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Xbox One Game Review
Batman confronts the ultimate threat against the city he has been sworn to protect. The Scarecrow returns to congeal an imposing array of super villains, including The Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn, to summarily destroy The Dark Knight. The game introduces Rocksteady's uniquely-designed imagining of the Batmobile drivable for the first time in the franchise. Batman: Arkham Knight offers gamers a complete Batman experience as they rip through the streets and soar across the skyline of the iconic Gotham City...
For those that have played and enjoyed the previous games in the franchise (Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009); Batman: Arkham City (2011); Batman: Arkham Origins (2013)) comes the latest installment. Arkham Knight has revamped almost every element, whilst still allowing you to comfortably make the transition without it being too much of a chore.
Almost every aspect of the game mechanics has been reworked from the ground up. From the smoother, more realistic looking graphics (which really do merge seamlessly with the cut sequences) to the combat system.
But by far the biggest change is the ability to take control of the Batmobile to race around the city, as well as take down thugs and armoured vehicles. It's also helpful (well, essentially really), in order to get to parts of the city Batman can't reach on his own. For example, in one section of the game it's used to raise and lower a broken lift into the bowels of the city and back out again.
The game branches off as you encounter new threats and mini quests and then it's up to you how you progress. You can think like Batman and save the innocents victims first, or you can track down the various villains and bring them to justice. It probably doesn't matter in which order you attempt the quests (I haven't seen any evidence yet that if you delay saving someone in imminent danger that they are killed after a period of time) so this element of the game lets you switch between quests, which ensures you don't give up when you're stuck on a mission; you can simply switch over to another one, returning to tackle it later when you've had time to think about it.
The graphics look lush on the Xbox One. The city is dark and brooding (this time around there's a subtle Halloween theme) and when you get up close to Batman you can see the rain trickling down his cowl. In addition whenever you get a video call (either on foot or in the batmobile) instead of these cut sequences being static, you can move the camera around to get a better view of Batman, and when on foot, you can still walk around. These sequences are designed to impart information, but giving you the ability to move around makes them appear like part of the game play - especially the sequences in the batmobile. The music is also beautifully realised (I noticed that they reworked a few of the more memorable themes from Batman: Arkham City in places) and the vocal talents are also, as always with these games, amongst some of the finest on offer.
Unlike previous games in the series, I never felt lost or unclear of what I was supposed to do. Although, if you have upgrade points to use, these are flagged up on the screen and don't disappear until you've used them. The problem with this is that you can't see the exclamation mark on your scanner that indicates in which direction you need to be heading. In previous games I'd get to an area where I couldn't fathom out what to do next and switch it off in frustration. And by the time I came back to a saved game, I'd pretty much forgotten what I was doing - what my main goal was - but I was still stuck. Some might moan that Arkham Knight holds your hand a little too much, but personally I want to enjoy both the experience of the game play and the unfolding story. In previous games I did feel a little like I was in danger of distancing myself from the plot, because I spent too much time trying to fathom out how to make my way around buildings with hard to navigate environments.
Another helpful hand is offered for the Batmobile sequences. If you're racing to a destination or fall from a high area, losing your bearings in the process, a handy set of arrows appear showing you the way to go... and if you're travelling in the wrong direction the arrows turn red.
A lot of reviewers have moaned about the clunky driving mechanics of the Batmobile. It's obvious that these reviewers didn't really give it a fair go. Of course it's hard to get used to start with, there's so much it can do that it takes a while to get your head around it. But give it a chance and it's really easy, not to mention fun, to use.
This game also gave me one of the few terrifying horror movie moments I've ever experienced in console games. Sure, it was a cheap trick, but very effective. Without spoiling too much... I was flying around the city, on my way to a rendezvous point, when I heard a strange noise. I thought I'd imagined it, and carried on soaring over the roof tops... when suddenly I heard the noise again... What was it? And before I had time to think further I was face to face with something I rather wish I hadn't been. It probably didn't help that I was playing alone, late at night, with the sound on the surround sound turned up high.
While I really enjoyed the previous games in the franchise, I loved this latest installment. It recaptures all that was good about the previous games, fixes a lot of the problems, and adds a ton of extra bells and whistles. This is about as close as we've got yet to actually becoming the Batman.
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