Written by Gav Russell
Jesus actual Christ, why is everybody so upset about the Batmobile? You can’t read 50 words about Arkham Knight without tripping over a sentence where the writer reminds of you the fact that THE BATMOBILE BITS WERE RUBBISH. When they quite clearly aren’t rubbish. Maybe you’re rubbish. Did you consider that?
Ok. That’s unfair. I’m all for other opinions; I believe that an element of dissonance when discussing art is important, but negative opinion about Batman’s whip is almost universal. Strangely so. And it winds me up. It started to wind me up right after the first time I got to use the Batmobile in game and was able to see for myself first hand (after going in dreading it, due to the output of hate) that, actually, the Batmobile is pretty flipping good. And a riot to control. The vehicular combat sections are a blast. Literally. Zipping about all over the place, smashing masonry off walls and collapsing road signs while you pummel rockets into enemy trucks. The much maligned Cobra Tank vehicle stealth sections are a thrilling and absurd game of car hide-and-seek. Even just driving from A to B, at a million miles an hour, powersliding around corners and destroying massive chunks of Gotham is brilliant fun. Preposterous. Over the top. Devastatingly brutal but getting away with it. Much like the Dark Knight himself. It’s a shame that everyone is so up in arms about the car because it feels as though that it has allowed the real problem with Arkham Knight to pass through unscathed.
And the real problem is this : the hand to hand combat is now fucked.
What was once the simple, streamlined and rhythmic crowning glory of an already fantastic game is now a bewildering mess of specific input commands. Each fight is now essentially a QTE requiring you to respond with lightning quick speed to avoid Batmam getting stabbed or electrocuted or having a gas canister bounced off his head or being rugby tackled to the floor. There are now a head-spinning amount of enemy types and enemy moves, each one requesting you to press a specific combination of buttons so that you can cancel their buff or avoid their attack. Press R2 to stop the guy charging! Press back + triangle to dodge the knife! Watch out for the electrified guys (I still can’t work out how to avoid these). Watch out for the charging electrified guys (these either). Press these buttons to grab his weapon! Remember to press something when you see a guy out of the corner of your eye with red arrows above his head cause he’s about to throw a bin. Press this and this and this together to do something with the Batarang mid-combo. Press forward + circle + circle to jump over the AAAAAARRRGGGGHHH OH GOD STOP STOP STOP. There are combat moves I can see ahead in the skill tree that I’m not even going to bother unlocking because there’s no point.
Each fight feels disjointed and fumbled. I’m constantly pulled out of a combo because I couldn’t, within a split second, remember the 3 button input required to stop this specific enemy in his tracks. I get through the fights, that isn’t really the issue, it’s just they feel sloppy now. I’m always fucking up. I don’t feel like Batman. In the previous two games I did; racking up combos into the 100’s, tapping away at square and triangle; punch, counter, punch, punch, counter. I was a ballet dancer with a taste for broken noses and shattered femurs. Now I just feel like I’m stumbling from enemy to enemy being punched and stabbed until I accidentally hammer the right buttons so that some dickhead’s electric suit turns off and I can punch him.
I do not feel like Batman. But when I’m in the car I do. When that engine ROARS and Gotham is a blur? I’m Batman.