Batman: Arkham City Hands-On Preview

Batman: Arkham Asylum was an extremely pleasant surprise when it released back in 2009. The fluid combat, innovative detective mode, and respect to the source material garnered it praise as the best videogame adaptation of a comic book to date. Two years later, Rocksteady Studios and WB Games are well into development and just about ready to release the game’s sequel, Batman: Arkham City. Now expanding from the private confines of the famed Arkham Asylum and into a cordoned-off section of Gotham itself, Batman’s latest struggle to put a stop to the crime infecting his city is looking to be just as much fun as the first.

Anyone who enjoyed the dark, gritty feel of Arkham Asylum will be happy to know that the same visual style returns in Arkham City. Taking place once again in the twilight of night, the city streets are illuminated only by neon signs and street lights. The lack of any civilian activity thanks to the evacuation, combined with the groups of thugs makes the metropolis feel dangerous and uninviting. Luckily for you, you’re the Dark Knight.

The detail of the city itself is incredible. Lighting will reflect properly in puddles of water, neon signs glean with the haze they should, and buildings feel very real. What’s more amazing is that the city is far bigger than the Asylum and yet there are no technical glitches to be seen anywhere. Everything runs smooth and solid, which will certainly keep you immersed in the world.

One area that will purposefully not feel as detailed as the rest of the game will be Batman’s detective mode. One of the most unfortunate parts of Arkham Asylum was that detective mode worked so well that players hardly bothered to turn it off and enjoy the beautiful environments of the Asylum itself. The mode still works great despite the change. You will be able to see enemies through walls, figure out which of them have weapons and need to be eliminated first, and can search for clues. It also hasn’t been dumbed down in detail enough to make it unattractive, but has been enough so you’ll want to actually turn it off. Don’t worry, it’s a good thing.

Just because Arkham City will be bigger than Arkham Asylum doesn’t mean it’ll take longer or be harder to navigate. Rocksteady has already taken this into consideration and made the proper adjustments. Now whenever the player uses the grappling hook they can double-tap the A button (X for PS3), which will propel Batman towards the object you have grappled at a faster pace. Then the player will launch the Caped Crusader over the object for a much faster glide through the city air. It’s easy to perform and cuts down on time spent when you want to get someplace in a hurry.

One of the additions to the game is a new gadget for Batman to play with, the signal transceiver. With this device, the player will be able to pick up and decode signals within his or her vicinity. This includes police bans for crimes, radio stations playing tunes for local listeners, or even special radio transmissions between goons that will help Bruce in finding his many nemeses. The device acts as a great new way to help those who may not know where to go next, and could possibly activate side-missions.

One of these signals in my demo actually leads me to a court house that Harvey Dent (a.k.a. Two-Face) is using as a hideout. The former lawyer turned psychotic killer has captured Catwoman and is looking to eliminate the feline thief. Thanks to his do-good nature and romantic interest in Selena Kyle, Batman decides to swing to her rescue.

The event includes an infiltration, stealth take-out, and encounter or two with groups of enemies. The combat feels just as fluid and easy to use in Arkham City as its predecessor. Each of the face buttons allows for Batman to jump, block/reverse, attack, and grapple enemies just as he did in Arkham Asylum. You’ll once again feel like an absolute badass by making henchmen eat pavement.

As for the characters themselves, they all stay very true to their comic origins. Dent lives and dies by the result of his infamous coin, Kyle is as promiscuous and feisty as ever, and Wayne does his typical Batman thing. The game even acknowledges the history between Harvey and Batman when the two meet face to face. It’s a welcome sight that anyone who has played Arkham Asylum will be glad to see is being continued.

The last story bits within the demo has Batman saving Catwoman for a second time, this time after Dent has made an escape. The last-second rescue comes thanks to a sniper rifle round fired by The Joker himself. It seems the Clown Prince of Mayhem is in much better health than was expected, and he’s out to try and ruin Batman through those close to him yet again. Whether or not he’ll succeed, or even be the final foe due to the involvement of Hugo Strange, will be answered when this extremely promising sequel arrives on October 18.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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