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Batman: Arkham Knight

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Batman: Arkham Knight
Batman Arkham Knight Cover Art.jpg
Developer(s) Rocksteady Studios
Publisher(s) Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Director(s) Sefton Hill
Producer(s)
  • Daniel Bailie
  • Nathan Burlow
Designer(s) Ian Ball
Programmer(s) Ben Wyatt
Artist(s) David Hego
Writer(s)
  • Martin Lancaster
  • Sefton Hill
  • Ian Ball
Composer(s)
Series Batman: Arkham
Engine Unreal Engine 3[1]
Platform(s)
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

Batman: Arkham Knight is a 2015 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One video game consoles, and Microsoft Windows. Based on the DC Comics superhero Batman, it is the successor to Warner Bros. Games Montréal's 2013 video game Batman: Arkham Origins, and the fourth main installment in the Batman: Arkham series. Arkham Knight was released worldwide on June 23, 2015.

Written by Sefton Hill, Ian Ball and Martin Lancaster, Arkham Knight is based on the franchise's long-running comic book mythos. Set one year after the events of 2011's Batman: Arkham City, the game's main storyline follows Batman as he confronts Scarecrow, who has launched an attack on Gotham City, causing a city-wide evacuation. Aided by the mysterious Arkham Knight, the Scarecrow unites Batman's greatest foes in a plot to finally destroy Batman.

The game is presented from the third-person perspective with a primary focus on Batman's combat and stealth abilities, detective skills, and gadgets that can be used in both combat and exploration. Arkham Knight also introduces the Batmobile as a playable vehicle, which can be used for transportation or combat. The game expands Batman's arsenal of gadgets and combat attacks and offers a more open world structure, allowing the player to complete side missions away from the primary storyline.

The console versions of Arkham Knight received acclaim from reviewers, particularly for its narrative, visuals, gameplay, combat, and world designs, with most criticism given to the emphasis on the Batmobile. The Windows version, however, became the subject of intense criticism due to major performance issues, even on high-end graphics hardware, prompting Warner Bros. to temporarily withdraw that version of the game from sale.

Gameplay

Batman: Arkham Knight lets the player glide Batman all throughout the city using his cape.

Batman: Arkham Knight is set within Gotham City, which is open to the player from the beginning of the game, allowing them to travel freely anywhere within its boundaries without any loading transitions.[2] Many of the gadgets and the gameplay elements from the previous Arkham games return, including the grapnel gun, line launcher, batarangs, the countering system and Detective Vision.[3] The Disruptor rifle can be used to disable or detonate enemy weapons and drone turrets, booby-trap weapon crates to shock enemies who attempt to arm themselves, and tag vehicles for Batman to track.[4] New gadgets include the remote controlled batarang which includes a scanner that can be thrown out to gain information on the surrounding area;[5] and the Voice Synthesiser can be used to imitate other characters' voices to direct thugs into traps.[6][7]

The player can fly Batman throughout the city using his cape, with gliding now allowing for faster, longer sustained flights, steeper dives, and higher climbs. Batman can use some gadgets while gliding, such as batarangs or the line-launcher. The grapnel gun can now be used to instantly switch directions during a glide,[8] as well as being fired twice while in the air to chain grappling moves together.[9][5]

The game's combat system allows for basic attacks including strikes, counters, and dodging which can be combined to keep Batman attacking while moving between enemies and avoiding being attacked himself.[10] Basic enemies include enemies armed with shields and shock batons,[6] while others are armed with guns which significantly damage Batman.[11] These enemies can perform a charge and tackle attack only used by larger enemies in previous games; precision timed dodging, and a batarang can instantly defeat some charging enemies.[12] The system adds the ability to combine attacks on prone enemies without interrupting a combo streak.[8] Batman can counter enemy attacks and throw them into other enemies for increased damage. Batman is also capable of disarming enemies wielding items like baseball bats and using the acquired weapon on several foes before it breaks.[11]

Arkham Knight introduces enemy medics who can shield enemies in electrified fields and revive unconscious ones,[6] sword-wielding enemies, and brutes who are resistant to damage and must be stunned before they can be attacked, while brutes wielding Gatling guns, tasers, and blades require additional steps to defeat.[6][13] Enemies are capable of employing tactics to counter Batman's various skills, including deploying landmines, controlling hovering drones, disabling vents if Batman is found using them, and detecting his location if Batman uses Detective Vision for too long.[6]

Throughout the city, Batman can encounter enemy watchtowers, guard posts, aerial drones, and explosive mines embedded in the city streets. Some drones can be hacked and turned against their allies by using the Remote Hacking Device.[13] Arkham Knight introduces the "Fear Takedown", where Batman can subdue up to five enemies simultaneously as long as he remains undetected; time is slowed after each take down, allowing the player to target the next enemy.[14][10] Hazardous items such as power generators can be used in combat for environmental attacks.[3][8] Combat is rewarded with experience points, which are used to unlock gadget abilities, combat moves, and health upgrades.[10][15] Batman can now access grates from afar, allowing him to roll forward and immediately get under the grate if in range instead of having to be right on top of them, while also initiating multiple takedowns from within them.[14] Some enemies carry devices capable of blocking Batman's Detective Vision.[13]

Arkham Knight introduces "Dual Play", in which players can seamlessly switch control of Batman to one of his allies: Robin, Nightwing or Catwoman while in Free Flow Combat. Each successful, uninterrupted attack adds to the player's combat score, which carries over between each controlled character and unlocks double-team takedowns on opponents at higher scores.[16][17]

