Batman: Arkham Knight in the test - still wing-lame

Author: Kai Schmidt, Nils Raettig, Dimitry Halley
Date: 2015-10-30 13:10:00
Rocksteady had four months to fix the many Batman: Arkham Knight bugs on PC. In the test of the new sales version, the bat still flies against the wall.

Arkham Knight can now be bought again. With a whole bunch of patches, Warner and Rocksteady are trying to regain the favor of PC gamers. However, the calculation obviously does not work in all cases. While some players actually report noticeably better performance immediately after the republication, many comments still show performance problems.

The stutters were sometimes no less, there are hard disk access problems under Windows 7 and some graphics cards do not run as well as they should. And on Windows 10, the developer currently recommends a whopping 12 gigabytes of RAM for a smooth game flow. The relationship between Rocksteady and buyers is still like a powder keg - reason enough to investigate and adjust Arkham Knight's rating to the new PC version.

Maue compensation

At first nothing changes in the scope of the newly released PC version. Sure, some DLCs have been released in the meantime, but the basic version remains the same. Beyond the game, however, you will still receive a loyalty thank you if you buy Arkham Knight before November 16. Then there are all previously released Arkham games (including Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate Deluxe Edition) for free on Steam. A special Challenge Pack, which will appear in early 2016, is also to be accessible earlier for PC users.

This is a nice bonus, but we would have preferred a noticeable discount on the main game. After all, most Arkham fans should already have their predecessors anyway. So be it - then you can at least take a look at the earlier parts again, in order to properly internalize the control with mouse and keyboard.

It is now quite overloaded with all the gadgets including the Batmobile. Sure, whoever tries it out can master all combat maneuvers, modes and gadget combinations on the keyboard. However, we recommend a gamepad, because the controls are noticeably optimized for this.

Technology: Rounder, but not round enough

Original test from 06/19/2015

Incidentally, it was not the original developer who was responsible for the PC versions of both games , but a second team that implemented the titles, which were primarily developed for consoles. Arkham Knight is the studio Iron Galaxy, which was also involved in Batman: Arkham Origins in the PC version.

The problems are all the more annoying because Arkham Knight is actually an excellent action adventure even on the PC. Logical, because in terms of content it is of course absolutely identical to the splendid console versions on which our pre-test was based.

Strange, because according to our version's config file this shader should actually be switched on. These and similar effects cannot be controlled subsequently via the options menu, because the possible graphic settings are annoyingly reduced to a minimum : apart from resolution, texture details and quality of the shadows, there is not much to optimize.

More smoke thanks to frameworks

What the PC version scores, however, are the Nvidia-exclusive framework effects : Owners of appropriate graphics cards can look forward to particularly realistic smoke effects, for example, which are quite impressive, especially in connection with the smoking tires and cannons of the Batmobile. Improved particle effects, which are used for example in paper swirling through the air, make a good difference in direct comparison.

The PC implementation does not have to hide from the console colleagues in a playful way either : In addition to the very successful (but not freely configurable) gamepad control, Arkham Knight also slides properly with mouse and keyboard . It can get a bit confusing and hectic, especially in the fight against hordes of club types or drones, but experienced players have no problems with the freely assignable mouse and keyboard controls.

If it weren't for the blasted technical problems that Publisher Warner Bros. will hopefully fix with a patch. Based on the current state of the game, we can only make a purchase recommendation for owners of high-performance PCs. This is a shame, because Arkham Knight is (if it runs flawlessly) a wonderful game, as you can read on the following pages in our test.

The impending end of the Dark Knight

Chasing criminals every night, becoming a super villain's target at least once a month and therefore constantly on the verge of a nervous and physical breakdown - no, we really don't want to be in the Dark Knight's skin. And yet we happily slip in to witness the completion of developer Rocksteady's Arkham trilogy.

Only a handful of police officers led by indestructible Commissioner Gordon and Batman remain to thwart the man's sinister plans with the potato sack over his disfigured face. Scarecrow's reinforcement, the mysterious Arkham Knight, is also committed to killing Batman. In fact, with its army of combat drones and high-tech military toys, the Knight is almost becoming an even greater threat than Scarecrow.

At least for the Batman, who is a bit poor in health, who also has to take care of marauding gangs and the atrocities of two-face, penguin and Riddler taking place in parallel. But we don't want to reveal more than these basic features of the story, because otherwise we would be on spoiler territory in no time.

For the love of the bat

That's a shame, because there are so many things that we want to reveal and analyze in connection with the story! We could fill pages just about Batman's special health in this game. In general: When dealing with the characters, it is again shown that it is not so easy to replace developers Rocksteady while maintaining the outstanding quality of the Arkham series.

