Batman: Arkham Knight – An imperfect but still fantastic finale

By NICK McCOY

Tiger Media Network

Warning: This article will contain some spoilers for “Batman: Arkham Knight” and “Batman: Arkham City”. 

In the early to late 2010s, the “Batman: Arkham” series was at the height of its popularity and was still at the forefront of most people’s minds. From the phenomenal and beloved “Arkham Asylum” and “Arkham City” to the still great but unfortunately forgotten “Arkham Origins,” the next entry was something fans were excitedly waiting for. That entry would come out in 2015: “Batman: Arkham Knight.” Serving as the epic conclusion of that original saga, “Arkham Knight” wraps up the story and legacy of Batman in a nice little bow while also refining the combat and predator mechanics to perfection. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill deliver some of the best performances of their career, with a new terrifying and menacing main villain in the form of Scarecrow, alongside the title character, the mysterious Arkham Knight. 

That being said, a number of the choices made in the story, the use of the Batmobile and the lackluster boss battles, turn “Arkham Knight” into a contentious and unfortunately imperfect entry in the series. That being said, Rocksteady still provides an excellent gaming experience that expands and perfects basically everything about the gameplay, and still provides a satisfying payoff to the story of one of the most beloved and iconic versions of Batman in recent memory. 

Release and Additional Info: 

  • Released in June of 2015 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PCs. 
  • Developed once again by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. 
  • Written by Sefton Hill and other Rocksteady staff in place of Paul Dini
  • Supported by large amounts of DLC following its release 
  • Released Nintendo Switch in 2023 as part of the “Batman: Arkham Collection,” alongside “Arkham Asylum” and “Arkham City”. 
  • A spin-off, “Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League”, was released in 2024. 

“Arkham Knight” serves as a direct sequel to “Arkham City,” taking place nine months later. In “Knight,” Batman’s long-time enemy Scarecrow returns following his supposed death in Asylum, releasing his new, highly potent fear toxin in Gotham City, resulting in mass hysteria and several deaths. With the threat of another fear attack and a new devastating weapon called the Cloudburst, Gotham is completely evacuated, leaving it in the hands of various criminal gangs and different villains, who turn the city into their own personal playground. “Knight” follows Batman as he, alongside his various allies, attempts to stop Scarecrow and his new weapon. At the same time, a new, mysterious figure known as the Arkham Knight, along with a heavily armed militia, soon occupies Gotham, with the Knight having extensive knowledge of Batman’s tactics and an obsessive desire to kill the Dark Knight. While all of this is happening, Batman must deal with his exposure to the Joker’s Titan-infected blood, as the Joker haunts him long after his death in Arkham City, and threatens to take over his psyche. Ultimately, Batman takes on a large number of his rogues gallery in one night, enacting his final crusade for the city of Gotham and for his allies. 

The story of “Batman: Arkham Knight” is, sadly, kind of a mixed bag. There are undeniably some amazing elements present here, and as a send-off for Batman, it proves to be a satisfying and heartfelt conclusion. Batman’s relationship with his allies is greatly expanded upon, especially his dynamic with various members of the Bat Family, including Nightwing and Robin, as their relationship with the Dark Knight is much more prevalent here. Jim Gordon is another great aspect of Batman, as his relationship with the Caped Crusader is greatly tested when his daughter Barbara gets involved. Speaking of Barbara, she serves as a major catalyst for the events of the story, and the payoff to that is as relieving as it is intense. 

Batman’s flirtatious relationship with Catwoman also continues as they begrudgingly work together to overcome the Riddler, with the extent of their strained romance ultimately seeing closure. Batman’s butler Alfred, of course, makes a return alongside Waynecorp CEO Lucius Fox, both of whom help ground Batman and provide him with much-needed support. Batman’s various enemies also get time to shine. Seeing Scarecrow take center stage is a true breath of fresh air, as he maintains a foreboding presence that not many other villains can match. Various other villains, including Penguin and Two Face, don’t stand out as much as they used to, but are still entertaining thanks to great performances and unique encounters. The Riddler once again returns to taunt the Dark Knight in easily his most annoying portrayal yet (more on that later), as he places different puzzles and riddles all over Gotham. 

