Spoiler Warning! This preview contains within it the conclusion to the second game in the Arkham series, Batman: Arkham City. So if you’re yet to finish that (as well as shame being firmly on you), then be sure to do so before you read on.
Just before the beginning of term, to our dismay and trauma, we discovered that the climactic final chapter to Rocksteady’s exquisite Arkham series of Batman games would be delayed. Not just any old delay however, we were informed that we would have to wait another NINE MONTHS to don that glorious Batsuit just one last time.
We should be doing that right now in fact—the original release date was the middle of October, now set to be June 2015—but instead we’re sobbing into our broken copies of Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Driveclub. So why we should we care about a game that’s so far off?
Among the typically expansive array of villains with whom to do battle, the Arkham Knight will pit Batman against Scarecrow, who is planning to terrorise Gotham with his nightmare-inducing gas. Other notable villains have also been confirmed alongside their returning voice actors: Riddler, Penguin, Harley Quinn—a playable character if you pre-order—and Two-Face are all set to feature once more.
There is one glaring omission to this list; the central villain of both the previous titles in the series was of course The Joker, now deceased following the final, breathtaking sequence in Batman: Arkham City (I did warn you!).
I was lucky enough to attend an exclusive Rocksteady panel at London MCM Comic-Con last October, in which the developers touched on the difficulties presented in the narrative by such a brave plot decision.
The fantastic stories of the previous two games are tough acts to follow in their own right, let alone without their central villain. However, Rocksteady are refusing to ignore the gravity of the fallout that the death of the Joker has on the world, the salient issue being how can the new central villain possibly fill such huge, villainous clown shoes. Also important is how this effects Batman himself; the developers highlighted how the Joker defined Batman in his role as law-bringer, which is set to fundamentally change in Arkham Knight.
Scarecrow, effective as he may be, is not the central villain; this honour is held by the titular Arkham Knight. Fan theories and speculation are of course plentiful, but actual details about who this may be and what role he plays are thin on the ground. What is clear is that the Arkham Knight is a clear reference to Batman’s pseudonym the Dark Knight; what could be scarier than facing Batman, let alone going head-to-head with his doppelgänger? The answer is becoming an ever more intriguing and tantalising prospect.
For a gaming community that is fascinated with the size of its worlds in which to inhabit, Arkham Knight’s Gotham delivers on that too; it is five times larger than City. The second instalment in the trilogy squeezed everything it could out of the PS3 and Xbox 360, and Knight looks to do precisely that on the new generation and PC.
A large game world is nothing without density, as well as meaningful fun and interesting things to do within it, but Rocksteady claims that their latest iteration of Gotham will be filled with even more activities, collectibles and easter eggs laced with plenty of fan service.
With a significantly larger game world, we’re going to need something to get around. That’s where Batman: Arkham Knight’s primary gameplay addition comes in: the Batmobile. While Batman’s sexy black wheels have made cameos in previous games in the series, in Knight the Batmobile is fully drivable, and replaces the Batwing as the main mode of transportation from series spin-off Arkham Origins.
Rocksteady are aiming for Batman and the Batmobile to be united as one character; particularly striking in gameplay footage is the speed and power in which the Batmobile drives. The acceleration is rapid as Gotham is reduced to a stretched, unrecognisable blur around you, and the extremely destructible environments empower you to be the Dark Knight in a way we’ve never fully experienced before.
Gotham is as dark in tone as we’d expect, but revamped with new lighting and shading tech bundled in too, and the hand-to-hand combat looks as weighty, satisfying and varied as ever.
If you’ve somehow allowed the Arkham series to pass you by until now, then you have plenty of time to go back and play some of the very best action-adventure experiences you can have in gaming—Batfan or not. So far, it looks very good, but with another nine months in which Rocksteady can improve and iterate, Batman: Arkham Knight is on course to be downright special.
Are you excited for Batman: Arkham Knight? What is your favourite in the series so far? Let us know in the comments below, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on everything else games and tech, check us out on Facebook and Twitter.