Rise Of The Tomb Raider – Review (PS4)

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I was quietly confident that Crystal Dynamics would be able to deliver a strong follow up to their 2013 reboot of Square Enix’s beloved franchise. The sequel arrived on XBox One a year previously as a console exclusive and it got great reviews so I was excited to get a chance to play it. The initial reboot provided a good story paired with familiar but fun gameplay. So did they manage to better this with Rise Of The Tomb Raider?

Graphically the game is stunning and while it can’t match Uncharted 4 it certainly has some sections I thought were beautiful to look at. The level design and more open ended areas give the game some nice spaces to explore, although it suffers from that age old open-world issue of giving you ludicrously low stakes side quests while the end of the world approaches.

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In this instance Lara is chasing an artifact that can grant immortality but the supernatural side of things doesn’t really come into play before the final third. Until then you are taking out an army of mercenaries and trying to beat their leaders to the artifact. The story is so-so to be honest and I saw the main twist coming a mile off but overall it’s an enjoyable campaign to play through.

In addition to the main missions there are also bigger open world parts of the game which contain the optional side missions I mentioned above. The return of puzzle based Tombs is welcome as the ones I completed were a nice distraction from the main path but didn’t take too long to finish.

There are robust skill and crafting trees, which is cool and lets you build your own version of Lara that can play to your own gameplay strengths. Likewise Lara has a selection of different outfits that each come with a stat boost, 10% more melee damage for example, so you can really shape the character to your playstyle.

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While Rise of The Tomb Raider doesn’t have the impact of the original, it builds on what came before and delivers a really good experience with amazing graphics. Unfortunately it suffers a little from hitting the PS4 after Uncharted 4 and can’t quite match the heights of Nathan Drake and co. Nevertheless it’s a strong title which I’d recommend checking out.

Rating 8/10

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – Review (PS4)

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Adam Jensen is back. Following the events of previous title Human Revolution, Jensen finds himself running ops for a branch of Interpol – with one mission in Dubai going south very quickly. In the immediate aftermath, Jensen isn’t sure who he can trust and with rising tensions between augmented and non-augmented citizens approaching breaking point – it seems like the World is on the brink of collapse. So can he stop the madness?

Deus Ex titles have always been about choice and Mankind Divided delivers some interesting ideas, including a couple of my favourite type of game choices… The type where you literally have to choose one or the other, you can’t do both. While some of these are obvious to the player, others are based around what you choose to do during gameplay which is cool.

As usual Jensen is equipped with a full arsenal of augmentations that you can use to get around levels and complete objectives. Some of these will be familiar to regular players of Deus Ex, with some new additions to spice things up. Stealth is still the main priority, which was good for me as I found the shooting to be quite lacklustre and unenjoyable. It’s a shame because it would’ve been nice to have the flexibility of something like Metal Gear Solid V when missions move from stealth to action. More often that not here breaking stealth meant death. I also felt that I never had enough ammo or charge for my abilities, which meant some missions became a rinse and repeat of running to cover, waiting for stealth to recharge, run to next cover, wait for stealth etc.

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I didn’t really think the overall story was great, though there were some great missions and some of the side content was quite strong. There were some interesting characters and it was nice to see some familiar faces. Also shout out to Peter Serafinowicz in his role as Duncan MacReady, as a fellow Brit it was great to hear such a natural vocal performance.

Graphically the game is a powerhouse, it looks exactly like a sci-fi game should. The oppressive atmosphere is effective and while we’ve seen it done before the overtly aggressive policing going on around you certainly has an impact. For the most part the game runs smoothly on the technical side but every now and again, almost always when moving unconscious enemies, glitches would crop up. The last thing you need when trying to hide a body is for it to melt part way into a wall and start moving violently in a vain attempt to free itself!

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Overall I found Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to be an enjoyable experience and that is down to the writing and freedom of choice it allows. Unfortunately for the majority of the game it just wasn’t that fun to play and at times it really felt like a slog, with the gunplay in particular leaving a lot to be desired.

Rating: 6/10

GregHorrorShow’s Guide To Gaming – Part 5: The New PS4 Owner Edition

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So you’ve got yourself a PS4 and you are now faced with a huge collection of games to consider. Fear not, I’m on hand to recommend the best in class for a few different genres/game types.

Have a look below to find something you’re interested in and some titles to explore!

