E3: Batman Arkham City

E3: Batman Arkham City

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A fifteen-minute menagerie of cats, bats, and one nasty flightless bird.

"Anything you want, we've got it." Bold words, even by E3's overblown standards. But, unless what you want is to drive the batmobile or a less gamey version of detective vision, Batman Arkham City is what you want. The original was my own personal game of the year, so more of the same is as close to what I want as the developer's going to get without allowing me to produce the project myself. Even without my direct involvement, the game still benefits from new moves, new gadgets and new characters.

E3 not only gave me a chance to play the game, but also to see a lot of the new features courtesy of a 15-minute live demo. Starting with a close shot of a large sign for Arkham Asylum, the camera slowly pulls back to reveal the enormity of Gotham City. The cluttered chaos of the city is apparent right away and this opening shot says more with its muted color palette and lighting than any voice over ever could. It also says a great deal about scale as the camera closes in on a barely distinguishable caped figure crouched atop a gargoyle outside the Gotham City Police Department. He stares off the right, to Arkham Asylum out in Gotham Harbor and then leaps into the air to glide across the city.

This is going to be good.

Not only can Batman glide as he could in the previous game, but he can also perform a power dive by gathering his cape around him and falling towards the street. Even better, he can use the grapple gun now to launch himself up into the air. Get good enough at it and you can traverse the entire city without once touching the ground. But there's more on Batman's mind than just getting to and from well-known sites like Crime Alley or the Courthouse.

Turns out the grapple has a few more uses. Batman uses it to grab a ledge. He zooms up, vaults onto the roof and smashes into one of four convicts waiting above. Arkham City is a much more open game than Arkham Asylum, so Batman has many more options to approach combat this time around. The moves are also more varied. Once the three other cons see their friend smashed into the roof, they move to attack Batman. The combat is just as fluid as ever, but this time around Batman can also use his grapple to perform special finishing moves.

While the real Batman is tireless in his pursuit of criminals, the games assumes you might want a break from time to time. After finding a few cats loitering on a particularly romantic rooftop, Batman soon attracts the attention of Catwoman, who swoops in and makes a few suggestive remarks. Remembering that he's got a Bat-cake in the Bat-oven, the Caped Crusader drops off the roof leaving the player in charge of Catwoman.

You'll alternate between two stories in Arkham City. As Batman, you're on a quest to recapture the inmates who escaped at the end of the last game. But as Catwoman, you're more than content to use the chaos and confusion in the city to advance your own interests. In this case, Catwoman is on the hunt for Hugo Strange's vault, which is rumored to contain all the valuables confiscated from the Arkham inmates.

In contrast to Batman's swooping and swinging, Catwoman is a much more tactile mover. She leaps from rooftop to rooftop, often using her whip to latch on to nearby ledges, but she's much more connected to the buildings and streets than Batman is. Her perspective allows you to appreciate the street-level details of the game, which are every bit as impressive as the highrise views enjoyed by Batman. Catwoman's also got her own tricks in combat, from tossing incapacitating bolas down on enemies to literally whipping them into unconsciousness.

After taking out the guards outside the sewers leading to the vault, Catwoman heads underground. Poison Ivy's agreed to use her plants to help break into the vault if Catwoman will help her reclaim a certain rare orchid and you can see the massive vines which have torn apart the walls leading to the vault. Still, it's not an easy matter to get in and steal the orchid. There are four guards patrolling the vault door and Catwoman needs to get three of their keys without their notice if she wants to get the door open. If they catch her, the whole system goes on lockdown.

To get the keys Catwoman will rely on two new tricks. First is Theft Vision. Like Batman's own detective vision, theft vision will highlight things that Catwoman can steal. In this case Catwoman just needs to get behind a guard and get close enough to take the key without being noticed. But to get around their patrol routes she'll need to rely on another trick - crawling on the ceiling. Latching on to the chicken wire like mesh of the ceiling, Catwoman can crawl above the guards, dropping down to swipe keys and, once she's got the door open, using special takedowns to incapacitate the guards. Some of the new takedowns can take out multiple guards at once as Catwoman bashes their heads together.

She eventually makes her way into the vault, grabs Ivy's orchid, then throws it to the ground and stomps on it.

Reer!

Back to Batman, he's made his way into a large and imposing building, the kind where you just know it would be awesome to have a gigantic fight against loads of poorly trained enemies. Up on a landing an escaped inmate rushes out begging for help. A shot rings out and he falls dead. Behind him, holding his trademark umbrella is none other than the Penguin. In keeping with the Arkham style, his monocle has been replaced with the bottom of a glass Coke bottle, which looks like it's been pounded into his eye. He and Batman exchange a few threats, but Penguin's goons are holding a police officer hostage, which limits Batman's options.

Then Penguin issues a challenge to the dozens of goons who suddenly emerge around Batman; the Penguin only works with the best, he says, so whoever kills Batman can have a place in the Penguin organization. Duly motivated, the crowd closes in around Batman, who proceeds to wail the living crap out of all of them using a variety of new counters and combos and grapple-powered finishers. When the dust clears, the Penguin is gone, but the night isn't over yet.

So, still no Batmobile (yet), and still some illusion quashing overlays, but like the man said, I want it and they've got it.

Batman: Arkham City will be released October 18.

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See all our coverage directly from the show floor.

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Too many words, not enough punching!

HankMan:
Too many words, not enough punching!

What, no Puns?

that's just downright batty

OT: I~ want it. I want it now, and I'm glad to see it's relatively more of the same means it wont be bad :D

Despite being call catwoman, Catwoman is certainly a bitch.

