Batman: Arkham Knight gameplay preview: A next-gen return to form
Let's all welcome the Batman to the next-generation, because after playing Batman: Arkham Knight on PS4 we have to say it looks fantastic. It's a return to form following Arkham City's less inspiring turn.
Key to Arkham Knight is the sheer scale of things. The skyscrapers are taller, you can perform double grappling hook moves now to scale ultra-high buildings a bit more like Spiderman than the Bat, but it's cool to string this kind of movement together.
If you didn't like the Arkham series before then a vast scale and additional height won't change your views though. The combat is still much the same button-bashing fare and could be accused of being repetitive and sometimes random - but combos, counters, environmental take-downs and weapons are enough to keep it fun.
What keeps the game feeling fresh above all else is the integration of the Batmobile and the (eventual) fluidity of movement through the landscape.
Press-and-hold the left trigger to trigger the Batmobile's attack mode which you'll need to do to utilise its grappling winch. Pull down platforms and manipulate the environment to your advantage to progress using this, or remotely to fire on enemies as needed. It's more than just an A to B vehicle, it's embedded firmly within Arkham Knight's gameplay.
As ever there are a lot of controls in Arkham Knight and mastering everything has a knack. We sometimes hit the wrong one and ejected from the Batmobile by accident, or ended up grappling the wrong platform and landing in a mob of bad guys. But once you've got it the deft transition between running, grappling, climbing, gliding and Batmobile controls almost feels like a combo in itself.
New sections of play means you can perform "fear take-downs" to take out multiple enemies from within hiding, such as under a grate, while from a gliding position it's possible to switch into a kick to go smashing through windows. Very cool.
There's been a conscious decision to avoid cutscenes being tacked on too. Sections of chatter happen in real time with seamless motion between gameplay and story-telling, often with the ability to still walk and look around the environment. That's next-gen power taking hold.
Above all else it's the grand scale of Gotham that makes Arkham Knight feel new and more special than its predecessors. It's higher resolution, better lit and more encompassing than before. And it makes the game look great because of it.
Like we say, repetition is any Arkham game's downfall, but if you're already a fan of the series then it looks like you're in for a treat with Arkham Knight. Assuming, of course, you have a next-gen platform to play it on - no Xbox 360 or PS3 this time around - and can wait until 2015 for its general release.