Arkham Knight features side missions, which can be attempted at any time and feature prominent characters from the Batman universe.[16] One such character, the Riddler, provides 243 optional "Riddler challenges" to solve. These challenges consist of collecting trophies hidden in the city through the use of gadgets or Batman's car, the Batmobile, to disable traps and barriers, and completing timed races.[18][19] The player can mark Riddler trophies on the in-game map once found if they do not initially have the necessary equipment to complete the puzzle,[13] and some collectables can be revealed by interrogating the Riddler's henchmen.[13]

Batman can investigate crimes such as murders, using his Detective Vision to reconstruct the crimes to locate clues and identify the perpetrators,[19][20] or use his Tissue Scanner to investigate a victim's skin, muscle, and bones for clues.[10] Completing the story mode unlocks a New Game Plus mode, enabling the player to replay the game with all of the gadgets, experience, abilities, and Riddler collectables that they have attained.[21] The completion of some tasks is reflected in the Gotham City Police Department, with thugs and supervillains becoming incarcerated, and criminal memorabilia from missions and previous games being collected in the evidence room.[22]

Batmobile

The game introduces the Batmobile as a drivable vehicle.[23] The bulletproof Batmobile can be summoned to the player's location while on foot or, if the player is airborne, sent to meet Batman as he lands.[3][24] The vehicle features the ability to perform jumps, speed boosts, rotate on the spot, smash through objects like barricades and trees, and fire missiles that can immobilize enemy vehicles. Batman can eject from the Batmobile and immediately begin gliding around Gotham City.[3][25]

Some enemies will run away at the sight of the vehicle, eliminating the need for Batman to fight them, and enemies attacking the car can be subdued by its automated taser defenses.[26] Like Batman, the Batmobile can be upgraded with new abilities.[11] Riddler challenges also feature objectives requiring the Batmobile, such as timed races in tunnels beneath Gotham City, where the environmental obstacles change during each lap, and invisible question marks that must be revealed using the Batmobile's scanner.[3][27][19]

The Batmobile has two modes, which can be switched at anytime: Pursuit and Battle. Pursuit is for moving from area to area and completing specific driving challenges. In Battle mode, the Batmobile becomes more tank than car, allowing a full 360-degree range of movement, including strafing in any direction, while revealing the multiple weapon systems on board, including an Vulcan chain gun for quick damage, a 60mm hypervelocity cannon for fire support, anti-tank guided missiles for wide-ranging damage against multiple targets, and a non-lethal riot suppressor.[9][5]

Additional upgrades to the vehicle include an EMP device, which releases an electric pulse used to temporarily stun enemy drones; and the "drone virus", which allows the player to override the weapon systems of enemy vehicles and cause them to attack each other.[21] The Batmobile can also be controlled remotely, driven in indoor locations, and used in solving the game's puzzles, such as lowering an inaccessible elevator with its attached winch.[9][5] The Batwing is used in conjunction with the Batmobile to deliver upgrades.[17]

Synopsis

Characters

John Noble, voice of Scarecrow, in March 2012.

Arkham Knight features a large ensemble cast of characters from the history of Batman comics. The main character is Batman (Kevin Conroy)—a superhero trained to the peak of human physical and mental perfection and an expert in martial arts.[25][28] He is supported by his allies, Robin (Matthew Mercer),[29] Nightwing (Scott Porter),[30] Catwoman (Grey DeLisle),[16][31] Barbara Gordon—who assists Batman covertly as the hacker Oracle (Ashley Greene),[3][30] and her father police commissioner James Gordon (Jonathan Banks).[30] Batman's loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth and Wayne Enterprises colleague Lucius Fox (Dave Fennoy)[32] provide Batman with tactical support,[16][33] and the holy warrior Azrael (Khary Payton) aims to replace Batman as Gotham's protector.[34][35]

Throughout the city, Batman is faced with several supervillains: he must overcome Scarecrow's (John Noble) plot to threaten Gotham City,[30][11] dismantle the Penguin's (Nolan North) weapon dealing operation, put an end to Two-Face's (Troy Baker) bank heists,[36] conquer the Riddler's (Wally Wingert) challenges,[3] capture the plant-controlling Poison Ivy (Tasia Valenza),[29][37] and subdue Harley Quinn (Tara Strong),[3] who wants revenge against Batman for the death of the Joker (Mark Hamill), Batman's psychopathic nemesis.[6][37]

The game introduces the villain Arkham Knight (also voiced by Baker),[38] a character created specifically for the game by Rocksteady, DC Comics CCO and comic-book writer Geoff Johns, and DC co-publisher and comic artist Jim Lee.[3][39][40] The Arkham Knight is a militarized version of Batman, with the "A" logo of the Arkham Asylum facility worn as an emblem on his chest.[25] Other villains include the pyromaniac Firefly,[36] the beastly Man-Bat,[41] the assassin Deathstroke,[42] the serial killer Professor Pyg,[43] Hush, who is impersonating Batman's alter-ego as Bruce Wayne,[44] and the religious fanatic Deacon Blackfire.[45]

Arkham Knight also features appearances and references to various characters drawn from the history of Batman comics and the previous Arkham games. Appearances include: pharmaceutical businessman Simon Stagg,[46] reporters Vicki Vale[46] and Jack Ryder, police officer Aaron Cash,[citation needed] corporate businessman Lex Luthor, crimefighter Kate Kane,[33] serial killer Calendar Man,[47] and mutated gangster Killer Croc,[citation needed] while the game's downloadable content features appearances by Black Mask and Starro.[48][49] References include: Superman, Black Canary, Blue Beetle, Solomon Grundy, Clayface, Copperhead, the Secret Six,[50] Flash, Film Freak, Martian Manhunter, John Constantine, Renee Montoya, Metamorpho, Kairi Tanaga, Team 7, Huntress, Birds of Prey, Maggie Sawyer, and the Grey Ghost from the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Beware the Gray Ghost".[46]