The entire game is propelled by some absolutely amazing performances across the board: Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are amazing as always, and give it their all as their characters’ stories come to a close. Other highlights include Jonathan Banks of “Breaking Bad” fame as Jim Gordon, who portrays easily the best version of the police commissioner in these games. Of course, a major standout is John Noble as the main villain Scarecrow, whose menacing performance goes a long way toward making the fear-obsessed villain the truly terrifying presence that he should be. 

Unfortunately, in spite of everything great present, there are also plenty of aspects that completely fall flat. In each article I’ve written about the “Arkham” games, I’ve always mentioned DC writer Paul Dini, as he is a major factor in what made these stories great. His work with Rocksteady in “Arkham Asylum” and “Arkham City” birthed some of the best writing and story beats of any superhero game. I’m certainly not saying a DC game not written by Paul Dini can’t be good. Despite some story decisions I didn’t really like, Sekretagent Production provided an excellent narrative in “Arkham Origins,” and Rocksteady themselves delivered some excellent story bits here. At the same time, however, Rocksteady also made a series of truly baffling decisions. 

A lot of the choices made just feel like wasted potential, the perfect example being the Arkham Knight himself. He starts off as an interesting foil for Batman with an extensive knowledge of his tools and tactics, along with a personal grudge. But as the game progresses, he becomes nothing more than a footnote in Batman’s psychological war with the Joker, and the “twist” regarding his true identity is insanely predictable. Other villains don’t fare much better, with Deathstroke and Hush getting the worst of it. Following his legendary boss battle in “Origins,” Deathstroke is given one of the most pathetic and mind-boggling fights you will ever see, and Hush, despite having possibly the best side mission in the series in “Arkham City,” has his story end on a pitiful note, and is defeating with a single button press. Whether they were crunched for time and this is the best Rocksteady could come up, it’s a shame seeing these villains go out the way they did. 

There’s also the Joker, who appears as a hallucination who repeatedly taunts Batman throughout the game. While I’m sure many fans were tired of the Joker by the time “Knight” came around, his battle with Batman over control of the Dark Knight’s mind is an interesting subplot, albeit a rather unnecessary one. The thing is, the whole idea of Joker basically being a disease is pretty bizarre, especially considering that it wasn’t Joker’s blood that made Batman sick; it was the Titan in his blood. Plus, the whole subplot of several people, including Batman, turning into the Joker was undercooked and just as stupid as it is admittedly pretty fascinating. While I still enjoy the Joker in this, his inclusion could’ve been easily removed. It’s just a shame that Rocksteady doesn’t seem to be able to move past the Joker completely, when it would’ve greatly benefited the overall story, despite how interesting I found his entire subplot to be.

Then, there’s the Batmobile, which is still one of the most polarizing inclusions in the entire series. “Arkham Knight” is the first game in the series to implement the Batmobile into gameplay, and for one thing, driving around Gotham in Batman’s iconic car is good fun, especially when used in conjunction with his gliding. That being said, the Batmobile quickly overstays its welcome, and way too many of the game’s mechanics. Easily the biggest sin this game commits is the Batmobile tank battles: At way too many points in the game, you are forced to use the Batmobile battle function to destroy unmanned tanks deployed by the Arkham Knight. These battles happen way too often, completely kill the pacing and feel like they belong in a different game altogether. This has the consequence of turning a lot of the major boss battles into tank games, unfortunately giving “Knight” the worst boss battles in the entire series, and is the reason why the fight against Deathstroke is so painfully bad. It seems like Rocksteady listened to all the fans who wanted the Batmobile and drastically overcompensated for it. There was a lot of potential here, and I still find driving and racing around in the Batmobile to be great fun, but the combat and its overuse in the story completely kills it. 

Thankfully, the main gameplay present in “Knight” is absolutely amazing. Basically, everything that has been built up from “Arkham City”, from the combat, stealth, and open world traversal is the best it’s ever been. First off, Gotham City in “Arkham Knight” is just behind “Arkham City” in terms of the best maps in the city. Gotham here truly feels like the gothic, gritty, seedy city that a character like Batman would feel right at home in, complete with a bleak yet beautiful backdrop and perfect ambiance. This is helped by the fact that “Arkham Knight”, despite being nine years olds at this point, is one of the best-looking video games ever. The lighting, the rain, and everything else look absolutely perfect, and they make Gotham feel so much more real. Exploring Gotham is also made infinitely more fun with the new Gliding mechanics, including a much larger grapnel boost that sends Batman flying across the sky. When you use the new glide system in combination with the Batmobile’s eject feature, you have some of the best traversal mechanics a game has to offer. 

