Capturing the raw essence of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is something our industry is not quite ready for. Although rapid advances in visual/audio technology are helping to bridge the gap between cinema and games, the level of emotion and artistry that goes into unforgettable, thought-provoking movie epics, many will argue, is still absent. With that said, the passion has always been there and, somewhere down the line, such ambitious feats may be realised, and could even become commonplace.
Weaker than their home console counterparts and typically developed for by smaller teams at a fraction of the cost, the iPad and other mobile devices are probably the last place you’d look for a gripping depiction of The Dark Knight Rises.
In many ways, Gameloft’s exclusive tie-in can be seen as the poor man’s Arkham City, though drawing comparisons between the two is unfair given the nature of both games. If anything, we should look back at the similarities it shares with other Gameloft top-sellers including Backstab, Six Guns, and the very recent Amazing Spider-Man tie-in.
The Dark Knight Rises offers two defining gameplay features wrapped in layers of meta-game trinkets, side-missions and familiar story beats. The first of these is the open world setting; surprisingly large in scale, Gameloft’s take on the iconic Gotham City is one that will match the expectations of moviegoers. Fitted with recognisable landmarks including Wayne Tower and Gotham Stadium, the city acts as an interactive sandbox in which players move from A to B.
The other gameplay focus is combat. Done entirely in third person, The Dark Knight Rises hinges on a fighting system much like Assassin’s Creed or the Arkham series in which players will find themselves surrounded, picking off enemies with a string of brutal attacks whilst pulling off the occasional counter attack. Despite a small variety of enemies to blitz through, it’s still fairly simplistic and flat at times, though works well in relation to the rest of the game.
One aspect that will surprise many is the game’s commitment to character progression. Every time you complete an objective or administer the finishing blow to an enemy, XP and Credits will be awarded. Tapping your way onto the Tech Store will allow you spend both on a variety of upgrades for Batman including new gadgets and stat bonuses such as armour rating and glide distance.
What will no doubt temper a few players is Gameloft’s drive for in-game micro transactions. Each enemy drops an average of between 3-5 credits, with most abilities priced at 750 or more. Therefore it seems a bit cheeky that, despite paying what some would consider a “premium” price for a mobile game, players feel compelled to spend even more due to the sluggish reward rate.
However, complain as much as you want, this is something we’re likely to see more and more of, and will probably permeate into most of the games we play. Mass Effect’s multiplayer booster packs is an alarmingly recent example.
Despite balancing a fairly articulate open world on an 819MB file size, The Dark Knight Rises is also quite the looker. Animations are a little off in places, and the lack of a fully-fledged physics engine is noticeable, but the overall package is commendable, mainly thanks to a reliable frame rate and decent draw distance.
There’s also a hefty amount of voice acting thrown into the mix, most of which isn’t bad at all. Fox, Alfred, and Blake sound a lot like their in-film counterparts, with Bruce Wayne/Batman being the stand-out. On the other hand, the female voice talent isn’t as convincing, though still does a good job of galvanising the game’s roster of characters.
Perhaps the only flaw here is the way in which lines from the film script are delivered; both awkward and a little out-of-sync with the surrounding action, these dialogue inserts felt pushed in an attempt to better tie the game to Nolan’s blockbuster.
Whilst the game displays a lavish showing on numerous fronts (especially if you happen to be a mobile-only gamer), a few set backs keep The Dark Knight Rises from being that ground-breaker everyone is holding out for. The game’s open world is snazzy but suffers from a lack of diverse, well-integrated content. Combat is accessible and rather fluid, yet it’s a repetitive exercise with little in the way of variation. Vehicles make an appearance though aren’t executed to their fullest extent.
- A fully-traversable open world of substantial size.
- Well over 8-10 hours of content.
- Plenty of upgrades to unlock.
- Simple, reflex-based combat.
- Looks great, sounds even better.
- Captures the aesthetic of the Dark Knight trilogy nicely.
- Mission/combat variety is weak.
- A few of Batman’s gadgets lack any sense of oomph.
- Vehicle handling is temperamental.
- Occasional crashes and issues with Gameloft Live.
- Micro-transaction could prove to be a sticking point.
Valuing The Dark Knight Rises, or any iPad/mobile game, hinges largely on perspective. Yes, it has numerous problems, and yes, Rocksteady’s Arkham City is leagues above it in almost every respect. However, for those who play nothing but iOS/Android games, it’s a stellar substitute. For console-savvy gamepad pushers it still has its highlights, marking a level of quality teetering between current and last generation for just under a fiver.