Hands-on with 'Batman: Arkham Knight': Taking the Batmobile for a spin

"Batman: Arkham Knight." (Supplied)

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:56 PM ET

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Looking back at The Dark Knight Rises – the last instalment in director Christopher Nolan’s grim and brooding Batman trilogy – the movie had a lot of problems. From the slightly absurd posh-talking Bane to plot holes you could fly a Batwing through, it was a bit muddled, a bit messy, a bit unsatisfying.

But Batman: Arkham Knight, the final entry in the Caped Crusader video game trilogy developed by U.K.-based Rocksteady Studios, promises to bring this series to a thunderous conclusion when it debuts on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.

All bang, no whimper.

Arkham Knight will round out the saga that began with 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum and continued with 2011’s Batman: Arkham City, each hailed as one of the best games of their respective years. (Last year’s Batman: Arkham Origins, developed by Warner Bros. Games Montreal, served as a prequel to the Rocksteady titles.)

Arkham Knight will see Batman protecting Gotham City from the game’s titular new nemesis, sort of an Iron Man-esque reimagining of Batman himself. Except bad. Very bad. As in, working with the Scarecrow to release a massive cloud of toxic nerve gas bad.

“The Arkham Knight is also the commander of a vast, varied and highly sophisticated military force,” Rocksteady Studios’ Dax Ginn said at a recent preview event in Santa Monica, Calif. “This guy has got everything he needs to bring war to Gotham.”

The game marks the Batman: Arkham series’ debut on the new generation of video game consoles, with a Gotham City that looks absolutely stunning and is five times larger than Batman: Arkham City’s urban jungle. The bad news is Batman: Arkham Knight isn’t coming out this year as originally hoped, with Rocksteady deciding to push the game back to 2015 to make sure it’s done right.

In our Canadian-exclusive first hands-on demo with the game, Arkham Knight was looking pretty damn good already. As the Caped Crusader, we infiltrated Gotham’s decrepit Ace Chemicals factory in a bid to rescue workers held captive inside by the Arkham Knight’s forces.

The next-generation visuals are glorious, from the incredible detail in Gotham’s vast environments to tiny things like the rain spattering on Batman’s flowing cape. And while the game has the same fluidity of movement and combat as the previous titles, Rocksteady have added new abilities, gadgets and tweaks galore.

Most significant is the introduction of the Batmobile. And this is no one-off gimmick... the Batmobile is an integral part of the game’s design and flow, able to shift on the fly from a sleek speedster to a nimble tank. It takes a bit of practice to get a feel for the two control methods, but before long we were dodging drone fire, blowing up tanks and taking out baddies with the non-lethal riot cannon.

Ejecting from the Batmobile gave us enough height to glide through an upper window in the factory and transition straight into combat, complete with brutal new takedown moves. But the Batmobile would remain on call outside the factory, and with a simple button tap we were able to remotely control it to do things like shooting a grappling hook through a window to yank obstacles out of Batman’s path.

And while the Arkham Knight is brand new to the DC Comics canon, he seems to be a formidable foe: powerful, cocky and possessing a deep knowledge of Batman’s tactics. As we finished battling goons and rescuing the surviving hostages, the Arkham Knight showed up in an attack helicopter... and the hands-on demo ended.

No muddle, no mess, very satisfying. It’s going to be a long wait for Arkham Knight to fall.

 


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