Modern Age Batman villains to work with and that they don’t just have to rely on the old standards is a moment I truly appreciate (Deacon Blackfire also has a side mission as well, albeit briefer). So all of that combined adds up to what is easily the game’s best Most Wanted mission.
12. The Cloudburst
So in case you haven’t heard, Arkham Knight happens to have some ridiculously good graphics. And to me, the highlight of the game’s visuals is when Scarecrow activates his superweapon, the Cloudburst. Spreading his fear gas over all of Gotham, the weapon has an end result that’s a chaotic maelstrom which actually makes the city look like something straight out of hell. And then there are the moments where Bats actually has to go into that storm, where everything straight-up looks like the end of days, with lightning, fiery colors, violence, and hallucinations of laughing Jokers everywhere. Scarecrow calls it the City of Fear, but damned if it doesn’t look impressive as hell.
13. Poison Ivy’s Sacrifice
Compared to Barbara Gordon’s “death,” which felt undignified, cruel, and fake, Poison Ivy’s sacrifice was something that I legitimately didn’t see coming. After being persuaded by Batman to help get rid of Scarecrow’s gas in order to help save all of the fauna and general nature in Gotham, she summons two giant legendary plants to absorb all of the fear toxin. Unfortunately, the strenuous amount of work Ivy needs to do all of this combined with attacks by the Arkham Knight’s men have taken their toll on her, and so with one last surge, Ivy uses up all of her power to reinvigorate the trees, causing them to successfully absorb all of the toxin. Ivy comes out fatigued, then crumbles up with her body scattered by the wind, her final act being a noble one as the torrential rains Gotham previously had are now replaced by a hauntingly beautiful shower of seeds and pollen, creating another striking visual to mourn this tragic figure.
Of course, it would have been improved by Bats throwing in some more emotion. Geez, come on, Bruce…
14. “I Can’t Stop Laughing”
Okay, first I need to set the stage here: Harley Quinn has let all of the Jokerized victims loose, and each of them has now set up shop in their own section of the abandoned Panessa Film Studio. One of them battles you with some goons in a standard combat section, the other with some goons in one of the game’s signature predator sections, but then you get to the third victim: Lounge singer Johnny Charisma. His Jokerized self has set up bombs all around a stage and put a bomb vest on himself, and Charisma basically says that if Batman doesn’t want to see things go kablooey, he has to join him on stage. However, Batman hallucinates that Charisma is the Joker as the show begins, and Mark Hamill starts to sing.
Basically what I’m trying to say here is that Arkham Knight has a musical number in it.
I…I did not know I needed this until now.
It’s a relatively brief bit where you have to play as Robin and defuse bombs in the background at just the right moments so that Charisma/Joker isn’t looking at you, but the shift in gameplay combined with the out-of-nowhere absurdity and Hamill’s performance easily make it the game’s most inspired bits; a standout in a game whose story tends to be lacking in originality.
Now if only they had Batman singing as well. I would’ve declared this the best game in the series based on that alone…
I suppose I should wrap things up with my general opinion of the game. I friggin’ loved it. As mentioned earlier, the does have some rather glaring flaws, mainly the Batmobile being crowbarred into too many segments and the main story playing out more like a predictable compilation of Batman’s Greatest Hits than anything that actually feels original. But the gameplay is still rock-solid as usual, the visual are a seven-course buffet for the eyes, the game puts up a decent challenge (especially during the predator segments, even more than usual) and when the imagination is allowed to shine through in the game’s more memorable moments, it really shines through. So while Arkham Knight isn’t as good as Asylum or City, it’s still a complete blast and I highly recommend it.
And that’s it for the most notable bits in Batman: Arkham Knight. Agree? Disagree? Did we forget something? Sound of in the comments, because a lively discussion is always welcome! See you next time!
Previously by Kyle LeClair:
The 30 Best Games of E3 2015
6 Reasons Nintendo Should Make More Games Like Splatoon
50 Songs That Should Be In Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live
6 Reasons Grim Fandango Still Holds Up As One of the Greatest Games Ever