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REMASTERS

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The Last Of Us

One of the best remasters out there, Naughty Dog did a great job on bringing the PS3 smash to the new generation of consoles. Telling the story of Joel and Ellie as they make their way across a post-apocalyptic America, this is a must for those who haven’t played it previously. Another good shout would be Naughty Dog’s Uncharted Collection, which contains the first three Uncharted titles, all remastered.

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ACTION ADVENTURE

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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Speaking of Uncharted, if you’re looking for an exciting, gun toting adventure then A Thief’s End might be the one for you. One of the best looking games I’ve ever seen, coupled with some great voice acting makes for a memorable experience. If treasure hunting isn’t your thing I’d really recommend the latest Assassin’s Creed title Syndicate, which for me was the best game in the series for years.

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WITH FRIENDS

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Destiny: The Taken King

A new breed of online gaming has begun to shine on the new consoles, one in which you play with friends cooperatively rather than competitively. Destiny is one such title, much better with a few friends as opposed to playing solo. It’s a space shooter with character based special abilities that allows good flexibility. The Taken King expansion adds some extra content and is worth picking up. Alternatively, The Division does the same thing in the more realistic setting of a post-virus New York.

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DRIVING

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Despite a troubled launch DriveClub grew into one of, if not the, best driving games around. There are tons of single player tournaments to race through and lots of options for online play, from setting challenges to racing face-to-face. If you prefer a more ‘pure’ driving game I’d also recommend Dirt Rally, which is more simulation and less arcade based.

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HORROR

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Until Dawn

For horror lovers the first game that comes to mind is Until Dawn, a title in which you control a group of teenagers and try to get them to survive the night. The most interesting aspect of the game is that none of them can die or all of them can die – it all comes down to the choices you make during the game. If you’re looking for something more tense, I’d really suggest checking out Alien Isolation – especially if you have any interest in the films. It’s a bit too long but a great experience nonetheless.

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ROLE PLAYING GAMES

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Dragon Age: Inquisition

If you are looking for a sprawling, lengthy campaign of around 50 odd hours (or more!) then look no further than Dragon Age. Create your own character and then enter a world of Elves and Mages, submerge yourself in archery or magic. It’s completely up to you. It’s like creating your own version of Lord Of The Rings. If fantasy isn’t your bag then consider Fallout 4, which is the exact same thing but set hundreds of years in the future after a nuclear war!

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STEALTH

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

For those of you looking for a more well measured and sneaky experience, it has to be Metal Gear Solid V. While it’s certainly possible to play the game as an action hero this title has some of the best stealth gameplay ever to grace the PlayStation 4. You take on the role of Big Boss, assigned missions ranging from hostage rescue to larger, more complex infiltration scenarios. For those of you that are comic book fans, Batman: Arkham Knight will also tick this box.

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STORY

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Life Is Strange

Some of you might be looking to ease into gaming and a title that is based around story with reduced gameplay could be an option for you. In the first instance I’d recommend the awesome Life Is Strange, the tale of a college student who discovers she has the ability to rewind time. Aside from that, despite the occasional performance issue, I’d suggest checking out any of the Telltale games; The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us or Tales From The Borderlands in particular.

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FUN

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Rocket League

For pure unadulterated fun, it has to be Rocket League. It’s football with cars. Quite possibly the dumbest game I’ve ever played, it’s also the most fun by far. With friends is best but even alone with random strangers online is great. There is certainly a skill to the game but it’s the pick-up-and-play-factor that makes Rocket League stand head and shoulders above other games.

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COMPETITIVE

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Overwatch

I’ve gone for Overwatch here, mainly because I’ve spent most of the summer addicted to it, but you could switch it for the faster paced Call of Duty or more military focused Battlefield depending on your taste. Overwatch is a glorious 6v6 character based shooter in which you battle over objectives – its the characters that help make it memorable, you have 22 to choose from, all with various skills and abilities.

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TACTICAL

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If you’re looking for pure tactics then seek out Invisible Inc. It’s a turn based cyberpunk adventure, in which you race against time to prepare your agents for their final, high stakes mission. You’ll take control of numerous members of the team and coordinate attacks on various bases around the globe. Another excellent tactical title is Transistor, which is also turn based and has some fantastic artwork and music.