Thanks Steve butts (a unfortunate last name) You made me ten times more excited about the game.

A playable villain goes against the spirit of what Batman is all about.

P.S. Thanks

The grapple-travel system sounds like the best part of a spider-man game put in a batman game(this isn't a complaint, it really sounds awesome).

selfish want: a throwaway joke about batman's shark repellent.

-Dragmire-:
The grapple-travel system sounds like the best part of a spider-man game put in a batman game(this isn't a complaint, it really sounds awesome).

selfish want: a throwaway joke about batman's shark repellent.

Together with the gliding, it almost sounds like a mix of Spiderman and Prototype. Do want.

Seriously, this sounds amazing. Really excited about the whole thing. The Catwoman thing, in particular, took me by surprise. Before this, I knew she'd be in the game, but I thought she'd be an NPC.

Covarr:
A playable villain goes against the spirit of what Batman is all about.

P.S. Thanks

How do you feel about Pre-orders (or maybe it was PS3, I forget) allowing you to play as Joker in the first one?

EDIT: Almost forgot. I'll likely only have money for either this or Skyrim (though that may not be the case)...sorry Bats, second best ain't bad.

Everything I want, they have it? Do they have a threesome scene between Catwoman, poison Ivy, and Harlequinn? With a personal number to a bank account with a million dollars? No? Oh well I guess I can settle for what they have, then.

My brother's gonna go batshit when he reads this.

I cannot express any more how excited I am for this game! I just hope they package a *real bat-arang in the collector's edition this time around.

i want to play this game SOOOOOOOOOO much...dammit.
That Dr. House picture posted above sums up my feelings about the game perfectly.

Also, "Remembering that he's got a Bat-cake in the Bat-oven, the Caped Crusader drops off the roof leaving the player in charge of Catwoman."
At first i just glimpsed over the sentence and though this was some sort metaphor of being pregnant 0.0
And then i read it again, more carefully, and just lol'd.
Good stuff :)

Covarr:
A playable villain goes against the spirit of what Batman is all about.

P.S. Thanks

No, no it doesn't
1. Batman has worked with Catwoman before
2. When you play as Catwoman, you are, in fact, no longer Batman, so what Batamn would do is kinda irrelevant.
3. I wanna play as Catwoamn!!!

I'm soo excited, but would have been nice to have a spoiler free game mechanics review.

Arkham Asylum was 2009's sleeper hit of the year for me. Awesome game! If Arkham City is more of the same, but more open and varied, with Catwoman as a PC, this will definitely be one of my gaming highlights of the year!
I hope we get to drive the Batmobile :/

I'm so excited for this... more so than I am for Uncharted 3 or Mass Effect 3, which is surprising.

Didn't see any stealth sections yet? Cuz those were my favorite part of Arkham Asylum, and I'm worried that with a sandbox format there will be less sneaking and more punching... not that I'm opposed to the punching XD

"So, still no Batmobile (yet)"

Good.

Anyway, when a game makes Arkham Asylum sound like a prototype, you know you're in for a treat. Just a little clarification on Catwoman though: my understanding is that you'll only play as her for around 10% of the game. I know some people get worried about going half-and-half.

Covarr:
A playable villain goes against the spirit of what Batman is all about.

P.S. Thanks

She's not an all-out villain.

GeorgW:
I'm soo excited, but would have been nice to have a spoiler free game mechanics review.

What spoilers are there? You need to say something of context, if not you're doing a laundry-list of Catwoman's wall-crawling abilities. Which is dry as hell.

(And its a preview.)

The bottom of a coke bottle pounded into penguins eye...

Urm...Lovely o.O

Anyway, sounds awesome! can;t wait till October.

October and November are going to drain me :(

Woodsey:

GeorgW:
I'm soo excited, but would have been nice to have a spoiler free game mechanics review.

What spoilers are there? You need to say something of context, if not you're doing a laundry-list of Catwoman's wall-crawling abilities. Which is dry as hell.

(And its a preview.)

I'd actually love that. I certainly get the point of this preview and I like it, it's not that. I'd just like to more about how the gameplay's changed since last time. I don't want to hear small plot elements, and consider them (extremely small) spoilers. I know I'm probably alone in this, but I still wanted to say it.

Varya:

No, no it doesn't
1. Batman has worked with Catwoman before
2. When you play as Catwoman, you are, in fact, no longer Batman, so what Batamn would do is kinda irrelevant.
3. I wanna play with Catwoman!!!

Fixed for you.

HankMan:
Too many words, not enough punching!

Agreed.

More of the same is perfectly fine with me. Not seen these grappling moves but hopefully they are bloodrayne inspired or at least bulletstorm inspired and will kick ass. Into a cactus. While on fire. After being shot in the nuts. Then the explosive collar goes off and kills his mates.

Seriously, if we could merge the harpoon moves from bloodrayne with the flowing melee combat of batman and the gunplay of bulletstorm, I'd never play another game ever.

Phishfood:

Varya:

No, no it doesn't
1. Batman has worked with Catwoman before
2. When you play as Catwoman, you are, in fact, no longer Batman, so what Batamn would do is kinda irrelevant.
3. I wanna play with Catwoman!!!

Fixed for you.

At first I was like:
Dude! What a douchy thing, nitpicking my grammar.
But then I was like:
Oh Yeah. Giggedy!

I swear to god, I heard the same grunts from Goldeneye: 007 during the trailer.

Other than that, this is gonna be awesome.

Looks like a bigger, more nuanced version of Batman: AA, and that's just fine by me.

If it ain't broke... :)

 

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