Nevertheless: This is very big cinema and is not the only one of its kind in the field of comic book versions. And then the many Easter Eggs and fan services hidden in the extremely lively and authentic-looking game world! Even cars driving around (albeit with gangsters) have been thought of.

It can happen that a car with screeching tires stops and the occupants charge us with fists and clubs in order to earn the bounty on the bat. We always have the chatter of the criminals in our ears, which we filter out of the area with a bat headset. So we always know how intimidated or daring the gangster world is right now - and the game also fills with life.

We could also spend hours just walking the streets to let old Gotham City work on us. On almost every street corner, we can find references to the love of comics and the loyalty of developers to the DC universe. Pretty much anyone who is loosely concerned with the underlying DC comics or who follows the "Arrow" series will understand the insider stunt "Black Canary Club", which shines a neon letter at us from a roof.

The Lexcorp buildings and allusions to the guys from Metropolis with the Cape are probably understandable. But what is the name of the district of Otisburg? Is that a bow to Richard Donner's film "Superman" from 1978?

And there is so much more to discover. For example, the Riddler headnuts known from the predecessors or collectible items such as Harley Quinn's gift boxes or ... oh, you should really find out the rest yourself!

In the Bat tank over soft soap

Batman's cart is a good way to get from one corner of the game world, which spans three islands connected by bridges and makes Arkham City look really small, into the other. However, the word "mobile" does not do justice to the hell machine, which we can call up at any time by pressing a button.

The Dark Knight is on the road in Arkham Knight with a tank that is strongly reminiscent of the tumbler from Christopher Nolan's “Dark Knight” film trilogy. With one small difference: at the push of a button, the vehicle, which already breaks through walls and fences with ease, turns into a terrifying monster with a 60-millimeter cannon on the roof.

In the beginning, it is almost impossible to bring the Batmobile to a precise stop at the desired location, because instead of reacting directly to the push of a button, the vehicle reduces the speed continuously until it reverses and continues to roll even after we have released the brake a long time ago ,

This suboptimal impression continues with the steering: It is still difficult to steer the slippery Batmobile safely during a chase at top speed , even after hours of practice. We are constantly scraping parked cars, demolishing corners of the house and always standing in the way.

How much fun it takes to get used to the Batmobile, which takes some getting used to, depends crucially on your affinity for racing games. In turn, we let the editors test drive, and everyone feels the handling of the Batmobile differently. As a racing game professional, Heiko copes perfectly with it. Dimitry nags a bit, but finds its way into the controls to some extent. Kai, on the other hand, who hardly ever tries racing games, is still cursing after several hours of play.

In one go to the mobile turret

The speedy sledging sled is of course unsuitable for removing the armed combat drones of the Arkham Knight. If we keep the button for the attack mode pressed, the Batmobile becomes a defensive 360 ° gun. Unfortunately, with our preferred gamepad control, this button is located where the auto brake controls normally have the brakes (which is on the X button when using an Xbox controller on the PC).

We have learned and internalized this over the years, which is why it happens again and again after several hours of play that we accidentally extend the guns in car mode because we just wanted to brake. Fortunately, in the options menu there is a well-hidden option to switch to an alternative control.

In attack mode, we glide smoothly in any direction, and can also activate small rescue attacks via the drive nozzles, in order to avoid enemy shots at lightning speed. We have a big cannon and mini-guns on the roof to defend ourselves. The thick 60 millimeter gun has plenty of power, but it takes quite a long time to reload one of the unlimited bullets available.

The miniguns do not have this problem: with them we can take the enemy device under a barrage - however, we have to aim very precisely to catch the glowing weak spots of the drones, and aiming in constant fire quickly becomes a matter of luck because the weapon warps.

No driving pleasure

Upgrades can improve the reload time of the cannon and the accuracy of the miniguns: after each enemy encounter, we receive a statement of our performance (such as "inserting drones that have been destroyed one after the other without a hit") and the resulting experience points. These in turn fill our »EP« bar.

When it is full, we get an upgrade point that we can invest in improving our equipment and skills. Of all things, improvements in the driving and shooting behavior of the Batmobile are missing in the repertoire. The most important innovation of Arkham Knight is his biggest stumbling block.

We get on better and better with the vehicle as the game progresses, but it gets pretty frustrating in places. For example in the fight against Cobra super tanks, the weak point of which is on the back. We have to stalk from behind and hope not to be discovered. So far so good. The idea of installing a stealth mechanism in the vehicle sections is great!

