Batman: Arkham City Hands On Preview
Batman is back in a sequel that aims to top everything laid out by its predecessor.
Batman: Arkham Asylum was arguably the best superhero game ever made. Never before had a superhero universe been so faithfully re-created in a video game. Everything from the gameplay to production values were done so well that the game won itself over with fans and critics alike. However, Rocksteady Studios is trying to best their last game with Batman: Arkham City. So far, they are definitely on the right track.
Batman: Arkham City picks up about one year after the events of the first game. Since then, Quincy Sharp, the former warden of Arkham Asylum, has become mayor of Gotham City. With his newly gained position, he buys out a portion of the city and sanctions it off, leaving the inmates of Arkham Asylum there and gives them free will to do as they please, as long as they don't try to escape. Sharp hired psychiatrist Hugo Strange to oversee the city, but Strange has an agenda of his own, and he holds Batman's greatest weakness at his disposal: his identity. With the idea that things are bound to get out of hand in Arkham City, Batman keeps his eye over the city, and comes to find that there are many horrible things going on.
The demo picked up with Batman trailing Catwoman, one of the new characters in the video game series. She has been kidnapped by Two-Face and it's up to Batman to save her. While this is your objective, the game does nothing but nudge you to do so. The game is an open world, and you can tell it's a big one by the size of the in-game map. It's huge, and has many different areas to explore. Within the game world, there are thugs roaming the streets which you can hunt and take down, some of which hold clues to find Riddler challenges. These Riddler Challenges are definitely looking to step it up from the first, for now you have to interrogate enemies, gain information and use your wit to solve his riddles. It was great to see this addition, because now aside from the story, there is tons to do.
One of the first things you will notice about the way the game plays is the enhanced gliding system. Instead of just gliding to your destination, you can now put yourself in a dive, which increases your speed. From that you can use your grapple hook, and by pressing the A button twice, you will overshoot the ledge and in turn it gives you great momentum and speed. It almost becomes as if you are web-slinging or even flying. The system is fun and I can imagine players becoming engaged solely on this mechanic alone.
Once I made my way over to the mission at hand, I had to sneak into the building where Two-Face himself was threatening to kill Catwoman. The stealth takedowns are still there and as good as they ever were. As I looked at the task before me, I was hesitant. There were about 50 enemies, some armed, and no help in sight. Knowing it was nothing for Batman, I swooped in and took out the guy at the crank, thus saving Catwoman. Of course, I had about 49 other people to handle. Due to the fluid and smooth, free-flow combat system returning from the first game, it was no problem. It was epic and definitely fun. One gripe I had however was that the dodge maneuver which in Arkham Aslylum was handled by pressing A once seemed to be changed to pressing A twice in Arkham City. It felt a bit awkward, but I got used to it as I played. After defeating the enemies, Two-Face shoots Batman. I thought I had lost, but like the mind games of Batman: Arkham Asylum, it only lead to a cutscene. Don't fret – Batman lives to see another battle.
After playing the demo, I only wanted to keep playing more. There was still so much I hadn't seen, and the dynamics between the characters were already pulling me in. This game clearly ups the ante from the first and comes with a much darker tone as well. I have no doubt that fans of Arkham Asylum will be pleased with Batman's latest outing when it releases this fall.