Review

Batman: Arkham Knight Review

  • First Released Jun 23, 2015
    released
  • PS4

Only as good as the world allows it to be.

$7.99 on Walmart
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"A clean shot to the head," drones the villain known as Arkham Knight. "That's all it will take." At every opportunity, the Knight speaks of the horrific deeds he might perform, doing his best to drive fear into Batman's heart throughout the open-world adventure game that features his name. Scarecrow similarly trades on Batman's doubts, attempting to convince the troubled hero of his own impotence at every turn. "All eyes, all hopes upon a man who fails his friends," calls out Scarecrow through Gotham's public networks, reminding Bruce Wayne that he, too, bears responsibility for the losses his loved ones endure.

Batman is a troubled hero, and past Arkham games haven't shied away from exploring his dark side. Arkham Knight is no exception: the caped crusader growls his way through one confrontation after another in which he must question his role in Gotham's current crisis. We've seen these themes before, many times over, and Batman: Arkham Knight's villains repeat them ad nauseum, as if you weren't already choking on heavy-handed metaphors at every turn. It's fortunate, then, that Arkham Knight, for all its ham-fisted storytelling and frequent returns to well-trod ground, features the qualities developer Rocksteady has infused its previous games with: superb production values, hard-hitting combat, and a wonderful sense of freedom as you soar above the skies of Gotham.

Hey, it's the Batmobile! Over and over!
Hey, it's the Batmobile! Over and over!

Scarecrow, Arkham Knight, and the legacy of the now-dead Joker loom large over this freedom. There is another, more surprising obstacle which you must overcome if you wish to retain your ownership of Gotham's skies, however: the Batmobile. For the first time in this series, you can leap into the iconic vehicle and zoom down the streets, drifting around tight turns and pursuing key vehicles as they speed away. The driving itself is slick and satisfying, as long as you can overlook Rocksteady's tendency to wrest away camera control to show you some dramatic sight or another. Yet there's no beating the incredible rush of using your line launcher to fling yourself through the sky--and it's worth mentioning that taking to the air is usually faster than settling behind the wheel. As a result, Arkham Knight is constantly trying to justify the Batmobile's presence, forcing it upon you at nearly every opportunity.

Particularly in the latter third of the story, you're frequently forced to take part in vehicular battles against remotely manned drones. When you first engage in this kind of combat, which turns the Batmobile into an agile tank, it's a delight. You strafe from side to side, sliding the vehicle into safe areas between the visible lines that indicate the path of incoming enemy rockets. All the while, you fire your cannons at the drones and use small fire to eliminate missiles fired upon you; the dark sky lights up during these battles, giving vehicular combat an initial spark, and making you the director of a spectacularly violent fireworks display.

Gameplay utilizes Batman's excellent detective skills. His orphan skills go underutilized, however.
Gameplay utilizes Batman's excellent detective skills. His orphan skills go underutilized, however.

But in spite of the upgrades the Batmobile earns over time--EMP blasts, the ability to hack enemy drones, and so forth--the Batmobile battles never become more interesting, just more monotonous, as they seem to go on forever. The story's final hours succumb to a series of same-ish battles that play out more or less like the last, lending an air of tedium to what should be the game's most poignant surprises. The Batmobile is also the centerpiece of a number of mediocre boss encounters, all manner of puzzles, boring cat-and-mouse games with superpowered tanks, and even some of the Riddler's many optional challenges scattered across the city. Don't be surprised should you end up muttering to yourself, "Too. Much. Batmobile."

Arkham Knight is at its best when you are given the freedom of movement you both need and deserve. What a treat it is to look down upon this beautiful and derelict city as you glide through the thick, black air. Gotham has been deserted by most citizenry due to Scarecrow's most recent threat to release a hallucinogenic toxin into the streets, making the clouded heavens and the stoic statues all the more imposing. The bat-symbol cuts an impressive silhouette in the sky, drawing you towards your next mission objective--and the objective itself may be a structure like the grandiose Panessa Movie Studios, where climbing ivy and guardian statues warn you of potential danger.

Arkham Knight is constantly trying to justify the Batmobile's presence, forcing it upon you at nearly every opportunity.

No Caption Provided

Batman is beautifully animated and an absolute joy to control. To soar towards Man-Bat and tackle the shrieking beast in one of the game's many side missions, and to zip to higher vantage points only to descend onto a rioter and deliver a hard kick, are the moments that represent Arkham Knight at its very best. Every mechanical edge is oiled to maximum slickness: Batman glides through Gotham with the confidence of an experienced predator, and exhibits the exact right amount of stickiness as he approaches surfaces. There is an astounding amount of flavor voiceover; Batman comments on the task at hand should you try to leave the area you are confined to, enemies remark on the number of fallen comrades they have counted during stealth encounters, and the annoyingly chatty thugs swarming the streets have more speaking lines than any number of film scripts. Few games are this rich in audiovisual details.

