Fans, myself included, were largely underwhelmed with Arkham Origins when it was first released. It’s not that the narrative was lacking – because it wasn’t – but rather that it was perhaps a little too familiar. Within that familiarity though was a problem. While it looked much the same as the last one, it just felt slightly off. Arkham Knight, too, brings with it the air of familiarity…only it feels perfect.
As as the demo began, it was instantly familiar, with Kevin Conroy’s Batman standing over Gotham. What’s immediately striking though, is the resplendent level of detail that permeates everything. Next gen rain lashes against Batman’s tech-augmented, upgraded batsuit. It’s now segmented, allowing for greater degrees of movement. You can see the wind rippling under his cape as he glides, fine nicks and scratches on his metallic armour, and the fine mesh in his cowl.
Naturally, Commissioner Gordon is need of a little assistance. An Ace Chemicals plant has been invaded and taken over by the titular Arkham Knight. He and his army of goons have captured a couple of plant workers and wreaked havoc within the plant. A character of Rocksteady’s own design,The Arkham Knight presents himself as the Batman’s greatest threat. Following the return of the Scarecrow, he sets out to torment the great detective on a long Halloween night that will take the adventure out in to Gotham’s deserted streets.
So the Arkham Knight has an army, but Batman has something else; The Batmobile. While it’s primary use is for getting around Gotham’s huge city – 5 times the size of Arkham City – it also comes in to play in combat, exploration and puzzle solving. Players are able to remotely control the Batmobile, summoning it for use a vehicle from just about anywhere in Gotham. He can then, either from within its cockpit, or via remote control, use it to blow holes in walls, use its winch to pull down bits of the environment or use it to hail rubber bullets (Batman’s still averse to killing people) on unsuspecting foes.
Of course, it can – and will – be used offensively as well, with its guns and rockets useful in destroying the remote-controlled drone tanks that pepper the environment. A simple button press and the Batmobile rather beautifully transitions from being a vehicle designed for transport, to a tank in its own right.
You can even use the Batmobile as part of your free-flow combat, using its guns as part of your expanded arsenal, and adding to the inventive ways you can expand on your combos. New environmental takedowns add to the combat system, allowing the already refined system to flow with a new brutality.
Batman’s stealthy approach has been augmented with a new system of Fear Takedowns. It allows Batman to take out up to three foes that are in close proximity. Spring out from the shadows and you’ll frighten the wits out of all three, allowing you to take them all out in rapid succession, one after the other as the game slows time.
It’s ultimately familiar, but refined to perfection – with the added sheen afforded by its forsaking the old consoles. I was frankly in awe at the minutiae; the level of detail in the smallest things. It’s the minutiae I’m looking most forward to losing myself in.