Batman Arkham Knight Preview
Dropping into Gotham City to have a poke around would not be advised on your own but if your last name happens to be Wayne it can be much less of an ordeal. With an early look at what we can expect from the highly anticipated last chapter in rock stars epic batman saga.
Following in x years after the events of Arkham City, Arkham Knight is the bookend of the sage that now spans across 2 generations, starting life as a last gen game on 360/PS3 and PC, it was well received and loved game capturing the very essence of the batman comic book along with a noire type 50's detective style. Allowing you not only to kick arse but also track the names. This release has had the benefit of Warner allowing rock star to ditch last gen and concentrate on the superior power and scope available on now gen and PC machines, and boy it looks to have paid off.
We pickup with Batman still at odds with his existence and parent issues, but valiantly trying to keep Gotham safe from all and sundry. But now Bruce is up against not just popular series stalwarts like penguin and 2 face (voiced by troy baker) but also masterminded by the sinister scarecrow. Now this alone seems a tall challenge for the dark knight, but things have gotten a lot worse as new to the franchise and a brand new character created by Rocksteady (well possibly more on that later) the main villain is the games title the - Arkham knight - being a true challenge for batman on both physical and Intellectual but also technology level.
The game gives us access not only to the highs and lows of the entire cot ham city, now under lock down after the scarecrow released and mind altering device. This has put the city under martial law and left it in a desolate state, free to be ravaged by all criminals with a tank of gas and a crow bar. All seemingly managed from above by the scarecrow, Penguin, 2face and harlequin all have their free run of the city with goons in toe. Where and how the Arkham night fits into all this is unknown at this point. What we do know is that certain characters are not in this conclusion, naming no names.
As we now have a vast open city to explore it would be a challenge getting around if not for the games newest and baddest character, the bat mobile. Being ready for you at the press of a button you can admire the sky at night using your bat gliding skills and then call up your car for some urban garbage collection. Making use of it now gen roots, the game exemplifies one of my most favoured aspects of new games this generation. Seamless worlds and load less game play demonstrated beautifully here from the drop down of Mr Wayne's penthouse office straight into the city, bat mobile and finally back into flight mode with nary a stutter or loading screen in sight, truly the single biggest next gen game play improvement thus far.
With the gliding aspect similar to previous games the meat improvement is the Batmobile. Being an extension of the bat you can seamlessly drive, shoot, navigate tight turns like a graceful ballet dancer, albeit one armed with heat speaking missiles. The fast and precise controls look to make these ground battles fun and the indestructible nature of the Batmobile can be used to smash through whatever gets in your way. With the possibly of a flight mode it would be superb to be able to fly around areas of Gotham and use its arsenal for some epic aerial dogfights and destruction.
The combat seems to follow the directional and context style of previous games, with the trademark slow down and takedown scenes in evident. The detective side and gadget filled bat belt all seem to be present and I am sure updated with news toys earned throughout the game. With the core aspect of the investigation of scenes and working out clues to break up the heavy carnage and destruction all adding to the appeal and vast market that is vying for this game to launch, coming on the back of a year that looks to be a tough one if you have to curb your expenses.
But the one thing I have not really touched on is the most vital. The new nemesis of batman the titles Arkham knight appears to be based on more than loosely the character of firefly from previous comics, if this is indeed the case we will see but he owes more than a nod to this characters design and presence. That aside he presents a tough challenge for our batsy, and one that seems he'll bent on ending the dark knights run of vigilante antics. Being of a similar physical presence as our favourite anti-hero and suitably encased and armed with tech he seems to have the upper hand in this battle.
I am very interested in seeing how this dynamic plays out, possibly following a path for the year zero comic and the last batman movie rises where in his first meeting of Bain batman is defeated and left broken, having to rebuild himself both mentality and physically. I don't imagine a montage sequence appearing here but maybe all things do not play in your favour, and as we know everyone loves an underdog.
A strong and I feel correct decision is the game has no multiplayer and will be single player only. Which is great as one of my pet hates is when a game has a tacked on mp element. It feels out of place, distracts the team from the single player game and ultimately feels out of place for some and is ignored or wonky and without purpose and quickly drops of the playlist.
So we have a great and long loved franchise, running in the most lauded and loved batman set of games. We have great voice work with batman again voiced by Kevin convoy and the main character of the atmospheric Gotham city to play out in. What more would we ask for...well visuals and I am sure sound are a true leap from last gen.
Running on a heavily modified ue3 engine that powered the previous games, rock star have ramped things up here considerably. We get intricately detailed characters and models, having impressive and vast polygon counts, with high quality texture work and shading. Lighting is again impressively used with lots of dynamic lights and weather effects along with superb reflections and organic touches in the game.
Watch how his cape flaps and bellows realistically has he changes direction or attacks the thugs. Or how the real time cut scene here with macro close-ups and depth of field effects pulling back to reveal stunning rain effects and seamless return to fully controllable game play. Special mentions must go to the physics and destruction present, with walls, railing and overall scenery being destructible, with great particle effects to cover the pyrotechnics side of Mr Wayne's nights out. Bouncing and splaying around the destroyed vehicle and scenery. It bounces and reacts to the world making the whole effect look more dynamic and spectacular, which is carried over to the great character design and detail. Batman looks mean and moody as expected dressed in his Sunday best, along with the armoured Arkham knight and the scarily zombie looking scarecrow, with super facial capture and animation present.
With the Unreal 3 engine being superseded now by 4 some may worry that it may be lacking some special features, but this is not the case. We can see from the sadly later revealed PC/PS4 demo from E3 that resolution and frame rate back then were still -as is normal- being worked on. With this development PC version looking to be north of 30fps most of the time and a great use of depth of field and motion blur on screen and characters. You can see this easiest as Batman destroys these tanks here. With post process effects (that means they are added after the entire scene is rendered for display) being a big part of this generation now and they can be very heavy on the final pipeline it is good to see so many games having them and more importantly them becoming refined and more precise that older iterations.
The earlier PS4 trailer released prior to E3 shows a game that has all the looks and pizzazz of the shown PC footage with the resolution and anti aliasing work still a long way from being final. The behind closed doors demo I was privileged enough to get to see was a stunner - Watch video above for more detail on this -, based on the clear sub 1080 display and aliasing issues present along with the Playstation icons on screen I was pretty sure this was running on a PS4 dev kit. It was not played lived and was a pre-recorded play through by someone in the dev team who knew how to play. I expect the delay and resolution issues are linked with the time used to get up to a native 1080 most likely 900 on XboxOne and a solid 30fps but at this point it is speculation and not a cause for concern with the game not due to launch until June 2nd next year . This has been witnessed by the latest footage released for the game confirmed to be running on a PS4. From my frame rate analysis on the footage received (see above video) you can see a it runs a consistent 30fps and what looks to be from my Pixel counts as best I can a fully native 1080p display, although this is just an additional supplementary dose of information here as it is not footage captured directly by me but the early signs are great and Rocksteady have delivered on the promise of the E3 footage well which will see both PC, XboxOne and PS4 delivering the experience that they aimed for. With the delay into this year it has allowed the team to refine, correct and deliver the best possible bat experience we are all clamouring for, I cannot wait to swoop back into Gotham one last time