Batman: Arkham Knight
In less than a month, fans will be able to control the caped crusader once again in Batman: Arkham Knight. I was fortunate enough to get hands-on time with the game at a recent Warner Bros. press event in Santa Monica. Here I experienced the tantalizing world and some of the intriguing things it offers. Two things became immediately evident: Being the Batman never gets old, and Rocksteady continues to make his high-flying antics extremely thrilling.
Grappling The Night Away
I was quickly struck by just how much larger the world feels; the verticality is apparent as buildings soar higher than in previous entries. This makes sense, as Rocksteady has created a world that's five times larger than Arkham City. My immediate impulse is to grapple my way through the large, dark world before me. Everywhere I turn, there seems to be a higher building or cool vantage point to take off from and glide through the city. Similarly, you can just dive off the edge of a building and soar toward the ground at high speeds. While the Batmobile will offer you another way around the big city, this is still about being able to navigate the world using your cape. Rocksteady filled the city with tons of objects to grapple onto, and you can travel seamlessly by grappling from one point to the next with ease.
High-Speed Races With The Batmobile
Rocksteady wasn't going to add the Batmobile without making it interesting mechanically. You can definitely use it to shoot enemies that would otherwise gun down Batman from afar. But where it it earns the most fun is in its intense chases. In one mission, I was tasked with rescuing a firefighter and tracking down the culprit of the fire. It ends up being none other than Firefly. This leads to an intense chase sequence in my Batmobile. Firefly flies above, shooting fire down in the streets to damage and slow me down. While dodging his fire, I boost as much as possible to close the gap between us. If I press square as I turn, I can power slide, building up my boost gauge for longer intervals. This is key to my success. It takes me some time to adjust to the controls and get my timing down to maximize my boosts, but finally getting the hang of it is gratifying in its own right.
Chasing down enemies isn't the only place to satiate the speed demon in you. The Riddler has some timed challenges that mess with your mind, testing your ability to think in the moment. The racing trial I take on tasks me with completing three laps through an obstacle-ridden course before time runs out. The hard part? The Riddler manipulates the course's environment each lap, making it impossible to prepare for what's next. Each obstacle, ranging from closed doors to missing parts of the platform, require timed button presses and quick maneuvering. In some instances, you need to drive up walls to avoid falling to death. I confess this wasn't my calling card; I had many crashes where The Riddler's antics got the best of me. Driving up the side of walls requires boosting at the right moments and the real challenge is not letting your brain get tricked by how fast you need to restore the environment to succeed. One wrong or missed button press and you crash. These challenges are sure to please those who really master the driving mechanics. Alas, that's not me, but I still had fun with every close call and death-defying jump I made with the Batmobile.
Getting Nightwing In On The Action
My favorite part of Rocksteady's Arkham series is the combat. I just love feeling powerful as Batman, knowing I can take on everyone and everything. The engaging combat hasn't changed much, but it does feel smoother than before. Counterattacks are still the best avenue to success, but team takedowns are by far my favorite way to finish off enemies. A team takedown allows Nightwing to swap in for a brutal finisher. You can also swap between Nightwing and Batman at any time, but it's so much more satisfying with a team takedown. Every chance I get, I use a team takedown, alternating between Batman and Nightwing. The animations are ruthlessly divine, and Nightwing definitely packs his own punch with fast attacks. It's like watching a devastating wrestling move or hard hit in hockey.
Investigating Grisly Crimes
Crime is all around Batman. If it wasn't, he'd be out of a job, so expect to have certain quests that call on him to get to the bottom of things. One of these is investigating cruel circumstances, such as murders around the city. I take on a mission where I'm called on to investigate a dead body and find out what happened. Batman is equipped with some pretty nifty tools to make this process much easier. I use the body scanner, which claims that the cause of death is a painkiller overdose, but something still seems awry. The fingerprints have been burned off by acid, making it even harder to identify the body. I resort to my deep-tissue scanner, which allows me to look at the muscle, bones, and skin for leads. Scanning the body to focus on these different areas, I find out more information, such as their past operations, but the most telling clue is a wedding ring lodged deep in the body; the engraving tells me everything I need to know to confirm the identity. These missions are all about spotting the anomaly and piecing things together is interesting as it's never entirely what you expect.
Blowing Things Up
This wouldn't be a Batman game without explosions, and during my time, I made sure to watch a few unfold. One of my missions is to destroy one of the Penguin's weapon caches. I prefer the path of surprise, breaking through the glass from above and ambushing enemies for an attack. After making short work of the baddies, I then get into the safe full of weapons. Using my explosive gel, I get ready to blow up everything in the safe. But it's best I take a few steps away from before I activate it. Watching the safe explode gives me satisfaction; I'm sticking it to the Penguin, after all. You can find his various weapon caches all over the map and keep being a thorn in this side if you wish.
Another exciting place for mayhem is during tank missions, where you launch missiles and strafe away from targets. Rack up enough hits, and you can launch a missile barrage that automatically targets up to three enemies. Tank missions were more fun than I expected; shooting down other tanks is fun and I loved constantly being kept on my toes with the upcoming barrage of attacks.
What has you most excited for Arkham Knight? Let us know in the comments below! And for more on the game, take a look at our coverage hub.