Setting

One year after the death of the Joker during the events of Arkham City, Batman is struggling to come to terms with the absence of his nemesis and the uncomfortable feeling that the pair shared a bond deeper than either could admit.[8] Without the Joker's chaotic presence, Gotham's citizens have never felt safer, and crime in the city has dramatically declined. However, this gives Batman's enemies, including Penguin, Two-Face, and Harley Quinn, a chance to unite with the singular goal of killing Batman.[51][52][53]

On Halloween night, Scarecrow threatens the city with his newly created strain of fear toxin and bombs planted throughout Gotham, forcing the evacuation of the city's six million civilians.[11][39] Only criminals remain in the city, leaving Commissioner Gordon and the Gotham City Police Department outnumbered.[3] Anticipating a new threat, Batman continues to develop crime-fighting technology and maintains a vigil over the city.[3]

Arkham Knight‍‍ '​‍s Gotham City is approximately five times the scale of the open-air Arkham City prison in Arkham City. The game takes place in the center of the city, which is split into three islands: Bleake, Founders, and Miagani,[54] with various districts such as the neon-tinged Chinatown, and the industrial shipping yard.[3][11][25] Bleake Island features shorter buildings, disheveled areas, and abandoned docks, while Founders Island is a modern development of skyscrapers built on the ruins of Gotham slums, and Miagani Island is an older metropolis with Wayne Tower at its center.[54] Oracle has set up her communications headquarters in the Gotham clock tower, which also houses a makeshift Batcave.[8][55]

Plot

On Halloween, Scarecrow forces the civilian evacuation of Gotham City after threatening to unleash his potent new fear toxin. Batman tracks Scarecrow to a hideout where he rescues the imprisoned Poison Ivy, who had refused to join Batman's other rogues in Scarecrow's plot. Batman meets with Oracle, who identifies Ace Chemicals as the source of Scarecrow's toxin. Batman investigates the facility but encounters the Arkham Knight and his heavily-armed militia. Batman overcomes the forces and locates Scarecrow, who has transformed the entire building into a toxin bomb. Scarecrow reveals that he has kidnapped Oracle, and exposes Batman to the toxin before escaping. Batman inhibits the bomb's blast radius before he is confronted by the Joker.[56]

A flashback reveals that before the Joker died, his infected blood was used in blood transfusions, infecting five people including Batman; Batman, concealing his infection from others, imprisoned the four other recipients who were physically and mentally transforming into the Joker. The Joker, now existing as a mental projection produced by the infected blood and fear toxin, frequently appears to taunt Batman, and manipulate his perception of the world around him.[57] After Batman escapes the exploding Ace Chemicals, he tells Gordon that his daughter has been captured. Gordon angrily leaves to find Scarecrow.

Batman learns that Scarecrow recruited businessman Simon Stagg to build the "Cloudburst"—a mass dispersal device for the fear toxin. Batman confronts Scarecrow aboard Stagg's airship, and a dose of fear toxin allows the Joker to temporarily assume control of Batman's body while the Arkham Knight extracts the Cloudburst. Recovering, Batman locates Oracle in Scarecrow's hideout, but when he arrives she is exposed to the fear toxin, and in terror she commits suicide. Harley Quinn seizes Batman's base in the Panessa movie studio to rescue the Joker-ized patients. Batman and Robin capture Harley and the infected, but one of the patients kills the others, before committing suicide, believing that Batman will become the perfect Joker. Realizing that Batman is infected, Robin attempts to imprison him before the Joker takes control, but Batman traps Robin in a cell, refusing to stop until Scarecrow is caught.

The Arkham Knight activates Cloudburst, flooding the city with fear toxin. Batman destroys the Cloudburst and convinces Ivy to empower an ancient tree that can neutralize the toxin; she succeeds and saves Gotham, but the strain kills her, while Batman's exposure to the toxin strengthens Joker's control. Batman pursues the Arkham Knight to a construction site to rescue Gordon. The Knight reveals himself as Jason Todd,[58] the previous Robin, who was seemingly murdered by the Joker, and has been left traumatized by torture at the Joker's hands. Todd blames Batman for abandoning him, and although Batman offers to help Todd recover, he escapes. Batman and Gordon confront Scarecrow on the building's roof, where Oracle is revealed to be alive, and her suicide the result of a hallucination.[59] Batman rescues Oracle and returns her to the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD), but Scarecrow escapes with Gordon. Using the remaining militia, Scarecrow assaults the GCPD to eliminate Batman's allies. Batman and Oracle neutralize the militia, but Scarecrow uses the distraction to kidnap Robin.

To save Robin and Gordon, Batman surrenders to Scarecrow and is taken to the ruins of Arkham Asylum. Scarecrow reveals Batman's secret identity to the world on television,[60] before repeatedly injecting Batman with the fear toxin to break him before the public. Inside his mind, Batman and Joker battle for control; the Joker attempts to weaken Batman by recounting the people who have suffered and died because of Batman's crusade; Batman triumphs and locks the pleading Joker away in his mind forever to be forgotten - the Joker's only fear.[42][60] Todd arrives and frees Batman, who subdues Scarecrow with his own fear toxin.[60]

While Gordon dispatches the police to reclaim the streets, Batman ensures that Gotham is safe before activating the "Knightfall" protocol to protect his loved ones. Surrounded by reporters, Batman returns home to Wayne Manor where he is greeted by Alfred. As the pair enter the manor, it explodes, seemingly killing them both. Years later, Gordon, now Gotham's mayor, prepares to attend Oracle and Robin's wedding. Elsewhere, two criminals attack a family in an alley but are confronted by a silhouette resembling Batman.[42][60]

