Batman: Arkham Knight, the Arkham formula

In a traditional Arkham game you'd swoop in and trade off between combat and stealth sections until you reached the end. For this mission, and for much of the game, the Batmobile is an integral part of the gameplay A wide chasm is all that’s left of the bridge that led to the plant. You drive Batman’s signature ride to the edge and a small prompt appears. Tap R1 and a tow cable launches out. You jam on reverse and the Batmobile burns rubber, bending the edge of the busted bridge back to form a ramp. Holding down the triangle button fires up the jet engine in the back, allowing the Batmobile to charge up some instant speed to jump the gap instead of having to back up and gain momentum the old-fashioned way.

 This standard pursuit mode feels like a typical fast car, however it’s not the best for the tight corridors of the chemical plant. By holding down the left trigger, it changes to battle mode instantly, revealing one of the most maneuverable vehicles I’ve ever controlled. Not only does it work great for battles, it’s nimble enough to scoot along narrow, twisting bridges. The strafing ability is perfect for little tweaks necessary to line up with a ramp for a big jump or to simply turn around.

The Batmobile’s maneuverability comes in handy for vehicular battles as well. Enemy trucks line up green lasers that change to red once they’ve targeted you. At this point, it’s easy to tap a button to perform a quick dash move and dodge the barrage. Offense includes infinite ammo machine guns and a rocket launcher that runs on a cooldown. If you connect enough shots without getting hit, you can unleash a barrage of homing missiles to finish off several foes at once. Higher-powered enemy vehicles are invulnerable to Batman’s machine gun “bullets” so you’ll have to build up the more powerful shots to take them down.

In regards to these seemingly deadly munitions, the Batmobile auto-detects when you're targeting a human and switches over to non-lethal rounds. These have a faint smoke trail as they fly through the air and knock humans over with a satisfying thud. Batman can even run people over safely. When you bump into people, the entire Batmobile turns blue with electricity and the guys fall over stunned. It’s a stretch, but I’d rather have that than enemies constantly jumping out of the way like grasshoppers.

If you feel like getting your hands dirty, the Batmobile also helps out with melee combat. Once you build up a combo, a prompt appears on screen for some vehicular assistance. If you mash the two face buttons simultaneously, Batman uppercuts the foe into the air and the Batmobile’s stunner cannon targets and blasts him like a clay pigeon.

The Batmobile isn't all offense. It also comes into play during puzzles. At one point, you blow up a wall with explosive gel to access the next hostage and there’s some hot steam blasting out of a pipe underneath. At the tap of a button you can control the Batmobile remotely, clamp the tow rope onto a pipe further up the line, and yank it off to prevent steam from making it to Batman’s position.

Once you rescue the hostage, he doesn't just say “Thanks, Batman” and somehow mysteriously teleport back to the police waiting back on the other side of the bridge as in standard video game logic. You must summon the Batmobile to your position and the entire back end opens up, revealing a concealed passenger seat (There’s no room in the main cockpit for civilians, c’mon). Then you drive him over and personally drop him off. Rocksteady says this seat comes into play for enemies as well, so maybe we’ll see some bounty missions back in the main city area.

Batman: Arkham Knight has slipped into 2015, but if the extra development time is going to produce more highly polished, inventive gameplay then I can sit outside Gotham City limits for as long as it takes.

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