Batman: Arkham City Preview

by on June 8, 2011

Batman: Arkham City comes with high expectations. The original, Arkham Asylum, came from nowhere to claim the crown of “best Batman game ever”, as well as being arguably the best comic game of all time and a strong candidate for the best game of 2009.

So how does Rocksteady Games go about topping that? Should they provide player as with more of the same? Or is it all change for the Batman as he leaves the confines of Arkham Asylum and and starts to prowl the streets of Gotham city?

God is a Geek was given access to a behind closed doors demonstration of the Dark Knight’s adventure in Arkham City. And what a city it is. The first thing that you notice is the sheer size of the world around Batman, the city spreading out underneath him as he perches high above on a gargoyle.

The demonstration moves straight into Batman’s new flight mechanics and it is all about momentum. Batman can glide steeply then use his grappling hook to pull himself back up into the sky, quickly traversing the environment in a way that seemed to contrast Arkham Asylum. It does look exhilarating though, with Batman using a glide and grapple combo to attack a group of enemies standing high on a ledge, dispatching them with the ruthless efficiency that we expect from Batman and the series. Then more flight, this time looking for somewhere, or rather someone, very specific; Catwoman.

Catwoman’s missions are integrated fully into the story but are accessed, at least in this demonstration at the convenience of the player and not the whim of the narrative. It is a stark change of pace, Catwoman’s movement, momentum and interaction with the environment very different from that the of the Dark Knight. Her mission, a theft level relying on stealth, demonstrated her unique moves and mechanics, the most obvious being the use of her claws to crawl and hang from the ceiling, prowling in the dark in a very  different way from the Bat. According to Rocksteady, Catwoman’s missions make up for around ten percent of gameplay in Arkham city, though she will also be playable in Challenges, which are set to provide players with plenty more playable content, aside from the main story.

The big surprise of the show was the introduction The Penguin. Wearing a monocle made of smashed glass and rocking a fierce east london accent he was another of the enemies confirmed for the game. His interaction with Batman was the perfect moment to look at the facial animation, which appears to have been taken to a new level in this sequel, Cobblepot’s manic eye squaring off against the Caped Crusader’s fierce snarl.

Double Takedowns were also on show, which make Batman all the more fearsome to his enemies in the game. When a player executes a Double Takedown, Batman will do things like smash two players heads together, defeating both enemies in one move.

The emphasis on the game does seem to be increasing the variety and the player choice. Catwoman’s new mechanics, Batman’s combat, flight, stealth and the developers announcement that the players have options when choosing which enemy to tackle next, all indicate that Rocksteady have taken brave steps forward and re-imagined their successful formula from Arkham Asylum to really make Batman master of his own city.

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Batman Arkham City is set to release October 21, 2011, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.