By Renan Fagalde
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - After months of delay and some high-profile glitches, "Batman: Arkham Knight" has finally hit gamers' screens around the world. But was it worth the wait?
The fourth installment in the Arkham series sees the Dark Knight more tortured than ever as he seeks to rid his beloved Gotham of crime and tyranny, and it is a worthy finale.
In a sign of the evolution of videogames, and their burgeoning budgets, the visual artistry and storyline are better than many Hollywood movies.
And the gameplay, while not innovative, nicely refines features from previous episodes of a franchise that reinvented the comic-book crusader in videogames, much as Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy did in films.
To the uninitiated, Arkham refers to Arkham Asylum, a prison that has housed the city's most infamous villains and around which the series is centered.
The new game takes up the story of Batman about a year after the events of "Arkham City". The demise of the Joker has left a power vacuum in Gotham's underworld and the remaining supervillains form a somewhat tentative alliance, led by Scarecrow, to eliminate their nemesis.
Among the sinister syndicate is the eponymous Arkham Knight, an original character created for the game.
The final chapter in the critically acclaimed series, published by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, has been under the industry spotlight for months. It had originally been scheduled for release last October, but was pushed back because developer Rocksteady Studios wanted more time.
Even after release it was plagued by technical issues which prompted a temporary suspension of all PC sales, and led to some complaints about glitches and crashes from PlayStation 4 and Xbox One users.
Nevertheless, the graphics are a sight to behold.
Arkham Knight is an "open-world" game - where players can roam at will through the virtual landscape and have freedom to choose how and when they approach objectives - while an overriding main mission keeps the pace frantic.
This freedom allows you to explore and appreciate the incredible detail of the gothic-style city and its denizens.
Combat flow and the variation of moves are better than the previous games, and there are enough side missions to ensure hours of play time, even if some are a bit bland and repetitive. And the Batmobile is a blast.
On the downside, boss battles - end-of-level fights against the biggest bad guys - that were a feature in the previous titles are sorely missed. Many of this edition's encounters involve wave after wave of thugs.
But it is the writers who deserve the greatest accolades for a plot which masterfully ends the series and - without giving too much away - sees the Bat win and lose before the night is out.
(Renan Fagalde is a Reuters employee. The views expressed are his own)
(Editing by Pravin Char and Larry King)