by Andrew Hallam
previewed on PC
Back With A Vengeance
Batman has been a major character within the DC Universe since his creation in 1939. Since then the character has gained huge popularity amongst comic book readers worldwide. Not stopping there, Batman has spread to numerous TV shows and movies, the latest being the 2009 blockbuster The Dark Knight. It did not come as too much of a surprise then that Rocksteady Studios were met with an overwhelming reception on the release of their award winning video game, Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Strangely enough, Arkham Asylum is set within the Arkham Asylum - mind blowing! This is a huge facility located on the outskirts of Gotham City, which has housed practically every Batman villain to date. In Arkham Asylum you played as Batman and attempted to thwart the plans of the nefarious Joker. Of course, Batman saves the day as always with a mixture of detective skills, sweet martial arts moves and a selection of gadgets that would even make James Bond jealous. But a superhero’s work is never done, and so the dark knight returns to save the day once again in Batman: Arkham City.
Bat In The Big City
Since becoming the mayor of Gotham City, Quincy Sharp has extended the Arkham Asylum of which he was former warden, into a section of the city’s slums. Barricaded from the rest of the population, the prisoners transported into the facility are left to fend for themselves. Consequently, Arkham City has been split into rival gangs, with the most notorious villains from the Batman series acting as leaders in a battle for supremacy within the facility.
Amongst the many villains that make an appearance in the game comes a wide selection of minor characters from the Batman universe. Acting as both a love interest and fighting partner, Catwoman makes an appearance but whether she will remain a permanent ally or become an eventual foe is not certain. Either way it will undoubtedly be a popular choice made by Rocksteady to add some familiar faces to the game for fans to anticipate.
Alongside the main thread of the game will be a number of optional side quests involving key characters within the Batman universe. Returning in Arkham City are the Riddler Challenges that can be solved with the newly overhauled Detective Mode. Improvements to this mode from the previous game include the ability to identify Riddler Informants amongst groups of enemies. It has been revealed that players will have the option to keep these informants conscious during fights in order to interrogate them afterwards. However, it will be a challenge to keep these tight-lipped goons alive when utilising the free-flow combo system. I can already hear the cries of thousands of players as they end a combo by delivering a swift, accidental Bat Punch to an informants face.
I Know Kung Fu
Some more welcome additions to the game's growing list of features are improvements to the already advanced combat system seen in the first game. These include Simultaneous Counters and Projectile Counters. The former allows you to counter attack two enemies at once, and the latter means that if an enemy throws a brick in your direction, you will be able to send it right back twice as hard. Another new combat feature is the incorporation of gadgets into the free-flow combat. This means that if an enemy gets too close for comfort, you can spray him with your explosive gel, give him a swift kick to the stomach and then watch the fireworks.
Alongside the new combat features are upgrades to Batman’s gadgets. Unlike the first game, players will have access to all of Batman’s gadgets from the start of the game. Players will earn upgrades for gadgets much like you could with special moves and stats in the previous game. One such example is the Bat Claw, which when upgraded, can grab distant items instead of just enemies and the odd wooden crate.
Every Hero Needs A Sidekick
In the past few years, more and more games have been released with a multiplayer mode and Arkham City will be no exception. Few details have been released so far regarding the multiplayer outside of its confirmation, but a separate co-operative campaign mode looks to be the most likely to fruition.
Another option for co-op gameplay could be a survival mode akin to the challenges found in Arkham Asylum in which players fight rounds of increasingly difficult enemies. A competitive multiplayer mode could also work if the similarity to Assassins Creed: Brotherhood is anything to go by. A stealth-based assassination game mode or a Cops vs. Robbers variation are both functional ideas. Such a goldmine of possibilities makes the multiplayer an aspect that should not be overlooked by anyone anticipating Batman: Arkham City.
Like A Bat Out Of Hell
It seems that video game journalists say the same thing every year, but 2011 is certainly shaping up to be a great year for gaming. Batman: Arkham City appears to be a real improvement on the already successful formula that earned its predecessor the 2010 BAFTA award for best game. Based on the reveals so far, I am really looking forward to seeing how Arkham City performs when it is released next fall on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.