Batman: Arkham Knight is about escalation. Escalation of threat, by way of the Scarecrow’s choke-hold on the entirety of Gotham City. Even the most A-list comic-book superheroes have gone in and out of vogue over the decades – with one exception: Batman.
Somehow, the Caped Crusader retains a grip on the public imagination which is as steely as ever. But the most surprising aspect of the Batman mythos in recent years has been the emergence of a video-game franchise developed in the unlikely surroundings of London’s Kentish Town as the primary keeper of the Batman flame. Hence the status of Rock-Steady Studios’ Baman Arkham Knight (due to hit the shops on June 23) as one of 2015’s most anticipated games.
Batman confronts the ultimate threat against the city he has been sworn to protect. The Scarecrow returns to congeal an imposing array of super villains, including The Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn, to summarily destroy The Dark Knight. The game introduces Rock-Steady’s uniquely-designed imagining of the Bat-mobile drive-able for the first time in the franchise. Batman: Arkham Knight offers gaming players a complete Batman experience as they rip through the streets and soar across the skyline of the iconic Gotham City. In the build-up to the launch of Arkham Knight, Rock-Steady and publisher Warner Bros held a final hands-on event in London. In keeping with the tantalizing cloak of secrecy in which the game has been wrapped since its development began four years ago, we were only able to play a specially constructed demo from which all elements of Arkham Knight’s main story had been purged. However, the presence of several different types of side and recurring missions still provided a pretty meaty experience, and gave us a pretty good flavor of the sort of joys that will await us next month.
Our first stop on the mission wheel was an encounter with The Penguin – or, at least, his thugs. In Arkham Knight, Cobblepot has set up a load of weapons stashes in Gotham, so it’s up to Batman to destroy them in order to keep those weapons off the streets. Pitching up at such a stash, we first had to work out how to get in (The Penguin has, at least, set up some security) – which involved crashing through a skylight. Then there was a big dollop of the Arkham games’ signature brawling action on offer – with a few new twists.
Firstly, this let us check out the dual-play – in this case, Nightwing was there to assist Batman, and we could switch between them using L1 on the PS4 controller. Both Batman and Nightwing were able to pick up thugs’ weapons, such as baseball bats, and wield them for a while, and we also pulled off some thoroughly satisfying environmental take downs, which require you to be near things like electrical gratings. Rock-Steady, unsurprisingly, hasn’t ripped up the brawling engine and started again – but has made a couple of judicious additions that make it even more fast-paced and fun, and let you and your dual-play partner (Robin also comes into play) take on what would previously have been daunting numbers of enemies. And new-generation console levels of graphical detail, allied to high frame-rates, were much in evidence.
Batman Arkham Knight looks to be the ultimate Arkham game. You get superior graphics, truly seamless gameplay and new tricks, puzzles and the Bat-mobile. 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.