How Batman: Arkham Knight Fails Gotham

Batman: Arkham Knight was one of the most anticipated releases of the summer, but it ultimately turned out to be a disappointing conclusion to the Arkham trilogy. Here are some of the big ways the Dark Knight's master plan got in its own way, proving that Batman's worst enemy is himself.

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WARNING: This article contains major spoilers.

Batman: Arkham Knight marks the final chapter in the Arkham trilogy developed by Rocksteady. While the game is generally fun to play, and it earned a good review, it has more than its fair share of glaring faults. This is not the game fans were expecting to cap off a well loved series, and here are some of the biggest reasons why the game fails fans on a number of different levels.

Enough With the Batmobile

Fans knew very early on that the Batmobile would play a significant part in Arkham Knight. What they couldn't predict is that the transforming tank would drive the game into the ground. In one or two cases, quite literally. There's a fine line between using the Batmobile and over-using it, and Arkham Knight crosses that line on multiple occasions. The car is fun at first, and it would have been enough if it were limited to city traversal, tank battles, and solving the occasional puzzle, but the game requires you to take it everywhere as though it were your overstuffed suitcase. About half of the story missions involve you trying to find some way to get the Batmobile somewhere. It's like Batman doesn't even care that he has a remote controlled aircraft at his disposal.

Even the Riddler is shoehorned into the action by becoming a racetrack designer. Seriously, he has designed a bunch of obstacle courses specifically meant for a vehicle he wasn't fully aware of. Each course is more annoying than the last, and they don't add anything to the story or characters. Worst of all, they're not riddles. Even Catwoman complains about how Nygma is off his game.

Using the car gets tiresome very quickly, especially when it becomes clear that you're doing the same five things with it all the time. You have to chase down APCs that can somehow stay ahead of your afterburner. Then you must chase down Firefly in much the same way. You have to blast away dozens of drone tanks to disarm a single mine, when you're not required to destroy drones for some other reason. Not to mention the scenes where you have to look for ancient vacuum cleaner trees for Poison Ivy.

It's almost a relief to see the Batmobile destroyed, except that the ever-predictable spare car was bound to show up.

We get it. It's a nice car. I wish we could move on from it.

An Open World With a Lot of Closed Doors

Previous games had their faults, but they featured some spectacular building interiors. Even the open world of Arkham City had some wonderfully large structures for Batman to explore. But it looks like the Dark Knight must have gotten a touch of claustrophobia, because there are hardly any indoor areas to explore in Arkham Knight. The few places that are indoors are usually comprised of 2 to four rooms, all easily accessible to each other.

The Batmobile generally can't fit inside the door of most buildings. There are exceptions, like when Batman rips a hole open in the side of the ACE Chemical building (is there anywhere he won't go without that thing?), which is indicative to how the rest of the game plays out. Larger structures, like the abandoned mall, require The World's Greatest Detective to figure out ways to get his car inside.

Almost as a consequence, signature gameplay mechanics are tossed aside. The crime scene analysis computer is woefully underutilized. It's used to someone see through time when Oracle is kidnapped, and to scan strung up corpses for very obvious clues in the Perfect Crime side mission. One more time if you count the Batmobile's tire track scanner. No more following blood trails or tracking bullet trajectories. You don't even use it to track down missing firefighters, where a computer that can see through time would probably be very handy.

Although there are a good number of side missions, there aren't many big mysteries for Batman to solve.

Not So Super Villains

The darkly themed Arkham games have always had a talent for making even some of the lamest villains from Batman's rogues gallery seem kind of badass. Even Calendar Man, who is essentially a throw away villain, appeared menacing in Arkham Asylum. It seems like the villains of Gotham really did go downhill with Joker's death, because almost everyone seems lame now.

It's painfully obvious that this is Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight's party. While they take turns hogging the spotlight, everyone else is hanging around the buffet table pretending to have a good time. Let's do a quick rundown of some of the worst criminals the Dark Knight needs to face-off against.

Firefly doesn't put up a fight. He just runs until he gets tired of being punched in the face. Man-Bat has a body count of one, and generally doesn't do anything except fly around. Other second-stringers include Pyg and Blackfire, who are sufficiently weird, but easily defeated.

