Be warned this blog will be a general discussion and analysis of all things Batman: Arkham Knight including the big reveals and the ending. Only read on if you have finished the game or if you don’t care about spoilers. I was planning to do a review of the game but it seems most people finished it before me and the internet was already full of opinions of all aspects of the game so this spoiler filled discussion seems like the best thing to do. Now the boring bit is out of the way lets finally talk about what was one of the most anticipated games of the year and what will undoubtedly be a game of the year contender.
Batman: Arkham Knight is my least favourite of Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy; I have to get that out into the open here at the start of my discussion. Even so, there is no doubting the game is phenomenal. The first two games in the trilogy are some of my favourites of all time. The enclosed and atmospheric metroidvania style of storytelling made Arkham Asylum a masterpiece of modern gaming. Arkham City is not far behind in terms of narrative and ups the gameplay exponentially. I enjoyed every minute of my time playing Arkham Knight with it being the pinnacle of the brilliant combat system and traversal of Gotham City but I was let down with certain aspects of the narrative.
Let’s start with the identity of the Arkham Knight. At the beginning of the game I enjoyed the mystery, trying to guess who it was from characters from previous Arkham games and the greater Batman lore. And then someone mentioned the second Robin Jason Todd. Then he was mentioned again. And then again. And then we saw two flashback style visions of Joker torturing Jason Todd for no other reason than to inform players with very little knowledge of the Batman mythos about Jason Todd. At this stage it was blindingly obvious who the Arkham knight was and so a few in-game hours later when the Arkham Knight took off his mask to reveal it was indeed Jason Todd I exhaled a sigh of disappointment. I wasn’t disappointed with the Arkham knight’s identity, I love a good Red Hood storyline, I was disappointed with how boringly obvious it was. At the moment of the reveal there was no one else it could be, a little misdirection on the identity would have been nice. While I’m thinking about it, how did Jason Todd assemble an Army with “Three trillion dollars” worth of weaponry. That went completely unexplained. No doubt it will be explained in the Batman: Arkham Knight Genesis prequel comic but such a major plot point should have been explained in the game.
A big point of contention between fans of the series has been the Batmobile. Personally I loved it although it was overused. For the most part I chose to grapple and glide above the streets and buildings of Gotham but driving the Batmobile was a lot of fun. Drifting round corners, carrying prisoners to GCPD in the back or chasing APC’s, it was all enormous fun. After changing the awful button layout I also enjoyed the tank battles. There were far too many with little variation but fun nonetheless. The first stealth tank battle was good fun but it got old really fast. The battle against Deathstroke was simply a retread of the Arkham Knight tank battle but I endured through it only for the hope of a great boss battle against Deathstroke afterwards like in Arkham Origins. I defeated his tank and I thought “this is going to be a great but tough boss battle against Deathstroke, Batman’s toughest antagonist to physically beat” only for him to jump out of the tank and Batman to defeat him in one hit during a cut scene. The lack of the great voice actor for Deathstroke from Origins made him feel like a completely different character.
Being the final Batman game meant Rocksteady could include major repercussions in the story and yet they did very little with the ability to do this (apart from the ending of course). Barbara Gordon killing herself because of how scared she was at seeing Batman after being exposed to fear toxin was an incredibly powerful and daring moment only for it to be a complete cop out when it is revealed Batman imagined it after being exposed to Scarecrow’s toxin. Poison Ivy’s sacrifice was also great but it is very ambiguous whether she is dead. If you go back to the spot of her death there is a new weird looking flower which may indicated Ivy is still alive either in plant form (Avatar style) or will soon be reborn out of the plants.
Let’s talk Joker. When Batman was in Ace Chemicals stopping Scarecrow’s toxin from engulfing the eastern seaboard I was on the edge of my seat. It was a tense moment even though we know they wouldn’t kill off Batman, at least not that early on in the game. What topped off this amazing scene was the reveal of the Joker. I immediately knew it wasn’t the actual Joker because Rocksteady aren’t stupid enough to undermine the ending of Arkham City and I guessed Joker appeared due to the effects of the fear gas. I was happily surprised when I was only half right and it was revealed the fear toxin was only accentuating Batman’s visions of the Joker which are caused by the Joker’s blood in a way not too dissimilar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. As silly as this sounds it makes sense in what we know of Joker in the Arkhamverse. From Origins we know Joker became Joker after ‘falling’ into a vat of chemicals which changed both his physiology and his psyche. These chemical toxins stay in his blood and when they mix with the Titan injected at the end of Asylum it becomes poisonous and kills him. After the transfusion in City, Batman is exposed to both the Joker creating chemicals and Titan. The cure he takes neutralises the Titan but leaves the chemicals leading to him slowing becoming the Joker just how the Joker became the Joker. I love how the Joker became a narrative device throughout the game with him commenting on all the story developments. It was surprising to hear Mark Hamill return as the Joker especially due to him saying City would be his last Joker performance but I’m glad he returned in all his psychotically hilarious glory.
