Preview: Batman: Arkham Knight

Warning: This preview may contain minor spoilers. One of next year’s most anticipated titles so far for many gamers is without a doubt Rocksteady’s long-awaited Batman: Arkham Knight, which puts the franchise back into the hands of its original helmers for one final time, and the presentation I got to see at Gamescom definitely put my hype level over 9000! (I recorded no footage as WB Games/Rocksteady had pretty strict rules about pictures and video, which I of course chose to follow.)

We were shown a pretty hefty percentage of a story mission, which guessing by the dialogue and events doesn’t take place too far into the game. The demo was around 10 to 15 minutes long and showcased many of the new features Arkham Knight introduces into the franchise.The demo began with a cutscene which basically briefed us about the situation, and possibly set up some pretty critical in the game itself. The Arkham Knight seems to have his initial introduction in the opening cutscene, and his dialogue basically confirms that he’s working together with Batman’s rogue gallery hellbent on ending him once and forever. His initial reveal is quite intense, and his look resembles a highly militarized version of Batman, with a bit of Iron Man thrown into the mix. His design along with the voice performance created quite an intimidating image, and without a doubt his introduction will get players interested in his characters right from the start. The Scarecrow is also re-introduced in voice only in this particular sequence.

One of the first new features of the game was the Bat-Scanner, which utilizes the Batarang with an environmental scanner that can locate objectives and characters. The player uses the gadget to find the hostages he is required to save, and is given waypoints their locations after using the scanner. The presenter did not explicitly mention whether the scanner can locate enemies, though I expect its uses will be context-based during story missions.

Traversal and general gameplay should come natural for returning players as a lot of it remains unchanged for Arkham Knight, but little refinements and new mechanics add a lot more to the deadliness of Batman as a player-controlled character. For general combat environmental kills are introduced, where the player can use his surrounds to take down his enemies, should the environment provide such possibilities to the players of course. Batarangs also seem to have been changed around a little bit, as the player seemed to be able to throw them at his enemies in mid-air after being launched out of the Batmobile.

Speaking of the Batmobile, this awesome piece of machinery definitely got its time to shine during this live gameplay and showcased one or two new features of its arsenal, which are relevant in its uses both whilst driving and external combat. One of the first new features introduced here was a grappling hook the vehicle can use to pull and destroy certain environmental features to create ramps or other ways to continue to the next area.

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The other new feature introduced here is actually relevant after its use, and introduces Batmobile-take downs to the mix. This feature wasn’t verbally acknowledged, but the UI showcased combat bonuses prior to the player launching out of the Batmobile itself. The bonus is given out for any continuous combat directly after using the Batmobile. It’s a small feature/mechanic, but none the less relevant to detail the refined combat system of Arkham Knight, which seems to have improved heavily on the animation front as well. The game also has a suggestion feature for combat to suggest moves and options depending on the context of the combat situation.

Vehicular combat was also a focus, but they didn’t showcase many features that we haven’t seen in the released gameplay online. (A note for a complaint made by some Batman fans a while back, the Batmobile only fires lethally at unmanned vehicles, it uses non-lethal weapons for human infantry. Battle mode, a feature revealed in the E3 footage was also very prominent in the footage, and seemed incredibly effective at both unmanned and manned enemies.

Visually Batman: Arkham Knight looks like one of the most visually impressive games I’ve seen so far this generation, especially considering its open-world nature. Gotham City is shown in all of its dark and gritty glory and interior scenes look just as amazing thanks to the refined lighting engine of the game. The build initially seemed to be running on PS4 due to button prompts, but sources indicate the build was running on PC whilst being played with wired PS4 controllers, so unfortunately there has yet to be any footage of the game running on console-based hardware. The game did seem to be running without a single glitch, and everything seemed to work as it was supposed to.

Arkham Knight seems to be a positive evolution of the Arkham franchise in every sense of the term, and introduces the franchise to a new generation where Rocksteady has received a lot more power to work with, and every single frame of the demo showcased how much work Rocksteady has put into this amazing looking title.

Batman: Arkham Knight will be released on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One early next year.