The Batman is back. And this time, he’s got wheels.
Of course, Batman: Arkham Knight, the third and final game in Rocksteady Studios’ best-in-class superhero trilogy (the last installment, Arkham Origins, was not developed by Rocksteady), is about a lot more than riding around in the Batmobile. It’s about the Caped Crusader saving Gotham from The Scarecrow, who has turned the city into an evacuated ghost town after threatening to infect its citizens with fear gas. It’s about criminals and vengeance and justice and people dressing up in ridiculous outfits to do ridiculous things.
But mostly, it’s about the Batmobile, because in Arkham Knight, the Batmobile is a thing of beauty and terror.
We’ve seen hundreds of Batmobile treatments over the years, from the campy to the menacing to the downright ugly. Arkham Knight’s take on the famous vehicle, designed in conjunction with DC Comics, distills these things into a slick, bruising battering ram that turns the streets of Gotham into Batman’s personal playground.
During a thirty-minute demo at the Game Developer’s Conference, brand manager Dax Ginn and partner-in-crime-fighting Gaz Deaves (who together present the most imposing name combo in all of gaming) showed how Batman’s famous steed plays into the action.
Batman can summon his car from anywhere on Gotham’s enormous map (it’s the biggest video game version of the city thus far), flipping into the air and hopping directly into the driver’s seat without skipping a beat. The car is nigh indestructible, as evidenced by Gaz driving the thing through traffic cones, cement barricades, stop signs, garbage bins, lamp posts, other cars, trees, and pretty much anything else that isn’t a building or Gotham Bay. The sense of destruction is stunning. They should rename this game Batman: Property Damage.
The Batmobile offers gamers a new way to explore Gotham, as in past games most of the good stuff happened up on the rooftops. With the emphasis on street level traversal, Rocksteady has upped the level of detail significantly. Yes, they’ve once again whipped up a story that conveniently clears Gotham of its pesky citizens (and clears the way for a steady framerate, though the demo had some issues), but Gotham still feels denser and more lived-in than the empty museum atmosphere of last year’s somewhat disappointing Batman: Arkham Origins.
Batman’s still Batman, though. An eject button will launch Batman out of the Batmobile, sending him high into the air to glide around Gotham. Gamers will still leap from ledges and “fly” across the city to reach objectives. Batman still fights gangs of thugs effortlessly and has picked up a few new tricks, like the ability to steal and use enemy weapons. This is an Arkham game through and through.
It’s also the debut of a brand new Batman villain. He’s called the Arkham Knight, a gun-toting, armored plated riff on Batman created specifically for the game. It’s unclear if he’s actually another villain in disguise, a disgruntled lover, some pissed-off street cleaning guy, or just another maniac, but comic book fans will be alternately stoked and shocked that the game is daring to go off script and introduce some new lore to the franchise. Considering the sheer awesomeness of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, it certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Besides, fans will be universally thrilled to hear that Kevin Conroy, inarguably the best Batman ever, returns to voice the Dark Knight. The gang’s all here, for that matter: fresh off his spectacular turn as The Joker in Arkham Orgins, Troy Baker will voice Two Face, while Origins Batman Roger Craig-Smith will take on the role of The Penguin.
But the real stars are Batman, his car, and the city he’s destined to save. Rocksteady has high hopes Arkham Knight, and having seen it in action, I do, too. Look for more revelations before the game releases for the Xbox One, PS4 and PC in October.
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