Development

In August 2012, Paul Dini, writer of the first two games in the Arkham series, said he would not be involved in writing a sequel to Arkham City. He did not write any of that game's downloadable content (including the story-based "Harley Quinn's Revenge" downloadable content), and said that Warner Bros. and Rocksteady suggested he accept other work if offered.[61] Rocksteady opted to use its own team of writers, headed by game director Sefton Hill and designer Ian Ball, with script elements by Martin Lancaster; Geoff Johns served as a consultant on the plot.[62][40]

Arkham Knight was announced in March 2014, following leaked marketing material at the end of February,[63] with series creators Rocksteady Studios returning to develop the game, following the development of 2013's Batman: Arkham Origins by Warner Bros. Games Montréal. Arkham Knight is described as the concluding chapter of the Arkham series from Rocksteady; they had a finale for the series in mind since the development of Arkham City.[52][64] Kevin Conroy returns as the voice of Batman, having done so in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City,[25] after stating at the 2013 Dallas Comic Con that he had been working on "the next Arkham". This statement led to speculation that he would reprise his role as Batman in Arkham Origins, which was not the case.[65]

Rocksteady decided early on in development to make Arkham Knight only for the then-upcoming next-generation of consoles, which was considered to allow them to focus on using the system resources to their fullest without reigning in their ideas to accommodate the older generation systems.[66] The game allows for up to five times the number of on-screen enemies as were possible in Arkham City, and riots can feature up to fifty on-screen enemies interacting with the environment to smash items, and spray graffiti.[67][25] The technical changes also allowed for cutscenes to be rendered in real time in the game engine, where previous installments had used pre-rendered videos to compensate.[3] Describing the scale of difference between Arkham Knight and earlier games, lead character artist Albert Feliu said that a single character model in Arkham Knight could contain the same amount of polygons used to render the entirety of Arkham Asylum‍ '​s environment. Arkham Knight is the first in the series to use the Apex physics simulation engine to have items like cloth, such as Batman's cape, react realistically to movement or wind.[68] Warner Bros. supported Rocksteady's concept for the game, but both parties felt that three years was too long to wait between games, so Warner Bros. Games Montréal was tasked with creating the prequel, Arkham Origins, to fill the gap.[66]

The game does not feature a multiplayer component, as Hill explained: "This is a single-player game. There is no multiplayer. Right at the start this was our vision. It's going to take all of our effort for all of this time. We don't have the time to do multiplayer. [The team plans] to focus on making the best single-player experience we can. We don't feel that it needs a multiplayer element. Warner Bros. backed that up right at the start."[25]

Design

Batman's Batmobile was an aspect of the character that Rocksteady had wanted to include in its other Arkham games, but were limited by technical constraints.[69] The designers, who worked in conjunction with DC, chose to look at their earlier design from Arkham Asylum, instead of models from the history of Batman comics and media, and evolve that to meet the necessary gameplay requirements.[11][55] The vehicle was designed to integrate with Batman's on-foot traversal without being a burden; Hill stated, "We didn't want it to be like, 'Okay, the Batmobile is so good I'll just stay in that all the time.' or 'Batman is so powerful gliding around I won't be using the Batmobile.' There's a definite need to use both of those."[69] The world's challenges were set out on the vertical and horizontal plane to discourage players from using only one form of movement, with the Batmobile providing a faster method for moving large distances.[70] It can be summoned with a button press, and Batman can both enter and be ejected from it quickly, with ejection allowing the character to begin gliding instantly. Unlike Arkham Origins, Arkham Knight does not feature a fast travel system as the designers considered moving around the city to be part of the game, and allowing players to skip that would detract from the experience. During early development, Rocksteady placed a prototype Batmobile in the existing Arkham City map, and learned that the claustrophobic city designed for Batman to glide and grapple did not work well for driving a vehicle.[26] Gotham City was thus redesigned with wider streets to allow space for the Batmobile and other street traffic to drive without colliding into walls, and buildings were made taller to accommodate the vehicle's ejection ability.[26][52] Buildings hit by the vehicle suffer cosmetic damage without slowing the car, as it was considered that being impeded by a collision while turning a corner would diminish the power fantasy of driving the Batmobile.[70]

To redesign Gotham City, the designers attempted to build on the previous games' gothic architecture while making a more believable and dense city. Alongside minor elements like neon lights, billboard advertising, and American-style cars, the team developed ideas for shops that could be found in the city, while retaining a grimy, dystopian theme. Describing the design, Hego said: "every kind of element we've added in there ... makes the entire experience feel a little out of time. You couldn't pinpoint whether it's twenty years ago, now or in ten years time."[71] "We want to make sure the world is rich and full of interesting things to do", Hill said. "We're not trying to create the biggest open-world game ever. We are trying to create a really rich, vibrant, dense open world."[72]

In writing for Batman, Hill considered that a fundamental aspect of the character was how he interacts with his villains, allies, and the city around him. Hill said: "You know, what does it mean to be Batman? ...How does it affect Batman when things happen to him? What is his psychological make up? Those are the influences behind the game... you actually delve into the psyche of what makes him what he is, which is where I think so much of the interest in Batman is."[73] Batman's armor was redesigned to match that of the Batmobile to make them appear visually similar—featuring the same shapes and material textures—and appear functionally compatible with the high-speed methods in which the character enters and exits the vehicle. The design also added armor over Batman's shoulders, covering the previously exposed cape, to make it appear more feasible that it could hold Batman's weight without failing during gliding.[74] For other returning characters, art director David Hego said that the designs were conceived to keep them interesting after players had seen them several times before in previous games, while the game's autumnal setting also necessitated a change in character clothing over the winter setting of Arkham City. The Penguin lost his long coat, and was made to look dirtier, his clothing showing signs of sweat and food stains, and his head was shaved. For Two-Face, the designers felt the character did not require changing significantly, and instead emphasized existing character traits, particularly his disfigured flesh, using references of burnt flesh as inspiration. Similarly, they wanted to retain the typical Riddler characterizations like green shirts emblazoned with question marks, but instead had the character design evolve throughout the game, modifying his own costume in response to the events of the plot.[75]

