Batman: Arkham Knight (archived review)

The web site on which I originally posted this review is being retired. Since I often refer to this game in my reviews, I decided to archive that review here. TL;DR: This game sucks rubber donkey lungs.

Now I’ve definitely finished playing Batman: Arkham Knight! Here’s the review I posted to Amazon:

Batman: Arkham Knight left me feeling frustrated, angry, and bitter. Right now the game is sitting in a UPS-labeled envelope, waiting for me to trade it in via Amazon.

I greatly enjoyed Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. I liked the storylines; the former game’s more than the latter’s, but both were good. I like the different challenges the games offered: thoughtful stealth tactics, puzzle solving, the occasional fights that were complex enough that I had to think about strategy. If an aspect of the game was too difficult, there were good hints in the Bradygames guides or on the web.

Batman: Arkham Knight has the stealth tactics and puzzles. But it also has the Batmobile. With that contraption a good chunk of the game becomes an intense precision racing challenge or a tricky platformer. I suck at both racing games and platformers. That why I liked the first two Batman games so much: they offered me a gaming experience that I could enjoy. Batman: Arkham Knight stopped me dead in my tracks.

Near the start of the game, you have to jump the Batmobile over a wide gap. I tried over and over to get across. I crashed over and over again, tumbling to the ground. Finally, through chance, I managed to make the jump… only to learn that I had to make another one immediately afterward. If you didn’t make the second one, you went back to the beginning. I consulted the Bradygames guide, but it was useless; I consulted the web and found nothing that helped.

I almost gave up. In retrospect, I should have.

Finally, after an hour or so, I made both jumps and continued with the game. The stealth tactics and puzzle solving of the first two games was still there. The melee combats were reasonably challenging (though I never got past the Dollatrons). There were tank battles with the Batmobile that I didn’t find too difficult, but they seemed out-of-place in a Batman game; they felt more like Space Invaders.

After a few more hours of play, it became clear that much of the content was locked away behind the racing and platform mechanics of the Batmobile: chases through Gotham City and the Riddler storyline. Finally, I got to the part with the Excavator and could not progress any further. That encounter is part of the main storyline, and once you’re in it you can’t escape to do anything else until you complete it. It’s a precision racing challenge.

I entered into an interminable cycle: 20 seconds of start-up screen after the last failure; two minutes to set up the challenge; the challenge starts — and BOOM two seconds later, as I miss some racing stunt and the Batmobile explodes. I did this over and over again for two hours.

I played Batman: Arkham Knight on Easy difficulty, but there was no ease in the Batmobile races. I consulted the Bradygames guide, but it stubbornly remained useless. I looked it up on the web, watched the Youtube videos of the encounter, and they didn’t help.

This time, I finally gave up. There was no more pleasure I could have by playing the game. There was only one way I could complete it: I watched the rest of the game on Youtube.

I wish I could have played the rest of the game. The storyline came to a great conclusion. I would have liked to play through that conclusion myself instead of watching some professional gamer do it.

I’m frustrated because a game I thought I could play was such a disappointment. I’m angry at the game’s designer, Rocksteady Studios, for not making it clear that Batman: Arkham Knight was a racing game and a platformer; I guess naming it “Batman: The Racing Game” would have impacted sales. I’m bitter because the primary reason I purchased a PS4 in 2015 was to play Batman: Arkham Knight when it came out. I waited two years for this game, only to be disappointed.

I’m rating the game two stars instead of one because the storyline was well-written (even on YouTube), the familiar and entertaining challenges from the previous game are there, and the PS4 graphics engine is excellent. The other stars were sucked down into a gaping chasm by the Batmobile.

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