ALL IN THE FAMILY
Team-ups are limited to selfcontained moments of the game, but the minutes spent with the Bat family are among Arkham Knight’s best. A big part of what a teammate brings is combat scale, upping the thug count but giving you a quickly recharging dual takedown move, which offers a dollop of achingly cool spectacle and swaps you into the body of your partner when triggered. You’ll also work with Catwoman to overcome a special set of Riddler puzzles built for two, and direct Robin for a slice of co-op stealth midway through the central arc, briefly allowing you to easily overcome enemies that Batman alone has to defeat the hard way. These moments wonderfully communicate the strengths of Wayne’s support network, even as Scarecrow works to expose its flaws. Knight, meanwhile, is an Olympic-level whiner, and the mystery surrounding him is thin, too, foreshadowed so heavily that there’s only one person who could be under the mask hours before it comes off. Worse, convenience regularly trumps consistency, with no end of dilemmas solved by having a win button installed for the occasion.
Again, these low points are displayed in the harshest light by contrast. Elsewhere, the Riddler is as piquant a wit as ever, purveyor of cruelly brilliant observations. Poison Ivy’s insouciance is spot on, and some affecting moments with the extended Bat family await in the captivating side stories. It’s not like the main thread doesn’t have bright spots: the segment in Gotham’s old movie studios when you team up with Robin for co-op stealth and brawling is full of screen magic, Alfred’s Martini-dry delivery is a stellar counterpoint to Conroy’s institution of a Batgrowl, and a more handsoff approach to investigation scenes is liberating. It also bears knowing that not all the twists lack impact, and even feed into the game’s best bit: luxuriating in this open world and sampling freely from its diversions.
It’s a shame Rocksteady’s final Batman game comes with caveats at all, but what might buckle lesser titles here serves to highlight the strengths of all the studio has introduced. The Arkham series’ systems are now part of the lexicon of gaming, but Knight again proves that no one knows how to escalate them better than the outfit that showed the world why capturing the hero fantasy is as much about weakness as power. Its biggest adventure to date isn’t flawless, but the Dark Knight’s return is far from one to underestimate.