Anthony John Agnello:
Neon green and red lights flash as Batman maneuvers the Batmobile through loop de loops in a gaudy underground racetrack. On the streets of Gotham, giant, bulbous tanks strafe around each other shooting at the speeding Bat-vehicle as it tries to escape. Onscreen, a computer-animated Alfred appears and gets snippy with master Bruce.
This is a description of the things I did in a demo of Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Knight, due out this June on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. And if any of the above sounds a whole hell of a lot like the camp film Batman & Robin, well, that's because it's eerily similar. If you were a fan of that Joel Schumacher-directed 1997 nipple fest or the open-world distractions of the 2011 video game Arkham City, then that gameplay might sound pretty awesome. But for a fan of Batman: Arkham Asylum like myself, however, this sample of Arkham Knight was disconcerting.
This is worrisome to me. Almost sounds as though Rocksteady has lost their focus on what made Arkham Asylum and Arkham City work so well. It appears Agnello prefers the former to the latter, but I really thought Arkham City was a great update to the original game's formula. It added enough variety to the claustrophobic cat and mouse gameplay of the original without losing itself in the trap of other open-world games. Rocksteady managed to open up the world in a way that made sense and was still fun, but without bogging it down with too many things to keep track of.
It should be noted that the Engadget article isn't a full review of the game, but rather an impression of a preview of a small section meant for a demonstration. However, if these distractions (which sound pretty over-the-top and silly) become a main focus of the game, rather than something put in as a delightful distraction from the more serious story objectives, it might mean this third Arkham game from Rocksteady follows in the same path as the Nolan movies. Strong start with Batman Begins, amped up and wonderful Dark Knight, and a weirdly-paced, unfocused Dark Knight Rises.
I'm sure the game will be fun, as Agnello says, but my worry lies in whether or not the game is truly memorable and great, like the first two. Time will tell.