Batman: Arkham Knight An Essay
A Highlight reel of it’s great and not so great moments.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “are you serious? Another essay about Arkham Knight? Aren’t you just beating a dead horse to complete and utter decomposition?” And you’d be right in thinking that. You see, Arkham Knight has been analyzed beyond death by avid lovers of the Arkham series, and I know this better than anyone, cause I’ve read, almost all of them.
The problem is, I brought a new perspective to the series, cause I started playing City in late 2014 and the first game in the series that I ever got to play… was Arkham Origins. So my whole perception of the entire storyline was wacky. It took countless hours of both playthroughs and watching other videos that people had made before I ended up playing Knight all the way through. And, due to the fact that I actually played Origins first, I can safely say that it is my least favourite in the series.
But, this is about Arkham Knight.
Arkham Knight is the finale in the Arkham trilogy developed by Rocksteady since the 2009 release of Batman Arkham Asylum. It saw a brooding and broken Batman being tasked to find and stop the sudden rise of Scarecrow, who is threatening to unleash a wave of fear toxin over Gotham City - although you find out later in the story that it’s actually the entire eastern seaboard. Batman, among taking care of other smaller threats in side missions, eventually finds out that he is working with a new threat that has come to town, in the form of the Arkham Knight, who has a strong inclination to kill the batman, against the wishes of the Scarecrow, who wants to kill his legacy. In the end, we find that the Arkham Knight’s true identity is actually Jason Todd, the second robin.
So first off, I’ll go over the issues.
More on the Jason Todd point, after watching all the videos and reading the plotlines for the preceding games, the addition of Jason Todd’s story-line felt… Forced? The dialogue and Troy Baker’s performance was nothing less than heartbreaking, but it felt like he had just been thrown into the story, without much thought about the previous games and his absence. There have been videos that find easter eggs that allude to his presence in Arkham Asylum, but for the most part, it felt like they were just grasping at straws. Jason had never been brought up before Knight, and the plot twist came as no surprise after the countless number of brief moments where Bruce envisions him being tortured by Joker. This torture seemed to span over the course of over six months, so for it to not be mentioned at all before was a bit bizarre, on top of that, the only distinctive side-kicks that Batman has had throughout the entire series, including origins, is; Barbara Gordon, who at the initial point in the Rocksteady series is Oracle, Alfred, the main man, and Commissioner James ‘Jim’ Gordon. So, for none of them to even mention Jason Todd or the previous Robin before Tim is a bit strange.
The second issue I had with the game was the addition of Joker. Scarecrow on his own, even without ol’ Jay Todd, is an incredible threat to Batman and the legacy that he has made for himself as Gotham’s Saviour, and after Joker’s death at the end of Arkham City, it felt strange that he made a consistent appearance in the Arkham titles that followed. Joker comes back in Arkham Knight after Bruce is first exposed to the fear toxin and his presence is prominent in-game after that point. The issue with this for me was the fact that it seemed like we now have Joker trying to take your attention away from Crane, who is the true villain of the game, and an excellent one at that. It felt like Joker’s death in the previous game now lacked the initial punch that it had. Further to the point, Scarecrow was actually posed an enormous threat to Batman from his first appearance in Arkham Asylum, exposing Bruce in the elevator and making him see his deceased mother and father in the morgue. That in itself is an incredible sequence to play through, and really set the tone for Scarecrow’s horror throughout the rest of the series. Joker really just put a damper on Scarecrow’s flame because now we have the main villain from all the previous games back again.
Third, and lastly, we have some of the side missions. Now, when I say some, I mean some. A lot of the side missions were incredible, especially the ones that came with the season pass that see the end of Batman’s relationship with a zombie-like Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins, the world bending tale with the mad hatter, the bitter end to Nora Fries that sees you teaming up with Mr Freeze himself, and the penitentiary fight against Killer Croc with Nightwing. However, some side missions in the main game were, lacklustre to be fair. The end to the terror that came with the Hush mission in Arkham City was appalling with no fighting and no real threat, the entire sequence being mostly cinematic, which was a sad fall from the previous game that had you finding Hush’s victims with missing features that he was accumulating so he could transform his face into Bruce Wayne’s. The end of this mission in Knight, saw you meeting him at Wayne tower where he is holding Lucius Fox hostage after stealing a ton of Wayne’s money. And that’s about it. The cinematic shows you body slamming him into the desk and then carrying on with the other issues that have arisen around the city. Two-Face’s missions find you going to each of the three banks in Gotham, located on each island, and stopping his thugs from stealing money. Each bank is different, and although the stealth required is great fun, Two-Face goes down in the last heist like any normal thug, which is a bit of a let-down but in the wake of some of the other missions, isn’t that bad. The Penguin missions are incredibly fun, as is the Creature of the Night and the main Riddler mission isn’t bad, more infuriating than anything else. The militia; watchtowers, road blocks, bombs and commander chase missions aren’t half bad, and towards the end of the main mission the big man himself Deathstroke takes over from the Arkham Knight. His boss fight was one of the worst in the series as for an assassin with incredible hand-to-hand combat skills, the fight takes place in a tank against the batmobile. This in itself compared to the boss fight in Origins is a huge blunder to the game as it is outrageously bad. The story leading up to the fight as well as Deathstroke’s presence aren’t bad, but the way that it ends in the tanks is pretty mediocre. The cult mission felt a little forced, but it was kind of fun and served as a weird little break from all the thug and militia fights. The Riddler trophies were repetitive, all 240 trophies are now ingrained in my memory over my three play-throughs, and the Azrael missions served as training for the main game but were also incredibly fun. The Firefly mission felt lazy, as it was merely chasing after him in the Batmobile as he flies through Gotham and knocking him out of the sky three times. And last, but certainly not least, there were the firefighter missions which served as nothing more than the reason for Firefly being in Gotham. It sees you finding each of the twelve, yes I said twelve, members of the fire crew and getting them back to GCPD. And that’s it. The best of all of the side-missions was the Perfect Crime, which sees you finding faceless and DNA-less victims strung up around Gotham, to be led back to a beauty parlor on Founder’s Island where you must fight Professor Pyg, a serial killer who goes about finding victims that he wishes to make perfect.