The bigger names don't get any better treatment. While Riddler is busy building obstacle courses and Harley Quinn is starring in DLC, both Two-Face and Penguin are relegated to petty little crimes. These two owned parts of the Arkham City, and now they're just sending their dim-witted goons out to distract Batman. These side missions aren't even that hard to beat. Who cares if Penguin is hording guns in non-descript warehouses, or if Two-Face is robbing banks? The whole city is going to be bombed with fear gas! Then there's the scene in which Hush, who is largely considered one of Batman's most feared foes in the comics, is defeated after a single quick-time event, after Batman says hello to him. The entire purpose of that pathetic side mission to rule him out from the list of Arkham Knight suspects.

Plus, there's nothing about these crimes that really screams super-villain. They're petty criminals at best, and they're hardly worth Batman's time. Lastly, there's Deathstroke, who is called in a replacement villain after Arkham Knight falls. To add insult to injury, the battle with Deathstroke is the exact same annoying tank battle you have to endure when fighting the Arkham Knight.

This is how the final chapter of the Arkham trilogy bids farewell to its villains - with annoying tank battles.

Arkham Knight's Barely Secret Identity

There was a lot mystery surrounding the Arkham Knight's identity prior to the game's release. Rocksteady proclaimed that he was an all-new character developed in collaboration with DC Comics, which turned out to be a big fat lie. Or at least deforming twist of the truth that rivals how Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke that Darth Vader betrayed and killed his father. True, there is no character named "Arkham Knight" in the DC Comics universe, but picking out a well-established villain like Red Hood and giving him a different name along with a revised backstory doesn't make him an all-new character.

Comic book fans can probably guess the Arkham Knight's identity seconds after meeting him. Otherwise, it isn't as though there aren't numerous clues left throughout the story that all but point to a giant neon sign reading Jason Todd. Who else would know Oracle's identity, how to bypass the security of all of Batman's secret locations, and where the weak points of his armor are? If all that wasn't enough to highlight the left for dead boy wonder, then there's the lengthy hallucination where Joker recounts all the terrible things he did to Todd.

It's clear that keeping the lie was meant to keep the Arkham Knight's identity a secret until the game released, but that kind of makes things worse. It's like how the Star Trek: Into Darkness creators kept insisting that Benedict Cumberbatch was a guy named John Harrison, even though everyone could pretty much guess he was Khan. The lie cheapened the reveal in the movie, just as a similar lie cheapens the Arkham Knight's reveal.

Do Not Fear Scarecrow's Stupid Plan

Despite how Arkham Knight features a pretty lame cast of villains, Scarecrow at least comes off as intelligent and creepy, due in no small part to John Noble's performance. However, what starts off as a brilliantly masterminded plan to bomb the entire Eastern seaboard with fear gas devolves into a self-defeating obsession.

Thanks to Batman's efforts, Scarecrow's plan has to be scaled back quite a bit. Destroying ACE Chemical saves the Eastern seaboard, and even the state is safe from being thrown into an unending nightmare. So, Scarecrow must remain content with just bombing Gotham City... a place that has been fully evacuated save for exactly 16 firefighters (and their chief), some police who tucked inside a fortress of a police building, Batman (maybe Alfred) and a whole mess of criminals. Go ahead, Scarecrow. Bomb the place. You'll be doing Batman a favor.

So he does, and it's fantastic. The streets are completely quiet for once, which is strange since gangs of violent criminals should be running around trapped in personal hells. The rioting and looting have stopped, and not even the Arkham Knight's drone tanks can patrol the streets. But even though Scarecrow's plan was kind of a big failure, he keeps insisting that it was a huge success and holds it over Batman's head. Yeah, man. You totally won.

The big downside to having peace in the city is that Batman ends up trapping himself inside the Batmobile, which is kind of like sticking players into a personal hell. Perhaps it's the only motivation to have the gas removed. How does one overcome their fears? With an annoying tank battle.

To top it all off, Oracle "discovers" a security vulnerability that allows her to take control of individual tanks. That would be amazing if Batman didn't acquire that technology within the first hour of the game. Way to go, Barbara. Gotham is in good hands.

