The latest of the Rocksteady produced saga of open world vigilante crime fighting is soon to be upon us with Batman Arkham Knight, and the Batmobile is ready to ride us into a butt-kicking frenzy.
To start with you will be presented with familiar and comforting sight of gritty gothic visuals amidst a sweeping sprinkle of rain and enough wind to unfurl your cape pleasingly. You ride in to the game in the Batmobile with a load of violent gusto and start looking for the new villain of this piece, the Arkham Knight.
The crazy combo super fighting still feels as effortless and as pleasing as ever along with a few new things thrown in to the mix. Using the environment to incapacitate enemies is fun but the best is the new and easy button combination to make the Batmobile get involved in the fun by gunning down a guy you throw in the air to receive bullets.
The Batmobile itself is very easy to drive. Although it does feel as if the brake/reverse controls aren’t where they naturally should be. Once you use the new click wheel selection to get to it, you have two options: drive it like a car complete with afterburner, or into a warthog-esque bumper car with guns and missiles, which require charging up. You also have a very cool tow cable which adds a brand new element to the game. Pulling down walls and doors to make way for your incoming pain arrival which also allows for some cool driving and, my favourite, being able to exit the Batmobile and mid-flight start unleashing fury and then jump back in as the car is moving away. It makes for some excellent cinematic crazy set pieces like jumping a ramp as you’re re entering the car and hitting the after burner. You can even dodge the incoming volley of attacks with a quick retro thruster burst.
The demo we played started with the Batmobile arriving outside the ACE Chemicals Plant and after a short reconnaissance and a few rounds with a couple of human punchbags, you get attacked by a big helicopter destroying the only bridge to the plant. A helicopter piloted by none other than the Arkham Night. A guy who bears more than a passing resemblance to Batman if he wore Mass Effect colours. A guy who takes orders from a very static fuzzed up telecommunication from Scarecrow. So begins your journey to rescue hostages, stop Scarecrow from releasing his crazy toxin across the East Coast of America and find out who this guy is brightening up your suit, but not your day.
Of course a lot of the focus on this game is how the next generation of consoles handle it. The answer is of course very well indeed. The frame rate works very well at bringing the smooth cinematic presentation to the screen whilst getting those all important kick ass moments that you make yourself. In fact when we played it, we hit a combination of jumping down, calling the Batmobile, slipping in nicely whilst in motion, hitting the afterburner and moving forward without even stopping and almost making a jump. The team around us squealed with excitement and the smoothness of it was thanks to the frames.
Graphically the Arkham series has always nailed lighting and this edition to the franchise is no exception. The shine of water both on the the ground and on the characters reflects beautifully in the light in stark contrast the the dour gothic colours of Gotham and the neon lights of the factories. The water reflects the lights in office buildings as well surrounding the further playable three islands. It might be the first game where, thanks to the Batmobile, you might just want to cruise around and soak it up, rather than fly around.
We have to wait until 2015 for the game to grace our consoles and it will be worth the wait, after some final polishing. But one thing is for sure, the franchise is nearly six years old and the one thing it still is is fun. There are a lot of AAA games franchises that can’t say that and the way the games have developed, got bigger but kept the games, the characters, the story and the visuals both entertaining, gorgeous and fun says a lot to the promise of Arkham Knight come next year.