|System: PS3, X360, PC|
|Dev: Rocksteady Studios|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive / Eidos Interactive|
|Release: Q3 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Bryan Lufkin
With last year's Batman: Arkham Asylum nearly achieving mythical status, receiving the "Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever" Guinness World Record, it's not exactly a secret that its sequel is fervently awaited. It's called Batman: Arkham City, and much of the same creative team will be involved, which is always a plus for a sequel, particularly when its predecessor was so popular. Rocksteady has said that Arkham City builds upon the dark, atmospheric Batman mood established in the original. As the title and slogan "Arkham has moved" imply, the scope of the action expands from the constraints of the last game's insane asylum to the thick of Gotham City.
This is because Quincy Sharp, the old warden of Arkham Asylum, has become Gotham's mayor, and decides to relocate inmates to a heavily-guarded slum overseen by the dubious psychiatrist, Hugo Strange. Meanwhile, Two-Face, looking to up his badass quotient, decides to publicly execute Catwoman in the compound, hoping to gain the admiration and respect of Arkham's rapscallions and his fellow villains. Once Batman catches wind of the scheme, he decides to infiltrate Arkham City and save his one-time love interest. With the Joker, Harley Quinn, and Mr. Freeze all slated for appearances, the cast of Arkham City is going to be an all-star one.
In addition to rescuing his girlfriend (or girl-foe), the Caped Crusader is also bent on uncovering the gritty details of Dr. Hugo Strange's past, as well as his true intentions for Arkham City's inhabitants. The sequel's story seems fairly complex, and Rocksteady says that there will be more plot-fueling interaction between Batman and villains, not just back-and-forth pummeling.
Part detective, part tech hound, and part ninja, Batman utilizes the same combination of gadgets and martial arts he did in the first installment. In fact, you'll start the game with all the items you acquired in the last game, and some of them will even have different or added properties. There'll also be new ones like smoke bombs and tracking devices. A notable difference in the battle system will be glorious group brawls, with more enemies attacking you at once than in Arkham Asylum. In this way, you'll get the sense that Arkham City is the African savannah of Gotham, with ferocious packs fighting to claim turf and Batman just voluntarily wandering in. He'll be able to taunt enemies and even bust down walls, giving players the element of surprise over their adversaries.
But make no mistake, it doesn't sound like the game will be using action and battles as crutches. This time, we're promised more puzzles and opportunities to actively help Batman figure things out and solve problems. The Riddler's challenges are back, but tougher, and we'll be able to interrogate enemies, access a criminal database, analyze radio frequencies, and assist Batman with forensic reports. Trophies will also be more difficult to win. However, Detective Mode, a skill Batman used in the previous game to locate hiding spots, enemies, and secret goodies, will be altered in Arkham City. Rocksteady recognized players relied on it too heavily, so its usefulness will probably be toned down this go-around.
Supplementing the main adventure are side-missions for the supporting cast, like the dagger-happy serial killer Victor Zsasz, who's scarred with self-inflicted tally marks representing his victims. He also appeared in the original game and will reportedly be one of a few characters whose points of view are represented throughout Arkham City. With DC Comics writer Paul Dini returning to pen the game's story, we can likely expect another rich, quality plot.
There has been no word on any sort of online play or multiplayer modes, however. If included, they'd run the risk of making it feel tacked-on, like so many games do with multiplayer modes. But if single player is anything like the one in Arkham Asylum, we probably don't have anything to be worried about.
Finally, several voice actors have confirmed reprisals of their roles in Batman's latest gaming adventure. Mark Hamill stars as the Joker (he says this'll be the last time he'll play the role), Kevin Conroy as Batman, and Wally Wingert as the Riddler.
Arkham Asylum left some pretty massive bat boots to fill, and it looks like its sequel is going to have no problems stepping up to the plate. An official release date has yet to be confirmed, but we're told Batman: Arkham City will hit stores sometime fall 2011.
CCC Freelance Writer