Why Batman: Arkham Knight's Gotham is the best version of the city ever

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You been watching Gotham? You remember the first time you stood on top of the Ace Chemicals building in the game Arkham City? In your batsuit, in that perennial half-light? Gotham was alive with possibilities for as far as the eye could see, right? Wrong.

The new Arkham Knight game delivers a Gotham no less than five times the size of the glorified village in Arkham City. And Gotham the TV show? It’s just a CGI enhanced New York.

Arkham Knight’s Gotham, is Gotham as it was always meant to be. Throughout the franchise NVIDIA GameWorks and PhysX technologies have provided the graphical grunt. Crazy-ass detail in clothing, destruction, particles, tessellation, TXAA, and more.

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Within the wilfully claustrophobic confines of stunning debut Arkham Asylum and the open-world sequel Arkham City we’ve seen detail, effects and textures advance off the charts. But the final part of Rocksteady’s epic trilogy looks set to dwarf it. Indeed, this summer’s forthcoming gaming blockbuster will provide the most detailed rendition of the mythical city ever realised in its 70-odd year history.

Of course, it’s fun to look back. To reflect on what has got us here. After all, Gotham City has existed in many different forms over the years, and is of course widely recognised to be based on New York. Remember though, the camp 60s series starring Adam West was all shot in sunny California. The day-glo colours the complete opposite to the franchise’s moody gothic origins.

1960s Batman

Bob Kane’s original creation has always been more at home in the shadows. Delivered by the towering architecture of Gotham. "Batman's Gotham City is Manhattan below Fourteenth Street", said Batman writer and editor Dennis O’Neil, “at eleven minutes past midnight on the coldest night in November.” Gotham truly is a place where the sun shouldn’t shine.

Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan got that, delivering a Gotham described as an “exaggerated contemporary New York” or simply “New York on steroids.” But interestingly fact fans, over a million digital photos of Chicago were used to enhance that film’s exteriors.

Batman Begins

Not sure Tim Burton was quite so on point. For the boffins, his Batman films tossed in elements of fascist, Russian and World’s Fair architecture, with a further nod to German expressionism. But look closely and you’ll still see that camp hangover from the 60s TV iteration.

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Now of course there TV’s surprisingly watchable Gotham. Another origins story, all filmed in New York, with the skyline enhanced by CGI to provide a dense, decaying and oppressive atmosphere. But look at all these cinematic and televisual Gothams and they're rooted in the real - real New York, real Chicago, real California.

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While Arkham Knight’s developers Rocksteady have all that to draw on, they are not constrained by the reality of real-life filming. They can bring their own distinctive style to the fiction and create a Gotham, rich in detail and rife with the fantastic. The designers created the city from scratch and were able to build upwards and outwards, with action will taking place in the centre of the city across three island areas including the distinctive Chinatown.

Rocksteady were also able to overcome a design obstacle with a minimum of heavy lifting, namely that of how to accommodate the all-new Batmobile. With around half the game time reckoned to be at the wheel, the streets of Arkham City were simply too tight to negotiate comfortably. Unencumbered by the realities of bricks and mortar, Rocksteady have simply widened the roads to enable you to tear around at will without messing up the paintwork.

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While the action may be on the streets, the defining image is of Batman perched atop a crumbling building, gazing ruefully down on the city at night with a mixture of hope and despair. The devil is in the detail, and Rocksteady, with the help of NVIDIA graphical tech, have captured it in spades.

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As we approach Batman: Arkham Knight’s anticipated worldwide launch on June 23, it will be exciting to see the new next-gen graphical features Rocksteady Studios and NVIDIA are bringing to what is, without question, one of the most stunningly detailed depictions of Gotham City to date.

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