Gotham City. I’m drifting across the rooftops, held aloft by my batcape, enjoying each lazy circle. But there’s evil afoot, which means I have to take the action to ground level. With the press of a button, I summon the Batmobile. In my Batman: Arkham Knight demo at E3, I go from rooftop to cockpit in one sweeping motion. I am the Night. And when I travel, I travel in style.
According to David Hego, the art director of Batman: Arkham Knight, “We designed the Batmobile to have the same importance as Batman. We designed it as a character. It has its own place in the game.”
The Batmobile’s place involves helping Batman do things he can’t manage on his own. And now that the Arkham Knight has planted bombs all over town, I need the Batmobile to help me defuse them. I switch to Battle Mode and aim and shoot a power winch to link into the bomb, then upload a virus into it. Better get it right. If not, the bomb blows up and destroys a huge part of Gotham City. Game over.
But it takes more than that to save the city. Soon, remote-controlled tanks are deployed to stop me. The Batmobile can predict whether the tanks have me in their lines of sight. If the path I’m driving into is red, a tank has locked me in. If I didn’t move out of the red path quickly, I would find myself and my Batmobile smashed to bat-smithereens.
Some Riddler side quests also involve the Batmobile, and they’re not for the faint of heart or stomach. I had to drive the Batmobile through a labyrinthine tunnel filled with closed doors that I had to open on the fly. I also had to open and close floorboards. And jump. And activate a floorboard in midair. And drive across walls. Bring your A game to these dexterity puzzles. You're going to need it.
The Batmobile can also be driven remotely. While breaking into a Penguin-held location, I took down some sentry guns with the Batmobile’s powerful arsenal—and because I was piloting, I did this all within the Batmobile’s POV. (Hego told me I could have also hacked the sentry guns without the aid of automotive backup.)
“The Batmobile is a tool,” said Hego. An extremely useful one, too. But its handling was a bit tricky, something I hope to get the hang of with enough practice. Also, while in the Batmobile, much of the environment was destructible—something I found myself disliking. I’m the goddamned Batman. I’m supposed to clean up Gotham, not crush it.
As for other aspects of Batman: Arkham Knight, the combat, which was always fluid and dynamic, is even more spectacular. Batman’s former sidekick Nightwing appears, and I can jump between the two characters. Hego showed me a way to put the hurt on a Penguin-ista as Batman, then finish him off as Nightwing. It was Pow-erful, Blam-tastic! Bif-erific fighting. We also get to see more of Alfred, and my girl Oracle makes an appearance.
It’s hard to say after only a brief hands-on demo, but Batman: Arkham Knight feels like the true successor to the near-perfect 2011 game Batman: Arkham City (never mind the well-intentioned yet bug-ridden Batman: Arkham Origins). Even more than Arkham City, this game seems even more playable, more ... Batman.
As for the Batmobile, I’m really hoping that Hego was right, that it is a tool—one that can be picked up and put down, rather than an essential part of gameplay. I love the Arkham games for their freedom of movement—specifically swooping up and down Gotham’s heights and depths—and I don’t want to be tied down to a car to get from point A to point B.
Of course, you may fall in love with the Batmobile. Dare I say it? Your mileage will vary.
Batman: Arkham Knight hits shelves on Tuesday.