Batman: Arkham Knight hands-on: the Batmobile is the best thing to happen to Batman since Christopher Nolan
Rocksteady and Batman are a match made in heaven. Or whatever the equivalent of heaven is in streets of Gotham. Following up an iffy Batman: Arkham Origins from Waner Bros. Games Montreal, Batman: Arkham Knight is looking to right the wrongs that have been made and return the series to the glory. After playing it for 40 minutes at E3, I'm confident that's going to happen.
Combat is tight, takedowns are swift, visuals are gritty and gorgeous, and the Batmobile is OMFG THIS IS EFFIN AWESOME!!! Sorry for that outburst, but seriously, the Batmobile being playable is the best thing to happen to Batman since Christopher Nolan.
Sitting in a dark room of consoles -- because darkness is his ally -- Rocksteady animator Adam Vincent guided me through my demo. I was on a mission to save five ACE Chemicals employees from an industrial plant complex. Of course, it was the perfect area to showcase the multiple ways the Batmobile will be used in the game -- combat, puzzle-solving, and traversing the streets of Gotham.
After donning the Batsuit, which looks awesome with the lighting and rain hitting it, I jump off of Wayne Tower and glide around the city, eventually landing gracefully in the streets below. Traversing Gotham is better than ever thanks to not only the Batmobile, but can chain together grapples with the press of a single button, and he can launch into a glide from the Batmobile, transferring all of the speed into his jump. Add the that the ability to call the Batmobile no matter where you are, and you have the most traversable and accessible Arkham game yet.
The Batmobile handles a little too loose for precision turns. It's a blast to drive, but when you have to navigate along a thin strip of road over the water, it's better to switch to the Batmobile to Battle Mode. Battle Mode lets you strafe in the Batmobile, boost to the sides to avoid enemy fire, and shoot your own weapons as well. Since the Batmobile is kind of hard to stop, switch to Battle Mode is another way to counter that. So remember, if you need precision movement, Battle Mode is the way to go.
Combat in Battle Mode is like a game within a game. It adds an action shooter aspect to Arkham Knight, forcing you to be reactive to enemy shots, constantly moving and firing off your own shots. It's a ton of fun and, again, it's a visual delight. One last thing that you'll be doing in the Batmobile is solving puzzles. Consider the Batmobile another tool on your utility belt for getting to areas that you couldn't before, as well as getting you out of sticky situations. When trapped by enemies, you can call the Batmobile to come and, in Battle Mode, take out the enemies.
Or you can swap between the Batmobile and Batman in a puzzle scenario. In my demo, there was an elevator stuck in an elevator shaft. Remotely controlling the Batmobile, I used it in Battle Mode to hook onto the elevator shaft and drive in reverse to pull it up. After switching back to Batman, I hopped in the elevator, then used the Batmobile to lower myself.
The most awesome moment that I had during my hands-on is when Adam Vincent had me use the Batmobile to move a ramp into place. He then said, "What you're going to do is back all the way up, drive towards that ramp with the boost going, and right as you hit the ramp, eject from the Batmobile and pull up while holding X. That'll transfer your momentum from the Batmobile into Batman, and send him into a super high glide. Glide around to that platform, kicking the enemy as you land, and then take out the bad guys." I told him there was no way I was going to be able to do that, but I'd try. I nailed it. It was an awesome feeling, and something you'd see Batman do. That's just one example of the awesome Batman-y things that you'll be doing with the Batmobile.
Other than that, you know what to expect from Rocksteady's combat. No one does it as good as them. Animations for takedowns have even more punch and impact to them, and using them on some new enemy types felt delightful. The last thing they showed me though was a scare takedown. Using an air duct or hiding in grates near the bad guys, you can target up to three enemies and take them down in quick succession, jumping from one to another with taps of a button. It's those surprise attacks and takedowns that Batman is known for, and Rocksteady nailed it.
I don't have a single bad thing to say about Batman: Arkham Knight. It was everything I was hoping it would be, and I can't wait til it releases on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC in early 2015.
Also, Jim Gordon looks like Bryan Cranston.