Don't forget: Batman isn't killing anyone in his rampage against Gotham's enemies, though he delights just enough in breaking bones that it's hard not to nod your head along to the Arkham Knight's insistence that Batman is just as responsible for Gotham's dereliction as anyone else. The storytelling gymnastics the game performs to remind you that Bruce Wayne is not a murderer are ridiculous. The Batmobile is using nonlethal rounds, you are told, and when you run over criminals, a little zap lets you know that you're not squishing them under your tires, just giving them an electrical jolt as you pass. I could dismiss this mounting nonsense easily as forgivable video game logic if the narrative didn't devote so much time explaining (and re-explaining, and re-re-explaining) that Batman lives by a non-killing code. Rocksteady tries to have it both ways, representing this code as an emotional conflict that figures heavily into the story, then letting you plow through crowds of bad guys without consequence. Even in the oft-illogical world of video games, the dissonance is striking.

No Caption Provided
Everyone loves a good crane-moving puzzle.
Everyone loves a good crane-moving puzzle.

Then again, this is a story about a billionaire in a bat suit, so perhaps there is only so much plausibility to be expected. It might be hard to believe Batman isn't sending men to the morgue during Arkham Knight's melee battles, but the series' rhythmic hand-to-hand combat continues to set the bar high. Batman is a frightening, almost otherworldly creature as he tumbles and slides from one target to another, and his fists exhibit the raw power of any hammer or club. Stealth combat sequences, which offer astounding flexibility in how you approach enemies, are as good as ever. Slinking through vents, taking down a goon, and zipping away is as rewarding as it is to sabotage your armed foes with your disruptor rifle, causing their weapons to malfunction and leaving their owners open to attack. Smart level design and a large array of gadgets--a remote electrical charge, a machine that emulates villains' voices, a hacking device, and so forth--keep each predator room as interesting as the last.

Batman's many talents give rise to a terrific amount of variety. He is a scientist and a detective in addition to being Gotham's scowling savior; he has a computer that knows the answers to every imaginable question (except the ones that drive the plot, of course); and he possesses the memory of an elephant rather than a bat--a nice skill to have when solving the murder mystery that serves as one of the game's better side plots. Arkham Knight finds great ways of incorporating these talents into gameplay. For instance, you re-create a kidnapping by activating the returning bat-vision mode and scouring the street for clues. The crime's events are then depicted on screen, allowing you to forward and reverse through them at will in your search for answers.

Poison Ivy is dressed for success, and like almost every one of Arkham Knight's female characters, is in need of rescue.
Poison Ivy is dressed for success, and like almost every one of Arkham Knight's female characters, is in need of rescue.

Puzzles like this are clever, and the related tasks, such as scanning a corpse's tissue to find anomalies, make you feel like an active participant in a real forensic analysis. The game constantly digresses, asking you to team up with comrades like Nightwing and Robin to deliver cooperative beatdowns, and to perform all number of secondary missions, which incorporate villains like Penguin, Two-Face, and Firefly. Some set pieces, such as one in which you defuse a set of bombs as a villain stands on a rotating platform, are particularly noteworthy for smart use of camera angles, and for the way the gameplay assists in characterization, teaching you about the miscreants at hand not just through dialogue and plotting, but through the way you interact with them.

Arkham Knight is loaded with villains, actually, including the one that gives the game its name: Arkham Knight himself. His identity is meant to be the game's greatest mystery, but conspicuous foreshadowing, and a reliance on age-old storytelling cliches, make every reveal as surprising as the time The Mighty Ducks won that big hockey game. There are some tense story beats and moving events, but your two primary goals--to stop Scarecrow's evil toxin plot, and to confront and unmask the Arkham Knight--are too predictable to be compelling.

Pow! Crunch! Whiff! Harumph!
Pow! Crunch! Whiff! Harumph!


What Batman: Arkham Knight does well, however, it does really well. Gotham is a dazzling playground where neon lights pierce through the rain and mist; all it takes is a single glimpse to tell you that this is a city in need. Moreover, many individual elements are so carefully constructed, and presented with such flair, that appreciation is the only reasonable reaction. Yet most of these elements--excellent acting, wonderful animations, moody soundtrack--are ones that Batman: Arkham City also excelled in, making Arkham Knight's missteps all the more noticeable. Rather than escape the pull of the games that spawned it, The Bat's newest adventure refines the fundamentals; it is a safe but satisfying return to the world's most tormented megalopolis.

