Editor’s Note: Batman: Arkham Knight has now been out for all to enjoy for just over a month. At this point if you haven’t played the game, you probably already have read what occurs in the game or even saw the ending. Either way, here is TBU’s review of the game. Just as all of our reviews here on the site, there are spoilers mentioned throughout. So be warned before reading on.
Beginning with the melody of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” the game opens upon the corpse of the Clown Prince of Crime. As the burning fires of the crematorium erupt upon the Joker, Commissioner James Gordon can be heard talking about how this night…these events, was the night that the Batman died.
Cutting to Gotham City on Halloween night, Gordon continues speaking about the aftermath of the events in Arkham City and the Joker’s death…how crime has fallen significantly and all seems to be going well. As we close in on a diner, we see a GCPD officer sit down to dinner…only to be interrupted by a man who seems to be smoking inside. As he goes to stop him, the man seemingly changes into a demon and gas erupts into the room and the diner patrons begin attacking one another…the officer unholsters his gun and opens fire on the abominations in front of him.
Eventually a message from the master of terror, the Scarecrow, is broadcast across Gotham City and tells of how he will gas the entire city and bring Gotham to its knees. Following a mass evacuation, the only people remaining are the loyal police officers, the villains of Gotham…and of course, her sworn defender…the Dark Knight – Batman.
As the batsignal illuminates the sky, Batman arrives at GCPD headquarters and speaks with Gordon regarding Scarecrow’s threat. He begins to investigate and interrogates a henchman that leads to a hideout in Chinatown…upon his arrival he finds Poison Ivy held captive, and seemingly immune to Scarecrow’s toxin. Bringing her back to the GCPD lockup, Batman returns to the city and continues his search. Speaking with Oracle, Batman discovers that Ace Chemicals can be the only place that can mass produce the toxins needed to destroy the city. Arriving on site, Batman witnesses a large occupying force set to hold Gotham under their control…all lead by a masked leader calling himself the Arkham Knight.
Rescuing several employees of Ace, Batman descends into the control room where he discovers Scarecrow…however, the villain quickly turns the tables and mentions that he is sending men after one of his allies – Oracle. As Batman attempts to contact Barbara to warn her, Scarecrow locks Batman in the control room and begins pumping the facility with toxin. Unable to reach her, Batman contacts Alfred and discovers that he can synthesize a compound to reduce the blast radius of toxin. Enveloped by gas, Batman valiantly moves several heavy canisters across the room and begins to disperse the toxins…however, the blast will still consume the plant and take his own life. Bidding Alfred goodbye, Batman lifts the final canister and turns to see none other than the Joker pointing a gun to his head.
Flashing back several days, Commissioner Gordon descends in a helicopter on Panessa Movie Studios where he has been summoned by Batman. Entering an elevator and reaching a hidden bunker below, Gordon discovers several people locked up and isolated in containment cells…all of them bearing the white skin, green hair and garish smile of the Joker. Batman arrives and explains that some of Joker’s infected blood had managed to reach Gotham hospitals and infect several people…however one of them, Henry Adams, seems unaffected and immune. Batman deduces that Henry might hold the cure to the others. Gordon notices a fifth cell that is empty, and Batman comments that there is still one affected Gothamite unaccounted for…and that cell is for them.
Back in the present, Joker begins laughing and congratulating Batman on killing himself…however, Bruce soon realizes that Joker is simply in his head and isn’t real. Leaping clear of the control room, Batman races in the batmobile out of the plant and escapes the explosion before he is killed. Returning back to GCPD, Batman gives the news to Jim that his daughter may have been taken by Scarecrow. Racing to the Clocktower, Batman and Gordon enter to find an overturned wheelchair and Barbara missing…after going through a brief illusion of Joker shooting Barbara through the spine, Batman reveals to Jim that she had been working for him. Frustrated and blaming Batman for his daughter’s disappearance, Jim leaves and decides to locate Scarecrow on his own. Eventually Batman tracks down Barbara and learns that it was the Arkham Knight who kidnapped her…but during the journey had attempted to escape. Leading back to the hideout where Poison Ivy was held, Batman witnesses an overwhelming event…believing she is beyond hope, Barbara is gassed with toxin and takes up a gun and begins shooting at Batman, however she ends up taking the gun to her head and killing herself. Overwhelmed with grief, Batman vows to avenge her and bring Scarecrow down.