Music

Batman: Arkham Knight – Original Video Game Score, Vol. 1
Film score by Nick Arundel and David Buckley
Released June 23, 2015 (2015-06-23)
Genre Soundtrack
Length 1:07:07
Label WaterTower Music

Nick Arundel returned to compose the music for the game, having worked on Arkham Asylum and Arkham City previously. Arundel is helped by composer David Buckley, replacing Ron Fish who had worked with Arundel on the previous games. Arundel stated, "One of the good things about doing a sequel, is you get the opportunity to redo [things you wished you changed], to revisit things. 'I didn't quite do that track as good as I could', so let's do a version of that; let's improve it ... We have a set of material that we want to keep consistent, like the Batman theme ... We wanted to keep [that] theme and tailor it more to the story for this game. How can we get the Scarecrow element out of that one theme." Arundel added that Buckley was willing to work within the music he had already created, as opposed to wanting to add his own personal touch to it. Buckley received Arundel's work from Arkham Asylum to help create new variations on the chords and melody from the original theme.[76][77] Volume 1 of the official soundtrack was released from WaterTower Music alongside the game on June 23, 2015.[78]

Release

Batman: Arkham Knight was released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows on June 23, 2015.[79] The game was originally scheduled to be released on October 14, 2014,[52] which in turn was delayed to June 2, 2015.[9] On the delay, Rocksteady marketing game manager Guy Perkins stated, "If we didn’t give the team more time to do it, then we would be releasing something that we weren’t happy with. We want to make sure we’re absolutely nailing it 100%."[9] A quality assurance tester for the game added, "Getting [the game] to work on consoles was impossible for months. That’s part of why the game got delayed so many times, [Rocksteady was] totally unprepared for how hard it was on next-gen consoles."[80] In the UK, the Microsoft Windows version is only available as a digital release.[81] Additionally, an OS X and Linux version of the game developed by Feral Interactive is scheduled for release in 2015.[82][83]

Two Collector's Edition editions were also announced: the Limited edition contains the game in a Steelbook case, an 80-page concept art book, an Arkham Knight issue #0 comic book, alternate costumes for Batman, Robin and Nightwing based on DC Comics' The New 52, and a statue of Batman. The Batmobile edition contains the Limited edition items, but replaces the Batman statue with a transformable Batmobile statue.[84][85][86] However, on June 17, consumers who purchased the "Batmobile Collector's Edition" were notified that the edition had been cancelled due to a quality issue with the Batmobile statue from designer Project Triforce. Consumers were able to receive a refund or have their purchase transferred to another collector's edition.[86] Two days later, it was revealed that the Limited edition was delayed for release in Europe until mid-July 2015 due to a packaging quality issue.[87] In addition, a Serious Edition Comic Bundle was released, exclusively on Amazon.com. The edition featured the game, the "First Appearance" skin (based on Batman's first appearance in Detective Comics #27), and a limited edition 25th anniversary version of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, the graphic novel for which the Batman: Arkham series is loosely based.[88][89] A limited edition PlayStation 4 was also released, featuring a "Steel Gray" console and controller with a custom Batman faceplate.[90]

In February 2015, it was revealed that Arkham Knight had received a "Mature" rating from the ESRB, rather than the "Teen" ratings previous installments in the franchise held. Hill and the Rocksteady team were caught off guard by the rating; Hill explained that they did not create the game with a specific rating in mind, but that "It's unavoidable that some bad stuff is going to happen. But that doesn't mean we changed our approach. We're not including gratuitous blood or swearing. We want to deliver a true end with no compromises, and it takes us to some dark places." Although he did not elaborate which content in particular triggered the "M" rating, Hill did note that a "ratings analysis" by Warner Bros. indicated that the content of certain "key" scenes in the game could have an impact on its rating. The team decided to maintain the offending content so that it would not "jeopardize" their vision for the game and its thematics.[91] In an in-depth explanation of the game's content, the ESRB revealed the existence of scenes where players can "shoot unarmed characters and a hostage", and torture scenes taking place on a "bloody operating table" as well as using a vehicle's wheel.[92]

Additional content

Harley Quinn is a playable character via downloadable content (DLC) in a story-driven mission, featuring her own weapons and abilities.[23][93] The Quinn-centric DLC follows the character as she infiltrates the city of Blüdhaven to assault the police station and rescue her partner-in-crime Poison Ivy.[94] Jason Todd as Red Hood is also a playable character via downloadable content in a story-driven mission,[95] in which Red Hood goes up against Black Mask.[48] The "Scarecrow Nightmare" DLC depicts a Gotham City that has succumbed to the Scarecrow's fear gas transforming it into a twisted nightmare image of itself, overseen by a towering Scarecrow and his undead army.[96][97] The "WayneTech Booster Pack" provides the player with four upgrades for Batman and the Batmobile on the onset, as opposed to earning them by progressing through the game.[98]

