This year’s Batman: Arkham Knight E3 demo was centered less around the titular villain and more on how the player will explore Gotham City and pursue its most vile criminals. This time, though, Batman has some new allies at his disposal: Robin, Nightwing, and my personal favorite, the Batmobile.
The sheer size of the city is at first daunting, but Rocksteady Studios has addressed the issue of getting lost in the city’s sheer size twofold—first by allowing the player to call the Batmobile to them from anywhere in the city, and also by highlighting paths to the beginning of missions, which players are free to choose from in a menu accessed through the world map or Directional Pad.
The first mission I chose was to investigate an expected arson at the Gotham Municipal Fire Station. A line of blue arrows lit the way to the building from Gotham’s street level, and when I arrived, I was tasked with overloading an electric lock. Here, I entered the Batmobile’s siege mode, latched onto the panel, and revved my engine to keep the accelerometer in an orange box to overload its circuits.
After that, the villain Firefly burst out of the still burning fire station. After trading a few unsavory words, he flew off, and I was tasked with chasing him through the city. Gotham’s twists and turns could rival those of Boston, and making those turns in the Batmobile was a complete nightmare. Utilizing the break to turn is a necessity when the road isn’t straight, and I actually wasn’t able to successfully pursue the Firefly.
After failing to capture Firefly, I chose to shut down one of the Penguin’s arms facilities. In this mission, Nightwing promised to make an “understated entrance”. A lot of the interactions between the protagonists harkened back to the original spirit of Batman the Animated Series: humorous, but never so much as to forget the darker undertones of the Batman universe.
When I reached the arms facility, I hacked a nearby computer with the remote hacking device, and destroyed the guard turrets inside by remotely controlling the Batmobile. This allowed me to scale to the top and open the ceiling shutters, which revealed glass panes that Batman oh-so-loves to break through to take down enemies. After climbing to the ceiling, I broke through and dropped down into a group of thugs.
Combat doesn’t seem to have changed a whole lot, but then I noticed it wasn’t just me fighting—Nightwing had joined the fray as well! The group of enemies had grown substantially, there were maybe 15 on screen, but this was no problem with two characters to control. I was often prompted to use “dual takedowns,” in which Batman and Nightwing juggle an enemy between each other and work together to knock them out.
These moments, while still adhering to the traditional Batman combat system (square to attack, triangle to block, and so on), added variety to enemy encounters that the series desperately needed. Now that large groups of enemies are easier to overcome, I feel the game will have more time to explore its puzzle-solving elements, without completely abandoning its action roots.