Seeking more information, Batman learns that Scarecrow had enlisted the help of Simon Stagg to build a device known as “Cloudburst” which was a dispersal device. After battling against the occupying forces across the three Gotham islands, Batman arrives at the tethered Stagg Airships near Wayne International Plaza. Boarding the large zeppelins, Batman makes his way through the interior and finds a captured Stagg being tortured by the Arkham Knight’s forces. They escape to another ship and the Dark Knight pursues them…arriving in the Cloudburst chamber, Batman is nearly overcome by a Joker vision and he attacks the thugs with increasing ferocity. Scarecrow notes that he nearly killed his men and Batman’s eyes can be seen glowing a deadly green. Escaping with the Cloudburst, Batman leaves the airship and has Alfred scan the city via the Batwing in search of the device…however, this is put on hold when an alarm is triggered at Panessa Studios. It seems that Harley Quinn has found the infected Jokers.
Realizing that Robin may be in over his head, Batman heads off to the Studios and battles his way through several of Harley’s men until he reaches the containment cells. He discovers that Harley has released the three infected who have taken a different section of the film studio as their own…with the assistance of Robin, Batman makes his way around and recaptures all three. During this time, Batman continues to be overwhelmed by Joker as he sees flashes of the torture of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Upon their return, Harley attacks and reveals that Henry Adams was the one who helped her infiltrate the studio…smearing blood across his lips, Henry reveals that he had been infected all along and kills the other three. With his eyes glowing green again, Henry realizes that Batman is the final infected Joker and decides to kill himself to allow Batman to continue. Locking Harley in a cell, Robin attempts to persuade Bruce into a containment unit. Seemingly giving himself up, Batman has another flash of Jason Todd as the Joker films him being tortured and broken…almost giving up Batman’s real name, Joker shoots Todd and kills him. Awakening from the daze, Batman instead traps Robin within the cell and leaves to deal with Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight.
Forging an alliance with Poison Ivy, Batman releases her from GCPD as she can help to deter some of the toxin if needed…using a ground penetrating radar, Batman helps to unearth several ancient trees that Ivy manipulates into filtering out the fear gas.
Following this, the Cloudburst is activated and Gotham is covered in toxin. Forced to upgrade the Batmobile, Batman descends into the gas and battles against the occupying forces and the Arkham Knight who has the Cloudburst mounted on his battle tank. Successful in destroying the device, Batman nearly takes out the Knight but is again overwhelmed by his Joker visions. Rushing back to Ivy, Batman discovers that filtering the toxin was too much for her and she dies in his arms.
Tracking a SWAT signal to Killinger’s Department Store, Batman uncovers that Gordon has been captured by Scarecrow and he descends into their lair to free him. Fighting his way past an overwhelming number of soldiers, Batman attempts to free Jim…only to be accosted by the Arkham Knight.
Demanding to know who he really is, the Knight seems hurt that he hasn’t figured it out yet…removing his mask, the Knight is revealed to be none other than Jason Todd! Frustrated that Batman never saved him, Jason reveals that Joker kept him hidden away in an abandoned wing at Arkham Asylum where he tortured him for over a year. Eventually he escaped and remade himself as the Arkham Knight and swore to make Bruce pay. Attacking the Dark Knight, Batman rips the mask from Jason’s head and tosses it aside…grappling away and taking out a sniper rifle, Jason’s helmet changes colours into a dark red. After battling against several more soldiers, Batman manages to take Jason down but he disappears when Batman goes to rescue Gordon.
