It was, surprisingly, a little late in the day when I got my hands on Batman: Arkham Asylum. Way back when I looked at the demo, but I didn’t actually get the game till I rented it from LoveFilm. When I did get I’m pretty sure I played through it in two mammoth sessions, only stopping to sleep. It wasn’t that it was short, I just couldn’t put it down. I adored it, so when Arkham City was announced I tried to push passed the initial worries people had about the concept of taking the asylum out into Gotham City and get excited about the sequel.
I’ll be honest, it didn’t take a lot of effort. As Rocksteady slowly put out trailers, and then DC released the prequel comic my excitement built and built. With all that said you can probably imagine my response when I found out Arkham City would be on the EGX show floor.
Batman offers great opportunity for brooding scenes.
What I played for myself was more tightly focused on the mission that you’re lead throughout the demo. You start off playing as Catwoman in a short combat sequence, a fantastic decision that highlights just how different she is from Batman, before jumping into the shoes of the big bad bat himself to track down Two-Face; the binary obsessed villain captures Catwoman after she defeats his goons leading bats to come in and save her.
When you’re out in the city everything really does feel new and fresh, in particular gliding between the buildings really shines. However, once you actually go into the court house to investigate Two-Face you suddenly feel like you’re flung back to Arkham Asylum. That’s not necessarily bad, but if the city just serves as a hub world between missions that could almost have been lifted from the original game I’ll be disappointed. Even with stuff to do out on the city streets, I’d like it to be more than side missions out there.
Perhaps the biggest and most obvious change from what I played, and one that has been very deliberate from Rocksteady, is the way in which detective vision has changed. You can’t simply leave it stuck on the whole time as you could in the first game, in fact if you do navigation becomes exceptionally difficult. You are, obviously, given enough to navigate to clues, but if you want to use it for more than a few moments as you work your way through a mission things will become tougher.
Colour looks to be an important thematic device.
Rocksteady have a tricky balancing act in Arkham City, and it’s not one I’m sure they’ve managed. Yes the city is beautiful and a very significant change from the original, but if it just acts as a hub world it’ll feel like change for change’s sake. On the other hand if they move too far away from what made Arkham Asylum the fantastic title it was then they risk alienating those that are excited for this sequel on the strength of the original. However, even though I’m dubious I do have faith in the team over at Rocksteady, all of whom are clearly in love with the Dark Knight. Now it’s just a case of waiting a few more days until the game hits shelves. Even though I’m worried I still can’t wait.