Batman: Arkham Knight was hotly anticipated before its release in June of 2015. The developer Rocksteady had released two of the best action games in memory with Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, and Arkham Knight looked to be an epic swan song for the franchise they had started.
It was an incredible experience from day one on the Xbox One and Playstation 4 but on the PC it was an unmitigated mess. The frame rate was abysmal, textures were low-res at times, and the enhanced graphics possible in the previous games were missing. In short the game was unplayable on PC unless you had a very high-end build, and even then the experience was less than it should be. This led to publisher Warner Brothers pulling the game from sale on PC (almost unheard of for a Triple A game) and developer Rocksteady taking the PC port in house from previous partner Iron Galaxy to fix the damaged property.
Months later, October 28 to be exact, the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight was re-released on PC via Steam and retail partners, supposedly patched up and ready to be played by the masses. Over the course of the four months during which the game was not available for sale on the platform, the console versions were receiving steady story mission DLC packs as well as skins, challenge missions and Batmobile tracks. PC users like me who bought the game early or in the first few days of its release were left out in the cold, as Rocksteady wanted to hold off on any PC content until the game was fixed. The game is now out for all PC users so I am looking at the game itself, how it fares on PC, and a roundup of all the DLC story packs released so far.
First things first: Batman: Arkham Knight on PC, despite four months of what the developer and publisher call ‘frantic non-stop work’ of patching and repairing the port, is still far from a perfect release. The game runs very poorly on high settings which only deliver an experience on par with the console versions. There are limited graphical settings and in fact as you change them there are many warnings on screen that even these modest changes could impact the game’s performance.
On my PC I play The Witcher 3 on Ultra with a majority of the advanced settings turned on and the game looks stunning and runs smoothly. Batman: Arkham Knight still stutters and dips in performance with settings turned mostly to high (some are even at medium) with the Nvidia settings for rain and lights turned off. This is inexcusable, especially considering this is a legacy Unreal engine that many other games have used to much better effect – including the previous Arkham games. Batman: Arkham Origins as an example looks and runs better than Arkham Knight. The game is playable on my system, but with stutters and dips that are annoying if not game-impacting.
The technical hurdles aside, the game itself is incredibly engaging and fun, even though the story is very dark, with a series of grim obstacles facing Batman as he progresses. Batman: Arkham Knight focuses on two main villains. The first is Scarecrow, who in the vacuum left by Joker’s demise is taking over the city in a bid to end Batman once and for all.
He is aided by a unique villain created by Rocksteady and DC called the Arkham Knight, who is intimately knowledgeable regarding Batman, knowing the Dark Knight’s tactics and reactions, which makes him a formidable opponent. My one gripe about the Arkham Knight as a character (there are also issues with how you fight him that we will get to later) is that anyone with working knowledge on the Batman mythos will figure out who he is very quickly – I guessed within the first five minutes of meeting the character.
Over the course of the game you will also tangle with nearly every major villain from Batman’s rogue’s gallery. They all have their own side missions that do not need to be engaged aside from a superficial level in order to finish the game, but you would miss out on some great story beats if these ‘Most Wanted’ missions are skipped. Man-Bat, Professor Pyg, Firefly, Azrael and many others have great appearances in the game and running through their story segments adds a lot of depth to the experience even if they are wholly optional.
The Riddler, as always, plays a big part in the game, as he has captured Catwoman and you need to complete a number of race and puzzle segments over the course of the game in order to free her. There are also hundreds of Riddler Trophies and Challenges scattered across Gotham, all of which have to be collected in order to complete his challenge and get a complete game experience. If being a completionist is important, all the side missions and Riddler challenges have to be completed to have a 100% game and get an alternate, more detailed ending to the game.
The gameplay of Batman: Arkham Knight is stellar, as is expected of this mature franchise. The free-flow combat mechanic that is now copied all over the industry is even more engaging and diverse. The addition of environmental interactions, tweaks to gear in flight and in battle, and team-up moves when fighting with a partner adds an immersive depth to combat that is almost hypnotizing.
