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Batman: Arkham Knight's Batmobile made it the best playable game at E3

Some demos offer only a glimpse of the finished game. Batman: Arkham Knight played like the full game, thanks in part to the Batmobile.

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"Arkham Knight is like sitting down to watch Batman Begins after enduring Schumacher's Batman & Robin."

I was lucky enough to see and play a lot of games at E3 last week. Some I got to see for literally minutes and play for even less, some I got to play for too long and had to politely make for the exit. One was terrible (more of that later this week) and you already know I enjoyed Far Cry 4 and Mortal Kombat X.

But one game stood out amongst the crowd in a year where there was a shit-tonne of high quality, triple-A games on display. I played Batman: Arkham Knight on my last day at the show. By this point I should have been tired and cynical and spoilt by so much quality. Yeah, the last Batman game - the one not made by Rocksteady - was the weakest of the bunch. But Batman: Arkham Knight? It was like sitting down to watch Batman Begins after enduring the shitfest that was Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin movie.

My demo was the second main mission in the game, which involved rescuing five employees from ACE Chemicals - an enclosed industrial plant where the Dark Knight can get to grips with a stack of new skills and the Batmobile itself.

It started familiarly enough, with The Bat looking down on the plant to scope it out, throwing the batarang around the perimeter to case the joint using its video functions. Once the layout of the location is mapped and all five victims marked it was just a case of using some of Batman's newest abilities to rescue them and push the story forward.

"Batman: Arkham Knight treats the Batmobile almost as another playable superhero with its own set of unique abilities and skills."

Let's cut to the chase. The Batmobile is the new star of the show here. You get to drive it for the first time and it's not just a car - it doubles as a tank in Battle Mode. In this demo the emphasis was on the tank transformation as there was very little room to put your foot down. I jumped a few ramps using a last minute boost, but there were no opportunities to race through the streets of Gotham.

Holding down a trigger to remain in tank form was a little awkward as there's a lot of functions assigned to other buttons that you'll need to take advantage of. I found myself slipping out of tank form at inopportune moments, or just through a lack of familiarity with the game. Maybe that's something that will be changed for the final release or maybe my arthritic claws will get more comfortable with the controls.

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In tank form you're a tough little brawling machine, able to dodge left and right to avoid attacks (like the Titans in Titanfall, a move that I also saw in the Exo suits in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare). My Bat Tank was going up against an initially overwhelming number of drones but it didn't take long to wear them down. Armed with light and heavy attacks, the Bat Tank punches through most enemies. I'll admit it looked a little wack seeing the Batmobile transform and move left and right during the E3 trailer, but in-game it felt natural and it played out well.

More: How the Batmobile changes play as Batman and enhances the feeling of being a superhero...

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"I expected it to be good with Rocksteady back on board, and the trailer did a great job of selling it, but the demo itself was polished to the point of a finished game."

In tank mode the Batmobile also has a limited number of other functions, where it uses it's weight more like a pickup truck. I used it to raise and lower a busted lift as part of an environmental puzzle, and more excitingly to turn up the end of a broken bridge to make a ramp for launching the Batmobile off. These are scripted locations but its good to see the Batmobile is being thought of as a piece of equipment as well as in terms of transport and combat.

What's cooler than the Batmobile being in the game is that it also changes and adds to the Batman character himself. The Batmobile can be used remotely, so you can be in one part of the map and control the Batmobile elsewhere, to use it almost as a second playable character. It also assists in takedowns where Batman can launch an enemy with an uppercut into the path of the Batmobile's targeted rubber bullets.

And then there's the ability to launch Batman from the speeding Batmobile, sending him higher, further and faster than before. It's a great way to get escape in tough times, to reach real height for recon purposes, and most importantly to begin a set of special moves.

It's possible to follow the launch from the Batmobile to crash through a window onto an unsuspecting enemy, and from there chain a new set of moves where you quickly take down enemies with one hit. It's hard, but possible, and something I suspect will unlock a trophy or achievement depending on your choice of console once you master it.

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Like most of you I've wanted to drive the Batmobile since I was a kid. I even bought the atrocious Batman Returns on the Mega CD just so I could have a go on the half-decent racing sections. Batman: Arkham Knight is doing a great job of treating the Batmobile almost as another playable superhero with its own set of unique abilities and skills, alongside the additions it brings to the Batman character himself. There's some mystery over who exactly Arkham Knight is in this game, but that's not nearly as interesting to me as what else I'll be able to do with the Batmobile in an open-world Gotham City.

Batman: Arkham Knight really was a genuine surprise for me at E3 this year. I expected it to be good with Rocksteady back on board, and the trailer did a great job of selling it, but the demo itself was polished to the point of a finished game. Clearly the game needs extra work because Warner announced a delay but from playing it for an hour you wouldn't have known it was still in heavy development.

It looked stunning, it was technically flawless and it contained a whole list of extra abilities and tweaks to the series that shone out as improvements to the game. On this showing alone Batman: Arkham Knight is going to be one of the highlights of 2015, no question.

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