But as soon as we are discovered, it's either through the middle or game over. However, when inexperienced in racing games wipe off with squeaky tires, they quickly turn sideways or get caught on an edge. This makes them an easy target for the drones. Annoying.

And just before the finale, when we are faced with ever larger drone hordes (including flight drones, helicopters, rocket launchers and triple guns), players who are not getting on well with the Batmobile controls can be tempted to bite the pad with anger.

Honest fist fight

But enough about the car, the bat man's best friend. Anyone who played the two (including the non-studio Arkham Origins even three) predecessor of developer Rocksteady knows what to expect besides the slippery car rides in Arkham Knight: As Batman we glide (accompanied by unbearable frame stuttering) over the roofs of old Gotham and complete assignments that either advance the main story or count as side missions.

There is usually a lot of cheek food when we take on thugs and foot soldiers from the super villains. Of course, the tried and tested Freeflow combat system is used again: We watch out for attacking enemies and either strike or counter their attacks.

The combat system, which basically consists of two buttons, seems disappointingly simple at first glance, but it means more than pounding the buttons and hoping that you will hit something. The actions need to be carefully considered, and a little tact is also necessary , because the combo counter only fills up if there is no blow or counterattack.

And the higher the combo, the more experience points we get after completing an enemy encounter. This allows us to upgrade our skills and expand gadgets, combat skills and armor in several stages as in the previous games.

Reinforcement for the Dark Knight

The fights are still working well. The further we progress in the game, the more difficult challenges we face, which we can finally only tackle with the additional rapid use of our gadgets such as stun guns, explosive gel or batarangs.

Depending on the selected difficulty level (easy, normal or difficult - we recommend normal) , there is a nice learning curve even for Batman veterans , because developer Rocksteady has come up with some new tricks - especially the dual play mode: Here you get Flattermann in the brawls mission-specific support from Nightwing, Robin or Catwoman. At the push of a button, we switch from one character to another to extend combos, for example.

While we play one of the heroes, the CPU controls the other character. Particularly cool (and important game mechanics in a great staged boss fight): With a double team finisher, we can send opponents onto the boards in a particularly spectacular way. Beyond these team battles, however, we are limited to the Dark Knight as a playable figure.

However, publisher Warner Bros. will release a story DLC in which we slip under the hood of Red Hood. For all Batman newbies: This is Batman's second Robin, Jason Todd, who was killed by the Joker in the comics but returned as a masked vigilante with a hatred of Batman.

Hunters and hunted

The Freeflow combat system is good, but it is even better to avoid open battles and to ambush one enemy after another. This is not always possible, but in many sections there are large, open areas where we can let off steam to our hearts' content: through floor grilles, from viewpoints and from ventilation shafts, we pick one patrol enemy after another and send him quietly into the realm of dreams.

The whole thing is complicated by flying drones, snipers and opponents who can locate our detective mode. This is the X-ray view known from the predecessors, with which we can also identify hidden enemies and usable objects.

Another way to send opponents to sleep is by using the voice synthesizer, which we use to sound like Harley Quinn or Arkham Knight and to give instructions to individual types of clubs - for example, to send them to an electrically charged ammunition box or near a remote-controlled explosive device guide.

The fear multi-takedown is new: If we have killed at least one opponent unnoticed, we are given the option of eliminating several opponents in a row. We are seen doing this, but such an action increases the group's general fear, making the remaining enemies easier to deal with.

The possibilities to play with the opponents are numerous. Once you've really gotten into it and done some upgrades, you'll feel like Batman after defeating a possibly heavily armed outnumber.

Compulsion to complete experience

In addition to the main ranked rank in which we fight against Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight, there are numerous side missions to complete that will become available as the game progresses. For example, we have to rescue firefighters taken hostage, try the Riddler's racetracks, which have been set up with numerous traps, or put two-faces through the bank robbery bill.

Of all places in the main story, the super villains hold back disappointingly, even spectacularly staged boss fights remain the exception. Actually, they are a trademark of the Arkham series, so we would have expected more of such selective bombast highlights from Arkham Knight with all open-world freedom.

Interesting: Even after the main story is over, we only get to see the real end of the game when we have successfully completed at least seven of the side mission strands. In other words, even those who rush through the story will be forced to take some time and experience the full content of the game.

We like this approach - some types of players have to be forced to their luck. And with a game (with small drawbacks from Batmobil) as successful as Arkham Knight, no one feels cheated there, but is happy to be allowed to flutter through Gotham for a few more hours. At least when the technical problems are resolved at some point and the game runs as it should.