*The following review was based on experiences with the PlayStation®4 version of Batman™: Arkham Knight. Technical remarks regarding stability, frame-rates and resolution may not be applicable to all platforms.Both Batman and the Arkham franchise don’t need much of an introduction at this point when we’re talking about most players, but the expectations have been high after Rocksteady’s masterful installments and even WB’s Origins prequel, but how does Arkham Knight fare in providing a closing chapter to the epic trilogy that shook the world of superhero games? Rocksteady delves even deeper into the Batman mythos as we are pulled through the closing chapter, which can partly even be seen as a greatest-hits selection of the history of the character throughout the comics.Arkham Knight starts of as we are introduced to Gotham City in a different way than we’re used to starting off our adventures as the caped crusader. Whilst Arkham Asylum, City and Origins all had a fairly serious tone, Arkham Knight immediately introduces itself in a more radical way. Scarecrow for instance (who was present for both Asylum and City) plays a much larger role in our main narrative, but he isn’t merely taking us into dream sequences anymore. Arkham Knight doesn’t have fear as its main theme, but insanity, which will take its toll on the characters throughout the events that are yet to come. Batman and co. are continuously subjected to defining moments that the franchise has been building up to subconsciously all this time, and the stakes really do feel high throughout our adventure through Gotham City.
Of course Scarecrow isn’t necessarily our main attraction, and our titular antagonist Arkham Knight has taken his place at the top of the food chain to do what no other villain could ever do: kill the Batman. Seemingly he does seem to be the most competent antagonist that the franchise has taken up so far when it comes to providing a physical and psychological challenge for Batman throughout. The fight is personal for the Knight, and we’re constantly reminded of the fact, though we are left in the dark throughout the narrative when it comes to his identity and you begin to speculate who the man behind the mask really is, though the real plot twist may seem a bit lackluster for some. (Not due to the execution, but the reality behind the material that might seem more straightforward than expected, along with an arc that is left a bit more open-ended than is to be desired.)Arkham Knight has a clear main narrative, though its structure does sometimes seem to wander off in order to provide players with popular material from the comics, which is either a hit or miss when it comes to its inclusion in the main story. (When it works, it really does shine however.) In turn it does seem more focussed than its predecessors due to the fact that the main narrative focusses on a specific set of villains, giving secondary villains in the story their own mini-arcs throughout the secondary objectives of the game, which trims some of the fat that could’ve caused unnecessary filler throughout the story. As noted earlier it does delve into certain catalogue-moments with a little lack of subtlety, though in their defense they are given a solid place in the grand scheme of things as we’re headed towards the finale.
Here comes a rather problematic aspect of the ending, which may be a bigger problem for some than others. The ending of Arkham Knight is essentially split up in three sections. Players are given an ending to the main arc at the end of the story section of the game, but in order to continue the ending in its entirety they must beat a certain percentage of the secondary objectives in order to unlock the second ending, which doesn’t mark the end of the game. Playing the game to this second ending is still a joy, as you get to enjoy some of the best material you may have missed, but the secondary ending itself provides an issue. The structure of the second and third ending is identical, though the former is cut off at a rather out-of-place section, leaving most of the substance (which is pretty essential, rather than a nice easter egg) to the third ending, which can only be showcased after completing the game for a 100%, including all Riddler riddles. Even though the material you get to play is nothing short of great to awesome, the main issue is that players who aren’t interested in the secondary objectives may be left in the cold with an ending that is as incomplete as it is underwhelming. From a design perspective it is an understandable design choice, but it may be quite frustrating for some, especially if you don’t even realize you’re not at the end as is.The Arkham franchise is yet another one that is making its first debut on current gen hardware, but also marking the return of its original development team. How well does Batman: Arkham Knight fare when it comes to providing an engaging visual experience? The game isn’t a 100% perfect in all aspects, but that really isn’t saying much as you set your first steps into Gotham as the caped crusader, who himself has also never looked better when it comes to graphical fidelity. Not only has the franchise taken a notable jump when it comes to scale, but in terms of design and clarity the difference is knight and day (I hate myself already for that pun, so don’t worry.)