Published on September 24th, 2011 | by Adam Vjestica0
EGXP: Batman Arkham City: Preview
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive
Release Date: 21/10/11
Genre: Action Adventure
What’s new pussycat
In 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum swiftly catapulted Rocksteady Studios into the gaming stratosphere, receiving high praise from critics and gamers alike (we thought it was rather good too). Rocksteady will be hoping that they can continue upon their monumental success in the form of the sequel to 2009’s Game of the Year, Batman: Arkham City.
The Batman: AC booth predictably attracted a large crowd, with each player provided ample time to complete the 15 minute, E3 build demo.
The demo began with the introduction of the feisty feline femme fatale, known as Selina Kyle, a.k.a Catwoman. Catwoman is apprehended by a gang of goons whilst attempting to steal a valuable asset from none other than Two Face (Harvey Dent). With looks that could kill (and she often does), Rocksteady’s depiction of Catwoman is fittingly sexy, maintaining the characteristics of the unpredictable anti-heroine and complicated love interest of Batman.
To my surprise, once the cut-scene had ended I was granted control of Catwoman, tasked with neutralizing the oncoming bad guys. Blessed with incredible athleticism and gymnastic ability, Catwoman dispatches her enemies with breathtaking catlike agility, seductively teasing her enemies in the process. For example, Catwoman’s ground attack consisted of straddling the downed enemy, rolling his head playfully from side to side, slowly leaning in before delivering a viscous swipe across the face. Dangerously sexy.
Determined to use up one of her nine lives, Catwoman encounters the schizophrenic psychopath. Suitable tailored to reflect his split personality, Two Face decides to flip his beloved coin to determine Catwoman’s expectantly grim outcome. Luckily for Catwoman, it lands shiny side up, delaying her impending death, providing just enough time for the saviour of Gotham to enter the scene.
Slowly, the camera drew back, revealing the Dark Knight sat high above the bustling city below. The snow gently swirled above the rooftops, landing softly on the fluttering cape of Batman, who was unsheltered from the wind. Steam rose from the numerous grates and chimneys which adorned the adjacent buildings. It was a truly impressive moment, one that left me admittedly awestruck. It’s incredible what Rocksteady have achieved, even in this early build. Removing the linearity of the previous game whilst maintaining such a high level of visual clarity is a remarkable achievement.
On the prowl for danger, Batman reaches for a new gadget, one that I assume will become very useful. Batman is now able to track the sound locations of certain frequencies, such as hacking into a police radio announcement. Communicating with the recognisable Alfred, Batman uncovers Catwoman’s plight and decides to take action.
Come fly with me
Batman can’t fly. However, as I swooped and glided from rooftop to rooftop, he certainly came close. Traversing the city is intuitive and fast, whether your’re grappling onto building ledges or gliding down to the city streets below, the vast sandbox that Rocksteady has created can be navigated effortlessly. There was a noticeable frame rate dip whilst the engine tried to keep up with the action, but this may be fixed in the later build.
Batman is still badass when it comes to delivering justice. Building upon the popular ‘free-flow-combat’ engine, Batman has a variety of brand new context sensitive moves, counters and bone-breaking finishers. I particularly enjoyed the new ‘Batclaw slam’ which consisted of dragging an enemy towards you with the Batclaw, flipping them in the air, then slamming them down to the concrete below with satisfying brutality.
Improvements have also been made to the general presentation and mechanics of the gadgets, including the infinitely useful detective mode. Detective mode is now carried out from a first-person perspective when viewing story related clues, with more realistic scanning effects when surveying an area. When fighting enemies, it operates similarly to Batman: AA.
There’s no denying that the detective mode will once again play a huge part in Batman: AC, providing a crucial competitive advantage when taking on gotham’s thugs.
Bat loves cats
Batman’s thoughts act again as a narrator, helping to guide the player in their objectives, providing essential tips when required. I was advised to take down the only goon carrying a gun so I could easily dispatch Two Face’s makeshift jury of ex-cons. Thanks to the commotion Catwoman manages to get the better of Dent, squandering his attempts to reacquire his valuable item and end Catwoman’s life.
A sexually tense scene then ensued between Batman and Catwoman, until Batman notices a laser settling on Catwoman’s forehead. Springing into action, and saving Catwomans life again, Batman’s attention quickly turns to the wherabouts of the sniper who appears to be his arch nemesis, the Joker.
By tracing the direction of the bullet in detective mode, the grand scale and mechanics of Batman: AC are showcased to the player. Batman traces the bullet back to the top of a high, clock tower window. The player is then able to leave the building and navigate the rooftops to the building where the shot was made. This example showed that the city has a real sense of grandeur, emphasising the sheer magnitude of Batman’s never ending quest to vanquish evil from the city.
Here comes a new challenger!
After disposing of the lovely Harley Quinn and avoiding Joker’s trap, the final part of the demo consisted of fighting around 25 on-screen enemies at once, an impressive technical feat. The player is also introduced to another memorable villain in the shape of the Penguin.
Voiced by one of the most famous men in gaming, Nolan North, Rocksteady have added another star in their impressive voice acting ranks. Nolan does a brilliant gritty, English accent, bringing the character of the Penguin to life. I honestly can’t wait to see how the story unfolds.
I was left under no illusions that Rocksteady are onto another winner with Batman: AC. Redefining the game whilst maintaing all the successful elements of the first title is an impressive feat that even the most respected of developers would struggle to achieve, but it seems that Rocksteady have pulled it off.
Look out for Batman: Arkham City this October. It’s going to be Bat-tastic! *ahem*