Set free, Jim reveals that Scarecrow is on the roof of the building and the two ride the elevator to the top. Jim apologizes for his actions of late and thanks him for all he has done. Arriving on the roof, Jim holds Scarecrow at gunpoint as Batman demands his surrender. Turning around, Scarecrow calls for his henchmen who wheel out a bound Barbara Gordon! Apparently Batman only hallucinated her death. Surprised by her appearance, Batman is shocked once again when Gordon turns his gun on him. Making a deal for his daughter, Gordon shoots the Dark Knight who plummets from the roof. Laughing at the event, Scarecrow states he never wanted Batman dead…just broken. In retaliation he throws Barbara from the building…but she is caught by Batman. Landing safely below, Batman brings Babs back to GCPD and she attempts to locate where her father was taken.
A sudden explosion rocks the building as Scarecrow unleashes his remaining ground forces upon GCPD…and Batman charges into battle with the Batmobile. Successful in their defense, Batman returns to Panessa Studios when Barbara uncovers that her father’s voice ID has been used to access the site. Finding Robin missing, Scarecrow contacts Batman and demands his surrender for the return of Gordon and Robin. Left with no other choice, Batman meets him at a location and surrenders.
Leaving the city, Batman is (yet again) overcome by a Joker vision…this time battling an unending number of Jokers on the very site of his parent’s murder. Coming out of the reverie, Batman arrives at the abandoned Arkham Asylum and is wheeled on a gurney into the Arkham Mansion. Forced to do his bidding, Scarecrow has Gordon remove Batman’s mask on a live video feed…the world is shocked to discover that Batman is Bruce Wayne! Injected with an overwhelming dose of toxin, Batman retreats internally and is overcome by the Joker persona.
In a dark vision, Joker attacks and kills several of Gotham’s villains and marvels at the destruction that he has reigned down upon the city. As the vision changes, Joker journeys down a series of unending hallways witnessing his cremation, an empty funeral with a weeping Harley Quinn, and several stone statues of Batman that seem to be following him. Blasting the statues apart, Joker breaks his way through the visions onto a platform in Arkham Asylum. As a voice emanates from an isolation cell, Batman attacks Joker and tells him that he will be forgotten…his worst fear. Throwing the clown into the cell, Joker screams that he can’t be forgotten.
Coming out of the toxin, Batman states that he isn’t scared of Scarecrow. As he is injected with even more toxin, a shot rings out that knocks Scarecrow back and releases Batman from the gurney. Looking up, Batman sees the red mask of Jason Todd. Knocking his foe back, Gordon takes down Scarecrow with a knockout punch. Realizing his identity is compromised, Batman returns to GCPD with Scarecrow and hands him off to Aaron Cash.
Contacting Alfred, Batman tells him to begin preparations for the “Knightfall Protocol.” Returning to Gotham and taking down several other villains, Batman eventually comes back to police headquarters and removes his mask once again. Placing it at the base of the batsignal, Bruce grapples up to the batwing and speeds off into the night as the signal explodes in flames.
Arriving back at Wayne Manor, the batwing descends upon the lavish lawn and Bruce exits and heads towards the doors. As a crowd of reporters is held back by the gates, Batman us greeted by Alfred who asks if he is sure that he wants to do this. Stating that it will keep everyone else safe, Bruce enters the Manor and shuts the door behind him. As Vicki Vale reports on his sudden appearance, Wayne Manor erupts in fire and several explosions can be seen. As the house crumbles to the ground, everyone stands stunned and shocked.
Fast forwarding several months, Jim Gordon is shown as the new mayor of Gotham City. Fixing his tie, Jim is clad in a tuxedo and receives a text from Tim telling him not to forget the rings. As Gordon’s voice over talks about the night Batman died, he comments that no one ever found out what happened…or who killed him. As his car passes an alleyway, a young couple with their son are seen walking in between two buildings. Set upon by two muggers, the man is knocked to the ground and the woman is held at gunpoint. As the gunman looks up, an ethereal silhouette can be seen against the growing darkness…the silhouette of a bat. As the thugs shout that they aren’t afraid of the Batman anyway, the shape rises into the air and shimmers and grows. As the entity rushes down on the criminals, their screams can be heard as the image of a fiery spectral bat engulfs them.
