Batman: Arkham City Preview

We take a trip, deep into the heart of the new crime-filled Arkham City with the Dark Knight as our guide. This is Batman: Arkham City from developer Rocksteady...

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Perched atop a gargoyle stalks the shadow of one of the most iconic figures in entertainment. Below the figure sits a walled off section of a once great city, hanging by a string that's slowly being burned away by criminals, super villains, and ulterior motives. The figure, as you may have guessed, is Batman. The place is Arkham City. Developer Rocksteady has collected a stockpile of critical and commercial acclaim for its previous endeavor, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Since the release of that title, the studio was purchased by Warner Bros. Interactive and announced the game's sequel. The first thing I noticed during my hands-off demo of Batman: Arkham City was the game's scale. While the multiple sections of the previous game in the series gave the game a good sense of size, Arkham City is massive. In fact, Rocksteady's Dax Ginn confirms the world here is five times larger than the studio's previous Batman adventure. Though it isn't the entire Gotham City, it's a large chunk of the land that has been converted into the new Arkham Asylum. Beyond that, the developer decided to "flip" the experience. Whereas Arkham Asylum was 20% outdoors and 80% indoors, Arkham City will be the opposite. The city is so vast that it begs to be explored. The open-world nature of the environment pushed Rocksteady to make changes to almost every aspect of Batman's repertoire. Combat, navigation, and gadgetry have all seen tweaks. Also different? Batman is not restricted in his approach. In Batman: Arkham City, you can go anywhere you want from the very beginning and choose how to tackle (and then probably punch) any situation. "You can unfold the game anyway you want," Ginn says. At the beginning of the demo, Batman's stalwart butler Alfred tells the perched Dark Knight that Two-Face is holed up in a courthouse with Catwoman as his unwilling guest. Tapping into local cellphone frequencies using an upgraded version of his Cryptographic Sequencer from Arkham Asylum, Batman learns that Two-Face intends on settling a score with Ms. Selina Kyle. You'd think the situation is in need of immediate Caped Crusader intervention, but Ginn decides to take the scenic route around the city before helping out the kidnapped kitty. Hoping off the gargoyle and toward the ground below, Batman extends his cape and glides throughout the city. To gain altitude, Batman executes a dive and then extends his cape again, thrusting him high into the sky. This dive-bomb technique is quick and effective, and with the addition of Batman's grappling hook the Dark Knight can control the skies. Soon, Batman sees a group of inmates harassing reporter Jack Ryder in the street. This encounter reveals another new element. In Arkham City, Riddler's secrets have returned but are harder to discover. Throughout the world will be Riddler's informants, which Batman can pinpoint in Detective mode. The group below includes an informant, but to get his information Batman must dispatch the other enemies first. Following a flurry of punches and kicks, Batman comes face-to-face with the informant and attempts to squeeze information out of him. Unfortunately, 'interrogation' only appears to be as simple as pressing a button and waiting for the enemy to spill the beans. There doesn't appear to be any mechanic attached to the new feature. Successfully interrogating an informant places Riddler question marks on Batman's map of Arkham City, which correspond to hidden Riddler goodies. If you fail to save the informant for last in the group battle, players are forced to find the Riddler trophies on their own.

Zam! Pow!

In combat, Batman can utilize the Bat-claw to drag enemies back into fist range. Batman can also grab hurled objects in midair and deliver them back toward his enemies with pinpoint, MLB accuracy. For blocking enemies, Batman can stun them with a swipe of his cape and deliver a barrage of punches to their midsection. The move is aptly named the "beatdown." The game can now handle more characters on screen; however, it's unclear how many can be fought at once. In one instance Batman enters a building with around twenty enemies. When he hurled himself into the crowd, most fled the scene leaving only a handful to contend with. Batman's gear has also seen an improvement to compensate for the game's new scale. Beyond the aforementioned upgrade to the Cryptographic Sequencer, which helps discover new tasks throughout the world, Detective Mode has a little more function too. In one section a bullet flies through a window and Batman analyzes its entry and stopping points to estimate the trajectory of the bullet to discover where the shooter was positioned, unlocking a new mission possibility. The look of the game captures the areas nicely. Neon lights and dark alleys are indicators of the type of enemy faction you're bound to run into. The courthouse, for example, is half destroyed and burned while the other half is prestine, making it clear that it's Two-Face's favorite haunt. So far, Arkham City looks great. You've never wanted to visit a place and be so far away from it at the same time. Batman: Arkham City hasn't changed the core of the original game. Rocksteady instead opted to "enhance" the original game and add a greater scale to the experience. It doesn't take the World's Greatest Detective to know that Batman: Arkham City is one of this year's most anticipated titles. Batman: Arkham City launches later this year for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.
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From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 3, 2011 8:30 AM

    Comment on Batman: Arkham City Preview, by Xav de Matos.

