Set on the much larger stage of Gotham City, Batman: Arkham Knight takes place about a year’s time after the events of Batman: Arkham City. Still struggling to come to terms with the death of his nemesis, the Joker, during their confrontation a year previous, Batman’s vigil over Gotham has seen crime decline dramatically. Haunted by the degree to which The Joker’s death has affected him, Batman has begun to realise that the bond shared by the two of them ran much deeper than either of them cared to ever admit. Convinced that this rare sense of peace on the streets of Gotham is just the calm before the storm, Batman continues to hone his skills and upgrade his arsenal. Taking the city’s calm as an opportunity to catch Batman off guard, Scarecrow, Two-Face, Penguin, Harley Quinn and the Riddler join forces in planning the Dark Knight’s death. Planting bombs all around Gotham to release a new strain of his fear toxin, Scarecrow forces the evacuation of Gotham’s six million citizens, leaving behind only the city’s criminal elements, who quickly overwhelm the Gotham City Police.
Batman: Arkham Knight introduces a new villain, designed by Rocksteady and DC Comics specifically for the game’s events. Known as the Arkham Knight, this character represents a fully-militarized counterpart to Batman and bears the “A” logo of the Arkham Asylum on his chest. How exactly the Arkham Knight will fit into the other villains’ plot to kill Batman is yet unknown, but you can bet that he won’t be siding with his heroic counterpart. The daughter of Commissioner Gordon, Barbara Gordon, also known as Oracle, will be making a return in Arkham Knight. Rocksteady has stated that Oracle will be featured more prominently in the game, saying that she is "such a strong character," that they wanted to "bring her to life in this game rather than have her as just [a] voice." A promotional offer for Arkham Knight provides those who pre-order the game with a bonus DLC that lets them play as Harley Quinn for the first time. Dubbed “Harley Quinn’s Revenge”, the DLC provides a minor expansion to the game’s story from the perspective of the late Joker’s disgruntled girlfriend, who has a set of unique weapons and abilities.
Breaking out of the dilapidated Arkham district for the first time in the series, Arkham Knight will expand the game’s area of play by over five times, giving players a much more extensive view of Gotham. Centered around the heart of downtown Gotham, the map is split into three main islands and includes a variety of sub-districts such as Chinatown and the industrial shipping yard. Batman has set up a temporary Batcave in the Gotham clocktower in order to watch over the city and it is from here that Oracle feeds Batman with the information he needs. In addition to the massive increase in the scale of the map, Arkham Knight will allow for many more enemies on screen at once, with special riot events seeing as many as fifty enemies on the map simultaneously. In an attempt to describe just how far Arkham Knight has come since the first game in the series, character artist Albert Feliu stated that a single character model in Arkham Knight contains about the same number of polygons as the entirety of Arkham Asylum. One of the other new features new to Arkham Knight is the Apex physics simulation engine, which creates wind with realistic movement in materials such as cloth, allowing Batman’s cape to actually flap in the virtual wind. It was due to all of these ambitious features that Arkham Knight took as long as it did to come out, which is why Warner Bros. Games Montreal decided to release Arkham Origins as a prequel while Rocksteady was creating Arkham Knight.
In order to help players deal with the sheer size of Gotham in Arkham Knight, Rocksteady has made a point of improving Batman’s ability to glide around the city by allowing him to use his grapple to change direction in the middle of a glide and increasing glide speed and duration. Since they didn’t want gliding to be Batman’s sole method of navigating the concrete jungle that is Gotham, they have also made plans to provide a Batmobile in the game, making clever use of its features to ensure that players will find both modes of transportation useful. Summoned at the push of a button, the Batmobile is very accessible and can be entered and exited just as quickly as it is called, even allowing Batman to launch out and immediately start gliding. Since Arkham Knight does not feature the quick travel option that is in some previous games, players are forced to move around the city manually, encountering different random and scripted events as they go. Since the narrow streets and sharp corners of Arkham proved too restrictive for the Batmobile in testing, the streets of Gotham have been adjusted to make driving a much more practical option. Like Batman himself, the Batmobile can be upgraded with new features and abilities, making it as much a weapon as a ride.
With all of the improvements being introduced to Arkham Knight, the game’s combat system has also been changed significantly, providing more options during battle and making combinations easier to chain. Prone enemies can now be hit multiple times without ending the attack combo, making it much easier to sustain the combo while targeting high-priority enemies. Enemies in Arkham Knight will all have access to the charging tackle attack that was reserved for larger enemies in previous games, providing them with a more powerful attack that can sometimes be exploited for a one-hit KO using properly timed dodges or batarangs. A new ability in Batman’s arsenal is called the Fear Takedown, in which the Dark Knight can take out up to three enemies with a stealth knockout provided he remains undetected. Each successful takedown that Batman executes during this chain will slow time, making it easier to set up for the next one. Another area of improvement that Rocksteady focused on with Arkham Knight was integrating the environment and various objects into combat, allowing players to intelligently plan out fights by taking advantage of hazards like power generators. Rather than disarming enemies only to throw away the weapon that was taken, Batman can now make temporary use of the non-lethal weapons, such as baseball bats, after confiscating them from his enemies.
So for those gamers who were fans of Arkham City but thought that Arkham Origins was lacking to say the least, now you might be able to find some renewed faith in the series like I have. Arkham Knight promises to bring a host of improvements, ranging from gameplay to graphical and everything in between. Even though it would have been nice if Arkham Origins hadn’t just served as filler, it might prove to be to everybody’s benefit in the long run. The single downside that I can see so far is that all these extra features and attention to detail means that Arkham Knight will be available only for the next-gen consoles and Windows. Based on how Arkham Origins ran on Windows, you’d better be packing some serious desktop hardware or be prepared to drop some money on a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.