Managing Editor

From The Chatty

  • reply
    July 1, 2015 3:00 PM

    Steven Wong posted a new article, How Batman: Arkham Knight Fails Gotham

    • reply
      July 1, 2015 3:24 PM

      Agreed. This Arkham game is by far the weakest of them all. Rocksteady was ready to give up the reins. Hopefully they have fulfilled their contract and they can move on to something else, optimistically speaking something original.
      This game is a chore to play. Lets set our sights to better games coming down the pike and keep playing Witcher 3.

      • reply
        July 1, 2015 3:57 PM

        What, such bullshit. It's the best open-world one.

        • reply
          July 1, 2015 6:06 PM

          Why does having the best open world aspect qualify the game as being better? There are so many other aspects of these games to talk about. Not the least of which is pacing, something that open world games don't do very well.

          • reply
            July 1, 2015 6:22 PM

            There aren't enough Metroidvanias out there and Arkham Asylum was such an great one. I get that open-world games are easy to market but we already have so many of those

    • reply
      July 1, 2015 3:33 PM

      I think this should be pretext with *spoiler* I was skimming through it then got to the part about the arkham knight. had to close it

    • reply
      July 1, 2015 3:37 PM

      I haven't read it because spoilers, but what I've played so far, I've loved. I'm not even a huge "Arkham" fan. I finished the first one, but didn't get too far in the others. This one did feel fresh to me though. I'm just waiting on the "jesus patch" for PC before I go any further.

      • reply
        July 1, 2015 3:50 PM

        You already played the best of the bunch. Asylum will always be the best. It was just fantastic in every way. Except those damn Riddler trophies and that hasn't changed in 4 games. :(

    • reply
      July 1, 2015 4:15 PM

      There's already been a review, what's this 5 Things That Sucks About Batman: Arkham Knight for?

      • reply
        July 1, 2015 4:21 PM

        it's an opinion article

    • reply
      July 1, 2015 5:12 PM

      This rant is fully in-line with my opinions on the game.

      - Batmobile is unfun and overutilized I wanted to fire Lucious Fox for having a backup available
      - Open world / side-quests are even worse than Arkham City
      - And what really drags it down is that the presentation of the rogues gallery is just lame.

      Mind you these are just the annoying things about the game, there was good stuff in this game too, but the above just drag the game down. It'll end up being the first Arkham game that I don't replay.

      I hope for their next game Rocksteady makes a tightly focused game again like Arkham Asylum.

    • Zek
      reply
      July 1, 2015 10:51 PM

      The game really just suffers from the "bigger is better" mentality that plagues so many games these days. Arkham Asylum was excellent for its tight focus. Everything the sequels added just moved it further away from what made the original great.

      • reply
        July 2, 2015 3:36 AM

        I don't know what people are trippin about. I 100% the game and loved it.

        Asylum will always be the best but this was very good.

        I also like the story.

    • reply
      July 2, 2015 4:06 AM

      That's fine as an opinion piece, but this rubs me the wrong way:

      "This is not the game fans were expecting to cap off a well loved series, and here are some of the biggest reasons why the game fails fans on a number of different levels."

      Please don't speak for me and huge load of others as if there was some global concensus on this game sucking. I'm as big of a fan of the series as anyone, I've finished all the games several times, and I think this is the best iteration of the series yet. It delivers the "I am Batman" experience better than any before it. Asylum was the best story due to the supreme narrative made possible by the lack of an open world, but I've had more with with AK than I did with any of the other previous games.

      And I'm certainly not alone in this: Most of the people who bought the game I've talked to like it. Some dislike the Batmobile to some extent, because of the overuse, but mostly people have been happy with the conclusion to the series, outside of those who got the PC version. And what, are the avg 90% reviews all bought? How does critical acclaim and people mostly enjoying the game turn into "not the game fans were expecting"?

    • reply
      July 2, 2015 4:24 AM

      Yay, another contrarian piece by Shacknews. This sites recent proclivity to go against the popular grain is getting old.

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        July 2, 2015 4:56 AM

        Agreed. I fuckin loved this game. Are the people downplaying I wonder,have they finished the game?

        • Zek
          reply
          July 2, 2015 10:08 AM

          I finished the game and thought it was decent, but the complaints are mostly valid.