Hands-Off Preview: Batman: Arkham Knight – Poetry in Brutal Motion
Although I went to Warner Bros.’ booth to see a few games, the one I was most excited for was this one right here. Rocksteady Studios came out of nowhere and created the greatest superhero video game franchise with the Batman: Arkham games so you know I was stoked to see the finale to the series first-hand. This game was easily a highlight of E3 for me.
In the demo, the Scarecrow has taken over Ace Chemicals (the same place where Jack Napier became the Joker). He plans to release his patented fear toxin and he has enough of the stuff to cover the eastern seaboard of the United States. Gotham’s finest aren’t able to enter the facility but one man can… a Batman to be precise. The Caped Crusader glides onto the scene to hear what the situation is and then hops into his Batmobile to stop the Scarecrow and his henchmen.
The big new feature of this game is the Batmobile and we got to see all of the various things that it could do. You can think of Batsy’s ride as another tool for him to use. It isn’t just a simple means of conveyance. In the demo, it would create ramps by shooting its own sort of grappling hook into the ground and lifting the concrete up. It was also able to pull itself up the sides of buildings using that same hook. I know, I know… that conjures bad memories of Batman Forever but trust me, it was awesome. Batman can also shoot himself out of the Batmobile to get higher into the air.
The Batmobile was also a dangerous weapon. When not in Pursuit Mode, it would go into Battle Mode which allowed it to attack enemies with firepower (non lethal-ordinance of course). In the demo, we see the Batmobile go up against several automated sentry robots. The part that made me lose my mind was when it started strafing from left to right. So awesome! Like the Bat, the car was an unstoppable force and it made quick work of the automatons.
Inside the chemical factory, Batman had to find and rescue five workers. Traversal in this game is somewhat like it was in the previous games but the added height and scale of the buildings makes it feel different. The buildings in the game are so tall that Batman had to go and upgrade his Batarang which now can set up different grapple points which allow him to seamlessly go up the sides of buildings in one shot.
On his way to find the first prisoner, Batman was rudely interrupted by some of Scarecrow’s thugs. This is where we got to see some of the hand to hand combat that the series has become famous for. Batsy easily took down this large group of bad guys. He was essentially a hurricane and they were the debris being strewn around. This is what you call poetry in motion and what beautifully brutal poetry it was. I especially liked the parts where the game would slow down to show you some extra carnage. Batman may not be a killer but he’s not above snapping a bone or twenty. Even the heavily armored foes didn’t stand a chance.
The big highlight for me was when Batman got to the first prisoner and was caught in a trap by the game’s titular villain, the Arkham Knight. The Knight had his own men point their guns at Batman and he ordered them to shoot if he tries anything. A smile came over my face when I saw Batman press a button on his arm and saw the Batmobile slowly creep up in the background. NO ONE corners Batman and less so in this game.
The Batmobile shot at the glass in front of Batman and it shattered, giving the Caped Crusader the chance to escape and beat the living hell out of the guys who were pointing guns at him. They shot at him but it was to no avail. The cool part was that Batman would uppercut enemies into the air and then the Batmobile would shoot at them to knock them out. The guy demoing the game did this twice just for fun.
One of the smartest decisions that Rocksteady made was to have this game only be on current-gen consoles. It looked freaking gorgeous. Gotham now has that dark beauty that can be seen from the comics. It may be a dark and dreary city but in this game it’s spectacular. The dark sections of the city only serve to highlight the brighter spots. The way the clouds covered the sky and the way the gigantic moon shone through them took my breath away.
The entire demo took place on a rainy night and this effect just made it that much prettier. I liked the way the water would trickle down Batman’s cape and the marks would stay there. The way his armor glistened in the rain was really cool too. The water around Ace Chemicals was some of the best I’ve ever seen in a video game and it looked as if it was reacting to the rain that was dropping on it. I guess you could say that I REALLY liked the water in this game.
Rocksteady made lightning strike twice with their last two Arkham games and it looks like they are set to do it a third time. This demo, more than any other, made me feel the frustration of not being able to play it. It was like being inside of a strict gentlemen’s club where I couldn’t touch the good stuff. The fact that its been delayed until next year is aggravating, but I trust the team and know that this decision was made for the betterment of the game.