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Batman: Arkham City Hands On

Holy side mission!

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.
The biggest, and most obvious change is the city. Yes, Arkham Asylum had the open area between the asylum’s buildings but even from the short demo on the floor, which was the press demo from E3 if you’re interested, felt pretty significant. In fact, when the same demo was shown off the floor in Rocksteady’s developer session we were treated to far more of the city than anyone could possibly hope to discover in the twenty minute time limit those who tried the demo for themselves were given. We saw some grunts roaming the streets before the Rocksteady team showed us that one of them was working for the Riddler, and that then lead into one of the puzzle setting villain’s side missions. There’s no way I, or anyone else, would have just stumbled onto that on the floor, and for me it really emphasized just how much more has gone into this second title.

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.
Trying to navigate the city with detective view on, as I found for myself before Rocksteady mentioned in their talk, just simply isn’t going to happen. It becomes tricky at best to keep on target, and the simple touch that the navigation compass vanishes when detective mode is on makes it obvious that this isn’t how the game is intended to be played. The best usage I found was to stand still and look around the world with the detective vision overlay before actually moving through the world.

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.

  1. FalconRedux
    Since: May 2011

    I was/am really looking forward to this, but this article has made me a bit anxious! I, for one, really loved Arkham Asylum and would have been quite happy with a minor update on that template. As you say, I trust Rocksteady to make good decisions.

    Comment posted on 10/10/2011 at 15:06.
  2. tisoyboy2
    Since: May 2010

    I like the changes mentioned for detective mode and you make an excellent point of Rocksteady not straying to far from what made BAA successful.

    Comment posted on 10/10/2011 at 15:08.
  3. Jakster123x
    Since: Aug 2011

    I think it is mainly a hub and the story missions take place inside but I think that the side missions are mostly outside.

    Either way, I’m getting the game and I can’t wait.

    Comment posted on 10/10/2011 at 15:10.
    • StevenHibs
      Since: Oct 2009

      I think there are story missions on the outside aswell, just because we have seen parts of the game doesn’t mean that’s all there is!

      And like you, I can’t wait for this!

      Comment posted on 11/10/2011 at 01:39.
  4. Reality Check
    Since: May 2011

    This comment is hidden.

    Comment posted on 10/10/2011 at 15:51.
    • colossalblue
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      Try yellow tinted glasses. I know that sounds super geeky but I bought a pair and they cut down eye strain so much. You look like a bit of a dick wearing them but if they stop the headaches then who cares?

      Here’s what I bought: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rayzor-Professional-Lightweight-Sunglasses-Anti-Glare/dp/B002ISB1ZU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318260662&sr=8-1

      Comment posted on 10/10/2011 at 16:31.
      • djhsecondnature
        Since: Forever

        Back up. You wear sun glasses, indoors, to play video games? Why was I not informed of this sooner!

        Comment posted on 10/10/2011 at 16:34.
      • colossalblue
        Team TSA: Editor
        Since: Forever

        haha, not sunglasses! Anti-glare glasses. You’d be amazed how sharper they make images and how much strain they take off your eyes. I think I’ve talked about them on the podcast before.
        Great for 10-hour play sessions, not so great if anyone sees you wearing them…

        Comment posted on 10/10/2011 at 16:37.
  5. Forrest_01
    Since: Jun 2009

    I am literally at the point now where you could tell me at a certain part of the story you have to play as a bit of poo floating down a sewer & i would still be going out to buy it!

    Was impressed by what i saw at EGX & i too have faith that Rocksteady will deliver the goods.

    Comment posted on 10/10/2011 at 16:52.
  6. bacon_nuts
    Since: Mar 2011

    They managed to make pretty much the only good super hero/comic book game going, I trust that they’ll be able to make the second good too..

    Comment posted on 10/10/2011 at 17:07.
  7. iAvernus
    Since: Nov 2009

    Really looking forward to this. AA was brilliant.

    Comment posted on 10/10/2011 at 17:09.
  8. StevenHibs
    Since: Oct 2009

    Have faith in Rocksteady, Arkham City will top Arkham Asylum, there’s no doubting that. From what I have seen and read about this game, it might be one of the games of this year! Here’s hoping

    Comment posted on 11/10/2011 at 01:37.
  9. lukieboy1981
    Since: Oct 2010

    I am really excited for this. Loved AA, I loved Spiderman 2, that was one of the best superhero games I’ve played; so open, it was fun just to websling through the city. I want that level of freedom

    Comment posted on 11/10/2011 at 10:31.
  10. chichester
    Since: Oct 2011

    If you haven’t already entered you should go to WB games’ facebook page to enter for a custom Arkham City Xbox 360 as well as the collector’s edition.


    Comment posted on 11/10/2011 at 18:36.

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