|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Dev: RockSteady Studios|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|
|Release: October 18, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Alcohol Reference, Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence|
by Becky Cunningham
Having produced a critical and popular hit in Batman: Arkham Asylum, all eyes are on Rocksteady Studios as they prepare for the launch of its sequel, Batman: Arkham City. Will this new game continue to make players feel as though they're in Batman's shiny black boots, or will it suffer from the curse of Batman and Robin? We recently had the opportunity to play through an extended demo of Arkham City, and I'm happy to report that it seems to be on the right track to continue and expand Arkham Asylum's legacy.
Set a year after the events of Arkham Asylum, this game has now-mayor Quincy Sharp gathering all the Gotham City evildoers into a large portion of the city's slums, now known as Arkham City. These villains are sealed in and allowed to have free rein as long as they don't escape. Naturally, Bruce Wayne is unsure on whether an urban supervillain version of Lord of the Flies is a good idea. When he hears that Catwoman has been captured by Two-Face and is scheduled for execution, Wayne dons the Batsuit and ventures into Arkham City to rescue the pretty kitty and investigate what's going on in there.
The basics of Arkham City are quite similar to those in Asylum. Batman's simple but satisfying beat-em-up combat returns, but the Caped Crusader can now take on more enemies at once, allowing for some impressively fun crowd-based fight scenarios. When surrounded, Arkham City's Batman deftly jabs from enemy to enemy in a manner reminiscent of the Adam West days, but without the cheesy sound effects.
Detective mode is back with some edits and improvements. It's harder to navigate in Detective Mode, so it should no longer be desirable to play through the whole game with it on. There will also be more actual forensics in Detective Mode, emphasizing Wayne's intellect as well as his strength. Batman doesn't need to re-acquire his gadgets, either. Everything he had from the end of Arkham Asylum is back at the beginning of Arkham City, but he'll find some new toys and upgrades for his arsenal as he goes along.
The look and feel of Arkham City is genuine Gotham, complete with Gothic clock towers mixed with modern skyscrapers. It's a joy to soar around the city with Batman's improved gliding system, even if eventually one bumps into the giant plexiglass wall labeled "No Exit." The new and more varied setting is a great playground for Batman and his enemies, with the demo containing a derelict courthouse, a large building in which Batman had to sneak around to rescue hostages, and a tall tower that housed a nasty trap from the Joker. There certainly seem to be a lot of villains to contend with here, as we encountered Two-Face, Harley Quinn, the Penguin, and the Joker in various capacities during the demo alone. The idea seems to be creating a feeling of constant surprise and danger for Batman. There are no friendly prison guards here, only bad guys who want nothing more than to roast Batman on a platter. Thus, Arkham city offers a feeling of greater freedom with its more open setting, but closes in on Batman as he is surrounded by foes and must operate with only the voices of Alfred and Oracle on his communicator as true allies.
One of the major new features of Arkham City is the ability to play Catwoman, who has her own thievish campaign interspersed throughout the main story. Although we didn't have the chance to try out Catwoman's version of Detective Mode, which has her tracking down treasures to steal, we were able to briefly control her during a fight scene. She feels appropriately lighter on her feet than Batman, with an acrobatic style consisting of quick punches, jumps, and spin-kicks. Not to mention that with Batman playing as the ultimate straight man to his legion of colorful, insane foes, it's nice to take a break and control a character who is actually in on the joke.
Playing Arkham City on a crowded show floor was a reminder of how well Rocksteady captures the feel of Batman. The group of spectators behind us helped to narrate Batman's adventure, affectionately heckling and riffing on the setting and dialog. The dialog seems to have a bit more cheese factor than that of Arkham Asylum, but Arkham City's developers promise that the game will go to some very dark places. Perhaps the slight corniness will act as a nice contrast to the later events of the game, as well as being an homage to various portions of the Batman tradition.
Overall, our Batman: Arkham City demo showed a game that continues the quality gameplay of Arkham Asylum, but adds a new setting and story along with various tweaks and improvements. The more open setting in the middle of Gotham City adds even more to the feeling of playing Batman, and Catwoman looks like a great deal of fun to play as well. With the expanded Detective Mode and a host of villains to battle, the Big Bat will have plenty to do in his second Arkham game. I for one am eager to don the suit once more.
CCC Contributing Writer