Am I too old for this? Batman: Arkham Knight part 3

The villain of the game, Scarecrow

I've been playing Batman Arkham Knight in an effort to discover if I'm getting too old for games (read part one here and part two here). Join me for part three, where I ask some simple questions.

Like, did Batman just get shot in the stomach? Oops, er... spoilers.

Seriously, it really looked like Batman just got shot in the stomach, but apart from injecting himself with something (Bat-anti-bullet-wound spray anyone?) there's been no further mention of it. He's been in a lot of fights since then too, so it'll be annoying if they return to it later.

A quick recap

So, where are we? Last time I was starting to enjoy the game a little more, despite bugs and ridiculous plot elements. Is that still the case?

Batman examining a glowing thing.

If my enjoyment of the game was measured on a graph there would definitely be a levelling off after four hours in. It's not that anything noticably worsens, but nothing particularly new is happening. It's strange - there's a lot of variety to the gameplay, but it's easy to spot where things repeat.

I wrote in the first part of this piece that I was worried I'd seen everything the game had to offer and having played for longer that still feels like the case.

The side quests are the worst at this. Many of them are literally the same thing over and over again. For example, right at the start of the game you get tasked with finding some missing firemen. Each one is being held by a gang of thugs in random locations around the city, and rescuing them involves beating up said thugs. That's it. It was fine when I thought there were only a few of them, but it turns out there's at least fifteen.

This repetition continues with other side quests too. Take out military vehicles, clear landmines, take down command posts, destroy Penguin's weapons caches (even the buildings these happen in are basically the same so far) and... jump into boxes and beat up some more guys? All of these are interesting the first time, okay the second time, and then I really don't care that much.

Someone actually spent time making this screen, which functions only to delay you getting to the main menu.

Occasionally, slightly new things happen. Hush recently turned up, for example, although his side quest was over almost before it had begun. There are new gadgets to acquire, and slight variations on the enemy types to encounter. A few hours ago I discovered how to take down the enemy drones patrolling the city, which suddenly opened up a new challenge.

I think the trick is to do a little bit of each kind of thing at a time, so you don't get bored with the repetition. It mostly works.

Plot

The main plot, after some initially promising twists and some deliberately trippy (but fun) moments, settles into a slightly formulaic 'go here now go there' structure. It feels frustrating at times - I'm making progress in catching up to Scarecrow, but then the game takes over and he gets away again and I'm back to square one. Strip away the plot and the set dressing and it's basically an old Doom level where I'm trying to find the red key to open the red door, only to find a blue door behind it.

The overlaid techy graphics throughout the game are pretty good.

The side quests offer some interesting diversions, except for the Riddler ones. Seriously, screw those missions. I don't care enough about Catwoman to rescue her. I really can't be bothered. If I needed Catwoman for something, that would at least motivate me to rescue her, but between Riddler's whiny gloating and Catwoman's general lack of appeal, I just don't care enough to save her.

My petulance aside, the Riddler missions are ridiculous. Half of them use the Batmobile to attempt to turn the game into Mario Kart, which is a bizarre direction to take even if you can ignore the elaborate nature of the underground racetracks that the Riddler has apparently assembled single handedly. And when you finally complete them? You have to collect every Riddler trophy in the game, and solve every riddle. You can't properly complete it until you do. I have more interesting things to do with my life, frankly.

On another note, has anyone noticed that the plot of this game at several points has mirrored the plot of the Lego Batman movie? Batman rejecting those closest to him, Gotham turning into an apolocalyptic river of gas/lava, and Joker getting inside Batman's head. It's surprisingly similar.

Also Gotham must be really far north. It's been dark now for nearly twenty hours. Seriously, it would be nice at the end of the game if the sun rose. I'd like to see that.

Seriously not that

There is another thing in Arkham Knight that really put me off. I can hardly bring myself to say it. Okay, here goes.

Crate puzzles.

For all the advances in technology and game design I've seen over the years, Arkham Knight resorts to crate puzzles. They're not even particularly interesting or challenging ones, either. I'm afraid my disbelief is once again failing to be suspended, because all I can think about is what these crates could possibly be filled with and how they came to be where they are.

At last, Batman meets Chips Challenge. Brilliant.

Upgrading the suspension of disbelief

There is another problem that's been nagging at me for quite a while now. It's the upgrades. Basically, every time you complete a challenge or a bit of a quest you get an upgrade point to spend on things like enhancing your gadgets or gaining a new combat move. That's all well and good, but it doesn't really fit with, well, any semblence of reality. How would beating up some thugs suddenly give Batman a stronger batsuit? That just doesn't make sense.

