Batman: Arkham City preview

The Dark Knight returns in Batman: Arkham City. We get another glimpse at the upcoming, highly-anticipated sequel from developer Rocksteady, using the opportunity to sharpen our crime-fighting skills and to meet up with the playable Catwoman.

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At the beginning of the Batman: Arkham City demo the eponymous hero sits perched atop a building, surveying the city lain out beneath him. It's a powerful image. How can one man tackle such an expansive den of iniquity? On the horizon the outline of Arkham Asylum, site of the first game, can be seen. The section of Gotham that's been turned into the combination prison and insane asylum known as Arkham City that's home to this game is five times that size. Yet Arkham City intends to retain its up close and personal character, particularly when it comes to fighting crime. Leaping down on unsuspecting henchmen, Batman swings into action. One of the goals for improving the combat in this sequel is to make the choreography of fights even smoother than before. The sequence flows from entering with some sort of dramatic navigational move like a drop takedown to fighting in the now familiar dance of punch, dodge, and counter to executing a finisher to take down foes. That last blow delivers the same gratifying payoff as it did before. I slid right back into rhythm controlling Batman in almost no time. The lightning bolts over an attacker's head right before they come at you are back, and the window to counter and reverse that attack remains pretty open. The outdoor spaces afford ample opportunity to exit combat tactically with the grappling gun, and then re-enter with another flying move. The pace felt frantic, in a good way. One of the main objectives for this demo was to rescue Catwoman from being dropped into a vat of acid by Two-Face. The first order of business is getting to the building in which she's being held. If I hadn't wanted to see the rest of what the demo had to offer, though, I might have just soared around the city. The way Batman gets around by firing his grappling gun, using it to slingshot him into the air, and then spreading his cape to glide feels just right. It's a blast to aim at ledge, get zipped toward it, and then pop the cape.

Catwoman joins the fun as an actual playable character in Batman: Arkham City.

But Catwoman needed Batman's help. So I fought my way into the building, got to a balcony to watch Two-Face get in her face a little, and then dropped in to save her from an awful fate. Missions like this rescue seem like they will be the bread-and-butter for the game, but it's how she got there in the first place the reveals another new part of Batman Arkham City. Two-Face caught her red handed, trying to rob him in one of the new sections of the game where you actually play as Catwoman. Consider her something of a special guest star; providing a new experience for about 10% of the game. Catwoman isn't just a re-skinned version of the playable Batman. She moves with a lighter and somewhat speedier touch, but doesn't pack quite as heavy a punch. Her whip swing allows her to get around somewhat like Batman's grappling gun, but the range is much shorter. She also has a "thief mode" not unlike Batman's detective mode except that it only highlights things she'd be interested in stealing, which makes Catwoman a little more challenging to play in situations. She does, though, have an equalizer in the ability to use her claws to climb the walls and crawl on the ceiling. Her climbing skills got put to good use in a section we were shown where she picked off the guards defending a vault one by one, dropping from the ceiling behind them to get a stealth takedown and then leaping back up to the shadows of the ceiling before being spied by the other guards alerted by the commotion. We were told there are four swaps to play as Catwoman which sounds like a nice comfortable amount to make a change of pace without becoming a distraction. The open nature of the city also offers a lot of opportunity to take a break from the primary story when it gets fatiguing. Though they must be reusing assets to build out such a large city, I was impressed by how custom-built every section of the streets looked when I went exploring. And there are also side-missions, like the Riddler's challenge rooms. I found one of these by going to stop a crime in progress marked on the map. It opened up three new investigation sites, which after dispatching the thugs at each, gave me the location one of the game's newer, deadlier Riddler challenges. Inside the challenge room, an acrobatic puzzle greeted Batman. Solving it required figuring out a way through room-spanning axles with spinning blades over electrified floor panels which could be momentarily shut down by hitting switches with the grappling gun. It came down to control and timing but the challenge was well balanced and fun test of my skill with the Caped Crusader. With the content in the demo sections cleared I put the controller down but it was hard to do. From what I played it feels like the developers have really nailed the sense of being Batman, sailing around the shadowy heights above the city, ready to dive into the midst of any street thugs, and just as quickly disappear back into the sky. Couple that with a main story on par with the first game, Catwoman's special guest role, and the extra challenges scattered around the map and Batman: Arkham City looks like an impressive sequel. Batman: Arkham City is scheduled to arrive on October 18 for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.
From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 2, 2011 7:15 AM

    Garnett Lee posted a new article, Batman: Arkham City preview.