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So there you go a few suggestions to get you going, let me know if you pick any of these up and whether you enjoy them – or if you guys have any other suggestions of titles people new to the PS4 could pick up. Drop a comment below or tweet me @greghorrorshow.

 

Gone Home – Review (PS4)

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I was quite excited to get the chance to play Gone Home, which had arrived on PC last year. I’d heard lots of good things about the game’s setting and atmosphere. It’s a title reminiscent of older adventure games, there isn’t a great deal of gameplay per se, it’s about unravelling the story by exploring around the environment.

Set in 1995, you play as Kaitlin Greenbriar who returns back after some months away travelling to find her family moved into a new house. To make things even weirder there is no-one home but a note on the front door from her sister Sam begging her not to look for her.

And then you’re off, first finding a way into the house and then trying to work out what has been going on in your absence. Along the way you’ll uncover clues about not only your sister but also your parents, each strand delivering more intrigue as you delve into places you probably shouldn’t – and wouldn’t under normal circumstances.

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Gone Home does a good job of making you feel this, that voyeuristic vibe that should accompany rooting around in other people’s private stuff. In a lot of games it’s sometimes easy to forget that whoever you’re investigating is a person with a history and feelings, not so in Gone Home and there were a few instances that I felt genuinely uncomfortable. I think that’s a good thing as it shows they built a believable cast of characters that you know only through clues.

I loved the design of the house itself, which was interesting and quite a big area to explore. The only downside, not unique to this game but exacerbated by the freedom to move around large swathes of the house, is that there is a lot of ground to cover if you miss a clue. Which is what happened to me.

Let me preface this by saying I appreciate that I might be the only person in the world this happened to, I’m not sure what the odds are for missing clues in the game as a lot of them are signposted well. This clue came fairly deep into the game and I, essentially, didn’t click one thing in the room. Now, that is not the developers fault – I missed the clue – but I found it really disappointing there wasn’t any sort of hint system at all. Surely after an allotted time (10/15 mins) a prompt could pop up, even if it’s asking if I want a hint as opposed to just revealing it?

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Instead what happened was I knew I’d missed something so went right back to the start of the house (more than once) and scoured every room again. For 45 mins. Just to put that in context, Gone Home is 2 hours long. So I spent a further amount of time the equivalent of almost half the game aimlessly walking around, frustrated. Eventually, thinking the game might be broken, I checked online, discovered what I had missed, went to the next clue and activated the following sequence. As I said earlier missing the clue is my fault, that’s a part of adventure games but I do feel if I’m turning to the internet in the belief your game is broken then maybe you should consider a form of hint system for next time.

And this broke the game for me. My immersion was shattered and I had lost any interest in the story. I walked away from the game and returned a few hours later to finish it but the experience was soured. Which is a shame because I imagine in a ‘clean’ run through this would be a short but interesting title.

Rating: 6/10

Call Of Duty: Black Ops III – Review (PS4)

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I quite enjoyed the last Call Of Duty game, Advanced Warfare, and Black Ops II was my favourite game in the entire series so I was really hopeful that Black Ops III would be another great experience.

In Black Ops II, I found that I enjoyed the story a lot more than the multiplayer especially with the option to change the outcome via decisions you make over the course of the game. With this new title I felt the balance had shifted in the other direction and when you’re not that into the multiplayer aspect of a game series, that can be an issue.

I fully expect to be in the minority here as I know the Call Of Duty series fast paced, twitch based, shooting is massively popular. It’s just never felt good to me. What’s on offer here for multiplayer is a solid set of maps (one of them even made my list of Top 30 Maps) and some new abilities/classes with which to play around with. In the wake of Titanfall and Advanced Warfare there is an added emphasis on movement, with the ability to jump boost along walls and gain some extra height quickly giving the game an even faster pace than before.

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Story wise, this tale of futuristic espionage treads a familiar path – you and your team take on various groups of enemies, now also featuring robots/cyborgs, as you try to unravel a mystery with the C.I.A (your employer) at its heart. One thing I did like about the campaign was that it gave you the option to play as a male or female operative, which is pretty cool. Something I didn’t like was the fact the game ran separate versions of the campaign for online and offline story modes. So if you played offline, when you returned and were online there was no way (other than switching off your internet) to continue your game… madness!

