Batman Arkham Knight: Take my cash right now

Sok! Pow! Crack! Kazow!

OK, so the above words come from the Adam West version of Batman in the late 1960s (it was so camp but fun to watch: Oh, and let it be noted I watched it much later in life, not during the 1960s) but they’re so fitting for the announcement trailer of WB’s next Batman game, Arkham Knight – and man, am I shaking in my Batcave for this one to come out.

OK, so it’s only a cinematic trailer so we shouldn’t get all excited but damn, it’s hard not too when you get a glimpse of the caped crusader and all that’s going on in the 3 minute-something trailer. And the game’s coming from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City developers, Rocksteady. Yay!

The trailers got explosions, Penguin, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, (I think) a voice over from The Scarecrow telling Gotham City that this is its only warning,  and a contemplative Bruce Wayne (oh, there’s also a voice over reading out the last will and testament of Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, who hoped that  Bruce used his money and legacy to the benefit of Gotham City).

In a nice touch, the trailer has Thomas Wayne hoping that Bruce didn’t waste the money on fast cars, outrageous clothes and a destructive lifestyle – just as we see a glimpse of the Batmobile and a new-look Batsuit.  The Batmobile here is a pretty kick-ass Batmobile but it’s very reminiscent of the tumbler one in the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, and that’s not a bad thing.  THE BATMOBILE (calm down. Breathe, breathe).

The last Batman game, Origins, was, in my (semi) professional opinion pretty rubbish, if my memory serves me correctly.  It just didn’t stack up against Arkham Asylum and City – and not surprising. given that it was  made by a new studio created by WB while Rocksteady were secretly working on the next game in the franchise.

Well done, WB, well done, you kept this one quiet.

Back to the trailer, though: Woo-eeee it looks good. And did I mention that the Batmobile is in the game? And you get to drive it? I did? Oh, sorry.

And Batman Arkham Knight is being made for this current-generation only (that’s Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC). There’s not going to be versions for the PS3 or Xbox 360, and I think that’s a good thing. It means that Rocksteady can put all its effort in to creating good current-generation content rather than diluting it by having to make last-generation versions, too. More developers need to do that, actually.

So, Batman Arkham Knight is due out in October sometime. Time to start saving up some money, then.

Update number 1: I can’t believe I forgot to mention that Kevin Conroy, who really is the voice of Batman, makes a return as the Dark Knight in Arkham Knight, after being replaced by another voice actor in Arkham Origins. Yay for the return of Kevin Conroy.

Update number two: Here’s some more information I gleaned from Joystiq today. 

Lead AI and combat programmer Tim Hanagan told Game Informer that “at any given time, there are between three and four times the number of thugs active in Gotham City than there were in Arkham City,” and that larger riots in the game will have up to 50 characters wreaking havoc.

Arkham Knight is set one year after Arkham City, in which Batman’s foes have banded together to tear the Dark Knight’s attention away from a crumbling Gotham City. The single player-only game will also include an arch-villain created from scratch by Rocksteady and DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns. Rocksteady’s initial announcement focused on another big addition to the Arkham series: Players will get plenty of time in the driver’s seat of the Batmobile, which can be fetched at the press of a button, can handle the jumps and boosts expected of the more reckless drivers among us and will eject Batman out of his seat at times. Also back to voice characters is, Nolan North who will voice Penguin, Wally Wingert who will voice Riddler, Tara Strong will continue as Harley Quinn and Troy Baker will voice Two-Face again.

Batman Arkham Origins: 17 minutes of footage

Warner Brothers have sent across a developer video showing 17 minutes of footage from the upcoming Batman Arkham Origins, which comes out, I think, this Friday.

Here’s what WB has to say about this, the third game in its Batman franchise. “Taking place before the rise of Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals, the game showcases a young and unrefined Batman as he faces a defining moment in his early career as a crime fighter that sets his path to becoming the Dark Knight. As the story unfolds, players will meet many important characters for the first time and forge key relationships.”

