We called shotgun in the Batmobile for a preview of Batman: Arkham Knight

If the Gotham City of the Arkham games were a real place, insurance premiums alone would be crippling. After multiple, devastating attacks on Batman’s city that threatened thousands and caused multiple evacuations, Gotham must be an awful, awful place to live. It’s only going to get worse when we return once more in Batman: Arkham Knight. But Gotham’s plight is our gain.

We had the chance to check out Batman: Arkham Knight at GDC 2014, and developers from Rocksteady were on hand to play us through a section. By their own words, this is the end of their Arkham trilogy. Others might take up the mantle just as Warner Bros. Games Montreal did with Batman: Arkham Origins, but this will be Rocksteady’s final outing with the Caped Crusader.

But while this might be the last Rocksteady Arkham game, it is marked by firsts. It will be the first of the series to appear on next-gen consoles. It will be the first Arkham game to offer a controllable Batmobile, which changes the way you approach Gotham City. It will also be the first appearance of the original, new villain that Batman will face off with. If this really is Rocksteady’s last Arkham game, it’s looking like they will go out on a high note.

Story

American Gothic. Batman: Arkham Knight takes place one year after the events of Arkham City, which left a power vacuum in Gotham’s underworld. Batman is at the height of his abilities when Scarecrow returns to Gotham to threaten the citizens with a potentially devastating chemical attack. The average Gothamite is probably used to fleeing in terror at this point, which leaves the city overrun by thugs and psychos.

At this point in their relationship, Batman and Commissioner Gordon are partners, and the two work together to stop Scarecrow’s threat. Unbeknownst to the Commish, Batman is also helped along by his daughter Barbara Gordon, AKA Oracle. This Oracle is modeled off of the character prior to the recent DC reboot. She lives and works out of the Gotham Clocktower and deals in information, and like her earlier comic source, she is confined to a wheelchair. Barbara Gordon has appeared in the games before, but this is the first time we’ve actually seen, and not just heard her. In a knowing nod to longtime Batman fans, in order to access her lair you need to hit a switch hidden inside a bust of William Shakespeare (just like Adam West used to). Rocksteady knows its Batman.

Batman Arkham Knight

Knightfall. While the games are, of course, based on the DC Comics, Arkham Knight features one completely original character known as, well, the Arkham Knight. In the demo we were shown, Batman investigates a location rumored to be used by Scarecrow. Shortly after arriving, he is attacked by the mysterious, new enemy. The demo ended with the Knight standing above a stunned Batman with a gun pointed at him, claiming “this ends tonight.”

There is a much bigger story beyond just the Scarecrow’s threat, and it all seems to center on this new character. When we pressed the devs on whether or not the person inside the Knight costume was someone we might know from either DC or the previous game, they were mum. That might be significant or a bit of misdirection. In either case, let the speculation begin!

Gameplay

Batman Returns. The core mechanics of the Arkham franchise return, and while there are some new tricks, the gameplay should be instantly familiar to fans. You once again return to the open world of Gotham, where gliding and grappling are the most common means of transportation. However, now you can use your gadgets while gliding, which opens up several new possibilities. You can now fire off ziplines to land on, or throw batarangs when descending on enemies. It’s something we’ll have to experiment with, but it adds a new level of depth to traversing Gotham.

Batman Arkham Knight

The combat is also mostly the same, and once again relies on combos and counters. You now have the ability to throw enemies though, and you can also take their weapons and use them to a limited degree. It expands the combat without changing what has become one of the identifying features of the series.

Introducing the Batmobile. Without question, the most notable change between Arkham Knight and the previous games is the introduction of the Batmobile. In terms of looks, Rocksteady’s Batmobile is a cross between Tim Burton’s and Christopher Nolan’s from their respective films. It’s one part hot rod, one part tank. It’s also bulletproof and apparently indestructible (at least from what we saw in the demo), and it can easily take out other cars, the occasional bit of debris, and specific walls.

It is also fast, and can be called at any time. When summoned, the Batmobile initiates autopilot and comes to you. Batman can also launch himself out of the vehicle like a catapult, switch to the traditional glide and grapple methods, then meet the Batmobile, which can track you from the ground when you choose for it to do so.

There are complete sections of the game dedicated to the Batmobile, including car chases that use the Batmobile’s bevy of gadgets (including rockets), and side missions like Riddler’s puzzle races, which require you to drive a course under a time limit while remotely operating doors in front of you in the proper sequence. We only saw a small section, but the Batmobile seems to play a major role in the game.

Presentation

Gotham unbound. The new Gotham is big – very big. According to Rocksteady, the game is 20 times larger than that of Arkham Asylum in terms of real estate. Gotham is also broken up into districts, with each district featuring its own look and feel. The next-gen graphics make the city look amazing, as rain and lightning help to highlight the use of color and light throughout the city. As Batman you operate at night, but that doesn’t mean Gotham is dark. Far from it.

Batman Arkham Knight

The Dark Knight Returns. Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman in dozens of animated and video game properties including Rocksteady’s previous Arkham games, returns to the role. Further announcements regarding the cast will be made in the next few months.

Conclusion

By introducing its own, unique character into the Batman universe, Rocksteady may be risking the alienation of fans by stepping away from the established DC universe. We’ll still have several familiar faces to punch, including Two Face, Penguin, Harley Quinn, and more, but the main villain – as evidenced by the title of the game – is a creation of Rocksteady. The developer has earned the right to take that risk though, and so far there’s no reason to think it won’t pay off big.

(Images and video © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

Features

From NES to PlayStation, retro gaming is booming. But will it last?

Everyone craves the good old days, and companies like Nintendo and Sony are cashing in with their mini versions of beloved retro consoles. But is this fad built to last or will our fixation with pixelated graphics come and go like mom…
Gaming

The best PS3 games of all time

Choosing the right PlayStation 3 game can be a conundrum, especially when there are nearly 1,500 titles to choose from. Thankfully, we've rounded up the best games to have ever made it to the platform.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Gaming

Everything we know about 'Anthem', including new details on Javelin classes

BioWare announced an upcoming action role-playing game called 'Anthem' at EA Play 2017. Here's everything we know about the game so far, including gameplay, DLC, and when you'll be able to play it.
Gaming

The best free-to-play games you can play right now

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.
Gaming

‘Blockchain gaming’ startup gets $16 million in Series A funding

A gaming startup, Mythical Games, has raised $16 million in Series A funding to work on their concept of blockchain gaming. The aim is for the startup to develop games for the PC, console, and mobile markets.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ named Ultimate Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick awards

This year's Golden Joysticks, the gaming awards handed out by GamesRadar, have been announced and Fortnite has been named the Ultimate Game of the Year. It beat out Red Dead Redemption for best game, but Red Dead was named critics' choice.
Gaming

Want to gift a Steam game so you can play with a friend? Here's how to do it

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Gaming

‘Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers’ to launch next summer with gunblades, Viera

Square Enix revealed that Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers will be released in summer 2019. The third expansion of the MMORPG will include new story content, dungeons, and raids, in addition to gunblades and the Viera.
Gaming

The Fix PUBG campaign is over: What’s next for ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’?

The PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds development team declared that the Fix PUBG campaign was over. Here are the results of the three-month campaign, as well as the future plans for the multiplayer Battle Royale shooter.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Deals

All the best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…
Gaming

Get an Xbox One S or PlayStation 4 for just $200 at GameStop starting Sunday

GameStop is currently running an early Black Friday sale that offers an Xbox One S or a PlayStation 4 slim model for just $200 apiece. Both consoles come with a free game, and other games are also on sale.