Batman: Arkham Knight, Preview

When Rocksteady and Warner Bros. released Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009, they struck digital oil. The series rapidly established itself as one of the defining IPs of last generation, and with next year’s  Arkham Knight  the series is being catapulted into a new generation of hardware. And it shows. Hands-on time with Arkham Knight was, to be frank, one of the best experiences I had at Gamescom 2014. About five minutes into my time with the game (I think it must have been the individual beads of water that were dripping down Batman’s cowl thanks to Gotham’s relentless rain) I had this wonderful realisation: here was the “next-gen” everyone had been crowing about.

“I got a bristle of excitement realising that this one are a essentially represented just a single building in the whole of Gotham City”
With Ernest Zamora, the game’s senior producer, seated next to me, I settled in for a guided hands on with one of 2015’s most anticipated titles. “So this is Batman’s new Batsuit,” Zamora told me he had spotted me staring at the new Batman. “It’s got segmented armour so it’s lighter, more durable, stronger. The segments allow him a greater degree of movement that he didn't have before. And what that does is it allows for him in  Arkham Knight  to be even more dangerous… if you can believe that!” It wasn't long before I did believe that.

Our mission was to infiltrate an ACE Chemical plant that had been taken over by Arkham Knight and his army. The eponymous enemy has a large army by his side complete with high tech tanks and men with lots of guns. At Scarecrow’s behest, Arkham Knight had overrun the chemical plant so that Scarecrow could use it to produce a new fear toxin. Familiar elements immediately appeared: we used the grapnel gun to scale the walls, but Rocksteady has added the concept of Seamless Grapple: “because Arkham Knight is so much more vertical,” Zamora explained, “we’ve got a better way to navigate where we’re able to chain those grapples together rather than stopping on each level and grappling up.” 

With the courtyard of ACE Chemicals thoroughly occupied by tanks, we opted to access a computer terminal to gain further intel. It was being guarded by three soldiers, but with Batman making use of floor level grates we were able to sneak up on them. I then got a taste of another new feature: the Scare Takedown. This allows you (as in previous games) to burst out of grates to take down an enemy in slow motion, while this is happening you can now swivel the camera to tag a second and third enemy for Batman to take out in quick succession. A more dangerous Batman indeed.

With a terminal hacked and Oracle granted access, we soon learnt that a number of engineers had been taken prisoner. There was no telling where however, and the only thing to do was to reach the tallest part of the structure to use another one of Batman’s new gadgets: the Bat Scanner Batarang. Flinging one of these gadgets out from our new perch resulted in the camera pulling away from Batman and bringing the entire ACE Chemical plant into view. The hulking structure loomed in the pouring rain as the Bat Scanner looped the perimeter. We were looking for signal blips that we could then tag to pinpoint the location of each hostage. “Look at how small Batman is up there,” Zamora said, pointingto a minute Bats perched on top of the ACE plant; the scale in this game is staggering, and I got a bristle of excitement realising that this one area essentially represented just a single building in the whole of Gotham City.

Fortunately, one of the hostages was just below us, so we leapt off the building and glided down towards a window. In true Bats fashion we just smashed straight through it and rolled seamlessly into combat with a handful of guards. Combat feels just as good as previous titles, but the animation and choreography is far more detailed. With the guards unconscious we soon turned to see that the first hostage was already dead. It wasn't all for nought, however, as this room contained the switch to open the main gate to the plant.

It was time to bring in the Batmobile. Batman’s ride is a monster a hulking mass of black metal and burning rubber ready to expunge crime from the streets of Gotham. Holding the left trigger causes the vehicle to shift and morph in segments until it rides taller and protrudes a cannon. This is Battle mode. Releasing the left trigger puts the Batmobile into Pursuit mode. It handles exceptionally well, with Battle mode allowing you to strafe left and right and Pursuit mode allowing you to control the vehicle like you would any other car in a racing game.

Controlling the vehicle remotely, I ramped into the ACE Chemicals courtyard and proceeded to lay waste to Arkham Knight’s unmanned tanks, they exploded in glorious detail, showering particle effects around the courtyard. With the tanks out of the way, Bats swooped down and entered the Batmobile. Guards were nowno match thanks to the vehicle’s rubber bullet riot cannon, no killing, remember ?

It was during the second hostage rescue attempt that Arkham Knight made an appearance. He is, for all intents and purposes, Batman’s doppelganger, his opposite extremity, an evil double. The character himself (which has been made specifically for Arkham Knight ) is all about killing Batman. He comes across as sinister a character drunk on the power that his military might and technological advancements have given him. He’s also wonderfully detailed, with the glowing blue lights of his HUDshining ever so slightly through the glass of his suit's visor. We were only allowed a moment with him during the hands on, but that moment has certainly piqued my interest. There’s a revenge story in here somewhere, and I’m looking forward to unravelling it.

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