Batman: Arkham City – Hands On
Batman and I have a lot in common – we’re both male, we both have dark hair, and we both have a butler named Alfred. Batman’s last video game outing, Arkham Asylum, was a real treat to all of the faithful comic book (and animated series) fans who’ve been shafted more times than Shaft’s wife. Finally we were put into Batman’s massive boots and told to bring down justice on all the mentally ill inmates of Arkham Asylum.
And boy did we; given control of Batman meant getting free reign over his abilities and it goes without saying that Batman has some crazy martial arts skills. Diving across a room at an enemy that has dared to pick up a pipe, only to return seconds later to break his pals leg never gets old. Add in some classy voice acting from the gorgeous Kevin Conway and the sexy Mark Hamill, and it was big fat party time for all the previously abused Bat-fans.
Even though I can wax lyrical about the game, there were still problems. Hellishly repetitive boss battles, a story that wasn’t quite interesting enough and the game-breaking Detective Mode. When used in moderation, Detective Mode was fine, and it added to the gameplay in a satisfying intuitive manner, however when left on all the time it ruined any surprises you had coming your way. In a game where atmosphere and surprise play major roles in your overall enjoyment, this wasn’t an ideal situation.
Upon hearing about the upcoming sequel, Arkham City, I’ve been feeling a bit cautious – even though I loved the first game, it would be easy for Rocksteady Studios to leave all the gameplay intact and pump out another fun, but flawed game. On top of this, every week seems to bring forth another entry from Batman’s rogue’s gallery, heaping more and more content and potentially awful boss battles into the larger, more open environments of Gotham.
Which is why I’m glad that my time playing Arkham City has helped soothe all of my worries. At the opening of the demo, you’re reintroduced to the stealth mechanics of the game, and a new item was ready form the off: the smoke bomb. Now when Batman is being chased about, a wee tap of the Y key brings forth thick plumes of smoke to hide your escape. As a Batman fan, touches like this bring the character to life while playing, and open up far more options for the game.
So after giving Harley Quinn a wee slap, you’re tasked with saving some hostages without being seen. For a guy like me, that would result in multiple deaths, including my own; for Batman, it’s as normal as picking up his messages from Tesco. After reaching a nice vantage point (Gotham’s just full of gargoyles), you bring up the new and improved Detective Vision. The game retains it sharpness while in the new mode, with all the relevant information still being displayed. What has changed is the application of it – the advantages it gives you have been slimmed down to encourage players to enjoy the nice shiny Unreal Engine graphics, rather than watching a glowing Batman beating up skeletons.
The real meat of the demo comes from the new stealth takedowns. On top of the takedowns from previous games, Batman has been given some new, ultra-violent moves to distribute at will. These can range from choking a guard from above with your Chun-Li thighs, taking out two goons at once, or simply punching through a wall and taking out the defenseless enemy behind. The moves feel smooth, and Rocksteady’s brilliance at character realisation shines right throughout the demo, pleasing the little boy that lives in my belly.
Arkham City also includes Catwoman, Batman’s on and off ally, as a playable character. Without giving too much away, her section of the demo is a nice change of pace from the Batman side of business; she plays a quicker game than the Bat, but overall she’s a weaker fighter, meaning that bouts can last a little longer than they can with Batman. Without playing any more of the game it’s very hard to see how her sections of the game will pan out, but it’s looking promising so far.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a huge fan of Batman and any game that gets this sort of attention lavished on it will rate highly in my book. I cannot wait to get my greasy mitts on the full copy and play the hell out of it, especially now that a lot of my previous gripes seem to have been addressed.
Check out SquareGo for a review in the near future. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.