Batman Arkham Knight is now notorious for its extremely poor performance issues. The main developers, Rocksteady, have withdrawn the game from sale and been working away on resolving them. This bad PR is a real shame as it has really tarnished an amazing game and the damage with the PC community may be unrepairable.
Arkham Knight is the third and possibly last game in the Arkham Knight saga. (Arkham Origins, whilst a good if buggy game was a prequel by another studio - Warner Bros Games Montreal.) As expected, Arkham Knight continues the established format of third person combat-y, stealthy, detective-y game driven by a strong narrative. The game is set sometime after Arkham City, where Scarecrow has threatened Gotham with a new toxin, forcing the civilian population to evacuate. This results in a criminal overrun but fully explorable Gotham City, a much larger sandbox than the previous game. As per usual, the supervillains have yet again escaped custody and it is up to Batman and his allies to overcome them and Scarecrow’s forces. The game introduces a new villain; The Arkham Knight, a mysterious new enemy who seems to have the measure of Batman.
Fortunately, Batman is aided by several allies. When they do come to Batman’s aid you can switch between the two characters, with the AI taking over the vacated character. You can execute special double-team takedowns and it really fits well with the excellent free-flow combat that the Arkham games are famous for, and it just feels really kick-ass!
Batman starts the game with the majority of his gadgets that in previous games were drip fed throughout the game. An excellent decision, as it brings familiarity and means you are already lethal right from the start. Of course, as in most games nowadays, there is levelling and unlocks, which grant additional combo skills, gadget abilities, armour and batmobile upgrades…
Which brings us onto the Batmobile. This is the first game that the Batmobile has featured and unsurprisingly is the hero feature of the game that the majority of the marketing of the game has centred around. The Batmobile is great for quickly transporting you from one end of Gotham to the other, but because it is already super fun just grappling and gliding around as Batman, the designers have added extra abilities to the Batmobile. The car can switch into combat mode which involves it transforming, from a car into a slower moving tank with anti-tank and personnel cannons. It sounds a lot more ridiculous than it actually is, the result is a different third person shooter game mode where you battle several enemy tanks, darting behind buildings to dodgy blasts and missiles. The implementation and integration of the Batmobile into the main story has brought much negative criticism from other games reviewers. It’s true that at times, especially when it’s introduced, the Batmobile is badly shoe-horned/crow-barred in, but it is awesome. It definitely continues the fear motif of Batman, where driving around in this super tank makes you feel mighty powerful and thugs cower in fear. I can’t help but think, if it had been more gently introduced or just an option from the get-go it would have been more warmly received.
So what are my gripes with the game? The main plot is pretty good and has a couple of twists which I won’t divulge here, but it makes it jolly hard to take screenshots of the game without giving away major spoilers! As with most Arkham games, there are super-villains that feel totally under utilised - Penguin and Two-Face being the main culprits, being sidelined to side quest chains. Their side quests feel very modular and separate from the main quest, like they could have been cut out and used as DLC. Admittedly, the low level thugs do reference your progress in their idle chatter that you overhear as you glide around the rooftops of Gotham. One thing that I do really like about the side quests is that the majority all have logical plots and don’t suffer from Ubisoft open world style side quest spam where there is a manageable amount that isn’t just there as filler.
As mentioned before, the game is now notorious for the extremely awful job that Iron Galaxy Studios seem to have done in optimising the code for PC. I was dreading starting this game up after hearing of the issues a few days after launch day, however, I seem to have been one of the lucky few that had no performance issues at all. Admittedly, the texture settings were set to normal - not high which is coming in Rocksteady’s upcoming fix patch, and I did no tweaking to get higher than the limited fps. IF Rocksteady manage to fix all of the optimisation problems plaguing the PC version then this game will be a classic, I would highly recommend giving it a go once it is back on sale.