Well I have to say that I am both saddened and awed at this game. Rocksteady has really outdone themselves in their final installment of the Arkham series…I truly felt like I was the Batman.
First and foremost, the greatest anticipation of the game had to have been the Batmobile. Heavily featured in several of the trailers, gamers seemed to go crazy with the notion that they, themselves, could drive the Batmobile in “Arkham Knight.” Coming into possession of the vehicle early on in the game, it came as no shock that one felt a sense of power when driving around Gotham City. Complete with a vast amount of weapons and upgrades, the Batmobile is a true force to be reckoned with…however I did like that it wasn’t invincible. Battling against many tanks and vehicles appropriated by the Arkham Knight, you were forced to dodge and outmaneuver your way through several missions. Although some found the vehicle difficult to control and questioned holding a button to convert into battle mode, I rather liked how the Batmobile handled and quickly became accustomed to it. Also the fact that I found a toggle in the settings to allow a button to be hit to change modes made things a hell of a lot simpler.
The Arkham games have always been a favorite of mine, not just because of the complex stories, wide range of characters and brilliant voice talent, but because of the outstanding designs of each character. Set in the fictitious Gotham City, the design of the games elements are bar none some of the best that I have ever played. Each new character that gets introduced has a great homage to their comic book counterpart, but fits perfectly into the world of the Arkham series. Regular looking villains like Penguin or Joker, fit easily alongside monsters like Clayface or Solomon Grundy, and heroes such as Nightwing or Azrael.
Speaking of the voice cast, they are amazing. Reuniting some of my favorite video game talent, the Arkham series has some of the most iconic voices working for it. Any time I read a Batman comic, I only hear the gritty Kevin Conroy as Batman and the insane Mark Hamill as Joker…to me, they are the voices inside my head. In addition to theses legends, the voice cast rounds out with Matthew Mercer (Robin), Scott Porter (Nightwing), Grey DeLisle (Catwoman), Ashley Green (Oracle) and Jonathan Banks (Commissioner Gordon). For our villains, John Noble (Scarecrow), Nolan North (Penguin), Wally Wingert (Riddler) Troy Baker (Two-Face/Arkham Knight/Jason Todd) and Tara Strong (Harley Quinn) make up the remaining. I have to say that they are all amazing…I wasn’t too crazy on how Gordon sounded at first, but sold me when he discovered his daughter missing. Overall a job well done.
Moving away from the main game, which is quite extensive, are the plethora of side missions that Batman must accomplish. A staple of the series since the first game, Batman is tasked with several missions to take down several super villains that are not involved with the plot. I liked the wide variety displayed in this game, some were short and contained one mission, others forced you into challenges involving the batmobile, while still more were extremely long and spanned the entirety of the main story. First off, Batman discovers several abducted firefighters from Station 17…scattered across the three islands, a total of 16 men must be rescued including the station’s chief. It is eventually discovered that Chief Underhill is responsible for causing the fires that kept them busy prior to the events of the game. Next up, a string of bodies appear across Gotham that force Batman to deduce their identities as they are mangled and deformed…this eventually leads to a connection to the Circus of Strange and its leader Professor Pyg. Eventually some of the heavy hitters enter the fray: alongside Nightwing, Batman destroys several weapons caches being offloaded by Penguin; Riddler kidnaps Catwoman and forces him into several race courses and puzzle rooms to unlock her explosive collar; Two-Face begins robbing several Gotham Banks and its is up to the Dark Knight to stop him. In addition, Batman faces off against Hush, Deacon Blackfire, Firefly and Man-Bat…as well as having to dismantle the Arkham Knight forces and then fights Deathstroke.