The boss fights included in the main story ranged from great, to mediocre, the Jason Todd boss fight was both of those things, with the dialogue and lead up being phenomenal, but the mechanics were strange as it was basically sneaking up on him while he was perched on a vantage point. The tank battle with the cloudburst never fails to get my heart racing, and the underground battle with the excavator was thrilling.
Which brings me to the great things.
The quality of this game surpasses everything I had seen to date. The graphics were almost realistic and there were so many Easter eggs planted across the city I don’t know where to start or end with them. From the billboards that have Joker’s or Batman’s face until you turn around to get a better look, to the Black Canary club on Miagani island, or the Flying Graysons poster hung up at the movie studios. The deterioration of Batman’s suit, the horrific way that Scarecrow’s face is falling apart, and the bruises and cuts that form on beaten thugs faces as the game progresses. Of course the graphics were only set to get better from the previous games that saw their releases in 2009 and 2011, but the game itself is beautiful. The setting is enormous with tons to explore, and the characters are incredible to look at. If that is any indication that you should play this game, then read on!
The DLCs included in the season pass are just as amazing, save for the frustration that is Catwoman’s revenge. Most of them should take anywhere from 45 minutes to and hour and a half, though the Batgirl mission is the crème de la crème of DLCs. A Matter of Family sees you take on Barbara Gordon’s persona as she is on a mission at seagate amusement park in hopes of finding her father with the help of Tim Drake‘s Robin. The setting is incredible and for a DLC there is so much to explore, with breakables and a hidden secret that actually broke my heart. The story is fantastic and some aspects require you to really think outside of the Batman box where hints aren’t readily available and Batgirl isn’t as brutal during fights, and relies more so on her gadgets to take down enemies. Nightwing’s DLC sees you stopping Penguin from escaping GCPD after the events of Arkham Knight, Red-Hood sees you take down Black Mask by killing everyone involved, Harley Quinn’s has you infiltrating the Bludhaven police department to free Poison Ivy, where stealth is out of the question, and Robin’s has you taking down Two-Face. Catwoman’s is a bit of a letdown as the fight mechanics are screwy, with the platform electrifying mostly you rather than the enemies. But all in all, the season pass grants you access to some great DLCs, awesome skins for both Batman and the batmobile, and the Season of Infamy side missions which occurs outside of the main game. Highly recommend.
The storyline of the main game itself is incredible, as it sees a worn down Bruce still coming to terms with the events of Arkham City, the Joker’s and Talia Al Ghul’s deaths, as well as the toxin from the Joker’s blood transfusion that is still swimming around in his blood stream, threatening to send him to madness. With the added stress of Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight whose out for Batman‘s blood, Bruce is not having a great time. With Oracle’s help in the beginning of the game things seem to be going okay, until her untimely demsie that sends everything into retrograde along with the added heartbreak in the bald form of Tim Drake Bruce ultimately makes a decision to keep him out of the fight, which doesn’t end great in hindsight, and the Arkham Knight’s true identity revealed to be the previous and pissed off Robin, Bruce isn’t having a great time. Aside from subtextual plot points, like Jason deciding that Halloween was the opportune time to mess with Bruce because of his canonical love of dicking with Batman, and plot holes, the story itself was great. Everything flowed and I was left satisfied. The side missions that I mentioned above that were great stood out fantastically against the main story as well. The addition of a playable Nightwing, Robin and Catwoman in tag team fights were fun, and gave the game depth, as hearing the banter, and seeing the difference in fight styles really gave it an awesome feel.
Overall, the game had some weaknesses and strengths, but all in all, I still believe that it was a perfect end to the series that had first come to fruition in 2009 and six years later ended with an awesome body of work that Rocksteday should be proud of. There were some misses, but the wins were drastically good, and it really gives the fans high expectations for WB Montreal‘s next piece that is set to come out in 2021 in the form of Gotham Knights. Personally I would have loved to have seen a scene with Bruce’s loved ones at the end of the game but alas, Rocksteady ended on a cliffhanger.
Let me know what you think!