    The Dark Knight returns in Batman: Arkham City for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. We get another glimpse at the upcoming, highly-anticipated sequel from developer Rocksteady, using the opportunity to sharpen our crime-fighting skills and to meet with Catwoman

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      June 2, 2011 7:18 AM

      Playable Catwoman? Sounds awesome!

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        June 2, 2011 7:20 AM

        That definitely sounds pretty awesome.

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        June 2, 2011 7:30 AM

        I think we're looking at GOTY 2011-material here.

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          June 2, 2011 8:53 AM

          In the same year as Skyrim, ME3, BF3, etc?

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            June 2, 2011 8:55 AM

            ME3 is coming out in 2012.

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              June 2, 2011 8:56 AM

              I'd wail and gnash my teeth but really, my wallet is thanking them.

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            June 2, 2011 10:29 AM

            What makes you presume those games will be better than Batman? The first Batman was fantastic, one of the best games of 2009, which was a stacked year for great games.

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            June 2, 2011 10:30 AM

            Since Skyrim is going to be on a new engine, I'm expecting that it will need some weeks of patches before being stable (according to history, at least). Dunno about BF3... graphics-wise it sure does look fantastic, but I'm doubting how much they're going to change the core gameplay. It will surely be a fantastic MP game.

            Deus EX seems to be, so far, the biggest contender for GOTY along AC, bringing some new stuff to the table while "fixing" some problems of the previous game.

            L. A. Noire seems to be a fantastic game but with some serious flaws, so I guess it is not competing against those two (dunno though - I didn't play it).

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          June 2, 2011 8:58 AM

          I agree to an extent, but I also think this about Deus Ex. I always want to say that Batman:AA should have gotten GOTY 2009 instead of Uncharted 2

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            June 2, 2011 9:43 AM

            I certainly dug Batman far more than Uncharted 2. Not even a question, really.

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        June 2, 2011 8:06 AM

        I hope it's awesome.

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        June 2, 2011 10:39 AM

        The bathing animations are particularly well done.

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      June 2, 2011 7:34 AM

      After yesterday's trailer, I had two thoughts regarding Catwoman: "Awesome," and "I hope Rocksteady doesn't cram co-op down our throats." But playing as her during specific, triggered missions seems like a good idea: solve a Riddler challenge, or swing around the city, or play a Catwoman mission; then get back to the main quest at your leisure.

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      June 2, 2011 8:08 AM

      Yeah but what about Batgirl?

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      June 2, 2011 8:48 AM

      Man, Arkham Asylum was a massive sleeper hit, one of the best games I played the year it came out, hope this one is just as good, looks to be awesome.

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      June 2, 2011 8:50 AM

      I absolutely love what Rocksteady is doing with this IP. It feels like there's just a handful of great superhero video games out there.

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      June 2, 2011 10:12 AM

      Wonder if this is setting up a spin off Catwoman game. I wouldn't be opposed to that.

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        June 2, 2011 10:15 AM

        Scratch that (!), it's setting up Catwoman DLC missions now that I think about it.

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        June 2, 2011 1:52 PM

        As long as Rocksteady makes it, I'm game.

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      June 2, 2011 10:17 AM

      Where's the preorder button, I can't find it.

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        June 2, 2011 8:16 PM

        I believe Amazon has a $10 GC if you pre-order.

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      June 2, 2011 5:44 PM

      as someone who love strong females who kick as and as someone who loves playing as those characters....Catwoman(by Rocksteady) game asap, k thanks! Like the song they chose for her has well :-)

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      June 2, 2011 7:46 PM

      same trailer in HD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dXo3MNuJIw

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      June 3, 2011 7:24 AM

      So, does anyone know what song that is that plays while Catwoman kicks ass? I'd like to find it.

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        June 3, 2011 10:12 AM

        Lykke Li - Get Some is the name of the song during that part of the trailer.

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