    • reply
      March 3, 2011 8:45 AM

      We take a trip, deep into the heart of the new crime-filled Arkham City with the Dark Knight as our guide. This is Batman: Arkham City from developer Rocksteady..

    • reply
      March 3, 2011 8:49 AM

      Sounds like Assasins Creed: Batman Edition

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      March 3, 2011 8:56 AM

      Man I really hope they have this at PAX next week. It looks damn good.

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      March 3, 2011 8:58 AM

      I really need to spend some time with Batman:AA that i picked up at the steam holiday party.

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      March 3, 2011 9:11 AM

      must.resist.reading.this.

      Need to finish the first

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      March 3, 2011 9:19 AM

      This worries me. An open world game may lose the focus and storytelling that made the first game awesome.

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        March 3, 2011 9:29 AM

        I think Rocksteady acknowledges that possibility. Consider the first two sentences of Xav's closing paragraph: "Batman: Arkham City hasn't changed the core of the original game. Rocksteady instead opted to "enhance" the original game and add a greater scale to the experience."

        They know why Batman: AA was a success, so they won't stray too far from the formula. If you think about it, AA laid the groundwork for a larger open-world game perfectly. Even though AA was--as Xav pointed out--largely based indoors, the outdoor areas were still put together quite well and didn't take away from the indoor regions. I trust that Rocksteady knows how to expand the game's scale while still focusing on what made AA so fun: being Batman.

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        March 3, 2011 1:53 PM

        [deleted]

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      March 3, 2011 9:30 AM

      I hope they figure out a way to maintain the excellent pacing of the original. While open world games are all the rage, I find that they sometimes have problems keeping me motivated to play. Batman: AA was just structured and linear enough to keep me moving forward.

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        March 3, 2011 9:36 AM

        Agreed. One of the reasons I just can't get into the Elders Scrolls series is that it feels like there's no motivation to do anything related to the actual plot. You start up the game, and it's basically, "Go save the world! Or, you know, just fuck with the townspeople. Whatever." and I'm just left with no desire to actually do anything.

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          March 3, 2011 9:52 AM

          I'm confident they will. The previewer over at IGN mentioned how the city is divided into 5 parts controlled by a different villain and that it felt even more like the Batman he know and loves (admittedly a collector of over 200 Batman comics).

          With luck we may see a more comic (not comical) style of approach, say with each district a different adventure and stories to complete.

          I'm only half way through the first game now and haven't enjoyed a game so much in a long long time. There's something about bringing characters to life from comic books into this game that hasn't transformed as well in any cartoon, movie or previous game. Asylum is a gem of game and I can not wait for Arkham City.

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        March 3, 2011 4:31 PM

        [deleted]

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      March 3, 2011 10:14 AM

      You had me at 'Jack Ryder'.

      Rocksteady is handling the Batman IP with so much attention to detail that I want to raid their library of back-issues. It's gotta be massive.

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      March 3, 2011 12:29 PM

      can't. wait. for. this.

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      March 3, 2011 1:33 PM

      In Batman: Arkham City, you can go anywhere you want from the very beginning and choose how to tackle (and then probably punch) any situation. "You can unfold the game anyway you want," Ginn says.

      Oh hell yes.

      Rocksteady is quickly becoming one of my favorite developers.

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      March 3, 2011 3:18 PM

      Typo: In the link for the screenshots:

      hhttp://www.shacknews.com/game/batman-arkham-city/screenshots

      should be:

      http://www.shacknews.com/game/batman-arkham-city/screenshots

      Firefox throws an error dialog.

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      March 3, 2011 3:21 PM

      I wish to give this game the sexy time.

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      March 3, 2011 4:30 PM

      I want this game so bad, but will early adopters (at least on the PC) get extra content after the initial release for free, or is that for GOTY edition only?

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      March 3, 2011 4:33 PM

      There seems to be something screwy with the Screenshots. If I click on the image in the article and keep clicking right, it goes to pictures unrelated to Batman:AC

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        March 3, 2011 9:34 PM

        I've made a change to the link. Hopefully whatever that bug is won't pop up again. Sorry about that.

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      March 4, 2011 5:59 AM

      [deleted]

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      March 4, 2011 8:58 AM

      Yeah, I immediately became concerned the moment I saw the word Open World. That's up there with Zombies for "out of ideas"

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        March 4, 2011 11:15 AM

        I see "Open World" as "Choices". Ain't nothing wrong with that, especially in games.

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      March 7, 2011 6:51 PM

      I hope they have a ridiculous amount of fighting moves just like the first one

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