E3 Reaction: Batman: Arkham Knight is a Step Forward for the Franchise

If there was one way to summarize the reaction to last year’s Batman: Arkham Origins, it might be the colloquial “Meh.” Fans wanted more from the experience and while a bigger map and some new gadgets were provided, the final product didn’t connect with fans like the previous two titles. Enter Batman: Arkham Knight, from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City developer Rocksteady. Billed as the final chapter in their “Arkham Trilogy,” the game largely expands the world of the series in ways Origins only wished it could.

The demo we were shown at E3 saw Batman approach the entrance of Ace Chemicals, a setting that he’s likely sick of visiting. While there, Commissioner Gordon informs Batman that Scarecrow has taken over the plant and taken some of the workers hostage. That’s when the titular villain, the Arkham Knight, a militaristic looking version of Batman, swoops down in an attack helicopter and blows up part of the bridge to enter the plant. Batman’s got a plan though – he always has a plan.

One of the new additions, and arguably the most crucial, to Arkham Knight is the Batmobile. After the path inside has been obstructed, Batman hops in the car and uses the winch to pull up a portion of the damaged bridge, creating a ramp for him to speed up and over with. The Batmobile gameplay is interesting, to say the least. The battle mode is reminiscent of other car-themed shooters, but the driving mode seems way more interesting in terms of gameplay. Though the player in the demo didn’t have much room to work with in terms of fast maneuvering, the Batmobile can make hairpin turns and boost across large gaps with ease. It can also appear at the touch of a button.

Another new bit added to the game was shown when Batman was trying to locate the Ace Chemicals workers. He threw a special batarang in the air and it circled the entire compound, which is one of the most visually impressive things from any of the “Arkham” titles. As the device soared in a giant circle, the player was able to move their cursor around and locate the five characters, all the while hearing an exchange between the Arkham Knight and Scarecrow which revealed the title villain’s desire to see Batman perish, like so many others.

The combat in Batman: Arkham Knight has also received an upgrade. New forms of takedowns and combos have been introduced, including adding way more of a variety to the environmental takedowns, ranging from throwing characters into electrical panels to smashing overhead lights on their heads. A new enemy has also been added called the Combat Expert, a sword wielding warrior that is almost on par with the Dark Knight himself, almost. Fighting in Arkham Knight appears to be the smoothest it’s even been in the series, and hopefully that’s not a touched up version for E3.

After Batman finally found one of the Ace Chemicals workers, he came face to face with the Arkham Knight himself. In the brief exchange the pair had it became obvious that whoever this character is, they know Batman. They know his potential weaknesses and all of his tactics. Previous scenes between Riddler or when Oracle popped in with some info also revealed the character has military training but is largely a mystery even to his own followers.

This sequence was followed by another extended fight scene that showed another new addition to the combat system – the inclusion of the Batmobile’s riot cannon. Using non-lethal projectiles, Batman is capable of shooting the Batmobile’s riot cannon in-between punches in the middle of a fight. It looks just as cool as it sounds and easily takes out nearby enemies.

Batman: Arkham Knight takes the caped crusader into the next gen with a bang. The latest additions to the game’s mechanics seem natural and actually improve on the previous builds and at no point feel like a shoehorned tactic. A visual treat, the game showcases why it has to be played on next gen consoles because anything less would be a disservice. With a revamped combat system and a drivable Batmobile, Arkham Knight will hopefully reignite player’s passion for the franchise and wash away any bad tastes they might have lingering. 

Batman: Arkham Knight will debut on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2015.