To be honest, Arkham Origins has a lot to live up to. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were two of my most favoured games  and I know that while the core mechanics won’t be changed by developer WB Montreal (I’m a little disappointed that Rocksteady hasn’t done this game), I’m hoping there’s actually new mechanics that will make this game stand out from the previous two.

Batman Arkham Origins is going to go one of two ways: It’ll either deliver a compelling experience that builds on what the other two games have established or it’ll be lost in mediocrity,  despertae to move from the shadow Rocksteady’s previous Batman games created.

Watch the footage and decide for yourself.

Why don’t I play more PC games? Because I can’t afford to upgrade all the time

These days I’m generally a console gamer (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) but sometimes I’ll play games on my what would these days be considered dinosaur PC (Intel Core Duo CPU @ 2.13Ghz , nVidia Geforce 8600 graphics card and 2Gb of ram) by today’s standards.

I’m playing a PC game at the moment: Batman Arkham City. I loved it on Xbox 360 so jumped at the chance when I was offered a review code to download it from Steam.

Almost 24 hours later the 16Gb download was complete (yes, my broadband really did take that long) and I clicked play, eager to see how it played on PC  – and was prompt for the game’s CD key, which meant I had exit the game to head back into Steam and copy the CD key) . I also had to log-into Games for Windows Live, which also required a copy of the CD key, as well as aan update, which it downloaded and installed – and then just when I thought I was ready to play, I had to request a new password for my GFWL account as it had been so long since I’ve used it that I had forgotten my password and couldn’t log in.

With all that behind me I launched the game, tweaked some of the settings (I’m running it in DirectX 9 as the Geforce 8600, which is below the recommended specifications for the game, doesn’t support DirectX 11, which is what Batman Arkham City is touting). then got stuck in. Not surprisingly, the game stutters from time to time, most noticeably when there’s a lot of foes on-screen but sometimes pauses for a few seconds, usually as I’m  just about to glide kick one of Joker’s hench men into next week.

It goes without saying that I’m also not using the Physix capabilities that the game has – that would slow things down to a slideshow,  (in fact, I might just try it, for a joke, and see what the frame rate plummets to).

The game still looks great, though  – this is on a PC, after all – but all the hassles with Games for Windows Live and recommended systems specifications needed to get the game looking its best is partly the reason why I play my games on a console. I can hear all the PC purists starting to complain about my preference for console gaming but seriously, I can slap an Xbox game into my 360 console – or a friends 360 console – and know that it’s going to work straight out of the box (unless there’s an update required for it, of course – but then they don’t normally take long to download and install). My Xbox isn’t going to ask me to type in a CD key twice then promptly crash back to the desktop/menu because I had my tongue in the wrong position or something.

Also I don’t have the luxury of some powerhouse computer kindly supplied by [insert computer maker’s brand name here] that will run the game at maximum settings and some blisteringly fast frame rate. In my mind, reviewing a game on some sort of top-end computer that has all the fruit isn’t being fair to consumers: how many joe public gamers have the money to buy top-end computers with the latest and greatest components? Maybe it’s more than I realise, though, and I’m talking through a hole in my head …

But these days, I prefer console gaming because of the convenience – and that I don’t have to constantly spend money upgrading the hardware. Yes there’s a trade off with consoles: less system memory and pared down graphics performance compared to a PC but imagine the nightmare PC games must be for developers to make:  how is a developer realistically expected to anticipate all the potential hardware configurations in existence then make sure that the game works on all of them. It just seems a near impossible task.

It goes without saying that PC games definitely look better on PC (mostly and if you have a graphics card that can handle all the graphical bells and whistles that developers use to showcase PC games) but I can live with that for the convenience of knowing my copy of Batman Arkham City on Xbox 360 will also play on my brother’s Xbox 360 without any problems. I was also put off PC games a while back after Ubisoft’s clunky DRM on Assassin’s Creed 2 which required a persistent internet connection to play it. I took the game back when I realised that: it meant I couldn’t play it on a laptop when I was out-of-town, which sort of defeated the purpose of me buying it, really

I’m going to stick with Batman Arkham City on PC: it plays fine and looks good, but the experience  has just confirmed for me how much I personally prefer console gaming at the moment. Who knows, things may change  …