Additional content was made available via the game's season pass, which includes story-driven missions; challenge maps for Batman and his allies; Batmobile racetracks; skins for Batman, his allies, and the Batmobile; and all pre-order retailer and console content once their timed exclusivity expires in August and September 2015.[86][99][100] The story-driven missions include: "Batgirl: A Matter of Family"; "The Season of Infamy" where the player as Batman goes up against "legendary super-villains invading Gotham City, with new story arcs, missions and gameplay features"; and "Gotham City Stories", where players control Batman's allies in story missions that take place before and after the events of Arkham Knight.[99][100] The "1989 Movie Batmobile" pack includes skins based on the suit worn by Michael Keaton and the Batmobile from Batman and two racetracks based on Batman Returns. The "Bat-family Skins" pack includes six character skins based on alternate timelines. Both preceding packs are scheduled to be released in August 2015.[101]

"Batgirl: A Matter of Family", which was developed by Warner Bros. Games Montréal, features Barbara Gordon as Batgirl in new story missions set before the events of Arkham Asylum. Set in the Seagate Amusement Park, a nautical theme park built on top of an oil rig, Batgirl teams up with Robin to save her father, Commissioner Gordon, who has been kidnapped by the Joker and Harley Quinn. The content carries over the Dual Play function and adds a new hacking ability, which allows Batgirl to take down enemies, control objects, and solve puzzles. Design producer Justin Vazquez said, "Hacking is really what separates her from the other characters... Our intention was that Batgirl should be less powerful than Batman, but that Batgirl plus hacking could give her opportunities to do things that not even Batman can pull off." The content was released on July 14, 2015, for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One,[102] with the Windows release postponed until after the technical issues of the main game were fixed.[103]

A number of alternate outfits and designs were made available for Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman and the Batmobile. Batman's skins include designs worn in the 1960s TV series; Justice League 3000;[90] Batman Beyond; The Dark Knight Returns;[2] the "First Appearance" design;[88] The New 52;[84][85][86] Flashpoint;[104] Batman: Gotham Knight;[105] Earth 2;[106] Arkham Origins; "Iconic Grey and Black"; 1970s Batman; and the 1989 film.[101] Robin's skins include designs based on The New 52;[86] and One Year Later.[101] Nightwing's skins include designs based on The New 52;[86] and Arkham City.[101] Catwoman's skins include a design based on 1990s Catwoman.[101] Designs for the Batmobile include ones based on the 1960s TV series;[90] a prototype version;[2] and the 1989 film.[101] Racetracks for the Batmobile include two based on Batman Returns.[101]

Marketing

The game was originally scheduled to be released during Batman's 75th Anniversary celebration in 2014, and as a result, DC presented the "Cape/Cowl/Create" art exhibit in London in June 2014, and at San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2014. The exhibit featured contemporary artists painting on a cape and cowl designed by Asher Levine and based on the batsuit from the game.[107][108] In December 2014, a prequel digital-first comic was announced, written by Peter J. Tomasi, with art by Viktor Bogdanovic and Art Thibert, and covers by Dan Panosian. The comic picks up after the events of Arkham City and was released digitally in February 2015, with the first print release featuring a collection of the digital issues in March 2015.[109][110] Tomasi said the comic has "contained arcs, but there’s an over-arcing story that [goes] right to the launch of the game and beyond."[111] A novelization of the game, written by comic book writer Marv Wolfman, is scheduled to be released alongside the game.[112] In April 2015, a second comic, Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis, was announced centered around the origin of the Arkham Knight. The six-issue monthly miniseries, written once again by Tomasi with art by Alisson Borges, will be released starting in July 2015.[113] In May 2015, a life-size replica of the Batmobile from the game, designed by West Coast Customs, was on display at MCM London Comic Con.[114] Starting on May 8, 2015, until the release of the game, Rocksteady released weekly behind-the-scenes videos called "Arkham Insider", featuring Rocksteady staff describing various aspects of Arkham Knight‍ '​s gameplay as well as answering fan questions.[115] Various products were developed based on the game including clothing, hats, calendars, posters, headphones, and "The Riddler's Gambit", a 320-page novel written by Alexander C. Irvine, that serves as a prequel to the story of Arkham Knight and follows Batman's conflict with the Riddler.[116]

Reception

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (PS4) 88.40%[117]
(XONE) 87.50%[118]
(PC) 67.50%[119]
Metacritic (PS4) 87/100[120]
(XONE) 86/100[121]
(PC) 63/100[122]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 7/10[123]
Game Informer 9.5/10[124]
GameSpot 7/10[41]
GamesRadar 4/5 stars[54]
GamesTM 9/10[125]
IGN 9.2/10[6]
Polygon 10/10[127]
VideoGamer.com 10/10[129]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[126]
USGamer 4/5 stars[128]

Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic, respectively, gave the Xbox One version 87.50% based on 10 reviews and 86/100 based on 11 reviews,[118][121] the PlayStation 4 version 88.40% based on 48 reviews and 87/100 based on 81 reviews,[117][120] and the Microsoft Windows version 67.50% based on 3 reviews and 63/100 based on 7 reviews.[119][122]

