Batman: Arkham Knight is going to be quite the swansong for Rocksteady Games. The studio is fully intending to take the series out on top and given what was on display at E3, they may indeed do just that.
The latest demo for the last of the Arkham trilogy focused on some new functions for the Bat-mobile, including new vehicle combat sequences and some additional side-missions. But beyond that, Batman will also be adding to his arsenal... and so will his enemies.
Gotham itself looks more alive than ever before, with neon buildings reaching all the way to the sky. There's more city for Batman to explore than in previous games and, just as before, he can do so by gliding around, whether on his own or propelled by the Bat-mobile. He can also explore more vertical space, which is why Rocksteady is introducing chain grappling to quickly scale high areas.
In previous Arkham games, enemies were comprised of lunatics, common street thugs, and hired goons. This will change in the new game, as Oracle informs Batman that the Arkham Knight once received military training in Venezuela. On top of coming back to Gotham, the Knight brought back an entire army of well-trained soldiers to fill Gotham City.
The different is noticeable almost immediately. These new enemy fighting tactics appear far more sophisticated, with soldiers working in tandem to try and take down Batman. In one instance, two enemies attacked in sync, while in another, a foe launched himself off a partner's shoulders. They still proved easy for Batman to take down, but this new teamwork dynamic exercised by minor foes adds an interesting twist to the game's combat.
Once again, the Bat-mobile was on prominent display and for very good reason. The latest E3 demo continues to show the car's many functions, including using its own grappling hook to lift unstable roads to create a makeshift ramp. The car can also shift into 'Battle Mode' to engage in its own combat with enemy vehicles, utilizing the same combo system as Batman uses on the ground. These sequences can unfold regardless of whether Bats is in the car or not, since he can control the car remotely.
The Bat-mobile will also feature a place to put freed hostages or prisoners, which opens the door for a new set of side-missions. During the demo, Commissioner Gordon vowed to stay behind and help out by picking up any targets of interest. Throughout the game, Batman will be able to place these targets in the Bat-mobile and deliver them to a waiting Gordon.
But for as impressive as the car might be, no one should overlook the improvements to Batman himself. Just when it appeared that the Arkham series' combat system couldn't improve anymore, Rocksteady has come forward with even more new ways to take down Batman's foes by debuting new takedown methods.
After demonstrating the ability to go down a chimney chute (which instantly puts Batman in 'Predator' mode), it was time to sneak up on three hapless enemies. By using the 'Fear Takedown,' Batman could simultaneously take out all three foes at once, wiping out one by hand and his two startled partners by Batarang. After ambushing some more thugs in a greenhouse, Batman demonstrated one of the new 'Environmental Takedowns' by shoving an enemy's head in a fuse box. Another takedown saw Batman swing on a ceiling fan before cutting it down to crush an enemy below, while another saw him hurl a bad guy through a nearby wooden table.
Of course, as in many aspects of the game, the Bat-mobile plays a role in takedowns, as well. If the Bat-mobile (in 'Battle Mode') is nearby during combat, Batman will receive a 'Bat-mobile assisted takedown' prompt, which will see Bats uppercut a thug into the air, directly in the path of a flying knockout missile. It's an unspeakably cool visual and is yet another amazing addition that the Bat-mobile brings to the table.
As for the Arkham Knight himself, more clues appear to surface in regards to his identity. After trapping Batman behind a glass chamber, the Knight tells his followers to watch for the Bat-symbol on his chest doubling as a shield before boasting that he knows Batman better than he does. The Knight spent the entirety of the demo working under Scarecrow, but even the fear-mongering villain doesn't appear to know the new baddie's identity or what his motivation is.
It's going to be an excruciating wait until the new 2015 release date, but that's how long it will be before Batman: Arkham Knight arrives on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.