Graphically the game looks good, as you’d expect and there are no performance issues that I encountered. The campaign supports 4 player co-op play as well so if you have friends that also have the game that’s a neat way to experience the story. Zombies mode returns and there is also a new mode called Nightmares, unlocked by finishing the campaign, that puts a different spin on the story and replaces the usual enemies with Zombies.

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Overall I was a little disappointed with this instalment in the Call Of Duty series. Without an interesting story to compliment the multiplayer I didn’t feel there was enough there for me personally. In terms of the gameplay Black Ops III continues to evolve the series and brings some interesting ideas to the table but the campaign mode, while delivering something new with gender choice and co-operative play, also felt like a step backwards – especially after the way Black Ops II’s story played out. I suspect fans of the series will have loved it but there just wasn’t enough there to hook me in.

Rating: 6/10

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Tom Clancy’s The Division – Review (PS4)

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It seems like an absolute age ago that The Division was revealed at E3 2013 and gamers everywhere marveled at the footage released. Then we all remembered that Ubisoft’s previous title Watch_Dogs didn’t look quite as good as the promo materials and sighed. Over time though it felt like The Division might end up being a great game, a mix of cool story beats and multiplayer co-op.

Let’s start with the story stuff. The Division opens strongly, with an interesting video about the virus that has decimated New York. Essentially Smallpox, it was transferred to bank notes on Black Friday in an attempt to spread the virus as quickly as possible. Soon enough the city is on quarantined lockdown and the government calls on The Division – a set of sleeper agents in place for exactly this sort of emergency. You are a Division agent and your first port of call will be creating your agent. I managed to make an avatar I was happy with but the selection of faces and hair etc. is pretty limited compared to most other games, which was disappointing. Add to that the fact that your character never speaks and it means you end up not really investing in your character at all.

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Despite that strong start, the story ends up being almost non-existent. A lot of it is buried in side missions and collectibles which, excluding a few interesting side missions, felt like effort for nothing. A good example of this are the missing agent missions – essentially following a set of arrows to a point where you pick up a file and get a written paragraph about the agent. Unless I missed it these aren’t agents you ever see/interact with during the story and it was a case of wondering why I was actually bothering doing the missions, which is never a good sign. The story told by the main missions isn’t particularly interesting either and when the majority of bigger ‘boss’ enemies are just the same guys you’ve already fought with an extra bar of health, it makes things a lot less dynamic.

And that’s the real disappointment of The Division because the game itself is pretty brilliant. The control of the characters and the feel of the weapons are great. It’s a super fun, third person shooter that requires elements of teamwork to excel. You can play the game on your own and matchmake with random people to play missions (something I did a few times with no problems) but The Division is best when played with friends. It’s been compared to Destiny more times than I can remember but it’s a valid comparison, especially in the sense that playing with others makes a huge difference to the overall experience. I had a massive amount of fun in my time with the game but the lack of story really did sting, especially by the end of the game when I had no investment in either my own character or the events that were unfolding.

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As well as story content there is also a Player v Player arena called the Dark Zone, in which players defeat AI enemies for loot that needs to be extracted via helicopter. The twist is that players can turn on one another and steal each others loot. Doing so will mark you as a Rogue Agent for everyone else though, so you need to weigh up whether it’s worth it! It reminded me of the great heist mode in Kane and Lynch 2 and gives each moment spent waiting for the helicopter to arrive a large dose of tension. It was good fun, perhaps not enough to keep me playing but it might be the thing that brings me back from time to time.

Graphically I’m pleased to say that the developer got pretty damn close to those initial promo shots. The game looks gorgeous and the amount of detail is stunning – there seemed to be a wealth of different environments without reusing a ton of assets. It made every new arena feel like a different place so it was always a shame when the enemies turned up and were one of a set of generic types we’d seen hundreds of times before. I suppose that is a drawback of setting the game in the current time – you’re limited by enemy appearances unless you head further down the Warriors gang style of enemies.

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Overall The Division is a really great game in terms of how it handles and the feel of the moment to moment gameplay. It’s wrapped in an impressive representation of New York that, at times, can be jaw-dropping. The problem is that it all feels like it’s for nothing in terms of story and character. I’m really hopeful that we will see another installment of The Division because I believe there is a really solid base here to build on. They don’t need to change the gameplay much, if they can get a more involving story around it and find a better way to tell that narrative, Ubisoft might have something very special on their hands.

