When talking about the PlayStation 4, we can talk about a lot of great exclusives, but also about some non-exclusive games that have still defined both the console and the modern world of console gaming. Among these games, Spider-Man and Batman: Arkham Knight certainly hold a very important place. But how do the two compare?
Spider-Man might be better and more innovative than Arkham Knight, who didn’t do much to elevate the gameplay experience when compared to Arkham City, but there is no doubt that the whole Batman: Arkham series is a level above all other superhero games.
Now that I’ve given you a short introduction and answer, let us discuss the topic of this article in more detail. I’ll go through both games’ design, story, characters, mechanics and quest to give you the final verdict on which game is better, Spider-Man or Batman: Arkham Knight.
Basic Game Mechanics
It is no secret that the Batman: Arkham series – that started with the critically acclaimed title Batman: Arkham Asylum – set the standard for modern superhero games. Every good third-person superhero game since then needed to follow the standards set by Rocksteady in order to achieve success.
Spider-Man is no exception here, as the game mechanics (especially the structure of the fights) were almost identical, save for Spider-Man having some additional abilities related to his wall-climbing and swinging powers.
In that aspect, Spider-Man really followed a great source, since the game mechanics of the Arkham series was one of the things we loved about the whole series. Spider-Man did elevate the original concept, but that is not surprising as the industry developed over the years, between the initial Arkham games and the release of Spider-Man.
Spider-Man had much more complex fighting techniques and the coordination was much more complex to achieve, despite Batman having a more fluid and individual fighting style. The thing is that Spider-Man uses his gadgets and the environment much more than Batman does; Batman fights his opponents hands on and kicks their butts, while Spider-Man focuses on flair rather than just pure ass-kicking.
Arkham Knight’s “problem” with this element was that it did not improve on its predecessors, opting to use a well-known formula rather than to experiment, as the creators of Spider-Man did. This doesn’t mean that Arkham Knight’s mechanics are bad, they’re just – not new.
As for the general design of the worlds and the characters, we have to state that both games really set the bar very, very high. Namely, the worlds that these games wanted to create are really immense (although both New York and Gotham are just partially depicted) and for the game to be realistic, as it was effective, the designers needed to do a good job and they did.
We’re not going to dive into the technical aspects of the design simply because we’re not experts in that field, but we can give you an aesthetical analysis and we’re going to do it in the paragraphs that follow.
Batman: Arkham Knight was the most ambitious of the Arkham games when it comes to world building, since it included the largest map in the series. The designers really did a great job in this aspect, reaching the same level as the acclaimed Arkham City game. Arkham Knight’s Gotham City was not only large, but it was also very diversified and perfectly executed.
There were a lot of different parts of town you could explore, both interior and exterior, and the designers really did a great job to make it not generic. The same goes for the character design, especially the changes that had to be made in order for the characters to fit into the general tone of the whole game.
As for Spider-Man, the designers had – in an aesthetical sense – a somewhat easier job because New York is a real-life location so they just had to translate it to the game. I don’t know whether that’s technically more complex than designing everything from scratch, but it’s certainly simpler from an aesthetical point of view.
What they did was a great job and you really had the feeling that you were in New York City while playing the game, especially since the game allowed you to explore a portion of the town. But, New York is not the thing that made Spider-Man’s design so great – it was the character design.
Namely, Arkham Knight, while using mostly human characters, worked in a very dark and very masked environment, while Spider-Man had to work with real people in a real-life setting. This was certainly demanding, but the designers managed to make the characters look very realistic, despite some of the NPC civilians on the streets being obviously generic. This aspect is where Spider-Man really outdid itself.
This is where both games, likewise, did great. Namely, regardless of all the technical aspects and even the great stories, both Spider-Man and Arkham Knight were great because the protagonists really had weight and their stories were truly amazing.
In Arkham Knight, Batman has to deal with some serious psychological trauma following Joker’s death (including another great performance by Mark Hamill as the hallucination of Joker), while having to stop Scarecrow from destroying both Gotham and himself.
The danger is there and the risks of this mission are real as you go through the missions and advance further into the story. It’s not just a superhero video-game, but a truly emotional journey that really show how much the writers care about Batman’s character.
Spider-Man was created in a similar fashion, but in a more lighter tone, as is expected. What the writers did especially good was the fact that they did a great job with both Spider-Man and Peter Parker, balancing out the turmoils of both characters quite well.
The story might not have been as emotional and as deep as Batman’s, simply because there wasn’t so much at stake, but it was still incredible, especially Peter’s relationship with Dr. Octavius.
As for the villains, Batman’s villains are generally better and although Spider-Man did a good job portraying the villains (especially Doc Oc), Batman’s villains still had more depths and were a bit more interesting when compared to Spider-Man’s.
The only thing Arkham Knight did wrong was the Arkham Knight persona, not because of the Arkham Knight himself, but because of the non-inventive revelation of his true identity.
As for the other characters, they were mostly great in both games, with Spider-Man having a great Peter-MJ dynamic and the introduction of Miles Morales, and Arkham Knight having a great secondary cast of heroes and a great story for Jim Gordon.