Dan Stapleton of IGN rated the game a score of 9.2 out of 10, praising the graphics, gameplay variety, detail of the open world, the voice acting performances (particularly of Kevin Conroy as Batman and John Noble as Scarecrow) and the overall improvement in the combat and predator systems. While commending the addition of the Batmobile for satisfying players' power fantasies of driving the vehicle, he criticized its Battle mode as "weird" and "about as un-Batman an activity as [he could] imagine." He praised the tank battles as "good fun" for their tactical gameplay but called the mode's role in puzzle-solving as "frustratingly clumsy", also noting the difficulty of managing the vehicle's default controls but commenting positively on the option to reconfigure them.[6] Polygon's Justin McElroy, giving the game a 10 out of 10, stating that the game "ticks all the boxes for the fourth entry in a AAA franchise." He lauded the intricacy and intuition of the game's puzzles, noting how they make the players think on a significantly higher level than past entries in the series, calling the game "nothing short of revolutionary" and "the best game of this console generation."[127] Steve Tilley of The Toronto Sun deemed the game "fantastic, if a little formulaic". He felt it a satisfying and appropriately large-scale conclusion to Rocksteady's Arkham games, praising the surprises in the plot, as well as the graphics, combat, and the Batmobile's range of abilities.[130]

Andrew Reiner of Game Informer awarded Arkham Knight a 9.5 out of 10, saying "Batman: Arkham Knight is a narrative juggernaut crammed to capacity with excellent heroes, villains, battles, drama, humor, fan service, and the mother of all plot twists." He described the game's Gotham City as "a beautifully realized playground for Batman", highlighting the distinctive boroughs. Reiner added that the Batmobile "packs a satisfying punch" with its cannon and praised the novelty of the racetracks involving the Riddler and the amount of variety in the game and how it corresponds to the events of the plot. He felt though, that the combat was somewhat easier than previous games, most notably due to the game's "Dual Play" mechanic.[124] Simon Miller, writing for VideoGamer.com, gave the game a 10 out 10 score and called it "the best Batman game ever made and a classic in its own right." Praising Rocksteady for its superior understanding of the Batman character, he felt the game did indeed offer a full-fledged experience of being Batman and also called the story "terrific". The combat, "Dual Play" feature and Riddler puzzles were again points of high praise. Despite the perfect score, Miller did name the Batmobile as one of the game's cons, saying of the tank mode, "It lacks the style and grace present almost everywhere else and soon starts to feel a little monotonous." He still lauded the "rush of adrenaline" invoked while driving the car through the streets of the city, concluding the game was a "masterpiece".[129] Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead recommended the game, giving high praise to the detail of the open world, but again criticizing the Batmobile's battle mode feature as one of the weaker aspects of the game. He did, however, single out the characterization of Batman, concluding his review by saying "The Batman of Arkham Knight is a complex, contradictory figure, a hero with real depth and dimension, and we get to wear the iconic cowl for one last mind-boggling night of mayhem."[36] GamesTM gave Arkham Knight a 9 out of 10, praising the game for functioning without the presence of the Joker, and praising the story for its intimacy and inviting, epic-scale nature. The Batmobile gameplay was described as "thrilling", though the "least immersive" part of the game. The "Dual Play" elements were also hailed as the best aspect of the game in addition to their involvement with the Riddler challenges.[125]

Kevin VanOrd, writing for GameSpot, awarded the game a 7 out of 10, praising the game's "terrific" amount of variety and its improvement of past games' elements. VanOrd reacted positively to the segments involving the Batmobile's Battle mode, calling it a "delight" and saying it made the player "the director of a spectacularly violent fireworks display." He called the vehicle's driving "slick and satisfying" and praising the cleverness of the game's puzzles, as well as the "Dual Play" mechanics. However, VanOrd found fault with some of the game's logic, particularly the clash between Batman's no-kill rule and the Batmobile's significant predilection for destruction. He also noted how the story's thematic elements and repeated metaphors became exhaustingly redundant, mentioning its "ham-fisted storytelling" and describing the game overall as "only as good as the world allows it to be." Nonetheless, he concluded by saying the game "... is a safe but satisfying return to the world's most tormented megalopolis."[41] Sam Roberts from GamesRadar noted the game's satisfying cinematic value, particularly moments in which it felt like Batman: The Animated Series. However, Roberts did reserve some criticisms, calling some of the Batmobile's additions "slippery" and deemed it a "mixed affair"; the campaign was described as full of "generally wonky storytelling, sometimes hammy dialogue and unconvincing duo of primary villains." Roberts praised the "gorgeous" open world and its side missions as "almost universally fantastic". Despite this, he called the chases during the Firefly mission "terrible" and mentioned others being "repetitive fetch quests", while Riddler's Batmobile racetracks were considered "beyond silly." He still commended the character for his increased involvement in the story.[54]

Additionally, Stapleton and Paul Tassi of Forbes both took issue to Rocksteady's marketing of the Arkham Knight as an original character, as the moniker was original but the character in the role was not. Stapleton felt the problem was that "Rocksteady talked up this big mystery, made false claims about it, and yet had the reveal be something so obvious that no moderately knowledgeable Batman fan could reasonably have been surprised by it. We all already knew who the Arkham Knight was; we were just hoping it wasn’t true because we wanted the original story we’d been promised."[58] Tassi said, "I understand why many avid Batman fans may consider it a letdown, given that they were promised a new character, and this is essentially a renamed and recostumed version of a character that has already existed for years, and most will spot the twist from a mile away as a result. It works within the game, but it was more than a little deceptive for Rocksteady to insist his identity would shock and amaze us all."[42]

Additional content

Chris Carter of Destructoid was critical of the Harley Quinn and Red Hood story packs, both originally pre-order bonuses before releasing as purchasable DLC. Carter called both "painfully" and "disgustingly" short, respectively, with the Harley pack lasting around 30 minutes, and the Red Hood around 10 minutes. He added, "It's a disappointment, to say the least, as both DLCs could have been so much more if they were an hour long, had more involved stories, and interesting boss mechanics," concluding with "Rocksteady is teasing a few more of these "Arkham Stories" with the Season Pass, and I sincerely hope they're more than this."[48][131]

