Notice: This is only the beginning of a review for 'Batman Arkham Knight.' First impressions follow.
This won’t be spoilery unless you count a discussion of graphics, mechanics, and so forth spoilers. I’ve been playing on PS4, and am only a few hours in. Hardly enough time to judge the game as a whole, but enough to give some early impressions.
First impressions are crucial, I believe, whether we’re talking about games, first dates, or job interviews. They’re crucial to me in determining whether I keep playing, and now that games are more easily refunded than ever, they’re crucial to whether or not a sale is final.
At any rate, I shall be brief. A More in-depth analysis is soon to come.
Batman: Arkham Knight, a game better played on consoles than on PC, looks absolutely gorgeous on PS4. With graphics this good, the fact that its PC release is such a mess takes at least some of the sting out of it—for me, at least. Not everyone has a choice in the matter. As a game critic, I do.
The graphics are striking, new-gen, and enormously detailed, but I can’t help but feel that sometimes it’s all a little too busy. Gotham is dark, but it’s cityscape is littered with light sources in myriad different colors and shades. Rain falls in a steady torrent. It’s all quietly beautiful in a modern, techno-Gothic sort of way. But there’s just so much going on, it can be a little distracting. Either that or I’m getting old. I find my eyes are strained a bit at times in ways that usually only happen when I’m in a really intense shooter match, or playing Mario Kart.
Still, the graphics on everything from the Batmobile to the caped crusader himself, to the glorious city and its variety of thugs and hooligans and super villains, all look magnificent. Just busy. We’ll see if I feel the same several more hours in.
Combat is largely unchanged from earlier games, at least in spirit. The broad strokes are all here still, though lots of little details are new or altered. You can use enemy weapons against them, throw baddies, employ new finishers, and so forth. But the main combat structure and feel remains very similar, looks very smooth, and is overall pretty great. (It’s a little too easy on Normal, though. Pump up the difficulty.) I do think it feels a bit slower and a bit less exciting now that I’ve also played Shadow of Mordor, but that might also be because I enjoy fighting with a sword more than straight-up fisticuffs, so we’re entering into very subjective territory.
For Video Game Fanboys.
What’s really dragged my enjoyment of the game down, down, down is the Batmobile itself. What sounded very cool when first announced is actually the least fun thing about Arkham Knight. The car drives passably well, but the streets of Gotham all feel a tad bit too narrow for it. Forced Batmobile-based platforming missions are tedious and frustrating. And Batmobile combat is extraordinary only in how horribly boring it is. Switch into Battle Mode, strafe this way and that dodging extremely slow, telegraphed attacks from enemy tanks, and then shoot them back until they explode. Rinse and repeat. Good grief, whoever thought this would make for interesting game-play really doesn’t understand vehicle-based gaming.
Altogether too much of the game so far has spent its time forcing me into the Batmobile. I would much rather traverse Gotham the way it’s meant to be traversed: In the air, gliding and rappelling about the towers and vistas like God intended.
That’s it for first impressions. It’s a mix of pleasure and frustration. I’m left thinking that this game would have been much better with no Batmobile at all rather than this. Or a vehicle that could be used as a tool rather than in forced missions, headache-inducing platforming, and stilted combat. Paul Tassi is more impressed with the Batmobile than I am, and you can read his early thoughts here.
Complaints, I’m excited to play more. I love Batman, and I love the Arkham series—a series which has never looked so good. Arkham Knight has lots of potential. Enough, indeed, for me to stop writing now and go play some more.
What are your thoughts on the game thus far? Sound off in the comments below!!!