And I liked it.
The Batmobile is basically an extension of Batman's repertoire of gadgets. In fact, even though Batman is of course a combat specialist, developer Rocksteady's excitable Dax Ginn explained that the Batmobile is part of Batman's primary toolset.
The Batmobile operates in two modes. On a chase, pursuit mode is most appropriate. This is the Batmobile at its most blazingly fast speeds. Imagine a situation in which you, as Batman, are gliding through the air and need to make a transition into a chase. Players can call in their vehicle, swoop and glide into the driver's seat from above, and continue on their pursuit in style. In the roughly 15-20 minutes of the game that I played, I didn't get a chance to perform any suave moves that the Rocksteady crew did during their presentation, but I could tell it's something you'd have to get the hang of. And once you do, it certainly looks like Batman-levels of cool.
The Batmobile's other mode is battle mode. This mode makes the Batmobile feel heavier, driving at slower speeds with more deliberate movements and equipped with heavy firing options. In this transformation, the Batmobile's got a host of various weapons: cannons, a riot suppressor, rockets, sharp sticks and more. Since Arkham Knight will introduce infantries, tanks and airborne drones, this tank version of the Batmobile is a necessary combatant to that.
The level I played took place in Chapter 2 of Arkham Knight. Following the presentation they revealed at the Game Developers Conference this year, Batman has since located Scarecrow's hideout where he's developing his toxins at Ace Chemicals. He meets up with Commissioner Gordon to find out that there's a skeleton crew hiding out in the compound, and Batman aims to seek them out to get information on where Scarecrow is hiding. But there's a new factor at play here as Batman learns of one of Scarecrow's minions: the Arkham Knight himself. "The Arkham Knight?" Batman wonders, as if he's unaware of how ridiculous comic book character names—including his own!—can be.
Before I get my hands on the demo, Rocksteady's Dax Ginn and Guy Perkins lead us through the first few fights. In order to find the remaining workers who might be able to help Batman find Scarecrow, Batman deploys his Bat Scanner, which flies around in search of audio signals. It works, and we pick up on a conversation between the Arkham Knight and what sounds like Scarecrow.
"Batman dies. Tonight," the Arkham Knight proclaims. "Why do you hate him so much?" replies the other end, who might be Scarecrow. "You can never understand," says the Arkham Knight. Perkins, who is steering Batman during this presentation, glides from up above instead of crashing through the front door and lands a kick right on top of one of the first groups of thugs.
Picking up where the Rocksteady guys left off, I had Batman call in his Batmobile to drive straight through to the next area of the compound. I'm immediately confronted by a handful of thugs on foot, as well as several tanks. While they're lining up their shots and I'm side-strafing to avoid becoming their target, I'm aiming my own reticle down at them. I've got one powerful shot that takes time to regenerate, as well as a more readily-available riot suppressor.
Using a combination of the two, and dodging around to avoid getting hit, I finally clear the field. I find a ramp and boost towards it to make it over the cliff in between the platform I'm on and the platform I'm aiming to be on. I'm alerted to another possible ID of one of the workers I'm tracking, but as I reach him the Arkham Knight swoops in with several thugs. It's our first face-to-face. He instructs his men where to shoot me, telling them to avoid the bat signal on my chest because it's the most heavily-protected piece of my armor. He seems to know a lot about Batman.
"Always defending the weak and the helpless," the Arkham Knight scoffs at me. "That's what I like about you. You're predictable. And that's why we're gonna win. We know your move before you do. We know how you think!"
"Do you know what I'm thinking right now?" replied Batman.
"Haha. Of course. You're thinking, 'Who the hell is this guy?'"
"No. I'm just trying to decide which one of you I'm going to take out first."
Remote-controlling the Batmobile from behind, I use it to shoot the hell out of each of the thugs—non-lethally, of course—and eventually make my way in there myself to finish the rest of my enemies off.
I turn around to confront the worker I'd been tracking and he tells me things are bad. It seems like Scarecrow is producing his toxin on a massive scale, calling in trucks, weapons, soldiers, and shipments of hazardous materials. "We're talking about a gas cloud that could cover up the entire eastern seaboard," the worker tells me.
The Batmobile isn't just a tool for driving and shooting at things—though it can, amazingly, drive up walls—and I learn this lesson quick. I'm used to certain aspects of what have become staples of the Batman franchise under Rocksteady's service—staples that have trained me to switch on my detective mode to pinpoint all the orange-highlighted objects around a room. I find some pipes and some switches. I use my gel to break walls open. And then I'm confronted by an elevator I can't figure out, at least not on my own.
Here's where the Batmobile comes into play as more than just a transportation vehicle or murderous tank. Not finding much else I could do to bring the collapsed elevator up to my level, I was directed by one of the game's developers to switch to the Batmobile with my remote trigger. I launched a grapple hook from my Batmobile and pulled the elevator up with force after tearing away parts of the wall with my handy car.
Once I was in the building, searching for more hostages and survivors, it was back to Batman business as usual, dipping into vents to crawl around in detective mode and plotting my attacks. Once I spotted a group of enemies and my targeted survivor, I dropped down from the vents on top of a goon for an immediate takedown, and then danced around the remaining ones, plotting punches and kicks and leap-frogging over them for swift combos.
Batman's got environmental takedowns now. He can grab a light fixture, for instance, and pull it down to slam on top of his foes. It reminded me a bit of Sleeping Dogs, and certainly switched the animations and combat options up, which can occasionally feel tired after Rocksteady's third Batman game. Heck, you can even use your Batmobile for an assisted takedown. That remote control goes a long way. Eventually, likely during escort missions and other transport quests, you can carry precious cargo, too.
But, forget about the takedowns and the grapple hooks and the speeding around Gotham. Because the Batmobile can also show off its moves with booster donuts using the Arkham burner, and what's more fun than impressing your enemies with your driving skills in the goddamn Batmobile?
Batman: Arkham Knight has been delayed from its original release window this fall to 2015. It will release on PC, Xbox One and PS4.