Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
Just as films have developed into ongoing franchises, such as Marvel’s Avengers, top computer games have been born through continuing narratives. Putting the player in control of the DC Comics hero Batman, the Batman: Arkham series of games excels for its rhythmic gameplay, great story and excellent voice-acting.
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The final Rocksteady Studios game in the series, Batman: Arkham Knight, sees the developers refine the overall gameplay and fighting systems, giving the player the chance to knock out multiple enemies with a ‘Fear takedown’, and letting them loose in Gotham City in a car-tank Batmobile. The story, set one year after the events of Batman: Arkham City, pits the hero against the biological and psychological terror of Scarecrow, who is supported in his seizure of Gotham by the mysterious Arkham Knight. Their plan is to destroy Batman, both the man and the myth.
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles of Batman and The Joker brilliantly, continuing the great work they began in the critically-acclaimed 1992-95 animated series. Paul Dini, a veteran writer of Batman stories, including the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games, returns to provide a great story. The city of Gotham feels very complete, with many characters to talk to and fight with. There are touches that make you laugh in the chaos that Scarecrow has unleashed: small talk of the various thugs, nods to the wider DC universe, and speeches from an unhinged Riddler.
The success and interest of the Batman: Arkham series was preceded by Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, along with having the same underlying foundation from the comics, so there are more than a few noticeable parallels: Scarecrow unleashes a fear toxin across Gotham (Batman Begins), Batman saves an associate after they were thrown off a building (The Dark Knight), Gotham comes under the control of a heavily-organised militia led by a masked villain (The Dark Knight Rises), and Batman drives around a heavily-armoured Batmobile (Batman Begins).
The Arkham Knight offers Batman the chance to fight against a militarised version of the caped crusader, who embraces guns rather than eschews them. The Arkham Knight’s militia are much more organised than the typical thugs employed by other villains, making any battles against them more difficult. Whilst the Arkham Knight is a new villain, unique to this game, the Batman: Arkham series is of such a high quality that I believe that they deserved an original character.
The series itself may have peaked with Batman: Arkham City, as the stakes in that game felt stronger and more urgent, this game offers a fitting end to the franchise’s story. This is a rather enjoyable game, and should complete the collections that began with Batman: Arkham Asylum.