Batman: Arkham Knight, Grand Theft Scarecrow - Games Weekly

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Batman: Arkham Knight, Grand Theft Scarecrow

As a newcomer to videogames (or at least good videogames), Batman is an oddly timely figurehead for the mix of savagery and scruples the action genre has become. True, he doesn’t look conflicted a compacted mass of muscle and gadgetry, descending from Arkham Knight’s skies in a swirl of memory cloth, one fist seizing the nearest windpipe while the other flicks Batarangs at goons further afield (a trick that can now be performed in mid-air). But all that power, and all the principles that come with it, are continually on the verge of being corroded.

There’s Batman’s trauma as an orphan to account for a permanent drain on his sanity, reinforced by years of bruising clashes with the underworld, which sees him moved almost to murder when it comes to old foes such as Two-Face and Scarecrow. And there’s the city he watches over, a mirror for Brucie’s inner conflicts that’s overrun by thugs in makeup. Thanks to a dose of new-gen medicine, Arkham Knight’s version is the most magnificent staging ground yet for the ace in Rocksteady’s hole Batman’s combo, which has widened its remit to include environmental takedowns, counter-throws and the ability to use opponents’ weapons after disarming them.

Of more service, perhaps, given the expanded world, are the tweaks to flight, with Batman able to glide for longer, care of taller structures, and make sharp turns using his grapple gun. As you dart between skyscrapers, gossiping to Batgirl turned switchboard-lady Oracle about mission objectives, it’s easy to forget that everybody below is out to kill you. Mind you, all those people will have to try pretty hard even when you do run into them on ground level. That’s thanks to Batman’s new best friend, the Batmobile, which can be summoned anywhere in the city and is much more than a fast travel option. Pop it into battle mode and you’ll be able to strafe while aiming heat-seekers and your riot gun. Hit eject while travelling at speed and you’ll be gracefully propelled into a glide. You can even use it during on-foot combat, uppercutting a goon for the Batmobile’s turret to polish off.

It’s the freshest aspect of a game that otherwise seems conservative, swish textures and mysterious main villain notwithstanding. Still, Arkham City plus more gadgets remains an enticing proposition, and after setting a new standard for adaptations with Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady can be forgiven for saying goodbye to Batman with more of a controlled explosion than another Big Bang.

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