Visuals, as we all know, are not everything. Yet while this year's E3 showcased developers starting to get to grips with new-gen technology, Rocksteady arguably won the graphical show with their gameplay trailer for Arkham Knight.
Even looking at it now, we still get a little giddy. Batman steps onto a balcony's edge, and the camera pans round a heavily-detailed Gotham, and then follows the Dark Knight as he leaps into the heart of the city, plunging multiple stories before gliding through multiple streets packed with enemies and explorable areas. Glorious.
We talked somewhat about our impressions of the behind closed doors demo, but we got a wider overview of the game's design and yet more details when we interviewed producer Dax Ginn. Here's what we learnt from Rocksteady developer during our chat.
A Gotham of this scale is only possible on new-gen.
"Building up the entirety of Gotham City is a big thing that we really wanted to achieve with Arkham Knight," says Dax when we touch on the verticality that even the brief demo seems to suggest we'll be seeing in the new title. "And that's the thing about building out Gotham. It's such a legendary place you get a sense that the atmosphere and emotion is as important as the buildings in there."
He goes on to explain the tech is the real reason they can achieve this. "You have a building like Wayne Tower - it's this massive skyscraper. In previous games we couldn't really use horsepower of those platforms to get that kind of vertical reality. With the power of next-gen we can go all the way to the top of these buildings, dive off, glide all the way down, land where we want, get into the Batmobile... it's insane what we can do for next-gen horsepower."
They couldn't finish their trilogy without giving fans what they'd been asking for since the start...
"It's something we've always wanted to do, and getting into Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, fans were saying to us: ‘when are you going to bring the Batmobile in?' You think Batman, you think Batmobile. So our attitude with Arkham Knight was ‘this is the end of the trilogy for us. We've got to make sure Arkham Knight is the complete Batman experience'. So we couldn't finish it off without adding in the Batmobile.
... but the Batmobile's partly the reason why this is PC and new-gen only.
"When you think about what the Batmobile can do, the speed it can drive at, the devastation it can do on the streets of Gotham City... all of those things you've got to do with such reality and such fidelity that we had to step up to next-gen. We had to commit exclusively to next-gen. So once we made that decision to go for the Batmobile, all those technical decisions got made for us."
Thought their E3 gameplay demo had crashed? That's the way they planned it to look.
"We've been working on that for months," Dax explains of the finish to their Sony conference demo that saw the gameplay teaser hang during a combat sequence, only to revealed as a way to unveil the main villain of the game. "We wanted to reveal Scarecrow, so people could look into his eyes for the first time. But we also wanted to make the first in-action reveal of battle mode.
"So getting at combat in the streets to Scarecrow sitting menacingly in a chair, it was a case of ‘how do we do that?' We started to think - what is Scarecrow really about? Scarecrow's about fear. About using fear as a weapon. Then we started thinking ‘what's our greatest fear as a games developer? What's our greatest fear at a press conference at E3?' It's that something would go wrong. The game will crash, it'll have technical difficulties. And we thought "that's what scares us the most? Then let's have Scarecrow invade our game demo, crash our game, then it's revealed he's the guy behind it'."
The Arkham Knight brings smarts and battle prowess to the clash with Batman, making for a very unique - and Rocksteady-created - foe.
"To design a new Batman villain for the universe? You just don't get that chance very often. So we wanted a villain that could challenge Batman physically in a combat situation and we wanted someone as well to be a commander of this vast military force that's facing down Batman in this final conclusive chapter. So bringing those two things together really gave us a villain in the Arkham Knight, that was just formidable, someone that could really bring a threat that's very physical, to the game experience."
Arkham Knight may earn the game subtitle, but Scarecrow's the main antagonist for the game, seemingly replacing Joker's role of before.
"Scarecrow's not a physical dude. So as the main villain, Batman has to take down the Scarecrow - the main antagonist - that's all about psychology rather than physicality. But when you throw the Arkham Knight in there, you've got this very physical connection, which gives rise to amazing gameplay with combat, vehicle combat, so that three-way battle felt like it worked well for us."
The delay to 2015 may not be the thing you need, but it's the decision you deserve, according to Rocksteady.
"We had to make a decision," Ginn explains on the sudden shift to 2015 so soon after the game was announced as coming to PC and consoles this fall, stating that since ideas started way back in 2011, the team wanted to see all of them realised on their bow out of the Arkham universe.
"All those features we'd designed, had we time to do them? And that's a tough decision to make. Because in our minds we can see the game - it doesn't exist yet - but we can see it. And when you realise we're going to need a little more time to make all this stuff happen... it's heartbreaking to try and cut stuff out. Because it already exists to us.
"In our minds, gamers deserve the absolute best that we can [offer]. So when it comes down to it, taking a bit more time to give gamers what they deserve, rather than rushing it and making gamers feeling a little short-changed... for us, the decision was we had to do right by the Batman fans who have done right by us all the way back to Arkham Asylum. We really owe it to gamers and Batman fans to make the highest quality game we can. We needed just a little more time to do that."
Catch the full interview below.