- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 18, 2015

A captivating Caped Crusader attempts to stop one of his archenemies from gassing Gotham City in the epic, third-person adventure Batman: Arkham Knight (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Rocksteady Studios, Rated Mature, reviewed on PlayStation 4, $59.99).

This fourth in the main series of “Batman: Arkham” video games brilliantly delivers the tone and cinematic realism of a Christopher Nolan Batman movie with a deep homage to the rich history of Bob Kane’s legendary DC Comic’s brooding superhero.

It took less than five minutes before I was totally consumed in the story and action thanks to a devilishly intense prologue.

[Minor Spoiler Alert:] Apparently, the conclusion of the 2011 game, “Batman: Arkham City,” saw the mighty Clown Prince of Crime succumb to the drug that made him a Bane-fueled nightmare for his favorite enemy.

The opening moments of the game reveal the result and allows the player to control the rate of incineration of the Joker’s body, cremated by James Gordon.

I dare any fan of the Batman mythology to not be immediately staggered by this incredibly unusual, eye-popping event.

And, the game only gets better.

A facially deformed and insane Scarecrow along with a mysterious armored henchman name Arkham Knight has threatened to unleash a cloud of fear toxin gas over Gotham City, on Halloween no less, causing a widespread evacuation of the town leaving only the criminals behind. Our vigilante hero is called in to stop the weapon of mass destruction and restore order.

Now get this Adam West fans, thanks to some tasty bonus content included with the PlayStation 4 version of the game, I had our Dark Knight arrive on the scene wearing the famous 1960s television grey costume complete with large yellow utility belt, large bat logo on his chest and that familiar blue cowl.

Batman now explores the massive cityscape to find Scarecrow. The Dark Knight glides with the massive cape and grapples around the highest points of locations such as Ace Chemicals, Chinatown, the Wayne Enterprises building and Founder’s Island in what is always a visually stunning experience.

He’ll get help from Alfred, Oracle (Barbara Gordon), Lucius Fox and James Gordon to battle enemies such as Two-Face, Penguin, the Riddler, Man-Bat, Deathstroke and Poison Ivy.

A player can even switch up to control Robin, Nightwing and Catwoman in key fights.

However, the star of this game is, like it or not, the mighty Batmobile. The famed vehicle is controllable on demand and even remotely, with Batman not behind the wheel, to stop the bad guys.

With the acrobatics of Speed Racer’s Mach 5 and the power of a tank, it dominates screen time, driven around to nearly every location with the ability to easily subdue crowds of enemies and transform from a speedy ride to heavily armed machine.

The vehicle, with help from a power winch, can even drive up the sides of building, tear down walls and tip toe (tip tire?) around rooftops to enter locations.

The Batmobile is in constant demand to clean out areas loaded with drones, robotic tanks or helicopters. Although, I’m not a fan of driving games and I was pretty sloppy on the roads, I loved watching Batman jump into and catapult out of the vehicle — and unloading that 60mm cannon on mechanical menaces.

However, where the game continues to shine is when a play controls Batman.

Our masked brawler continues to display some stunning, free-flowing, hand-to-hand combat maneuvers. This time out he can even sneak up on enemies, strike fear into a small group and play out a slow-motion battle ballet where he incapacitates each.

Of course, he also has access to gadgets such as smoke pellets, batarangs, batclaw, a remote hacking device and explosive gel.

Deeper Wayne Enterprises technology ranges from a Detective Mode to scan areas for clues to solve crimes and scout enemy locations (a sort of infrared radar layered on the screen), and a tissue analysis tool to scan down to the bone of a victim and help solve his murder.

While on the hunt to stop Scarecrow and Arkham Knight, a player will find bunches of side missions he can accomplish to upgrade skills within the expansive Gotham City.

The collection includes solving nearly 250 Riddler challenges, entering augmented reality simulations to hone combat skills, attacking the Scarecrow in some wild nightmare driving missions (a PS4 exclusive), protecting fire stations from an arsonist, destroying Penguin’s weapons stashes and defusing explosive mines left around the city, to name a few.

Suffice to report, “Batman: Arkham Knight” is a cornucopia of cool for the gamer and fan ready to invest at least a couple of dozen hours in a potent, interactive Dark Knight story.

Additionally, the PS4 version of the game delivers about a 30-minute long, complementary mission pack that has a player control Joker’s love, Harley Quinn, as she infiltrates the Bludhaven police station to break out Poison Ivy.

The oddly sexy, cartwheeling psychotic uses a bat, laughing gas and exploding jack-in-the-boxes to subdue officers while uses a very trippy-looking mode (like Batman’s Detective Mode) to read scrawls off walls and gain clues to decipher her target’s location.

Overall, at the midyear point, players should feel honored by the amount of great video games available in 2015. “Batman: Arkham Knight” is easily near the top of the list for its fantastic immersion into a comic book universe.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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