Gameloft’s The Dark Knight Rises is an open world adventure game that has been released on the App Store to tie in with the latest Batman movie. In terms of narrative, rather than lifting whole parts of the whole movie, the game takes influence from the script and, mostly, does it’s own thing. Having said that, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t full of spoilers, so it’s best to go see the film before playing the game.
The majority of the game takes place during Bane’s occupation of Gotham and, to be frank, the game’s story telling is pretty dire in comparison to the film. A good example of this is the differences between the way the game handles the situation from which Batman rises. In the movie this event takes place about two hours into the film, but in the game it happens half way through the first chapter and is reduced to a short and simple quick time event.
While it may not win any awards for its storytelling, or the performances from the cast of sound-alike actors, that doesn’t stop it from being fun to play… in small bursts at least.
At first glance the combat system is very similar to that found in the Batman games on Xbox 360, PC, and PS3 Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Hammering the attack button can perform devastating combos and enemy attacks can be countered by pressing the counter button before their blow lands. The window of opportunity for performing a counter is very generous and, for the most part, the combat is smooth and responsive. Batman also has a number of gadgets in his arsenal, such as batarangs, flashbangs, and smoke bombs, that can be used to your advantage.
Much like in the Arkham games, whenever facing enemies armed with guns, Batman will need to stealthily subdue them or run the risk of being killed. Should players fail in being stealthy Batman is easily able to disarm enemies, so long as he is close enough.
Defeated enemies award you with experience points (for spending on upgrading Batman’s abilities and equipment) and credits (used to buy powerful special moves and to restock your equipment). There is also the option to part with real world money in exchange for additional experience and credits, which is good news for those that don’t like to put the effort in to earn the abilities.
Another significant weapon, the grapple, can be used to pull enemies closer and separate large gangs – the enemy A.I is so stupid that players can easily pick clueless enemies off one at a time from above with the grapple without fear of them ever cottoning on. The grapple also acts as a means of transportation, allowing Batman to pull himself up to high ledges.
Where this game differs from other more recent Batman games is that you’re given pretty much free rein of Gotham City. This is all very well and good, but there isn’t that much to do in the city. There are hardly any memorable landmarks or recognizable buildings, and the streets are mostly empty. Every now and then a roaming gang of thugs may appear, or a few gawping civilians may pop up, but for the most part the streets of Gotham are deserted.
There are dozens of hidden collectables to be found spread out across the city although, including Police Files, Blueprints, and Graffiti, but, as far as I am aware, collecting them all offers no real bonuses, beyond earning an achievement.
The city is broken up into three districts and each district is occupied by Bane’s forces. There are a number of bonus side missions, marked on the map as gigantic red circles, that task you with either defeating Bane’s thugs or destroying his resources. Once these missions are completed it will reduce Bane’s influence on the city and presumably reduce the number of enemies on the streets. I say presumably because I have yet to notice any significant difference to the number of enemies on the streets, despite having liberated most of the city.
The story mode consists of six chapters, with about 30 or so missions. Some missions only take a few minutes to complete, while others can take in excess of 15 minutes. Each mission has a generous helping of checkpoints meaning that those that play on the go can quickly jump in and out without fear of losing too much progress.
One down point of these missions is that there is an over-reliance on the use of snipers. Almost every mission involves Batman having to sneak up on a large group of snipers before being able to continue, and it gets quite tedious after a while. Batman can use his gadgets to take snipers out from a distance but keeping an ample supply of batarangs costs a lot of credits.
At certain points in the story Batman is able to use his two main vehicles – the Bat-Pod, the recognisable motorbike – and the Bat, which is essentially a super powered helicopter. These vehicle levels, although sporadic, offer a welcome change of pace and spice up the gameplay for a short time.
Still, for the low price of the game and the amount of content included we can’t really complain too much about it. Yes, it’s not as good as its console big brothers, but did any one expect it to be?
Graphics: 4/5 – Although enemy character models are recycled – so much so that at times it looks like Batman is taking on gangs of triplets – the game has a clean detailed look to it.
Sound: 4/5 – A great use of the movie’s soundtrack, and some solid performances from the cast of sound-alikes.
Gameplay: 3/5 – The combat system is fast, responsive, and intuitive, and the vehicle sections don’t stick around long enough to outstay their welcome. The over-reliance on stealthily taking out gangs of snipers does make the story mode drag a little bit though.
Longevity: 3/5 – While there is an awful lot of content in the game – dozens of side missions, a lengthy story mode, and heaps of hidden collectable objects – there is very little incentive to play through everything.
Overall: 3 out of 5
The Dark Knight Rises is an inexpensive game that is probably best enjoyed in small bursts on your portable devices. Those that are looking for an open world adventure game to play on the go could probably do much worse than to give this a shot… just make sure you see the movie before playing the game!
- Luke Mears