I know it's only a game, but part of that is being able to forget that you're in a game. It's really jarring when it comes to certain Batmobile upgrades. Alfred literally calls you to ask which of a choice of two upgrades you'd like installed in the Batmobile next. Seriously? The city's under siege and I'm massively outnumbered and you want to offer me a choice of upgrades? I'll take both of them, thanks, and all the others you're apparently holding back until later on for some reason. Yes, now. Snap to it, butler.

Performance

I want to quickly note that despite encountering hardly any bugs for a good long while and the game running smoothly without crashing since I turned down all the graphics settings I've recently been getting some massive performance issues. Usually when driving the Batmobile, but also when flying around the city. The frame rate suddenly drops to something around 1 per second, and I have to stand still for a bit to let it catch up - I assume the game is trying to load in detail for the next area. It's pretty annoying.

The other problem that happens occasionally is the sound cuts out. This happens most often when the frame rate drops, but isn't limited solely to those circumstances.

Why is this policeman green? Usually that means I can beat him up to find a Riddler trophy, but... a policeman? Is this a bug?

I've written enough

After more than 40 hours of play it's time to consider the original question - am I getting too old for this?

Well, I did eventually manage to complete the game, although I didn't find all of the Riddler trophies and riddles. I've got at least a hundred to go, and I'm definitely not going to bother with them. Life is too short.

Is it a good game? Yes, I think so. Is it better than the first two games? I don't know. I worry that if I were to go back and replay them I'd find that all the things that annoy me about Arkham Knight (the repetition, the bits of the plot that are ridiculous, the moments lacking suspension of disbelief) are in those as well.

For the record, there are a lot of things about Arkham Knight that I enjoy immensely. Gliding over the city, the wind whipping at Batman's outstretched cape, the sounds of the street mingled with the bursts of radio chatter, is a joy. Sideswiping an enemy vehicle with the Batmobile and watching it tumble in slow motion, scenery shattering pleasingly as it crashes into the roadside, is brilliant. The level of detail and variety in the streets and buildings of Gotham is incredible. The music at times rivals Hans Zimmer for emotional impact and Batman-y-ness. The gadget sound effects. Joker's banter. Most of the predator stuff.

Oh, and I finally understand why the mission screen is a circle. It's so you can see the progress you've made in each mission in a handy spoke-length kind of way. That's actually kind of neat.

The overlaid techy graphics throughout the game are pretty good.

I've played the DLC so you don't have to

As with many games today, Arkham Knight has some extra content. Being fairly late to the party as I was, I got all of it in one big bundle. It falls into three broad categories - extra content for the main game, extra content outside of the main game, and skins.

I have to admit to being most interested in the skins (despite skins generally being a bit pointless) because they include other Batmobiles, including the Tumbler and the Keaton one i.e. the best ones. These can even be used in the main game, but there's two problems with them. The first is that they don't have the tank mode of the normal Batmobile, so you can't do anything with them apart from drive around. The second is that you can't change Batmobiles in-game, you have to exit to the main menu to do it. It's clumsy and slow and the novelty wore off after about a minute.

The Batmobiles also each include custom racetracks styled after them, but they're a bit pointless. I played each of them just to see what they were like. They're okay. Better racing games are available.

The extra content for the main game is a mixed bag, but worth getting if you're a completionist. The Mr Freeze campaign has a couple of excellent predator sections and a decent story. The League of Assassins one has a decent section where you track someone across the city rooftops but is ultimately unsatisfying. The Mad Hatter one has some good visuals at the end but has a lot of repetitive running around the city, which the Killer Croc story also suffers slightly from.

So much for the in game stuff. What about the extra missions?

To be honest I've tried a few and can't be bothered to finish the rest. The Harley Quinn one is probably good if you like Harley Quinn (I don't) and is a bit of a desperate attempt to shoehorn the character into the Arkham playing style. Red Hood's extra missions are just a series of brawls made illogical by the fact that your character has guns. Why am I struggling to fend off this group of unarmed men when I am so heavily armed, you might end up wondering.

The last one I've tried is 'A matter of family' where you play as Batgirl and Robin trying to rescue Commissioner Gordon from an abandoned fairground atop an oil rig that's been taken over by the Joker. It's a rare moment of standout quality in this otherwise unsatisfying crop, a harkening back to the days of Arkham Asylum, with its minimal Bat-gadgets, cramped environments and Joker narrative. There's even fairground games to play. I would rate it as 'worth playing', which is about as high as I'll grudgingly go.

On top of all of this there's the usual shovel full of extra challenge levels, some repetition of some of the main game boss battles, and a lot of effort to try to keep you playing just to earn some pointless achievements or climb some pointless leaderboards. Batman Arkham Knight I AM DONE. Thank you and goodnight.

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