When Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins hit the big screens, it introduced The Tumbler, a tank-like Batmobile that assisted the Caped Crusader in his war against crime.
Unlike the Batmobiles from the cartoon, TV series and earlier movies that were primarily a means of transport outfitted with gadgets, the Tumbler tore through Gotham City like a wrecking ball, instilling in the residents the sense of fear that its owner relishes dishing out.
With this premise as its anchor, game developer Rocksteady crafts yet another epic Batman video game masterpiece that incorporates many elements from the Dark Knight's 75-year history, producing a satisfying conclusion to its Batman: Arkham game franchise.
This time, all of Gotham City is your playground, as the villainous Scarecrow's gas attacks have driven the people of the city to evacuate, leaving behind an empty shell populated only by mercenaries and Batman's rogues. The Joker, who died in the previous game, puts in several appearances.
Here, the Batmobile is a variant of the Tumbler and is drivable, a first for the franchise. Aside from chasing down clues and hunting foes, Batman has to take on an army of soldiers led by the Arkham Knight, a new foe created for this game.
There are more environment takedowns available. Instead of mashing buttons, players have to take note of their surroundings to trigger a special takedown move.
Why? Because the game tracks your attacks, and repeating the same moves gains you fewer experience points, which you need to upgrade the skill trees of your new Batsuit, Batmobile and Batgadgets.
The change effectively splits the game into two parts. Fans of earlier Arkham games can enjoy the action as Batman, as he searches the city for clues and tries to rid the place of harmful influences.
Shadows are still his main tool because they let players approach thugs by stealth, and allow Batman to hide. But there is no greater thrill than to land on a group of well-armed soldiers and take them out with style and skill.
A new Fear Takedown mode allows players to sneak up on soldiers and take them out. This has to be timed perfectly because it requires sneaking up behind the enemies to scare them and then beat them into quick submission.
Because this is supposedly the final game in the series, Rocksteady has decided to rope in almost every hero from the Batman mythos, from the three main Robins to Az-real. And when Batman fights alongside them, players can switch characters to control, and trigger another set of special takedown moves that add precious experience points to their scores.
The Batmobile portion of the game is a cross between Burnout and Mario Kart. Controls are fluid and simple, and the Batmobile can tear through Gotham like a bat out of hell. A special tank mode makes the vehicle more manoeuvrable, so it can readily rotate to launch missiles at the armoured drones and tanks that Arkham Knight leads.
While the main storyline focuses on taking out Scarecrow, the game is filled with many side quests and missions that are massive undertakings on their own.
Amid the turmoil, a serial killer is on the loose and must be found, and 15 firemen being held hostage in the city need to be rescued. Oh, and the Riddler is also back to prove that he is smarter than Batman.
The best part of the game is that players can choose which quest to take up or dump at any time, because these events are concurrent with the main story.
In creating the best Batman, Rocksteady has added new toys to his Batcave and the fun is watching Batman receive these upgrades via requests from his trusty butler, Alfred, or from Lucius Fox.
The genius behind Arkham Knight is the small things that add to the game. For voice talent, Rocksteady went back to Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman since 1992. To many fans, he IS Batman. John Noble (Fringe) is Scarecrow, and Mark Hamill (Star Wars) is the Joker.
The one element missing is writer Paul Dini, who did not return for this instalment. Arkham Knight fumbles slightly on the story, as such elements as the abuse suffered by Robin, and the way the Joker returns from the grave, were adopted from Dini's earlier work on the Batman animated series.
As with any game that involves a man dressed up as a bat, certain leaps of logic must be accepted, such as how a fast-moving Batmobile never kills but merely shocks enemy soldiers when it rams into them at full speed, simply because Batman does not kill.
And yes, Batman can fly in this game. The game says he is gliding, but for all intents and purposes, this Batman can launch himself in the air, control his direction and move towards an object with great ease. That is flying.
Another thing gamers should note is that this game works best on current-generation game consoles. The graphics are topnotch, and this is one of the few games where gameplay footage matches the cut scenes, so gamers get to see consistent video graphics throughout.
The PC version is available in stores, but performances issues have led publisher Warner Brothers to suspend digital sales of the PC version for the time being.
PRICE: PC: Standard Edition $70.90, Memorial Edition $180.
PlayStation 4 (Version tested) and Xbox One: Standard Edition: $80.90, Steelbook Edition: $84.90, Memorial Edition: $200
GENRE: Action game
This article was first published on July 15, 2015.
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