Batman: Arkham City Preview

We get to grips with Batman's new skills and updated toys with our first look at his adventure in the big (bad) city.

During the Game Developers Conference , we got our first look at Batman: Arkham City. In the two years since Arkham Asylum hit shelves, the big bat has grown up, leaving behind the rubble of the sanatorium playpen and moved on to the sprawl of outdoor criminal pastures. Our first look at the sequel covered a lot of ground, but with open-world gameplay comes a level of unpredictability, and frankly, there were aspects of our demo that we were convinced warranted a closer look.

The move away from the corridors and confined spaces of Arkham Asylum to an open environment brings with it several challenges. Developer Rocksteady Studio's approach to pacing has been totally overhauled. Players will now be presented with open slather content where they can choose to either explore the nooks and crannies where evil lurks or, if they prefer, make a beeline for the main narrative's path. While the vast majority of the game takes place down on the streets and atop the buildings dotting the landscape, you will also venture indoors to find that the familiar combat mechanics and stealth from Arkham Asylum have been refined to take better advantage of the space.

Our demo began with Batman chilling on a rooftop by night, nonchalantly scanning the vista of the criminal hood below. Our moment of quiet reflection was broken when we found out that our feisty feline friend, Catwoman, was being held hostage by Two-Face inside a nearby building. Where previously the role of the sequencer gadget was to remotely disable force fields and crack electronic locks, the device has received an update to version 2.0, allowing you to scan the airwaves for radio chatter or input a specific frequency (which we'll come to later) to eavesdrop on the bad guys.

Pay TV is a joke! A million channels and nothing but shows shot in night vision!

On our way to rescue Catwoman, we were given a look at the game's new interrogation--vision mode. Where previously players may have only been able to fire up Detective mode (or left it on since there was no penalty for its use), you can now switch to enable interrogation mode, using it to trace and highlight targets located around you. The tool now also shows a variety of important data; informants glow a different color, and the tool lets you know that if you can first beat all the other targets around the informant (by deftly countering, avoiding, incapacitating), you can then grab the informant and pump him or her for information. There's no formalized questioning system beyond your fists, but any intelligence gleaned from thugs is automatically added to your map for easy follow-up. Detective mode has also seen changes and now better identifies enemies carrying weapons, allowing you to plan your order of priority for takedowns. It also highlights their physical and emotional states, showing their heart rate and anxiety levels. Thinning the herd heightens their nervousness about being the next victim, and though we didn't see it in action, we're hopeful that this translates to avoiding even more itchy trigger fingers, as well as the need to free hostages before edgy captors can injure their prisoners.

Where previously the batclaw was primarily used to yank down walls, in Arkham City, it is a little more versatile. The example we saw fired it out to retrieve a Riddler clue that was located inside a trap that would shut if we walked too close to it. Likewise, Batsy's grapple can now also be used to drag enemies closer (not unlike Scorpion’s blade on a chain in Mortal Kombat), bringing the fight over to Batman so that the player can sock them in the kisser.

We pushed on through Two-Face's small army of goons outside the courthouse--all of whom were wearing masks supporting their leader's unique visual styling. Even the building had been remodeled to reflect Harvey's split personality, with half in pristine condition and the other half worn and grimy to match the rest of Arkham City.

Inside the building, Catwoman hung suspended by her ankles over a vat of acid. Taking out the machine-gun-toting guards before we made our grand entrance ensured we didn’t get shot in the ensuing skirmish. Once the fracas had died down and suitable revenge was doled out on Two-Face, we began a conversation with Catwoman--only to have it rudely interrupted when we pushed her out of the path of a bullet that crashed through a nearby window. Batman has a gadget for everything, and it wasn't long before we were using the trajectory of the shot to determine where our shooter was hiding.

