It’s interesting that with a movie franchise as hyped and critically acclaimed as Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, there has only been one video game adaptation- 2005’s Batman Begins (which was better than people give it credit for). Until now, that is. Gameloft has acquired the rights to the final film of the franchise, The Dark Knight Rises ($6.99, iTunes). It’s a bit odd that there is no counterpart for the major consoles such as PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but I suppose the shadow cast by Batman: Arkham City was just too great.
As with any movie-to-game adaptation, I went in with low expectations. I mean, the recent The Amazing Spider-Man game was pretty great and the iOS version (also by Gameloft) wasn’t bad either, but sometimes these tie-ins are just atrocious. However, once you get a few hours into The Dark Knight Rises, it’s almost like having a pocket sized Arkham City in the palm of your hand. Granted, NetherRealm Studios created an iOS tie-in to Arkham City last year, Arkham City Lockdown, which was rather graphically impressive. However, it was far from the sandbox, open world Batman experience everyone craved in a post-Arkham Asylum world. That 2009 instant classic changed the landscape of (and significantly raised the bar for) superhero games forever, and thankfully Gameloft has stepped up to the challenge with The Dark Knight Rises.
Taking quite a few cues from the recent Batman games by RockSteady, The Dark Knight Rises utilizes an open world Gotham, and sets Batman loose in it in a storyline that vaguely follows the new film. 8 years after stopping the Joker in The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is beaten down and Gotham is finally in a rare time of peace. However, Selina Kyle and Bane will soon draw Bruce back to the famous cowl and cape, for one last stand against injustice.
The similarities don’t end there. The combat in The Dark Knight Rises is quite similar to RockSteady’s games, utilizing a reversal system that keeps the fights interesting. It’s not nearly as impressive as Arkham City’s but one has to remember the limitations imposed by the hardware. However, you can still grapple around the city, dive off the highest skyscrapers and glide throughout the city, which is all quite impressive given the platform. You can even cling to gargoyles in rooms and slow-motion knockout thugs. Graphically, the game looks quite nice on my iPod Touch 4G, but not nearly as fantastic as the iPad screens look- but that version is running on superior hardware. Batman himself looks really great, and the environments hold up well enough. The enemy models and secondary characters, however, have a very PlayStation 2 look to them. You’ll also lose out of fancy lighting effects and rain, etc. on the iPhone/ iPod Touch version. Still, everything considered, it’s impressive to have an open world city running on such a small device, despite how empty and low res it can feel at times.
Like the film itself, The Dark Knight Rises on iOS is a very good, yet imperfect experience. However, Batman fanatics such as myself will just count their blessings that there’s some form of tie-in to experience after watching Christopher Nolan’s epic finale. And there have been far, far worse mobile video game tie-ins.