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Batman: Arkham Knight (PC) review: Holy squandered potential, Batman

Hayden Dingman | July 2, 2015
Up front: There are going to be spoilers in this review. Or, at least, a few of you may deem them spoilers--I am going to actively discuss some of the villains in Arkham Knight. By name. And a few of the plot points. Why? Because there are very specific examples that I feel embody Arkham Knight's failings, and it's easier for me to just talk through them than talk around them.

There are a few issues here. First of all, THE RIDDLER NOW CONSTRUCTS RACE TRACKS. This is something so magnificently stupid I can't even fully come to grips with it.

Other missions have you fighting legions and legions of "drones"--they're tanks but they're unmanned because Batman doesn't kill!--until your eyes glaze over. None of these missions are particularly hard. Just tedious.

But the greatest sin of the Batmobile has nothing to do with the car itself. Rather, it's the design direction the game took once it was apparently mandated that Batman's biggest and most inefficient gadget had to factor into practically every part of the game.

One of the best ideas in Arkham Asylum  and Arkham City was something I'll refer to as the "Villain Lair." In Asylum, this meant seeing how each member of Batman's Rogues Gallery transformed their little section of Arkham--a fiefdom within Joker's larger kingdom. Arkham City kept the same idea, except it expanded to villains' owning entire buildings. "Here's Penguin, holed up in a weird museum! Here's the (infamous) Mr. Freeze section! Here's Mad Hatter's lair of Scarecrow-inspired dream sequences!"

Arkham Knight abandons this and squanders its villains, especially outside of the main story. Penguin is smuggling guns out of featureless warehouses. Firefly pulls the same "bust out of a building that's on fire" move three times before deciding he's been punched in the face enough to stay down. Man-Bat doesn't even do anything--he just flies in circles until you decide to find him. Two-Face is robbing generic banks.

And Deathstroke--oh, poor Deathstroke. He doesn't even get his own unique storyline. One of the most fearsome villains in the DC Universe is relegated to a fourth-tier role here, as he takes over for another villain you've already confronted. Even worse? Deathstroke's "boss battle" is a Batmobile-led tank battle that's literally a copy-paste of a tank battle you already played earlier in the game.

Batman's most iconic villains are just sort of...doing nothing at all. Farting around committing petty crimes while the entire city is on the verge of extinction. God forbid Two-Face rob a few banks while Scarecrow is threatening to literally wipe Gotham off the face of the planet with fear toxin.

It feels empty. Tedious, even. And how did we get here? The other Arkham games somehow managed to make even lame characters (Calendar Man) seem interesting, or like you should know something about them. Here, even the franchise's most iconic characters come off as buffoons (at worst) or just empty filler characters (at best). There's nothing uniquely Penguin about smuggling guns, nothing uniquely Two-Face about robbing banks. And by placing them in these settings, you also miss out on the whole "Lair" aspect. Your final fight against Two-Face takes place in a bank that's indistinguishable from the first two he robbed. There's nothing there that screams "Two-Face." No clever environmental storytelling.

 

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