July 17, 2015

Batman Arkham Knight (Review of Game)

The Dark Knight Returns-Ah heck, that title's already taken. :/

Release Date: June 2015

Developer: Rocksteady

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, OS X, Linux

Genre: Action-Adventure

Review of Game:

Batman Arkham Knight brings Rocksteady's Arkham trilogy to an epic conclusion. Or does it? Join me in this short but sweet look at the last entry in the video game franchise:

Picking up a year after the chaotic events of Arkham City, Arkham Knight establishes that the city of Gotham has experienced drops in crime rates and seems to be returning to normal...until a violent attack on the patrons of a diner makes local news, revealing that the terrifying Scarecrow has returned to exact revenge on Batman for the events of Arkham Asylum.

The plot set-up is highly effective, moving at a fast pace in the early stages of the game with tension that keeps building up until it reaches a breaking point, with a deeply psychological plot twist regarding Batman's mental state.

After the twist, the plot continues at a steady pace until the end, an integral character in the Batman mythology keeping the relatively empty space in missions occupied with his unique brand of humour and goofiness. The full extent of his return will not be spoiled to those who know the ending of Arkham City, but suffice to say that his role here is highly welcome.

The big flaw with the plot, however, is its relative looseness. The trailers and marketing made it seem like it would be a big team up of villains against Batman, but the actual game itself shows a whole different side of the coin. (Hurr hurr, you get it? A coin? Like, Two-Face's coin? Never mind...)

The villains in the game appear rather loose and disorganised when compared the airtight plan of Scarecrow. The other enemies only achieve real prominence in side quests and the last act of the game, where they don't really do much besides "exist".

The looseness of the plot reduces the impact of an otherwise compelling last act, as Batman faces his inner demons yet again in an epic stand-off that acts as a high point for the Arkham series...if only the build-up was better.

The twist regarding the Arkham Knight's identity received a mixed reception, and rightly so. If you're expecting a brand new character, well, you're in for a disappointment. If you catch all the hints, you'll steadily realise that the character is an existing one in the Batman franchise. Just don't expect something amazing.

The twist regarding the Arkham 
Knight is a mixed bag.
The ending of the series is a mixed bag, ending on a big moment just as it happened, clearly done to "shock" the player at how "big" Rocksteady went and how "amazing" it apparently is...but as there was no lead-up or foreshadowing to it, it feels oddly out of place and tacked on.

Arkham City's ending was compelling for reason that it was foreshadowed from the beginning and featured significant character development to make it truly impactful. The ending of Arkham Knight falls short because of simply being out of place and not in tone with the story.

In conclusion, the Arkham series was always a risk-taking series in the Batman franchise, bringing the masked vigilante in all his glory to video game consoles across the world in grand style, featuring hard-hitting storytelling and smart gameplay.

The supposedly final instalment in the franchise does a good job of providing fans with more compelling content, but falls short when it comes to providing us with a satisfying ending for the trilogy. Christopher Nolan's own trilogy of Batman films had the same problem, and as does this series.

At the end of the day, when it comes to the eponymous masked vigilante, there is no real ending to his heroic endeavours, his endless complexity, and strong values. Maybe once all is said and done, the best ending for this character is no ending at all, letting us, the fans, carry him long into the future with our imaginations for decades to come.

Having gone through so many reinventions and reimaginings, Batman will survive for at least a few more generations until we eventually lose interest, if ever. There will be more Batman comics, there will be more Batman movies, and there will always be more Batman games.

Now that, is an ending I can truly get behind.

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