For the Batgirl: A Matter of Family story pack, Stapleton offered a mixed reaction, giving the DLC a 6.3 out of 10, praising the unique design and atmosphere of the theme park setting, and also commenting positively on the story, the variation in combat, Batgirl's character design, and Mark Hamill's performance as the Joker. A prominent concern, however, was the short length of the campaign and lack of replay value aside from the rather simple collectables found around the map. He added, "worse, there’s no new AR challenge map where you can play as Batgirl, which means her great-looking character model is trapped in this single piece of story content. Considering Arkham Knight is fairly stingy in the challenge map department, that’s another big missed opportunity."[132] Reiner felt the pack was "fairly cut and dried as to whether you should play it or not. If Arkham‍ '​s story doesn't interest you, and you simply play these games to experience cool Batman action moments, no, you shouldn't waste your time with this DLC. Developer WB Montreal can be commended for creating a wonderfully realized version of Batgirl, who is resourceful and capable of striking fear into Joker's henchmen, but the mission she embarks on lacks creativity and ranks among the Arkham series' worst." He did, however, praise the side story involving Edward Burke, calling it "twisted and dark" and shedding "new light on one of the series' mainstays."[133]

Aoife Wilson of Eurogamer was critical of Batgirl's characterization, calling it a "bland, no-frills reading of the character, to be frank, which focuses on her familial connections rather than her youthful exuberance." Wilson also lamented that the emphasis on Batgirl's hacking abilities proved to be no more than a simple extension of Arkham Knight‍ '​s remote hacking environmental puzzles. She offered words similar to Stapleton's on how the lack of additional challenge maps confines the Batgirl character model to only the DLC. Wilson was skeptical as to whether the future season pass DLC would be worth purchasing unless there was an increase in production value and a real introduction to new gadgets and gameplay variety.[134] Carter gave the DLC a 6.5 out of 10, reacting positively to the confinement to the "good bits" of Arkham Knight, more specifically the lack of the Batmobile and an emphasis on puzzle-solving - he also compared it favorably to the Harley Quinn and Red Hood story packs towards which he previously gave negative reviews. In contrast to IGN, Carter felt that not many of the environments were particularly memorable, and also felt the length was sufficient compared to the game's previous story packs. Carter pointed out that a benefit to the game would be a free-roaming option involving the downloadable characters.[135] Meanwhile, Erik Kain of Forbes felt that the DLC should have been provided free of charge, remarking on the campaign's shortness and calling it "straightforward" and "lackluster". He also criticized Warner Bros. for their marketing campaign with Arkham Knight and its DLC, commenting on their sacrificing quality over quantity to continuously charge customers for rather mediocre content.[136]

Accolades

Batman: Arkham Knight received Game Informer‍ '​s award for Best Action Game seen at E3 2014 in June 2014.[137] It also received IGN's Best Xbox One Game for their E3 2014 awards, while becoming runner up for Game of Show and Best PlayStation 4 Game.[138] The 2014 Game Critics Awards awarded Arkham Knight as the Best Action/Adventure Game,[139] while nominating it for Best of Show and Best Console Game.[140] At the 2014 Golden Joystick Awards, Arkham Knight was nominated for Most Wanted game.[141] In December 2014, the UK publication MCV reported that Arkham Knight was the most anticipated title for the region's retailers, ahead of Halo 5: Guardians, Evolve, The Order: 1886, and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.[142]

Sales

Batman: Arkham Knight was the highest selling game for June 2015, became the fastest selling game of 2015, beating the record previously held by The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the second best selling game of 2015 behind Mortal Kombat X, and the fastest selling game of the Arkham franchise.[143][144] The PlayStation 4 sales were the highest for a single SKU across any Batman game since the NPD Group began tracking the industry.[144]

Technical issues on Windows version

The PC version of the game was poorly received, with criticism aimed mostly at the technical issues present at the time of the game's release,[145][146][147] ultimately leading to sales being suspended to rectify the issues.[83] On June 23, 2015, the launch day for Arkham Knight, thousands of users reported major technical flaws and performance problems with the Windows version of the game, with some saying it seemed like the optimization phase of the game's development was skipped.[148][149] Steam users immediately wrote scathing reviews of the game's performance, including reports of frame rate being capped at 30 frames per second (which can be raised, though with potential side effects)[145][150] and dropping as low as 10 frames per second while gliding or using the Batmobile.[149]

Even high-end graphics cards such as Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970 were unable to handle the game well, with users reporting frequent frame rate dips and stutters.[151] Nvidia and AMD released new device drivers optimized for the game in an attempt to address the performance issues, with Steam "strongly recommending" their download.[147] The developer, Rocksteady, issued a statement saying they were aware of the issues and were "working closely with [their] external PC development partner," Iron Galaxy Studios, to resolve them.[146][152] As of June 27, 2015, 65% of the over 11,000 reviews by Steam customers did not recommend Arkham Knight.[153]

On June 24, 2015, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced that it would suspend sales of the Windows version of Arkham Knight in order to work on addressing the performance issues to satisfy the company's quality standards. They also offered refunds for anyone who already purchased the game.[83] Three days later, a patch was released which fixed some crash-causing problems. Rocksteady noted that they were continuing to focus on the frame rate problem, the low-resolution texture, and overall performance problems, among other issues needing fixes.[154] In early July 2015, Kotaku reported that Warner Bros. were aware of the issues on the Windows version, and chose to ship the game as it was, "not to maniacally screw over customers—but because they believed it was good enough."[80] Kotaku Australia additionally reported that the issues would not be fixed until at least September 2015, and that all stock retail versions were being recalled.[155] By the middle of July, Warner Bros. announced they were "targeting an interim patch update for existing players to be released in August."[156]

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