The closest you’ll get to being Batman without being Christian Bale or Ben Affleck
Publisher: Warner Brothers
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Released: June 2015
Download Size: 45gb (+3.5gb day one patch) PS4
The tagline for this, the final addition of the acclaimed Arkham series, is Be The Batman, and with the introduction of the Batmobile, it’s fair to say that this is the closest you’ll get to being the actual Batman without being called Christian Bale or Ben Affleck… Or being a smegging billionaire… You know what I mean! And whilst that means a lot of tense and memorable encounters with iconic villains, epic scraps against waves of henchmen and the always excellent “Bat-Stealth” sections, unfortunately “being” the Batman and ensuring the safety of an entire city does include some menial caretaker work… Looking at you, Riddler.
And when I say the entire city, I do mean the entire city, as Rocksteady have finally opened the gates of Gotham for the player. As open worlds go, it’s fantastic, both on street level and vertically as Batman takes to the skies; gliding from roof to roof, and later on, island to island, is an absolute pleasure that’s almost unmatched in any other game. The city is packed with references, humourous dialogue between the hired goons and different criminal activities that Batman can quickly put a stop to.
Fans of the series will also be glad to hear that the combat/stealth is just as fun, swift and brutal as ever before, even more so now with the introduction of environmental takedowns which, not being funny, would probably kill more goons than it would incapacitate, and chain Fear Takedowns, allowing Batman the freedom to eliminate up to five guys (once fully upgraded) in quick succession. But fans of the series already knew that engrossing combat would be par for the course. I know I did.
So let’s get stuck into the main attraction of the game: the storyline, and let me tell you, it’s certainly a joyride. To put it simply and without spoilers: all the villains want you dead, Scarecrow and newcomer Arkham Knight in particular. Go protect Gotham. Awfully vague, but to reveal anymore would be to do the storytelling a severe disservice.
The game does a great job of building intrigue, almost compelling you to theorise scenarios regarding the characters. It’s a brilliant journey of guessing and second guessing that you’re never quite sure is going to ultimately lead, right up until the final moments (unless it’s spoiled for you, I’ll get to that). Essentially, the narrative had me gripped from start to finish.
There may have been some doubt as to the use of Scarecrow as the main antagonist, and although *KINDA SPOILER-ISH* he operates more in the shadows for the majority of the game, taking more of a backseat role to the Arkham Knight, *end spoilers* he is a purposeful choice, leading to the creation of a few moments where, without giving the game away, you’ll not only be kept on the edge of your seat, but the game will go the whole 9 yards and scare the heebie jeebies out of you.
Unfortunately, I came into this game pre-spoilt, as two big reveals were ruined for me before I’d even got my hands on Batman. This, in turn, tainted some story-telling aspects, making them feel more heavy handed than they might have actually been. What some might have only thought of as simple piece of additional storytelling were, to me, the huge foreshadowing moments they were only meant to be once the truth had been revealed. Again, treading on eggshells here, but once you’ve played the game, you’ll understand my point.
However, that’s not an indictment on Rocksteady or the game itself (the fact they were so tight-lipped about certain developments is a credit to them, well played, now sort out the PC version for Christ’s sake), this is more a bitter outlash aimed at other reviewers who misunderstand the concept of a “minor spoiler warning”, and self-promoting YouTubers who share links on Social Media and casually leave spoilers in their video descriptions/thumbnails. *ahem*… Sorry, needed to vent there. Back to the task at hand: the game itself.
The latest addition, the transforming Batmobile, is both amazing and ridiculous in equal doses. When driving normally or chasing down militia lieutenants, the car feels great. The mixture of speed and drifting, combined with the fact that a lot of obstacles on the road can be ploughed through with ease, make the experience a lot more joyous that I’d initially anticipated. The Tank combat is also better than expected, applying the traditional combat tropes of building combos, dodging telegraphed attacks and unleashing takedowns to a tank with a 60mm cannon.
However, there are moments in the game that require you to utilise the Batmobile in the most obtuse ways imaginable. Tank battles and chases on the streets of Gotham, I’ll happily accept. Combining the car and tank modes to platform your way up or down buildings and other structures? Stick it up your tailpipe, mate.
Worse still are the Riddler trials involving the Batmobile. They either involve some of the aforementioned platforming, or, in what has to be the worst part of this game, racetracks. Yes, somehow The Riddler has managed to construct F-Zero style racetracks under the city that are at best a brief, yet troublesome section before continuing on your merry quest, and at worst the most infuriating part of the game. In fact, I resent the Riddler portion of the game trophies and all, and I always have, because I don’t have the time, patience or energy to collect 250 smegging trophies after I’ve already spent 2 hours prior doing his smegging trials!
Sure, The Riddler presents the most substantial sidequest, but that isn’t a difficult competition to win. Especially so when you consider that the rest repeat a boring formula of “go here, do this, then go over there and do it again”. One instance of a side quest is in most cases all you need to see. Maybe there’ll be more enemies next time. Maybe the dead body you’re scanning has different injuries. Maybe you’ll spend 5 minutes flying around trying to find a watchtower stupidly hidden under a bridge. Woop-di-doo. Safely dispose of one roadside bomb, you’ve disposed of them all.
So all in all then, Batman Simulator 2015 is just that: the definitive Batman experience, warts and all. The main campaign is constantly offering new experiences, gameplay, twists and turns that keep you hooked until the final curtain, but beyond that, I found it hard to maintain my interest or enthusiasm. As soon as the final credits rolled, I could safely say I was done with Arkham Knight. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fantastic game; it just so happens to be lumped with grind-like objectives and repetition.