Rating: 7/10

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Batman: Arkham Knight – Review (PS4)

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Rocksteady had a real job on its hands back in the late 2000’s – superhero games were generally very poor and the developer had been tasked with delivering a new Batman game. It was a challenge they relished and they ended up revitalizing the game genre, with seamless combat and tight scripted encounters, in 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. The second game in the series, Arkham City, opened the game world up to a part of Gotham and laid the groundwork for the latest instalment. 2015’s Batman: Arkham Knight is the culmination of Rocksteady’s trilogy of Batman games and a showcase for the graphical capabilities of the new generation of consoles.

Set a year after the events of the previous game, Arkham Knight sees Scarecrow threatening to release a poisonous toxin throughout Gotham. When another, previously unknown, villain – the titular Arkham Knight – lends his weight to Scarecrow’s campaign of terror, it becomes apparent Batman is going to have his hands full. Luckily you’re not on your own, Alfred, Oracle, Robin and more are on hand to offer assistance.

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In the panic and chaos, all of Batman’s greatest enemies come out of the woodwork to take advantage. These villains could easily have been written in throughout the story but are instead optional side content, called ‘Most Wanted’ missions. I felt that this was one of the strongest aspects of the game, as it allowed you to delve into Batman’s relationship with those villains when you wanted to and gave you a choice as to how far you wanted to pursue them. Each villain has 4 or more missions each before you finally get to bring them to justice.

I really enjoyed the side content in Arkham Knight, even more so for the fact that along with specifically choosing to do a side mission, you might just stumble across them because the game does a great job of delivering on visual/audio cues that you might naturally gravitate towards out of curiosity. It felt really great when, for example, I noticed a building on fire in the distance and went to investigate. When I got there it triggered the option to start a Most Wanted mission. Very cool.

My main complaint of the game was the way the Batmobile was handled. Introduced as a new way of getting around Gotham, it does a serviceable job – although I preferred to just glide over the city which was just as quick, in my opinion. Unfortunately the controls never quite felt right for me, with L2 switching the vehicle to ‘Battle Mode’, as opposed to braking – which is usually L2’s function for car based control in other games. It led to numerous occasions where I ended up failing a mission because, in the heat of the moment, I instinctively hit L2 to brake and instead the Batmobile came to a stop and transformed into a tank.

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There are needlessly large car battles and even stealth Batmobile sections, both of which felt clunky and always seemed to break the pacing of the game. At one stage I almost walked away from the game entirely after an extremely draining chunk of time trying to finish one mission. Frustrating doesn’t cover it, especially as for most of the game you feel powerful and in control of combat – the Batmobile stuff just didn’t really work, sadly.

Thankfully that is the only real complaint I had with Batman: Arkham Knight, for the majority of the game I was having a blast and another of the new mechanics, Fear Takedowns, was a big reason. This ability allows you to cherry pick enemies to take out in order. Time stops and as you select targets Batman will automatically knock them out. As you upgrade the ability you can string more attacks together, mainly to be used for face to face combat. This means you can stalk your enemies first, taking them out with stealth attacks, and then confront the last four or five, taking them out immediately in quick succession.

Rocksteady do a fine job of bringing all of the Batman characters that you know and love into the final chapter of their trilogy. I’m not a big fan of Batman but I knew most of the characters here and even the ones I didn’t had interesting enough missions that I got to learn a little about them. There is a huge amount of content in the game, my playthrough was probably around 16-18 hours but that was doing a fair chunk of side content. I had finished the main storyline and completed almost half of the Most Wanted missions with an overall completion stat of 69%, so that gives you an idea of how much is here.

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As much as I loved Arkham Asylum, for me Arkham Knight is a superior game overall. Not as ground breaking as the first title in the series but more fleshed out in terms of game world and content. To have the freedom of Gotham to explore, stumbling across villain missions or just taking in the (gorgeous) sights of the broken city, is a wonderful thing. This is a game to take your time with, to savour your surroundings and the world Rocksteady have created. Unfortunately a lot of the pacing and general enjoyment is ruined by the Batmobile missions – they are forced on you too much and leave a bad, frustrating, taste. Arkham Knight is the ultimate Batman game but be prepared to suffer through a few sections to be able to appreciate it all.

Rating: 8/10

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