Praise be. After months of stewing, I'm finally able to share some tidbits I learned about Rocksteady's third and final entry to their Batman franchise, following a trip to their London HQ in early February. I can even unveil my official Arkham Knight mug to the world, which has been locked in a drawer for fear of embargo breakage for almost two months.
Though at first glimpse Arkham Knight may not seems as adventurous as the long-rumoured Justice League game, there are some big changes on the way that set it apart from Arkham City and Asylum. Here are five of the most important new features and how they'll hopefully add up to the bestest and battiest Arkham game yet. UK readers can find out more in the latest issue of OXM, which is on sale now.
One of Rocksteady's key goals in designing the Batmobile (aside from building "the ultimate car") was to make the vehicle feel symbiotic with its owner. "It was quite scary," said Rocksteady's art director David Hego of designing one of the world's most iconic cars. "We designed Batman's new suit and the Batmobile together. The concept behind that was the Batmobile is a tank meets a jet fighter meets a very serious sports car, and we wanted that blend of man and machine, so it looks like it all comes from the same design, and works hand in hand."
The Batmobile is probably one of the biggest game-changers for Arkham Knight, a super-fast juggernaut equipped with rockets that can be summoned to your position, but the team insists that it won't make the usual Arkham traversal mechanics of gliding and gadget use obsolete. Rather, the two approaches will complement one another. One of my favourite moves from the demo was Batman speeding through the streets in the Batmobile, then suddenly ejecting from the driver's seat, using the momentum to glide farther and faster up into the night sky.
We finally get to explore the entirety of Gotham
None of your North Gotham or Arkham Island nonsense, please, guys - this time around, players get the full run of Batman's home turf. "One of the first things we did when we started [creating the full-sized city] was to try to imagine ourselves living in Gotham City as a normal person," Hego told OXM. "And after that, it was figuring out how we can build on from the grand gothic architecture we've been toying around with over the last few years - the Art Deco/Art Nouveau elements - and to make those feel like a believable city.
"It kind of worked in layers; we added neons, added advertisement billboards and stuff, and started thinking about what kind of shops you'd find in Gotham City - once again keeping that grimy, believable dystopian-like city feel. And every kind of element we've added in there, whether iconic American cars or every other kind of asset, makes the entire experience feel a little out of time. You couldn't pinpoint whether its twenty years ago, now or in ten years time." Hego also promised that the city would be full of those little comic book references that make the city truly feel like a living, breathing Gotham.
A new platform
"This isn't a cross-generational game," Arkham Knight's game director Sefton Hill announced when we gathered at Rocksteady's HQ to see the game in action. "It's a game designed purely to get the best out of the new consoles." He wasn't kidding; from the second the game kicked into gear and we saw the rain running off Batman's cape as he swooped over Gotham's moody lamplit streets, it was obvious that Arkham Knight is a title that belongs on Xbox One.
Whilst it certainly looks the part, we're assured that the sound will also benefit from a next gen upgrade. "The amount of streams we can play, the amount of actual music we can play at any one time, is huge compared to [Arkham] City and to previous gen," Rocksteady's audio director Nick Arundel told us. "The amount of processing we can do in real-time - we can alter and filter and affect those sounds and that music in real-time. That's completely a game-changer; we can do so much more now with that kind of stuff."