Batman can glide around using just his cape, but because it's unpowered, players can gain momentum and altitude by dive bombing and then pulling up quickly. Circling helicopters made for an easy ride with a sweet aerial view, and after catching a lift, we headed toward the clock tower. Unfortunately, we made our approach at ground level, with our guide showing off another new skill in Batman's already impressive arsenal called "beatdown." Some of the enemies are armed to the teeth and others feature armor that gives even Batman's meaty fists a proper workout, so rather than endlessly swinging at them and hoping to get a good hit, you'll need to land an initial stun with the B button before unleashing a flurry of light attacks by repeatedly tapping X.

Uh-oh, your taco fell in the lava, sir!

Inside the church, we were confronted by Batman's old friend and former Arkham Asylum resident, Harley Quinn. Believing her guards capable of finishing the job, she departed, leaving the four men with guns arguing nervously about who would shoot Batman and when. While they disagreed on the basics of how to pull a trigger, we used the window of opportunity to try out another new piece of kit: smoke bombs. After tossing one down and zipping away to the conveniently placed stone statue architraves skirting the roofline, we then plotted our next move.

Three new takedown moves have been added in Arkham City, and by sneaking up behind two targets, you can clang their skulls together to knock them out cold. Explosive gel marks its return, but rather than set up elaborate traps to fell walls, Batman has been pumping iron in the off season and can now simply punch through brittle surfaces, grabbing enemies and pummeling them into submission. If you like playing a little more stealthily, creeping up to a ledge now lets you grab the lip with your hands before swinging your legs upward. The result is a vicelike grip on enemies with your meaty Batman thighs, at which point you can flip them earthbound with a thud.

Leaving the bad guys nursing some mean headaches and having an unintended lie down, we continued on, heading up the spire to the tower where we expected a confrontation with Joker. Either the madman is smarter than the world's brainiest superhero (sorry Danger Mouse) or we expected far too much, too early. Arriving at the nest, we found a remotely fired rifle and enough explosives to level the building. Escape was the only thing on our mind, and we leaped through the stained-glass windows, majestically gliding to safety. Curse your tomfoolery, Joker!

On a nearby rooftop, we found a billboard that the Riddler had prepared for us that listed a set of radio frequencies. Tuning in with our sequencer kicked off a hallucinatory experience lasting about 30 seconds and made up of the images of spinning blades, cogs, and what appeared to be an Arkham Asylum uniform. Warner Bros. has confirmed that Riddler and other Batman baddies will play a more physical role in Arkham City, and while we don't yet know exactly how their interactions will play out or who you will have the chance to go toe-to-toe with, from our first look at the game, we're mightily impressed with what we've seen so far. We are looking forward to seeing more as the game approaches its Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC releases on October 19 this year.

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Discussion

103 comments
blackbeard269
blackbeard269

I played the Other Batman and it was awesome on the PS3. OF course i will also be adding this one to my collection. The game play of the first one always keep you on the edge as the looks of this one will do the same. If you have not played the first Batman it would be a good time to play catch up and give it a try you will not be sorry.

blackbeard269
blackbeard269

I played the Other Batman and it was awesome on the PS3. OF course i will also be adding this one to my collection. The game play of the first one always keep you on the edge as the looks of this one will do the same. If you have not played the first Batman it would be a good time to play catch up and give it a try you will not be sorry.

scaman66
scaman66

Rocksteady Getready baby yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

DarkNinja09
DarkNinja09

Does anyone know the song name for this trailer? If you do plz PM me.

sdkingsht
sdkingsht

sidenote: i like that this game doesn't have any multiplayer...i think some games make sense w/multiplayer...whereas some games...like this or God of War 3...they're made to be one player games where you take control of one main character & wreak havoc...i hope they never try to work multiplayer into some games & end up taking time away from the effort that goes into the campaign of the game...

sdkingsht
sdkingsht

Dan...excellent work...but next time can you try not to call Batman "meaty" several times in the same post? thanks. lol.

Big_Boss007
Big_Boss007

@ Sora_Heart : they already confirmed that there is no co-op or multiplayer at all

SesameSeeds
SesameSeeds

i havent played arkham asylum well im going to buy the game of the year edition but looking at the trailers of this game you would want to play the first one and wanting to buy the second one

TheoAlmighty
TheoAlmighty

that captain america game has nothing on this!

arcfear
arcfear

Nobody can beat the ultimate hero, Batman. This game goes to my list. I wonder what the song they used on the trailer? It sounds cool.

smtgfx
smtgfx

This is going to be a great game. The Riddler is my fav. It looks like they are using a solid engine.

wenisman
wenisman

good to see the pre-viewer has played arkham asylum... most of the 'new' features like bat-claw on enemies, heart rate, different colour for armed thugs etc were all on the first installment. having said that, this game is shaping up to be an awesome sequel in the franchise.

ahpuck
ahpuck

I just finished AA over the weekend, awesome game. Probably get this one, too.

mebenton
mebenton

I'm late to the party and only playing Batman: AA now, but loving every moment of it! Really looking forward to a more open-world approach..

walters47
walters47

Not sure if this feller actually played the first one, but someone should point out that you could use the batclaw in combat in AA, and enemies' heart rate and nervousness was in the first game as well. Those aren't new features. Regardless, this game will be awesome.

Chewin3
Chewin3

"Uh-oh, your taco fell in the lava, sir!" Since when did Batman eat taco?

MrPopek
MrPopek

Ok every preview and trailer is amazing but i think its time to show us some LONG gameplay, please :)

ebookerd1
ebookerd1

Looks great so far Hopefully a good gameplay video will appears and seal the deal.

IRay21
IRay21

don't even think about it! BUY IT! That was exactly my case, with arkham asylum. i downloaded a demo, and then, i bought it! And i tell you, it is one of the best game i've ever played!

DarkAngel421
DarkAngel421

I've never played Arkham Asylum and am not really a batman fan , still wondering if I should buy this one.

Mar28jw
Mar28jw

i hope the combat has been beefed up considerbly,only niggle about Arkham Asylums was although the overall package was great the combat system got boring pretty quickly as it was a bit too simplistic,give me loads more moves please Rocksteady

mcmesk99
mcmesk99

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

eliebaz
eliebaz

well amazing first game this doesnt look any worst thats for sure if anything its better and i couldnt really find any way to imrpove the first one it was a classic can't wait always a fan of batman games hopefully this time you can drive the batmobile

Scrotous
Scrotous

This look like it can be the best open world game ever.

pathaze
pathaze

as if they didnt already have me sold. buying this on the first day for sure

LeoLex_
LeoLex_

there are a million othe avenues they could of taken this game down why the hell we dealin with the joker again!? FAIL!

CL4K7
CL4K7

Completed the first one three times on ps3 so i cant wait for this one.

PHOENIX1617
PHOENIX1617

Best graphics: Crysis 2; Battlefield 3; Batman: Arkham City; Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception; The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

hitzzzzzzzz
hitzzzzzzzz

Waiting Eagerly .. completed the first one on pc and can't wait for the second one

Tokinblckgie
Tokinblckgie

@Dunbon If you're talking about the part at the end of the trailer, that's most likely gonna be at the beginning of the game. They're smart enough not to spoil something that important to the plot just because it'd make for a better trailer.

Chronologo
Chronologo

It surely looks promising, I've beaten the first one on PC twice and I hope to get this one too.I'll hopefully get a PS3 next month but I don't know if I should get this one on the PS3 or the PC.

345tom
345tom

@Kos1c It was more of a complex than a building mind. A city is only going to be good if there are actual people who arent baddies in it as well. I would quite like to see a random civillians reactions to swooping down, or randomly blowing up a wall and such things.

Kos1c
Kos1c

I did like the first batman, i never did complete it, i bought it for my younger brother. I watched him play it throughout, i was alittle disapointed that the game was locked inside of a building. It would of been nicer to see it outside in the real world. But as i can see this one is a mix of both outside and inside. Hopefully it doesn't have a such a small limit on where you can travel from mission to mission.

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

oh aye, i'm well impressed with the hype that comes with this new instalment... bring it bats!?

conkerton
conkerton

Hmmmm it would appear Cat women is in need of Batman's less used gadget the Batwang. Its a shame he should use that on some villians more often (like harley quinn, ivy,... batgirl etc.)