The combat and stealth has seen the greatest improvements, as “Arkham Knight” easily has the best combat in the entire series, even surpassing the excellent system in “Arkham City”. Batman moveset has been expanded and refined, allowing him to use even more combat moves in conjunction with his gadgets, including using the environment against enemies, and several sequences where you team up with Nightwing, Robin and Catwoman and perform some absolutely brutal dual team takedowns. That’s really the best word to describe the combat here: Brutal. “Arkham Knight” is the first game in the series to have an M rating, and while it doesn’t overindulge in the gore, all of the bodily harm Batman delivers to thugs and militia troops just has that much more impact. Glide kicking an enemy through a window, sending them flying into a light post and even taking them out with the Batmobile is so satisfying to pull off. The stealth has also been greatly expanded upon, featuring more obstacles and enemies, such as troops who can home in on your position while you’re in Detective Mode, or turrets which will tear you to shreds if you get caught. Using all of Batman’s tools and skills in both combat and stealth is an amazing feeling, and it’s one aspect of “Arkham Knight” I can confidently say is perfect. 

I have one last thing to talk about with Arkham Knight, that being the side missions. Unfortunately, this is another aspect that is a mixed bag. On one hand, there is some excellent side content here, and ones that provide decent fun. The “Perfect Crime” mission, where Batman must investigate a series of disturbing murders, really brings out the detective aspect of his character, and makes great use of Professor Pyg, a fairly recent and very disturbing Batman villain. The mission involving Man Bat is also a highlight, mainly for the jump scare that starts it off, which is guaranteed to catch any player off guard. Other missions, such as disabling Militia Watchtowers and taking down Penguin’s weapons caches also provide some nice distractions. That being said, there are others that miss the mark; “The Line of Duty,” where Batman must rescue the members of a Fire Crew, is painfully boring, and a mission you simply stumble on to, not one you actively look for. Plus, missions like chasing APCs and disarming mines quickly prove tedious, thanks in large part to how overused the Batmobile already is.

The worst offender is easily the Riddler trophies. Gathering all of the trophies and solving all of the riddles left by the Riddler has become a staple of the series, and while I thought they were awful in “City,” there are so much worse in “Arkham Knight.” What’s funny is that there are actually less of them in “Knight” than in “City,” with 243 instead of 440. However, they are so much more painful for a couple of reasons. First off, way too many of them require the use of the Batmobile to gather. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but using the Batmobile to collect these stupid trophies makes the experience so much more tedious than it needs to be. Plus, “Knight” continues the trend of making some of the solutions so cryptic that they are nearly impossible to solve with a guide. There are some new inclusions, such as Batmobile race tracks and working with Catwoman, who has been captured by Riddler, and these are the parts I have the least problem with. 

But then, the biggest sin: In order to get the game’s full ending, called the “Knightfall Protocol,” you have to complete these challenges. In every other entry, the Riddler missions were nothing more than side activities you only had to complete if you wanted to. But in “Knight,” if you want to see the true ending of the game, you have to complete these ridiculously tedious challenges. While it makes sense story-wise, as this is the last night Batman is defending Gotham, it doesn’t make it any less frustrating and stupid. 

Other criticisms:

  • Facial models just look bad 
  • A lot of the side content just involves wandering aimlessly and hopefully finding it 
  • The absolute stupidity of the Batmobile’s cannon being non-lethal (It’s literally a tank, come on)

All in all, “Arkham Knight” is a very decisive game, I would say even more so than “Arkham Origins.” Every good decision and fantastic moment in the story is unfortunately tainted by a completely baffling, or just plain bad decision, whether it’s pathetic boss fights or completely wasted ideas. On the other hand, even if the use of Batmobile left a lot to be desired, the combat, stealth and traversal mechanics are at their all-time peak, and Gotham City looks better than it ever has before.

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