Arkham Knight is a pretty good video game. Good flying, good punching, good comic book action. But the one thing I’ve taken away from it more than anything else is just how damn good the Batmobile is.
It’s so fast. And nimble. And powerful. And heavy. And dependable. And...
Look, instead of trying to describe it, it might just be easier to talk about the Batmobile by showing you this:
Two of the best video game vehicles ever made. Know that the Batmobile combines the two in the one car.
See, if you’re yet to play the game, Arkham Knight’s Batmobile has a design hook: it’s able to transform from a regular car into a tank at the push of a button.
So for those times you’re driving around Gotham, enjoying the empty streets and getting from A to B, it’s a car! A big car, with armour plating that smashes satisfyingly through concrete, but a car all the same. It goes fast, it’s got a slippery drift and you can summon it with the push of a button.
But then there are other times—which, admittedly, often feel like they’re there solely to force you to use the Batmobile, since flying around is so much fun—where you don’t need a car. You need a tank.
The Batmobile can also do that, at the push of a button transforming not just its stance and weapons loadout, but its control scheme as well. While it’s a car, the Batmobile controls like a car; you hold RT to accelerate and then steer around. In tank mode, though, it controls like a tank. Specifically, like Halo’s wonderful Wraith, as you’re able to pivot and spin and glide around a level, speed sacrificed for fast and precise control.
It feels so good, in a way that hasn’t made me notice or exclaim it since Halo: Reach. Or, OK, maybe Halo 4. The handling that Bungie pioneered all the way back in the first Halo, and which has been steadily improved since then, remains one of the most consistent, malleable and enjoyable in all of video games, its perfect blend of speed and traction making almost every turn a sensation of both “oh I got this” (as you lean into a corner) and “oh shit I don’t got this” (as your wheels spin and start to give way) at the same time.
I’m not saying Rocksteady copied those controls, just that I’m reminded most of them when playing Arkham Knight. The Batmobile may control like a Warthog/Wraith hybrid, but it looks and feels for all the world like a very Batman vehicle, all black and heavy and hulking and angry and expensive.
Other things I like:
- I didn’t like the overall design of the Batmobile at first, but it’s really grown on me since I’ve actually started playing the game. In particular, I love the “cockpit”; climbing into a regular car would feel weird for something this destructive, so a more military aesthetic is more appropriate.
- Getting in and out of the thing is even more fun than jumping off a balcony onto your horse in Red Dead. The way you can summon the car to be waiting for you as you glide down from the rooftops, and can then shoot you back off into the clouds, is so badass I may have said “wow” out loud the first time I did them.
- It growls. Not all the time, but sometimes as it turns the corner its engine revs and it literally growls at you. So it’s not just a vehicle, then, it’s also a pet. Like Battle Cat, only without the green. Great touch, and one that subtly gets you thinking of the car as more of a companion than an accessory.
As I’ve mentioned briefly above, some people are a little down on the thing because it can feel forced. Like it’s a vehicle looking for an excuse to exist in a game that doesn’t need it.
I don’t buy that. I think it adds not just variety to the types of combat and missions you have available, but more importantly it gives the player even more tools to get the job done. The heart of Rocksteady’s Batman games has always been an open-ended approach to stealth and combat, so what’s the harm in adding one more gadget/possibility to their utility belt?
Especially when it’s this much fun to get around in.