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Now Playing: Batman: Arkham Knight - Video Review

Back To Top
The Good
Soaring above Gotham is a consistent treat
Smart crime-solving sequences
Lots of mission variety
Imaginative stealth and combat encounters
Impressive audiovisual details
The Bad
Forced use of the Batmobile puts a damper on fun and freedom
Ham-fisted dialogue and predictable reveals damage the story
Monotonous encounters and mediocre boss fights hurt the second half
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kevin is now well into a new-game plus in Batman: Arkham Knight, and has spent about 30 hours with the game in all. He played the PlayStation 4 version provided by WB Games on a debug console. He welcomes debate on whether Arkham City or Arkham Asylum is the better game, but scoffs at anyone who thinks it's Arkham Origins.
2987 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

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gameofthering

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The score dissapoints me a little, but afterall it's just one mans view of the game. I mean the same guy gave The Witcher 3 a 10, but that wasn't really my cup of tea.

AK will most likely be the 10/10 and TW3 the 7/10 for me most likely.

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Solid_Answers12

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@gameoftheringYou may be pleasantly surprised though.

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A-new-Guardian

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"Poison Ivy is dressed for success, and like almost every one of Arkham Knight's female characters, is in need of rescue."

Is this just an observation or did it have an effect on the review?

Batman is always saving innocents including women in Gotham who can't defend themselves. And Ivy has always been like this. Why is it an issue now? Or it seems like you have issues with it?

Also it seems like the major issue here is the batmobile .

Gonna have to play myself and see

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koko-goal

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@a-new-guardian: SJW

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patsfan365

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@koko-goal: *like*

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drivinggod2005

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I cannot for the life of me work out how Kevin can consider the use of the Batmobile a negative point. This is something that I have been waiting to do in a Batman game for a long time, and it looks to be the best aspect of this game, and opens up various new ways to explore Gotham. What's more, the ability to upgrade the vehicle opens up even more possibilities. I respect Kevin's opinion, however SURELY he saw this coming, didn't he? Surely he must have known, looking at the previews and demos for this game, that the Batmobile has a greater emphasis than any other aspect of the game? Sorry, but the Batmobile being a negative, and lowering the score because of that, is something that I respectfully disagree with. To me, this looks set to be the ultimate Batman experience, and has everything I wanted from it, and is an experience I cannot wait to witness. Roll on Tuesday!!!

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chrizzie

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@drivinggod2005: Kevin doesn't consider the use of the Batmobile a negative point. Nowhere in the review does he state this. An excess of forced use however of said Batmobile however...

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simonbelmont2

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@drivinggod2005: It depends on how fun the vehicular combat is. How can you disagree with this aspect of the review before you've even played the game? I can't tell if I agree or disagree with Kevin as I haven't played the game yet, I don't have clairvoyant powers.

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nathanael83

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I'm just trying to figure out who's being paid more; IGN and Polygon by one group, or you (and what group) by another?

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blackbetty1974

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@robertdriscoll: Granted, VanOrd is an SJW. But I think this review reeks more of hipster contrarianism than anything else.

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simonbelmont2

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Edited By simonbelmont2

@robertdriscoll: To be fair he didn't mention the female characters that much, he also didn't feel it was important enough to be added in the list of negatives next to the score.

I am surprised by the 7/10 score though, I figured it would score a bit higher and get maybe an 8/10.

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patsfan365

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@simonbelmont2: because even vanord isn't stupid enough to put "triggers me" in the negatives list of a review. That would tank the site even faster.

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simonbelmont2

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@patsfan365: Nah, it is more likely that he felt it was a minor niggle and not worth putting in the final analysis. Occam's Razor.

I don't think Kevin or Gamespot is really worried about what gamers will think if he put that in the list of negatives. Trying to review games in a way that pleases viewers is a terrible idea: the readership here is fickle, overly sensitive and there are too many keyboard warriors and armchair critics.

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RedX555

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@robertdriscoll I agree with you this SJW is getting out of hand. gamespot has had an agenda for a long time its really starting get in to there reviews now

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jj2112

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Well it's a low score. I had already preordered the game and now I'm not so sure.

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Cryio

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@jj2112: A lot of reviews gave Arkham Origins 7 too and I loved that game. Not as much as the first two, but still a freakin' great game all the same.

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Pacer8888

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Edited By Pacer8888

@jj2112 said:

Well it's a low score. I had already preordered the game and now I'm not so sure.

You base everything on one mans opinion? You also think 7 is "low"....wow.

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jj2112

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@Pacer8888: Yeah you're right. It's just that I usually agree with his reviews. Well maybe I shoudn't after the score Dragon Age Inquisition got.

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juyan16

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Edited By juyan16

@jj2112: Play the game and form your own opinion.

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Ahmedin1997

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@Pacer8888: It's low for an Arkham game.

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Fandango_Letho

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As a long-time Arkham fan, the score hurt my feelings. But the review was a great read as usual, Kevin, thanks to your wonderful writing skills!

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ELI4GREG

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Some conflicting reviews here. IGN gives it a 9.2. Who's being the bigger bitch here?

