Playing Batman: Arkham Knight, for the first time, in 2022

It has been many years since Batman: Arkham Knight came out in June 2015 to cap off the Arkham games and Rocksteady Studios’ reinvention of superhero titles.

Between the many scandals at launch, the horrendous PC performance, negative word of mouth that this was basically a Batmobile game and a few other factors, lead me avoid the game and endeavour to pick it up some time in the future when it was more stable and hopefully cheaper.

With Arkham Knight firmly in my backlog it was time near the middle of 2022 to dig it up again as The Batman movie got me excited to have more Batman in my life. The stories about all the Batmobile shenanigans also didn’t put me off thanks to the latest incarnation in the movie getting me hyped to run bad guys off the road.

As always waiting for a better deal was the right choice for this game as I picked it up for very little during one of the Steam sales. The Arkham games have been in countless cheap bundles too, on top of being entirely free at one point with Epic Games giving it away on PC.

I played on Steam, however, and on a relatively modern system that I hoped would be able to overpower any performance issues that have persisted after years of patches. My desktop PC has a Ryzen 5 3600, 16GB of RAM and an RTX 3060.

The game is also loaded onto an NVMe SSD, so I expected pretty good performance here on top of feature completeness with my version of the game containing all of the DLC.

Booting up Arkham Knight and first impressions are damn good. Rocksteady are pros at presentation and the first hour or so of Arkham Knight both look and play great even after all these years.

I also got my first spin in the Batmobile after hitting the button prompt to, famously, even the odds.

Unfortunately things already fall down in the world of performance. After messing with settings and making sure everything worked great with the built-in benchmark, in-game performance was a mixed bag.

I had all the settings absolutely cranked at 1080p and 75 FPS, but the game would routinely drop that framerate. Going too fast in the Batmobile, transitioning between big parts of the map with the grappling gun and many other instances would cause the FPS to drop considerably.

Reducing some settings helped a bit, but this problem persisted and it’s clear that, with the mid-range but still powerful and modern hardware I have, Arkham Knight is still a very bumpy experience on PC.

Likely even worse are the constant hard crashes to desktop I experienced. Thankfully some Googling and troubleshooting later lead to a fix by disabling the Nvidia “enhanced” smoke and rain effects.

When technical problems didn’t get in the way it was back to punching bad guys, and running over bad guys with the Batmobile, and inflicting hurt on bad guys in all manner of ways.

Again this is a double edged sword in Arkham Knight, and both the regular and vehicular combat suffers from this duality.

The Batman melee combat is as good as it’s ever been and there’s a reason the Arkham combat system has been endlessly copied ever since Asylum in 2009.

This system, however, has been rightfully criticised over the years for its simplicity with the two button combo of attack and counter able to get you through most encounters.

For its part Rocksteady had slowly worked on this system, improving it with every Arkham game. Unfortunately, with Arkham Knight, the feature creep and bloat has become something you cannot ignore.

Even without spending all your upgrade points on combat moves, the balancing act of fighting with gadgets, environmental items, different enemy types and more is just too much.

The more you play the more button prompts appear on the screen for a fraction of a second asking you to string together some inane combo to beat up a bad guy… when a simple punch will likely have the same effect and prevent my thumbs from exploding.

This problem extends into the open world where you also have so much available to you.

This may sound like a “kid in a candy store” kind of problem, but overall Arkham Knight feels bloated and a bit scattered, unlike previous entries (again, especially Asylum) which were praised for their precision.

Then there’s the Batmobile, which is both the best and worst part of this game when it comes to mechanics.

Cruising around Gotham, taking on side missions, drifting around corners and turning into a tank to fight drones is all great. Things get substantially less great when you have to do missions that require precision.

As great as the Batmobile is, it’s also very finnicky and can be rather unwieldy when it comes to the tightest corners. Sure the ability to drift and instantly go into battle mode both help here, but it’s absolutely insane that Rocksteady dedicated so much time in this game to things like Riddler race tracks and other chase scenes which require careful driving.

I can also completely understand why so many people complained about the overuse of the Batmobile when this game launched. It’s a bit comical that Batman only spends a few minutes at a time outside of his ride, and Rocksteady itself had to curb this at times by keep certain parts of Gotham locked off by bridges.

Mechanics and technical issues aside the rest of the game is rather solid. The story is fun even though it’s the umpteenth time that Gotham has become a lawless wasteland, and the Arkham Knight twist isn’t a twist at all.

Audio, art design, voice acting and other elements of presentation are all praiseworthy.

As a complete package Batman: Arkham Knight is still worth playing, even in 2022. The Arkham melee combat never gets old and this is the closest to a Batmobile-focused experience that we will ever get (probably).

The technical issues still exist on PC but they only hamper the overall game by a small amount.

Given how cheap the game can get on sale, I’d say it’s worth picking up, especially if you need your Batman fix. Gotham Knights and Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League are still far from release, so this is one way to pass the time until then.


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