Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel, New Bat-Playground - Hands-On with Batman: Arkham Knight
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 01:02pm 29/05/15 | Comments
AusGamers was invited out to a hands-on play session with a near-complete Batman: Arkham Knight. read on for our full thoughts...
Batman: Arkham Knight presents an interesting conundrum for Batman: Arkham alumni. If, like me, your favourite form of traversal in any game ever, is gliding in Batman, then Arkham Knight’s expansive and vertical Gotham is going to break your jaw -- what with it dropping to the floor each and every time you do it. But -- and this is a huge but -- there’s this new gadget fans have been screaming out for available in the game called the Batmobile, and it’s fucking awesome.
Obviously the thing to do here then is combine the two in ways only Bruce Wayne could imagine, and that’s exactly what Rocksteady has done with Batman: Arkham Knight.
Watch a lengthy piece of complete gameplay from Arkham Knight embedded above
Key to Batman’s success in whatever form he’s presented in, is his readiness for every scenario. Part of that readiness is a synergy between the man and his toys -- everything feels like it belongs, and like so many videogame systems in design, they’re able to be layered to be utilised across the board. It’s why nothing ever feels convenient, and it’s why you always feel all-powerful as the World’s Greatest Detective. So with this in mind, it makes perfect sense that the Batmobile would not only be used to help boost further when gliding, but during combat for takedowns and for expanding Batman’s path where he might not otherwise be able to go -- it even aids him in the apprehension of villains, or the safe delivery of the good guys.
The full extent to which the Batmobile is used throughout the game, and what else it’s capable of, is yet to be revealed, but in a recent hands-on session two things beyond that synergy mentioned above stood out: you’re almost never forced to use the Batmobile, especially in traversal -- how you get around is entirely up to you and, the Riddler Challenge race courses with the Batmobile kick ass.
On another note: holy visual leaps, Batman, Arkham Knight is gorgeous. It’s time in the oven has been worth the wait, and on PS4 it’s one of the stand-out games of this new generation. In fact if there’s any game that’s going to pull me away from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, it’s Batman: Arkham Knight. And while my hands-on session was only roughly two different playthroughs at 15-minutes each, I had a vastly different experience each time, and this is an E3 showfloor demo we’re talking about.
The ideal situation for the floor runners at our event was that we’d eat up some Batmobile time, take on some thugs with Nightwing dropping by to help out and to get a bit of an overview of the size of the game-world. Contextually, most citizens have been evacuated from Gotham because the Scarecrow has rallied the Rogue’s Gallery to take Batman down. It’s Halloween, you see, and with The Joker gone Scarecrow wants to approach the situation differently. How the game sets all of this up post-Arkham City and why any of these villains are no longer locked up and are running amok, is yet to be revealed and I’m frankly happy to wait but with thugs and villains populating the streets, there’s a lot to see and do.
Off the floor runner leash, however, in my second cheeky hands-on, I ignored combat and cars and wanted to see how far I could go in the demo. It lead me to a bridge where I found a gruesome scene: a dead body hung up on a wall in displayed fashion. Detective mode, then. I didn’t get to completely finish this dynamic quest I’d discovered, but the detective component to the game has been bolstered to the nines. There are deeper layers of analysis available now and it looks like it’s going to be a bit harder to extrapolate evidence from crime scenes, which was one of the more easy gameplay components of the last few games. I’m also not going to spoil what the mission entailed or even who it might be related to, I only want to convey that the game’s dark and gruesome tone remains and that we’ll be playing with an expanded detective toolkit this time around.
In combat then, the game is as good as it’s ever been. Each combat sequence feels unbelievably cinematic now, but you’re still always in control of Batman, unless that is, you tag in Nightwing. One of the new gameplay features here will see Batman being able to dance with his crime-fighting partners, and even switch over to them mid-combat. This doesn’t break your multiplayer, either. Rather it’s a new way to earn even more points as you battle to hit large, unbelievable combos. His moveset is expanded, and environmental takedowns return with more context. You can also use certain parts of the environment and pick up pretty much any dropped weapon, including firearms (which he disables, but still uses for blunt force trauma) to continue to lay serious smackdown.
There are also new enemy types, some of which can only be taken out, or initially attacked with a specific move, or evade, but we’ve seen and done this before. It’s just switched up a bit more in Arkham Knight to expand that Batman feeling, and like each game from Rocksteady before it, it’s a silky-smooth experience.
My only minor gripe with the game is that in the menu there’s a mission wheel, where you can choose specific quests now, which sort of felt like it separated things too much. I rarely had a chance to use it, so it’s too early to say and friend of the site Dax Ginn told me it’s there to “give you a sense of what the game-world has to offer” because the studio discovered that with Batman: Arkham City, a lot of people were following the game’s critical path and were missing all the juicy side-quests because those weren’t intrinsic to the main story. The wheel helps integrate the side-quests into the main path this time around though, and I’m to have faith that it will work and is there for the better, according to Dax.
All told I’m a bit concerned for a lot of the other games on show at E3, because none will be as polished or complete as this given it’s out at the end of June and therefore will invariably show everything else up. And if you’ve already watched the gameplay sequence embedded above from the last gameplay video the studio is going to release, you should be able to read this praise as truth and not my own hype. Batman: Arkham Knight is gearing up to be one of the most stylish gameplay experiences around. Batman’s Gotham playground is broodingly gorgeous to behold and its myriad nooks and crannies will prove too much for every wannabe Dark Knight out there, leaving you at the mercy of hours upon hours of gameplay in what is sadly Rocksteady’s final Batman opus. But what an opus it is.
We'll have an interview with Dax coming shortly too, with plenty of Batman information to digest -- and all spoiler-free, so stay tuned.