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subsided94

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@eli4greg: it happens all the.time, opinions vary, sometimes quite a bit

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SayoSaHa

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Edited By SayoSaHa

@eli4greg: Not sure why anyone would trust the review of a guy who couldn't defeat the cleric beast in bloodborne even after 10 hours.

I'd rather see all reviewers use the full 10 point review scale instead of resorting to 8 being shovelware and 10 being call of duty. Kevin's reviews have always been top notch, and if you actually pay attention to the review, it does sound like the game is still very much worth playing if you're a fan of the series.

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scottyp360

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@SayoSaHa:

The thing is when most gamers see 7/10 they take it as if the game is mediocre despite 7 being described on Gamespot as being "good". It seems like Kevin enjoyed the first two games of the series so it seems odd that he would rate this game lower despite it being an improvement in most ways.

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ELI4GREG

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Edited By ELI4GREG

@SayoSaHa: no doubt it's worth playing, but it sounds as if he deliberately took one of the biggest most hyped and most anticipated highlights of the game and made it out to be a thorn in the game's side. it's even one of his cons.

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drivinggod2005

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@eli4greg: Well seeing as how most reviews are giving the game a 9 or above, I would say GS personally.

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Saidrex

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@eli4greg: you are! But what it has to do with review?

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nathanael83

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Edited By nathanael83

@Saidrex: Their question is legit though (regardless of your cute little spat among yourself) Something very fishy is going on here. I see a 10 from Polygon, a freakin' 9.2 from IGN, and a SEVEN from Gamespot? What the actual hell is going on?

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Mogan

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@nathanael83 said:

What the actual hell is going on?

Different people are having different opinions about Arkham Knight. It'll be OK.

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McNeelyJ39

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@nathanael83:

It isn't an RPG, so i'm not surprised. Kevin Van Ord doesn't like games that aren't RPGs. Not sure why they would choose him to review this game.

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scottyp360

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@nathanael83:

I feel like Gamespot from time to time plays the contrarian opinion. This is the lowest score I have seen for this game so far, although it is still early for reviews.

I remember when The Last of Us came out and Gamespot was one of the only sites not saying "One of the greatest games of all time! GOTY! Game of the generation! etc". While nearly everyone gave the game 9-10s Gamespot scored the game an 8.

IMO 7 is too low. I haven't played the game so I can't say for sure "there is no way this game is a 7!" but the complaints don't seem significant enough to mar the experience. I don't see any complaints about issues the hinder the overall quality (bugs, glitches, frame rate issues, etc). Ironically the batmobile (which everyone wanted to use and was excited about) is used too much. I understand it can be used too much but after 3 games of strictly being batman I think it is ok if we get a little too much batmobile. Since the batmobile reveal people have been pointing out "how is it possible that batman isn't killing people with this thing!" I think as a result Rocksteady overcompensated for this by making it clear "batman is NOT killing anyone". I'm also not surprised that the gsme feels repetitive and monotonous. This is the 4th iteration of this game. At this point things are going to feel similar, they did during Origins. Which is probably a reason the Batmobile was used so much.

I can't possibly say this opinion is wrong. It is the Reviewers opinion after all. But based on what I have seen from other reviews the 7 seems a bit low for a game with as much quality as it has.

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btbrotherton

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@scottyp360: yea who cares about story and gameplay. I want my reviews to be mostly weighed on bugs and glitches that will be patched after a couple of weeks.

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Pacer8888

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@nathanael83 said:

@Saidrex: Their question is legit though (regardless of your cute little spat among yourself) Something very fishy is going on here. I see a 10 from Polygon, a freakin' 9.2 from IGN, and a SEVEN from Gamespot? What the actual hell is going on?

Different people have different opinions? I know, crazy!

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nathanael83

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@Pacer8888: Not in this world, the game review world. It's about money; period.

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Mogan

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@nathanael83 said:

@Pacer8888: Not in this world, the game review world. It's about money; period.

It's real easy to say that, but unless you can prove it, it doesn't mean anything.

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Batman: Arkham Knight More Info

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  • First Released Jun 23, 2015
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Batman faces the ultimate threat against the city he is sworn to protect. The Scarecrow returns to unite an impressive roster of super villains, including Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn, to destroy The Dark Knight forever. The game introduces Rocksteady's uniquely designed version of the Batmobile---drivable for the first time in the franchise. Batman: Arkham Knight offers gamers the ultimate and complete Batman experience as they tear through the streets and soar across the skyline of the entirety of Gotham City.
    8.1
    Average Rating796 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Batman: Arkham Knight
    Developed by:
    Iron Galaxy Studios, Rocksteady Studios, WB Games Montreal
    Published by:
    Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Warner Bros.
    Genre(s):
    Adventure, Action
    Theme(s):
    Fantasy
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence