I don’t really get along with comic book characters – anyone that feels the need to run around in spandex or brandishing a cape is something of a downer. That said, I enjoyed the original Batman: Arkham Asylum – its blend of stealth and close combat fisticuffs seemed to break the mould a little, focusing on the character and his story meant that I didn’t have to worry too much about superpowers or swinging from building to building.[drop]Speaking of which, that’s what I was initially greeted with when invited to witness a developer run through of the sequel: Arkham City. Rocksteady have clearly gone to town, literally, with the size of this one – which, neatly, has a nod to the first and a clear indicator of scale by showing the asylum in the distance. It’s much, much bigger and yet didn’t seem to lose the sense of connection that Asylum had – this didn’t feel like a typical free roamer simply because of the way key locations were used (like Harley Quinn’s cathedral) and the fact that even generic streets seemed packed with detail.
But anyway, whilst Batman didn’t strictly go swinging, his new, fully maneuverable cape means that getting from building to building is a doddle, gliding is lighter and there’s plenty of new grabble moves to ensure that if you don’t want to walk everywhere you certainly don’t have to. After a brief round of fighting, Rocksteady showed off City’s killer new feature: the ability to ‘pause’ Batman’s campaign and switch to Catwoman.
It’s a deliberate, but effective changeover. Catwoman’s quicker, more graceful and – as you’d expect – a nifty climber. Her role in the game (at least to us) feels like something of a side-quest, running alongside the main plot but with its own identity and characters; Poison Ivy will play a key role in Catwoman’s tale as the latter tries to pull off the heist of the century via a series of connected sub quests involving infiltrating and stealing items of value.[drop2]Her moveset is equally diverse and different – Catwoman can crawl on ceilings, is far more nimble and her whip is great for setting up combos which, along with her bolas and her own attacks (like pouncing) means that fans will have a field day experimenting with combos and racking up the points. She doesn’t have Batman’s detective mode, but a similar feature highlights anything worth stealing, which leads to some brilliant stealth moments as the player tries to – in the example we were shown – take pass cards from unsuspecting guards to open up a vault.
And Penguin’s inclusion is tantalising, he looks truly evil…