Overall I really liked the variety of missions in the game, ranging from stealth to racing to outright battles. In addition, they also ranged from easy to extremely difficult…I can clearly remember cursing my Xbox One during the final Azrael mission.
In addition to the main game, Rocksteady has released (and is set to release) a ton of DLC content for the game. Upon release, two mini stories were available that focused on Harley Quinn and the Red Hood. Most recently, the Batgirl storyline was released to semi-mixed reviews. Although I expected the story to be a little bit longer (at least the length of Harley Quinn’s Revenge or Cold, Cold Night) it was still thrilling to play as Batgirl and battle against Joker and Harley. I am also eagerly awaiting some of the additional missions and skins set to release…most notably (for me at least) will be the skin and Batmobile of the 1989 Batman film starring Michael Keaton. Outright my FAVORITE Batman of all time, I like that Rocksteady is paying homage to many of the Dark Knight’s incarnations and giving fans the chance to play as iconic characters other than the Dark Knight.
Next up I wanted to acknowledge a relationship that was initially hinted at, but then confirmed at the end of the game – Barbara Gordon and…Tim Drake?! So this kind of shocked me at first…everyone knows that Babs is supposed to be with Dick (right Stella?), so it was a little weird to see Tim and Barbara together. Although not a main focus of the story, I was a little confused as a fan of the comics. In addition, I thought that they had established Dick and Babs in the Arkham Unhinged comic series…so this also made me wonder. Although not my favorite pairing of the Batman Family, it was nice to see that Babs and Tim end up together in the end…something that is rare to see in the comics – the hero getting a happy ending. However, I still stand by that Tim is just weird…Rocksteady, please change this.
Probably one of the most debated topics prior to the release of the game is the Arkham Knight himself. Heavily theorized and speculated upon, the Arkham Knight’s true face was never revealed…however this didn’t stop fans from guessing. After releasing a statement that told how the “Arkham Knight” was created specifically for the game, fans noted that they cleverly didn’t say that the person underneath was unique…leading many to assume that it was a character that comic fans knew about. Although I’m not much for guess work, I did read several articles about who could possibly be underneath the mask…theories ranged from Ra’s Al Ghul to Joker (somehow not dead) to Damian Wayne. However the one I held to was Jason Todd. Although not previously established in the Arkham-verse, Todd seemed the only character who could hold a grudge against Batman…however, the release of a DLC involving Red Hood made me doubt my suspicions. Clever move Rocksteady. Upon playing the game, you get some intense flashbacks involving events of “The Killing Joke” and “A Death in the Family,” for me this solidified Jason as the Arkham Knight…why bother introducing this character if he wasn’t going to be important? Nonetheless I applaud this game for keeping the rumors and speculation running all the way up to the release and am very grateful the identity was not spoiled.
Last but not least, Batman dies? After his identity is revealed, Batman contacts Alfred and tells him to prep the Knightfall Protocol. As a fan of the comics, I knew this wasn’t good…a reference to the time when Batman was broken doesn’t sound like a good thing. Although one can complete the game by capturing a specific number of Most Wanted Villains, a true gamer and fan like me needs to see the “complete” ending by attaining 100%. Seeing Wayne Manor engulfed in flames and breaking apart was a little heart breaking…it was like watching a bit of my childhood explode. Now, obviously Batman isn’t dead right? Right?! I mean, we do see a creepy, ethereal Batman character at the end who stops a pair of criminals…however, his identity is never shown. Whether this is Bruce back in the cowl, or another character taking up the mantle, I’m sure fans will be speculating about this for years to come.
Overall this is an amazing game, and I’m a little sad to see this series end. Although each game has its pros and cons, Rocksteady and its team has really outdone themselves by portraying the Batman Universe in a different light. I would give this a perfect score, but I’m docking it slightly just because this is the last game. However, I am holding out hope that WB Montreal continues the Origins stories and keeps the games running…it would be interesting to catch up to the events of the first game.