Back in the day, video games were made mostly for fun and the thrill of the game. Sure, they always had a plot, but it was never anything overly complex. As the industry developed, games started becoming more and more complex and with that complexity, the stories also developed and became more profound and interesting. Both Spider-Man and Arkham Knight are great examples of that phenomenon.
Arkham Knight was envisioned as a conclusion to the Arkham series (whether it actually will remain to be seen). It had to live up to the narrative standards of its predecessors, but also develop its own emotional and compelling story that would close the chapter in a proper way. And, despite some missteps along the way, Arkham Knight did exactly that.
The main story was interesting and long enough to provide you with more than plenty of exciting hours of play, but the side quests and the DLC missions were also a thrill to play. This game also helped expand the whole Arkhamverse, adding significant details to the lore itself.
As for Spider-Man, it did an equally great job as Arkham Knight, but not in ending a series, but rather in setting it up. There could hardly have been a better “origin” story for this fictional universe than the one we’ve seen in the game, with everything being put in its rightful place.
The writers combined the non-superhero elements with the superhero ones excellently and while Spider-Man also had its fair share of missteps – especially when the side quests were concerned – it was a truly amazing story that, as it seems, did as much for this franchise as Arkham Asylum did for the whole Arkham series.
We cannot declare a winner in this category, as both games are on a very high level and, despite the different approaches, perfect in their own ways.
Arkham Asylum set the pace for the superhero genre when most things are concerned, side quests included. Although it was no original concept, the pace and method of dealing with side quests in the superhero genre were firmly established when Arkhamverse started.
When comparing them directly, Arkham Knight has better side quests and more challenging ones as well. Although some are repetitive, even they have a certain narrative context and add up to a bigger story in the game itself.
But generally speaking, Arkham Knight’s additional missions are diversified and keep your interest, whether it’s just kicking ass with Nightwing or Robin (yes, Arkham Knight added other heroes into the mix to get a better end result) or chasing Dr. Langstrom around the city skyline.
The main problem here is that the side quests are more or less familiar since they use a very similar concept to the side quests in the preceding games in the series.
As for Spider-Man, the main issue with the side quests is that they are overly similar and repetitive. If you’ve done one, you’ve practically done them all, with a few notable exceptions. Sure, you’ll probably play them all to get that mythical 100% completion, but don’t expect much diversity, as is the case with Arkham Asylum.
These side quests will mostly involve you beating the shit out of bad guys, with the overall difficulty of the missions being the only important difference.
Ultimately, we can deduce that Arkham Knight has better side quests because of the diversity of their content and a general benefit for the completion of the whole story; plus, they usually are very fun to play through.
As for Spider-Man, the main issue is the repetitive character of the side quests, i.e., you’ll have the feeling like you’ve played that one not long ago. The only issue with the Arkham Knight side quests is that they are similar to the ones in Asylum, City and Origins.
What were once updates for PC games, today are DLC packs that are released sometime after the original game. Every Arkham game had a DLC pack, as well as the Spider-Man game and we have to state that both offered some great content for the players; it is definitely worth buying them from the PS Store.
As for Batman: Arkham Knight, the game had one major DLC Expansion Pack, “Season of Infamy”, that contained four additional missions and included four additional supervillains – Mad Hatter (second appearance), Killer Croc (third appearance), Ra’s al-Ghul (second appearance) and Mr. Freeze (third appearance, if you count the “Cold, Cold Heart” DLC).
The missions weren’t all equally great (Ra’s’ was a bit boring, while Mr. Freeze’s was a true masterpiece), but they did a great job with expanding the main narrative and wrapping up some lose ends for some of the characters in the series. These missions also added new areas to the game and we can only state that they were worth every dollar.
Spider-Man also had just one DLC – The City that Never Sleeps – which was divided into three chapters: The Heist, Turf Wars, and Silver Lining. These missions added additional story elements, some new locations and finally gave a bigger role to Silver Sable and Black Cat.
And while the story was really, really good, these missions suffered from the same issue as the side quests in the game, and that is that they included too much repetitive fighting, which made the whole experience familiar, which it should not have been.
Both games are identical in this aspect likewise. Namely, despite Arkham Knight having the majestic Mr. Freeze story in its DLC pack and Spider-Man giving a bigger role to Silver Sable and Black Cat, the DLC packs are mostly on the same level and equally good, despite the shortcomings that they might have.
Spider-Man Vs. Batman: Arkham Knight – The Bottom Line
Now, let us compare the two games in table form:
As you can see, the difference between the games – according to our opinion – is very small. The games are equal in almost all aspects, with Spider-Man being the clear winner only in the category of Game Mechanics.
Batman: Arkham Knight has a legacy to live up to, and while it did not disappoint, it did not bring many new things to the whole series. Spider-Man, on the other hand, while not being fully independent of its superhero predecessors, was original and a truly refreshing game in the genre.
This is why we think that Spider-Man offers a slightly better overall experience than Arkham Knight, but we have to stress out that neither of them can compete – not even close – with Arkham City, which is by far the best comic book superhero video game ever.