Arkham Knight tells me that I’m 42% done, so it’s time for an in-progress review.  By now you’ve probably heard about the overall setup: the Big Bad is Scarecrow, assisted by a very cocky Batmanlike named the Arkham Knight. You play as Batman.

I have to bring Robin along?

I have to bring Robin along?

Before we get any further you probably want to know: is it fixed? Mostly. It only crashes for me once an hour or two. Crazily, I have to play at high resolution but low everything else in order to avoid the AMD grappling gun crash. But it’s playable.

Overall: it’s good, and I’m enjoying it, with some complaints. It’s the most gorgeous Arkham game yet, and it’s got Kevin Controy and Mark Hamill back. It definitely shows Arkham Origins as an inferior copy of Arkham City. Rocksteady isn’t afraid to mess with its own formula, adding new combat moves, new puzzle types, and of course the Batmobile.

I have mixed feelings about the wheels. Mostly, it doesn’t quite fit with Batman– playing it feels much more like Grand Theft Auto IV. You can run over pedestrians, destroy cars, blow up tanks, knock down just about anything that’s not a building… it seems way too careless for the Bat. (They put in handwaves to explain that he’s not actually killing anyone, but still.) It’s hard to steer, and even the expanded maps feel too small for the car. But, eh, it does add variety and it’s certainly not terrible.

Curiously, the combat feels mostly easier than Arkham Origins, and there seems to be less emphasis on boss fights, which is fine by me. Unaccountably, they’ve messed strangely with the challenge maps. One, it takes forever to unlock them– I bought some of the DLC packs just to have something to play. Two, you can only play them with the character they’re designed for, which immediately removes a lot of the replay value. Three, the combat maps come in just one round, and with most maps it seems extremely hard to get three stars. The one plus is that you can win special red icons for extra effort (e.g. surviving longer in the infinite-thugs maps).

There are a couple hundred Riddler trophies, of course. They seem strangely hidden though… in Arkham City you’d at least see them all over. There are a number of side missions. of course… my least favorite is chasing APCs, since I haven’t figured out how to reliably hit them.  (Ctrl key, but it’s not at all clear when you can fire it and if not, why not.)

Cute bit: you can’t see into (but can’t access) what was once Arkham City:

Look at the little courthouse!

Look at the little courthouse!

The first screenshot above is from DLC, the Batgirl + Robin adventure.  It’s a good meaty adventure, and I like their version of Batgirl; it’s a pity that you can’t play more Batgirl, even in the challenge maps.

Minor spoilers ahead, though nothing important.

The plot is a frenetic mess, but who cares, it’s what we expect from an Arkham game. One big misstep: the villains kidnap Oracle and Catwoman.  So, their best two female characters become damsels in distress, ugh.  I know it’s an old trope to have Batman’s allies attacked, but why the two women over, say, the five men among his close allies?  It’s particularly annoying in that there’s a model close to hand where both characters were used splendidly: Arkham City.

Part of the story is exploring some of Batman’s neuroses… however, so far they seem to be saying contradictory things: first, that people too close to Batman are endangered… second, that Batman foolishly keeps people from helping him.  Um, maybe #2 is in order to avoid #1?  But I dunno, the “Batman being a dick” thing made a great joke in Arkham City, but the comics usually make him a rather more empathetic (and talkative) character.  It makes no sense either in terms of character or gameplay that he trains Robin and then doesn’t use him.

Edit: Thoughts on finishing the game.