Rocksteady completely changed the face of the industry with the Batman: Arkham games. Batman: Arkham Asylum and especially Batman: Arkham City set the bar so insanely high for licensed games and for themselves that it seemed unlikely they’d be able to top themselves.
Since Arkham City, a different developer was temporarily given control of the franchise to release a prequel game called Arkham Origins, which was unfortunately fairly mediocre. Now Rocksteady is ready to release their third and final Batman: Arkham game in the form of Batman: Arkham Knight.
Will Rocksteady be able to top themselves? Well, considering the game was JUST revealed not too long ago and I’m already hyped as hell to play it just based on the very few details I know about it, I’d say that the chances are very, very high.
All things considered, we could be talking about 2014′s Game of the Year right now.
A new Gotham
Rocksteady has slowly evolved the open world Batman gameplay with each installment. Arkham Asylum was the most linear out of the games, yet at the same time it also featured plenty of gameplay mechanics and elements that are more commonly found in titles belonging to the open world genre.
Batman: Arkham Knight will be the ultimate open world Batman game. The game takes place in Central Gotham, which is separated into three distinct islands. The game world in Arkham Knight is said to be 5x the size of the game world in Arkham City.
The city itself is made up of larger, more detailed buildings, with a more realistic city layout than we’ve seen before. Gotham in Arkham Knight will feel like a real city, with wide open streets and a wider variety of building types.
Getting around town in style: Introducing the Batmobile
Batman will be able to traverse Gotham in a number of ways. Some of these are familiar to players of the past games, albeit with numerous upgrades and slight tweaks to make exploring Gotham a much more enjoyable experience than it has ever been in the past. The basic gliding mechanics have been slightly improved to better fit with the new layout of Gotham, and all of Batman’s other basic travel tools have also seen tweaks to better fit the new open world challenges presented in Arkham Knight.
One of the main modes of transportation in the game will be with the Batmobile. Rocksteady has said that they’ve always wanted to implement in the Batmobile into the series, but they never felt like they could do the iconic vehicle justice until now. The Batmobile in Arkham Knight sounds truly incredible, and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the steering wheel as the Dark Knight later this year.
The Batmobile creates a whole new layer of gameplay that was never in the other games. Batman can zoom around Gotham at extreme speeds in the Batmobile, and also has the ability to launch himself out of the driver’s seat for a boosted glide. The Batmobile itself is said to be comprised of 160MB of data alone, which is insane, to say the least.
The Batmobile has a variety of tools, just like Batman has his own tools and gadgets. Its propulsion system sends it flying through the streets of Gotham at breakneck speeds. The car is able to drive on walls, jump, and more. For those that have an objective marked on their map, the Batmobile will automatically point players in the right direction upon getting into the car as well.
The Batmobile will also have rockets. These rockets will not kill enemies, but they are good for disabling their vehicles. While most of Gotham has been evacuated from the city, there are still thugs and criminals roaming the streets, and their vehicles will be encountered on quite frequently throughout the game.
Of course, Batman will still have his other means of travel at his disposal besides the Batmobile, as I’ve stated above. Batman will be able to smash through any glass surface in the game, plus ziplines can now be made anywhere in the game, which will hugely increase the strategic options in the game.
The Batmobile will also be used in The Riddler’s new vehicle based challenge courses. These courses test Batman’s abilities to traverse through increasingly more difficult and tricky tracks that are meant to test the limits of the Batmobile. There will also be classic Riddler puzzles for fans to indulge in as well.
Arkham Knight is TRUE next-gen
As an early adopter of the eighth generation consoles, I’ve been pretty bummed out by the mass amounts of cross-generation games that have been released. Cross-generation games simply do not take full advantage of the next-gen hardware, and the result is a game that feels pretty half-assed and has no business being on PS4 or Xbox One except for the sake of being a cash grab.
Those worried that Arkham Knight might be a cross-gen game can rest easy; Arkham Knight is a true next-gen experience. The game employs a large number of visual effects that are only possible on the eighth generation level of hardware technology, and the game has been built from the ground up for the last three years to operate on eighth gen machines, not PS3 and Xbox 360.
Because of the raw power of the eighth gen systems, Rocksteady hasn’t had to hold anything back during their development of the game. There are over 50 visual designs for the basic thug enemies encountered in the game. 3-4x the amount of enemies can be on the screen at a single time. One of the developers claimed that a single character in Arkham Knight is comprised of the same amount of polygons used in the entirety of Arkham Asylum. To put it simply: Damn.
Visually, Arkham Knight is head and shoulders above most of the supposed “next-gen” games that we’ve seen so far. There are no pre-rendered cut-scenes in the game at all. The in-game graphics are said to look as good as what we expect those pre-rendered cut-scenes to look like on the seventh generation consoles, so that is quite the feat in and of itself.
Realistic weather effects and cloth physics have also been added to the game…and I’ve already talked about how monstrous the Batmobile will be in the game. Arkham Knight will also feature zero load times throughout the entire open world, plus a nice level of destructibility in the environment. Arkham Knight is not just a Batman fan’s dream come true…it is a video game fan’s dream come true.
