Yes, Batman: Arkham Knight is that pretty. Sitting down in a closed-off room on the showfloor of E3 2014, I had a developer from Rocksteady Studios telling me about the game’s new features like the absolutely enormous Gotham City (another 10-fold increase from Arkham City) that “could not be done on PS3 or 360,” or the brand-new villain Arkham Knight, but I could barely hear him. It had nothing to do with the volume of the speakers strapped to my ears, and everything to do with how gorgeous this game is in action. I was sure the trailers and screenshots had to be doctored, prettied up somehow, or pre-rendered, but they’re not. That’s all real-time rendering (I played on a PlayStation 4), and it’s the best-looking game I’ve ever played on a home console. All images in this article are presented in 1920x1080, and are accurate representations of how the game looks live. Really.
But hey, how about that gameplay? At its core, this is clearly an Arkham game, made by Rocksteady. The core gameplay of gliding, climbing through grates, and attacking with freeflow combat are all present and accounted for, and all play like a polished, well-oiled machine. Yes, this is the definitive Batman experience, and everything is intact. But wait, as they say… there’s more.
As the shock of the graphics, which genuinely look like you’re playing a cinematic sequence out in real time, wore off ever-so-slightly, I took control of Batman in this, his last adventure from Rocksteady. After a light bit of gliding around and one quick fight, it was time to hop in the Batmobile. Calling it via remote, the driving machine comes spinning into view. Gaining my mission from Jim Gordon, there are five workers being held hostage in Ace Chemicals, and the Arkham Knight has an army there, to boot. The mission is early on in the game – Batman doesn’t quite know what to make of the Arkham Knight just yet, and we’re about to see one of their absolute earliest encounters.
The Batmobile is front-and-center in the gameplay demo. While I did have the opportunity to check out a few new combat moves, like the (finally) ability to take weapons away from enemies then use things like bats and pipes against your foes, or the new “Fear Takedown” which allows Batman to get the upper-hand on multiple foes when emerging form the shadows, perfect for taking out multiple armed enemies in quick, one-hit succession.
However, as said, it was really all about the Batmobile. The ultimate weapon, the vehicle is used for combat in the tank-like Battle mode, for transport (especially across long gaps) in the much larger city, and also for puzzle solving, something much less glamorous (and you won’t see in trailers), but ultimately more interesting and entertaining than slightly-generic tank battles. Using a winch to pull things – from the ground to a pipe valve to an elevator – around with the Batmobile makes it seem like more than just a vehicle, but rather an extension of the Batman himself. Using the vehicle’s remote, you can also shoot suppressors at larger groups of enemies, or if it has line-of-site, you can do Batmobile takedowns, where you launch an enemy into the air and let the suppression auto-fire take him down with ease. It’s fun, it’s impressive, and it adds new life to the game’s already easily most praised combat in the industry.
The mysterious Arkham Knight was only teased in the demo, but he came off as imposing and cocky, ready to dismantle the Bat. He tells Batman with all certainty that he is going to win, Gotham will be his, and Batman will die, and there’s just something in his mannerisms that makes you believe him, if only for a moment. Kevin Conroy’s trademark gruff response to the question of “what’s a matter, Batman, trying to figure out how you can run away?” is of course, “No, I’m trying to decide which one of you to take down first,” and hope is instantly restored.
It is remarkable, knowing that Batman: Arkham Knight has been pushed back to the nebulous 2015 release, to see how far this game and franchise has come. From genuinely stunning graphics, to improvements to each sector of an already strong base, to an intriguing new villain and an exciting new mega-gadget, this is a game I would willingly play without the polish and bug-reduction an extra few months of development can provide, and would love it. Give this team an extra third or half of a year to make every moment the same quality as the half an hour or so I got to spend on it this week? We’re going to have ourselves the best Batman game ever, and quite possibly one of the best Batman adventures ever in any medium.