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What is Batman: Arkham Knight?
Batman: Arkham Knight is the final instalment in the Batman Arkham series. It sees our favourite superhero at the peak of his fitness, with the best technology at his disposal.
Warner Bros. Entertainment and developer Rocksteady have made the decision to launch this game only on Xbox One, PS4 and PC, meaning they can focus on delivering the best Batman game we’ve seen to date in terms of graphics, gameplay. Oh, and it has the Batmobile.
Taking place a year after the events of Batman: Arkham City, the city of Arkham hasn’t recovered from Joker’s devastation. Scarecrow has stepped into role of head villian, but the eponymous Arkham Knight seems to be the most interesting character, especially from the gameplay footage we saw at E3 2014. He's a baddie, in case you're wondering.
Although we don’t know his identity yet or much of his backstory as he is a character specifically designed for the game by Geoff Johns, writer of Green Lantern, Justice League and Aquaman.
From the looks of the gameplay footage we saw, he hates Batman with a searing passion and knows Batman’s personality like the back of his hand. We only got to see him in one short cutscene, but he'll play a major part in he story.
As for the cutscenes, don’t expect to see any loading screens to drag you out of the moment. Throughout our 40-minute preview, we were never taken out of the game.
In fact, the head of character design at Rocksteady assured me gamers will get seamless gameplay, with not one loading screen throughout the entirety of Batman: Arkham Knight.
To help make a totally seamless game work, the useful info usually provided in cutscenes is weaved into the game itself. Now, Batman has a little projected screen that pops up when he lifts his right arm. Characters like the Oracle and Jim Gordon can communicate with him in this manner, making sure you get that cutscene experience without the jarring effect of an actual breakaway section. Plus, it just adds to the feeling that Batman has a new array of technology at his command for this last Arkham game.
As the first Batman Arkham game designed for Xbox One and PS4, Rocksteady has been able to fit the entire city of Gotham into Arkham Knight. Although our gameplay session was based in the Ace Factory, as Batman tries to rescue five workers captured by Scarecrow, there was an obvious sense of scale with even this small location.
As well as being five times bigger than Arkham City, Arkham Knight offers much grander structures to scale too. Just taking a look around in game, buildings are noticeably a lot taller than in previous Arkham games. They make traversing the city a lot more complicated. However, the new chain grapple does help you scale those heights quicker as it automatically connects several grapple connections to launch you to the buildings’ lofty peaks without you having to make the moves yourself.
It wasn’t clear whether it’ll be raining 24/7 in Arkham Knight, but it definitely was throughout the section we played. And Rocksteady has put a lot of effort into its behaviour.
The rain runs in little streams down Batman’s cape and actually leaves track marks that stain the material for a while. Your cape also picks up dirt and blood from combat, adding a new realism element to the series. Plus it's a way to show off the new PS4/Xbox One hardware.
Speaking of combat, Rocksteady has made sure the fighting in Arkham Knight is even slicker than in the previous Batman games. You can now glide straight out of the Batmobile and into combat using the ejector sea. And you can dive through glass windows or skylights straight into battle.
It’s all about seamless transitions in Arkham Knight, and you can even glide straight into grates and crawl into enemy bases with the push of a button, rather than having to make several individual commands. It all feels a lot more natural.
Arkham Knight's new environmental takedowns lets you slam enemies’ heads into control panels and into pipes to take them out of the action, rather than just punching and kicking them out cold - of course, not killing them, as it’s still Batman. This adds another level to the combat that really mixes up the gameplay, as we’ve often found the free-flow combat of the Arkham games gets a little repetitive when you’ve been playing for a while.
There’s also a new enemy type known as the combat master. He’s fast and deadly and one of the better matches for Batman, so missing those lightning counter prompts above their heads can be very costly for Batman.
Of course, we haven’t even touched on the Batmobile and how it affects the Arkham Knight gameplay. Batman’s car, which is coming to the Arkham series for the first time has two distinct modes. The first is Pursuit mode, which gives you a sleek, streamlined vehicle with a turbo mode to let you get from A to B quicker.
The second we used a lot more in the demo: Battle Mode. By holding down the left trigger, the Batmobile enters Battle Mode, adding more armour, heavy weapons with targeted sights and rubber bullets for taking out guards. Special tyres let you strafe, moving from side to side to move with precision, which is handy when maneouvering around narrower parts of the map as well as attacking enemies.
Arkham Knight’s enemy roster now includes small militarised tanks with varying degrees of power and protection. You’ll need to use the Batmobile’s cannons and special weapons to take these out, as Batman himself is useless against them, or so it seems in the demo.
You can use the Batmobile’s weapons remotely or while Batman in the car. We used them to take out a room of goons from quite a distance, helping Batman get inside the building without having to enter into hand-to-hand combat. It's a tactical weapon, not just a vehicle.
You’ll also need the Batmobile’s winch to help solve puzzles. We used it to break a pipe spilling out poisonous gases blocking Batman’s path, by using it remotely. You can do this by pressing down on the D-pad and selecting the Batmobile. This then transports the camera into the Batmobile, with a helpful bat-shaped marker letting you know where Batman is nearby.
This adds another layer to the puzzle-solving in Batman: Arkham Knight too, as you’ll need to use the Batmobile’s winch and weapons, either remotely or with Batman, to access new areas in the game.
For example, we needed to shoot through a suspiciously broken-looking wall to access the weight of a broken down lift. The winch was then used to drag back the weight, raising the lift so that Batman could jump inside. You could then lower the lift to underground levels with Batman inside using the Batmobile. This was no doubt one of the simpler puzzles too, so you'll definitely have to wrack your brains in later puzzles that will really test this dual-control system.
Rocksteady hasn’t forgotten about Detective Mode either. It’s now accessible via the D-Pad rather than the face buttons as in the previous games. From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Arkham Knight’s Detective Mode offers the same level of detail as before. Perhaps this will extend further as the game develops, but for now we’re seeing no new improvements here.
Batman: Arkham Knight looks to be the ultimate Arkham game. You get superior graphics, truly seamless gameplay and new tricks, puzzles and the Batmobile. It’s one of the best-looking and most impressive games we’ve seen at E3. This could be one of the defining fourth-generation console games.
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