My favourite moment in the game was easily one of the elevator rides down into Panessa studios. It started with a noise. I’ve played through Arkham Asylum an ungodly number of times and in that game before every announcement on the PA there is a little four note chime. It’s a jingle I will never forget and riding down the elevator in Arkham Knight you can hear that very noise. Then you turn round and Joker is in his straight jacket trolley thing he was in at the start of Arkham Asylum. What a perfect little call back to fans of the franchise. It’s my favourite moment in gaming this year.
Speaking of call backs to the first game it was great to see the ending (of which I will get to soon) take place in the main hall of Arkham Manor filled with the dead plants last seen in the first game. It was also interesting to witness Batman being brought into the Asylum on the straight jacket trolley thingy because we saw it was one of his fears in the first game after he was exposed to Scarecrow’s toxin. Speaking of Arkham Manor, if you read the Arkham Knight prequel comic you see it destroyed in the first issue which means there is a major continuity problem and the comic isn’t actually canon which means I’ve wasted a fair amount of money on essentially unofficial fan fiction.
I was slightly disappointed with the lack of villains in the game. Arkham City threw a few too many into the mix while Arkham Knight has very few in the main campaign: only Scarecrow, the Arkham Knight, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and a brief cameo by Penguin. The rest of the Rogues gallery such as Two Face, Firefly, Riddler, Hush and Man-bat were relegated to fun but redundant side missions. I enjoyed all these side quests but I would of liked to have seen the baddies be more important to the overall narrative especially considering the game was promoted as having all the villains team up to kill Batman and we saw very little of this in the actual game. I missed Bane and Mister Freeze a lot and would of liked to have seen Killer Croc more than just his brief cameo and Zsasz play more of a part than just his brief easter egg appearance. Speaking of Man-bat, what an amazing and terrifying moment his reveal was. I liked how his character was shown and the fact that the game wasn’t afraid of making us afraid by throwing in more than a few jump scares . When Batman leapt through statue of himself during the ending where you play as Joker in the weeping angels inspired part of the ending terrified me.
So I guess it’s time to talk about the ending. I’m a sucker for ambiguous endings whether it be John Carpenter’s The Thing or Inception I just can’t get enough of them and so you can probably guess that I loved the ending of the game. The reveal of Bruce Wayne as Batman to the world was powerful and the fact the final fight took place in Batman’s mind was unique and unexpected. Whether it was Batman killing multiple Jokers in Crime Alley or playing as the Joker in Batman’s mind killing people in the jokermobile or shooting Penguin and Two-Face, the gameplay was consistently unexpected and imaginative. I loved the first person shooter section especially the aforementioned weeping angels inspired Batman encounter. I liked Joker being locked away in a mental representation of Arkham’s intensive treatment in Batman’s mind. While it doesn’t make complete sense because the Joker was in Batman’s physiology, not just his psyche, I’ll accept it. I guess Batman really can do anything.
And then came the cutscene. Everything was tied up nicely with Scarecrow being taken into custody, Jason Todd becoming Red Hood and rescuing B-man and Robin, Oracle and Gordon all survived. But Batman knew he had to ‘retire’ after his identity was revealed. He can’t be a man, he has to be a symbol. I think it’s fair to say he didn’t actually kill himself in project Knightfall due to the fact Alfred was with him in the manor when it exploded and he wouldn’t kill Alfred. While it is possible he most probably just faked his death similar to the ending of The Dark Knight Returns.
The question is who we saw as Batman in the final scene which takes place a few months after the Halloween on which the game is set. Let’s look at the options. Bruce Wayne has returned as Batman. He is firmly believed as dead by the media and public and so he can resume his crime fighting with his identity hidden. Jason Todd, Nightwing or someone else has taken up the mantle of becoming the Bat and may or may not be under the guidance of Bruce Wayne if he did indeed survive. Maybe the criminal at the end imagined Batman. This may be because Batman left his mark on Gotham and it’s criminals and they are forever scared of the shadows or the criminal was in Gotham when the Cloudburst went off and he still has visions from his exposure to the fear toxin. This may explain why Batman looks different with the glowing eyes and the inhuman physique. It may also explain the upside down bat symbol on his chest which is a symbol of Scarecrow or his can simply be a representation that the fear that Batman creates in criminals is similar to that of Scarecrow’s toxin. Whether you take the ending as literal or not there is no clear answer and ambiguity reins. Future DLC may give us an answer or more evidence towards a theory but I hope it always remains a mystery to be questioned and debated for years to come.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @kylebrrtt. Like and subscribe to this page and the Out of Lives Facebook page. See ya next week.