Combat continues to evolve
Along with the exploration mechanics, Batman: Arkham Knight will also be making some upgrades and changes to go along with the franchise’s critically applauded combat system. The combat system in the Batman: Arkham games have really been one of the main hooks of the series and partly how the series has been able to take off like it has been, and I’m glad to see that they aren’t making any truly major changes to the combat system. Everything they say they’re adding in just sound like pure improvements to me.
Players will be able to use weapons mid-glide now, as well as use enemy weapons in combat. New moves have been added, allowing Batman to throw enemies into other enemies to knock them out as well as perform basic ground strikes, which weren’t available before.
Enemies are also more advanced than before. Moves that were once exclusive to the higher level enemies are now being used by the lower level thugs, meaning players have to be more on their toes even against the weaker enemies.
Stealth has been a big part of the franchise since its inception, and there are a few changes coming to the stealth mechanics as well that, again, just sound like pure improvements and I have no doubt that these upgrades will make the overall Arkham experience much, much better.
For example, Batman can now enter grates with a press of a single button from farther away. In addition, new “Fear Takedowns” have been added. Basically, when Batman sneaks up on an enemy and takes them out with a single hit, there is the added option to automatically take out the other foes in the area in a slow motion sequence…unless, of course, Batman is seen before he’s able to take out all the enemies in time.
Say goodnight to the bad guys
One of the main draws of the Batman: Arkham games has been interacting with and battling Batman’s diverse and unparalleled rogue’s gallery. Arkham Knight will keep that theme rolling, with a few villains already confirmed to be returning for this game.
Among those returning villains are Two Face, The Penguin, Scarecrow, and The Riddler. Two Face and Penguin are in cahoots against Batman, whereas Scarecrow is the reason why Gotham has been evacuated. The Riddler is here yet again to trick Batman with his tricky challenges and secrets, one last time.
In addition to classic Batman villains making appearances, Arkham Knight will also mark the first time that Rocksteady introduces a villain that they created all by themselves. The goal with this new villain was to create someone that could stand up as a true threat to Batman, and he comes in the form of the mysterious and titular Arkham Knight. Who is underneath the Arkham Knight’s mask? I’m sure we’ll find out, and if Rocksteady’s previous twists and surprises are any indication, I bet our jaws will be firmly planted to the ground once we do.
A city in chaos
Arkham Knight is set one year after the events of Arkham City. The crime rates in Gotham have been relatively low, though now his major foes are joining forces to launch a series of plans designed to get rid of Batman.
Scarecrow kicks things off by hiding an absurd amount of his Fear Toxin beneath Gotham, with the threat that he’s going to detonate it. This results in a massive city wide evacuation in which over six million of the city’s residents are bused out. The only people that remain are criminals, Batman, and Commissioner Jim Gordon’s police force.
The police are taken out fairly early on, and it’s mostly up to Batman to save the day by himself amidst a city full of supervillains and rioting thugs.
Besides interacting with the baddies, Batman does have a couple of allies left in the city. One is Jim Gordon, and the other is Gordon’s daughter, Barbara, also known as The Oracle. Gordon is led to believe that Barbara has evacuated the city, but in reality she has stayed behind to help Batman stop the villains from destroying Gotham.
Oracle’s base of operations is the clocktower. Batman can visit the tower whenever he wants to in order to interact with the Oracle.
The game is sure to be full of references to the comic books, TV shows, movies, and more, just like the other games. As a major fan of Batman, I have been supremely impressed with Rocksteady’s keen eye for detail and the lengths they go to leave little nuggets for major Batman fans to enjoy. I don’t expect Arkham Knight to break away from this trend at all.
Rocksteady has put a ton of focus on the game’s narrative, and that is a very good thing considering their previous storytelling efforts were absolute grand slams. I can’t wait to see how this game ends what has turned out to be one of gaming’s most incredible trilogies to date. Rocksteady says they’ve had a clear plan for an ending since the days that they were developing Arkham City, so my hype level is understandably through the roof.
Arkham Knight’s story has a ton of ambition, but if anyone can pull something like this off, it’s most definitely Rocksteady. We will get to see the evolution of Batman as he ditches his old suit used in previous games for a new, more advanced one somewhat modeled after the look of the Batmobile. This new suit will provide new tools for Batman to use as well.
Rocksteady is devoting 100% of their development time to crafting a purely single player experience. The multiplayer in Arkham Origins, as many predicted, has gone almost entirely ignored, and Rocksteady has no interest in creating a multiplayer component for Arkham Knight. Hopefully we see this trend continue, and we won’t have as many developers shoehorning multiplayer components into their games for no reason as we did in the seventh generation.
No video game story is complete without a stellar voice cast, but Rocksteady is seriously bringing the heat in this department as well. Kevin Conroy is returning once again to voice Batman after not being present to voice the role of Batman in Arkham Origins. Other major voice actors also reprise their roles, such as Troy Baker, Nolan North, and Tara Strong.
Arkham Knight has all the makings of an instant classic in the video game industry.
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Batman: Arkham Knight is releasing worldwide on October 14th, 2014. The game will be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Batman fans, video game fans, get ready. If Arkham Knight is half as good as it sounds on paper, then we are most likely looking at 2014′s Game of the Year.