E3 2014: Batman Arkham Knight – the Dark Knight in all his splendour

There’s a fine balance between aesthetic beauty and spectacular action, and Batman Arkham Knight hits it right on the head. This time a true superhero, the Dark Knight returns in this, the star game of E3 2014.

When I entered the demo room the lights were off, and the screening began. While I was thinking about looking for popcorn, the PlayStation symbol appeared on the screen, and I realized that what we were actually witnessing wasn’t a trailer, but a live demo.

Batman Arkham Night is dramatic and theatrical, but the changes between cut and action scenes is completely fluid. It seems to be designed to make the transition as smooth and unnoticeable as possible, and the quality difference between cut scenes and the action itself is barely, if at all, noticeable.

Gameplay is similarly polished. Fights are energetic and entertaining, there are objects that you can use spread around the game and, of course, there’s the Batmobile, without which Batman would be unable to save Gotham City…for the umpteenth time.

A superhero in all his dark splendor

In the live demo at E3, where we also got a chance to play, Rocksteady decided to show level 2 of Batman Arkham Night where Scarecrow appears for the first time. In it, the bad guy had taken possession of Ace Chemicals, a factory where he had taken 5 hostages and was in the process of making a bomb.

Once Batman made it to the factory, he easily made it to the top of the building with the claw and the Batscanner boomerang, which was able to analyze the building to see where the hostages were being kept.

Batman 01

I swooped down, dropping into the ventilation shafts where I was able to move undetected. The first surprise came when I used the new Fear Take Down move, which sends your enemies to the floor with the first shot when you enter into a scene. You do this with R + rotating the camera.

Fighting in Batman Arkham Night strikes a good balance between attack, defense, and counterattack. In the fight I took part in, there were various combos and a spectacular finish that ended in my enemies’ heads getting fried in the electric control station or getting squashed by a giant chandelier.

A puzzle-solver and an armed vehicle: Batman’s essential helper

If KITT and Micheal Knight are best friends, then Batman and the Batmobile are inseparable in Arkham Knight. We’ve heard rumors about the central role of the Batmobile, and after playing for a while, I can definitely confirm our suspicions.

The Batmobile is a tank, and a fireball, as well as a vehicle, and an independent robot. In the level we played, it used Fire Power to ruin whole walls, but also to jump up and land on enemies and, in Battle Mode, to burn things down in a cloak of flames.

Batman 02

The Batmobile’s central role is in solving puzzles and thus allowing us to progress in the game. The vehicle can operate remotely and, in some cases, bump off armed enemies blocking our path or even operate non-functioning elevators to get to other parts of the factory.

Welcome, new generation

In the demo we played, I completed the 2nd level of the game and that, plus exploring a little and some accidental deaths, took around 45 minutes. The game designers who where there explained that the game would have a game area about 5 times larger than Arkham City, and as a whole the game would take longer to complete than its predecessor.

The designers also added that the game we saw is clearly still in alpha version, but they’ve put a lot of effort into finishing. They also pointed out that their aim was to get the most from the power of the next-gen platforms, including the next gen PCs that we played on.

Batman 03

Pre-release version or not, Batman Arkham Night is an impressive game, even just from the point of view of the graphics. The detailed rendering of Batman, the pouring rain and the cinematic cut scenes are all amazing.

If we were waiting to play the new Batman before E3, now that we’ve had a taste, the anticipation is even worse. We’re desperate to get our hands on Batman Arkham Night which is, without a doubt, a truly impressive game.

If you’re a fan of action games, read our preview of Borderlands The Pre-Sequel, presented at E3 2014.

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