The Batmobile is all new in this game, fully controllable (both live and remotely if you are not in the vehicle), and gives Batman a new way to traverse Gotham. This iteration of the vehicle is very reminiscent of the ones created for the Christopher Nolan Batman films in its shape and size; it comes equipped with armaments capable of non-lethally taking down bad guys and explosive rounds to tear down the hordes of unmanned robot tanks roaming Gotham. The setup of robot tanks and the abandoned nature of Gotham is very contrived to make the Batmobile essential to the game. While it is obvious in the design, it is still a ton of fun to zoom around in this beast of a Batmobile and take down enemies.
In the end Batman: Arkham Knight is a terrific game 90% of the time. There are some repetitive, slogging battles against the Arkham Knight and some of the more grindy Most Wanted missions detract from the frantic experience, but generally it is great on all levels. The side missions are interesting and add additional lore to the Arkham Universe which is always appreciated. As part of the Batman: Arkham Knight release plans there was a season pass with a promised six months of DLC content. With this was a host of skins for all the characters (including the Batmobile) as well as story-based missions. Being that all the past DLC was available at once with the PC re-release, it bears a rundown to see if it is all worth it.
Harley Quinn Story Pack
A prequel to the main Arkham Knight story, this pack features Harley Quinn freeing Poison Ivy so she could work with Scarecrow. That is the entirety of the story so it is fairly weak in that respect, but the dialogue from Harley is fun to hear as she runs through the area. There are some interesting game mechanics in this pack, including a fury mode where Harley can essentially insta-kill enemies, and traps she can lay to damage or distract opponents. This is a fun diversion, but adds nothing to the overall Arkham Knight experience.
Red Hood Story Pack
This pack essentially spoils who a major character is in the main game so it is an odd early DLC pack for Arkham Knight. This pack has the Red Hood taking out hordes of goons as he attempts to reach and eliminate the Black Mask (who is causing issues for Scarecrow). as with the Harley pack there is not much to this DLC aside from a tweak to combat; the Red Hood has no issues with killing as so many of his moves revolve around guns. Once you get past that (vast) difference between his ethos and that of Batman and his team, the DLC pack is ultimately shallow and forgettable.
I loved this DLC pack, which features a pre-oracle Batgirl attempting to rescue her father, Commissioner Gordon, from Joker. She is initially teamed up with Robin as they track down the Joker and the Commissioner. The Batgirl design is amazing and her move list is different enough from Batman’s to be truly interesting. She is less about power and more about fast explosive movements. The story hooks are minimal, but it was interesting seeing her clash with the Joker considering how he impacts her life in the greater Arkham mythos. There are even collectibles as part of this story pack, adding a layer of exploration to this DLC. Batgirl: A Matter of Family is very fun and a great addition to the Arkham Knight Package.
Set after the events of Arkham Knight, this pack features Nightwing heading to Gotham and trying to re-capture the Penguin after he escaped and took over the GCPD compound. While the DLC is fairly short and contained to essentially one location, I found it very enjoyable thanks to the humor used by Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing. He tricks the Penguin and his crew multiple times and it plays very funnily which is a welcome note after such a grim story in the Arkham Knight.
Batman: Arkham Knight, despite what Rocksteady and Warner Bros say, is still broken on PC. The graphics options are limited and the framerate is compromised. But if you have a system that can play the game in a passable state it is still a terrific experience. The core game is deep, has the best combat of the series and is steeped in mountains of Batman lore that makes you feel you are truly in the universe. The extra DLC released thus far, while not of as high quality as the main game, is still great fun as you get to explore the world as part of the extended cast.
Batman: Arkham Knight is the end of the series as Rocksteady envisioned it and it is a fond farewell to one of the greatest action series in videogame history. If you have a console I would still suggest you choose that route to play the game, but a competent gaming PC is a viable option and this game is one that should not be skipped.