In the realm of popular comic book superheroes, Batman has always been one of the most beloved figures. The series has in recent years been blessed with a resurgence in popularity, thanks on the film side to Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and on the gaming front by a small UK developer called Rocksteady.
Rocksteady's 2009 game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, has been branded by many in the industry as one of the best comic book games ever made, with gaming and DC fans gushing over the Dark Knight's re-entry into the gaming world.
Now excitement is building once more, because later this year Rocksteady will be releasing a sequel to the immensely successful game in the form of Batman: Arkham City. Recently, a number of US gaming journalists were lucky enough to witness the first gameplay demonstration of the new game, showing that it will be worlds apart from Arkham Asylum. Here's what gamers can look forward to from the Dark Knight’s latest foray into Gotham.
Unlike Arkham Asylum, Arkham City will feature a much bigger and more open map, with Batman trading building rafters for skyscraper skylines. And while the game isn't touted as a “Batman meets GTA”, it still seems like the truest Batman simulator yet, with fans able to not only play through the main missions and storyline, but also rescue Gotham residents in trouble as side objectives.
Cars are for chumps
One of the new methods of transportation in the game comes from an unlikely source, helicopters. Yes you read that right, Batman will be able to grapple towards flying helicopters, grab onto their landing struts, and then enjoy a scenic (and free) ride over Gotham. While hanging from the struts, players can also activate Batman's detective vision, which will allow them to spot elusive Riddler trophies and save some wayward innocents by occasionally displaying a message stating “Person in Distress Located.” You can then choose to swoop down to their rescue, or continue focusing on the task at hand.
Batman's array of advanced gear also received a slew of updates and improvements. For one, the Batclaw can now be used to grab items, not just thugs, which makes for a useful new method of acquiring difficult-to-reach items. In the previous game we were introduced to some brief gliding thanks to the trusty Batcape, but in Arkham City developers have stated that players will be able to fly long distances by swooping down, catching wind, and then gliding back up. It was stated that players will be able to fly through the entire map without ever touching the ground, if they can get the balance just right.
Something lots of players, us included, really missed from the first game was smoke bombs - a key tool in Batman's inventory. Luckily they will be making an appearance this time around, with Batman being able to drop the bombs at his feet, and then watch goons scramble as he “vanishes” into thin air.
Batman's famous butler Alfred will also be replacing Oracle on the radio this time around, supplying useful advice and mission information throughout the game.
Dr. Hugo Strange makes a comeback as one of the central villains.
But as the Dark Knight refines his techniques, so too does the scum of Gotham. In Arkham City players will face tougher and smarter foes, and more (25 max) of them at once. One of the biggest changes is that normal enemy grunts now have the ability of taking hostages, requiring Batman to take out the assailant without allowing them to harm the hostage. This was seen briefly in the first game, but will now play a much larger role in how enemies behave, meaning not all battles will be simple “swoop and strike” affairs.
Some enemies will also be wearing armour this time around, making them immune to takedowns. To break these enemies, Batman will have to use his new “Beatdown” move, to stun and then beat them rapidly. It was also seen in the demo that Batman will be able to do both double and triple takedowns in the game, dispatching of several foes at once.
The guys over at Rocksteady also confirmed to fans that they will be able to go toe-to-toe with their favourite villains much more than in the previous game. This means less cut scenes of The Joker mocking you, and more punching him in the face.
Another interesting aspect is that Arkham City puts a much larger emphasis on eavesdropping on enemies' conversations. As Batman, players can listen to enemies to gain information about their current plans, and NPC conversations will even change depending on what happens in the game.
At the end of the day, Arkham City is looking like an awesome new adventure to take part in. And with the team over at Rocksteady already proving that the iconic license is in good hands, we can't wait to take on Gotham's meanest when Arkham City releases later this year on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.