Every major superhero movie deserves a worthwhile videogame. Seeing Spider-Man or Batman fight against evil on the big screen is fun, so who wouldn’t want to feel like a hero by throwing those epic punches themselves? Like Gameloft’s recent iOS game based on The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises is incredibly ambitious, but the tedious combat might have you rooting for the bad guys to beat Batman down.
The Dark Knight Rises seems to closely follow the plot of the movie– but don’t worry, we won’t spoil either here. All you need to know is that there’s a new bad guy in town, Bane, and he’s got a death grip on Gotham City. Early story missions keep you on a linear path, but later in the game, the world opens up and you can take optional side missions, or press ahead with the effort to stop Bane.
Whether you’re moving through a linear story mission or optional side mission, you’ll get to play with some of Batman’s coolest toys. Batman can target nearly any ledge within range and instantly zip to the top with his grappling hook, which is a stylish way to add height to the levels. Once you’re on top of a building, you can spread your bat-wings and glide, but unlike Spider-Man, Batman will take damage for falling too far if you’re not controlling your descent.
Yes, this is bat.
We love the movement controls in The Dark Knight Rises– zipping up the sides of buildings and gliding off of them is exactly what we’d want to do if we were Batman for a day. Unfortunately, when you actually reach your target destination, you often have to just mash the attack button to dish out punches, one thug at a time.
Instead of feeling substantial, Batman’s punches seem like pillows to these bad guys. Even the weakest enemies can take a lot of of damage, forcing you to throw punch after punch without any style or strategy. While you can evade attacks, it’s usually more efficient to just mash on the attack button. At a certain point, you’ll want to completely avoid unnecessary combat, since it’s so repetitive.
Another example of the game’s poor combat system is in the enemy AI. When you’re confronted with a group of bad guys, you could just punch, punch, punch until you’re done. Or, you could use your grappling hook to move to a perch just a few feet above their heads, instantly lose their interest, and then perform an instant, one-button takedown move from above. Repeat for every idiotic henchmen in the level, and move on.
Nothing to see up here!
The game’s weak combat drags down the entire experience– and you’d think that kicking butt would be an essential part of becoming Batman. To make matters worse, the game’s long-distance weapon, the batarang, is only available in a very small quantity in the actual game. You can use coins earned in the game, or spend real money on in-app purchases, to pick up more. This is on top of what you’ll pay for the initial download, and not everyone has money like Bruce Wayne to spend on optional gear just to balance the combat.
Despite our major disappointment with the combat, there’s a lot to enjoy about The Dark Knight Rises. The graphics are outstanding for an iOS game, with a wide-open city and lots of moody visual effects, like the flashes of lightning during a downpour. There’s also an RPG-like character customization screen, where you can use skill points and coins earned in combat to upgrade your armor and gear. However, these upgrades are staggered as you level up, so you won’t have a lot of different options until you’ve been playing for a while.
Quick, to the bat-bike!
We know Gameloft can create dynamic combat systems in their games– Hero of Sparta 2 lets you slide the attack button in different directions to mix up the battles, to great effect. Batman is missing almost all of that depth, perhaps because The Dark Knight Rises is geared more towards casual players who just want to button-mash, or because there wasn’t enough time to make the combat fun before the movie hit theaters.
If you can look past the poor fighting mechanic, the feeling of grappling and gliding around Gotham can justify The Dark Knight Rises’ purchase price. Some of the story missions are a blast, while others feel like unnecessary padding. With a few extra months of development time and some major updates, The Dark Knight Rises could become a superhero sim worth playing all summer long. However, we’re doubtful that Gameloft will remain committed to this game once the film leaves theaters.