Is it strange to cover a video game that's been out for four months?
The correct answer is, "Yeah, probably."
So, let's talk about Batman: Arkham Knight!
Warning: there are minor spoilers throughout. I don't spoil the big twist, but I do talk about characters who make surprise cameos.
Arkham Knight is the fourth and reportedly final entry of the "Arkham" series, and it's only the third one to be made by the guys who are actually good at making these games. Sure, Arkham City is considered to be the greatest Batman game of all time (and one of the best licensed games, if not the best), but is it still the best Arkham game?
Many say, "Yes." A small, peculiar group says, "No, it's Origins." I say, "You're just trying to be a contrarian." Sorry, I say this to the people who like Origins.
Look, Arkham Knight has plenty of big flaws. The writing is uneven, the map feels small, the big twist is too obvious, and calling the boss fights "lazy" is generous. And that's in a game universe where Joker turns into Bane.
Oh, and there's the fact that this happens a thousand times:
Seriously, game, why in the world would Batman put his butler and other key characters tied to Bruce Wayne's identity on a translucent video screen in places where anyone could walk up and overhear/observe the conversation?!
You even have Nightwing calling Batman by his true name in front of unconscious henchman, somehow believing it's impossible for people to wake up from being unconscious.
And don't get me started with Lucius's Wayne Industries backdrop.
But when I start talking about what I love with this game, I find it hard expressing these charms into words. So I've gotten some help from other gamers who've captured the wonder and hilarity of "Knight" in a few short moments.
#1 The Batmobile is your awkward best friend.
Sometimes, it's fun to have a night on the town with your bros. Since Batman hates having Robin around in a game about Batman and Robin, you're forced to bring along your overpowered bouncer friend. Luckily, he has rubber bullets somehow. Unluckily, he's a bit unwieldy.
Still, the Batmobile ended up being a fun game mechanic for me, especially when I upgraded to the part where even leaving the vehicle was over the top, allowing me to jettison several batmiles into the air.
Granted, the vehicle itself is a little too convenient when solving puzzles, and many of the tank battles and riddler races end up being annoyingly repetitive. But in a game where I can nose dive off of a building and land in the Batmobile, these complaints seem whiney.
#2 The GCPD treats you like fans treat Mark Hamill.
In the image above (in case you were too mesmerized by that combo to notice), a police helicopter literally cheerleads as you break the bones of several criminals to the point where they'll probably be paralyzed for the rest of their lives. It's the little things.
Sure, prior Arkham games had some element of the GCPD for Batman to interact with, but in Arkham Knight, they're a full-on main character. And the beauty of it is that Commissioner Gordon is barely even in the game to represent them.
You can just head to GCPD anytime you want and listen to how much the cops appreciate you doing their jobs for them. They even take selfies with the Batmobile when you're not around, which is almost too realistic. I imagine Kevin Conroy has run into this several times after Comic Con.
There's not much else to say, right? Arkham Knight has a genius premise as it relates to Joker's role, despite the fact that the entire story begins with you cremating him. Also, who else thought that was the creepiest thing about this game?
Let's be clear. Watching Joker sing to Batman on a spinning wheel of bomb-related death wasn't even the best Joker moment by a long-shot.
In fact, I don't think I can pick a best Joker moment. It might be one of the thousand times he pleasantly scared the life out of me while I was flying around Gotham off-mission. Or when he talked about Talia Al Ghul's ghost convincing him that I could start things up with Catwoman. Can't decide.
#4 The Batmobile's IDGAF attitude
I can't get over how much I love Batman's decision to literally create his own laws of physics in this game, just so he can avoid ending someone's life as opposed to damaging them long-term.
Because not only is that vehicle visibly electrocuting those men, it is also (somehow) using telekinesis or some other science I don't understand to propel them away from the incoming metal monstrosity that should crush them. Though, the wall they're blasted toward will probably do that anyway.
True, none of it makes sense. Yes, people who casually walk by and see you playing this will call you a monster. And absolutely, it feels too good to complain about.
#5 All of these moments that make you yearn for the eventual Superman game
Besides the Lex Luthor building and an ominous voicemail he leaves in Wayne Tower (seriously, why is there even a landline for a billionaire leader in the tech industry), my favorite Superman easter egg is how the game studio tries to make you feel like Superman almost all the time.
It's easy to remember throughout this game that nothing you do is reminiscent of anything Batman can actually do within the context of the comics, movies, and shows. And that's because it's way more fun to glide around at 60mph with a miracle cape.
That was the main issue with Arkham Asylum, which forced you to walk literally everywhere. Arkham City improved this with the almost too-easy implementation of a grapple right off the bat, but Arkham Knight is where things get interesting. Unlike the last two games, the Batmobile is in the mix, giving you more versatility than Mark Hamill's voice.
#6 Batman brings out the "dumb" in everyone.
Keep in mind that these are not henchmen recreating a Benny Hill montage. No, these are ex-military soldiers finding it impossible to hop down what appears to be less than 6 feet.
Many moments like these highlight just how overwhelmingly better Batman is than everyone (including the bosses). I've been re-watching Batman: The Animated Series, and it's astounding how underpowered the dark knight was back then. He could barely take on two guys alone, let alone the hordes of enemies he faces in Arkham Knight.
True, the game as a whole feels a little easier than Arkham City, as the counters are a bit more forgiving. But if you play on Knightmare mode, you'll find that this is absolutely not the case.
#7 We're finally in Gotham.
I love the previous Arkham games, but their environments don't hold a candle to this game's willingness to forego a shoehorned "Arkham" reference.
No, Arkham is a character now!
Still, that's better than sticking Batman in a larger asylum-yet-still-a-city-somehow and calling it a sequel. In "Knight," we get to explore several key areas of Gotham, and it's pretty thrilling, especially with next-gen graphics. That image above is no cutscene.
There's plenty more to say about Arkham Knight, but I think I've made my case. While I love Arkham City, I had no interest in replaying it. The game felt like a grind by the end. But with Arkham Knight, I've had the most fun ever being Batman, and for the first time, playing it a second time was my favorite play through.
We'll just ignore that Batgirl stuff.