Review, All About Batman Arkham City Guide That Must Be Know

Friday, August 19th 2011. | Games News

It’s been said before, but bears repeating again: Batman: Arkham Asylum was the sleeper hit of 2009, and now that its sequel is almost upon us, everyone is expecting great things. The screenshots have flitted across the Internet. A bevy of character-specific trailers have been released, accompanied by a legion of hands-on previews from gaming tradeshows across the globe. With the game’s release almost exactly two months away, we figured it would be valuable to stop and take stock of the wealth of information that’s currently available.
1. Heroes
1.1. Batman
Things change…Batman stays the same. Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego is still his all-business self in Batman: Arkham City, though he has a number of new gadgets at his disposal, and an improved “Detective Mode” that involves more than just following scent trail. He’s also learned a variety of new combat moves/animations, described in more detail in the “Combat” section below. One neat touch that’s been widely reported: Batman’s suit will show damage, wear, and tear over the course of the game.

1.2. Robin
Available only as a Best Buy exclusive character, Robin will be playable in the Arkham City Challenge Mode. Fans of the original game will remember this game type, which tests player skill using arena-type trials. To Rocksteady’s credit, they’ve devised a costume for the Boy Wonder that doesn’t make him look like a total putz.

Catwoman is sort of a liminal case here. Nominally a villain, she appears as a playable character in Arkham Asylum. Players will be able to switch to her at certain points in the game, when they come across a cat on a rooftop that acts as a sort of tag-off point (according to Gamefront’s E3 Preview). Playing Catwoman, as Rocksteady marketing manager Dax Ginn explained to our correspondent during his E3 hands-on, is about seeing how the other half lives: “She offers you the opportunity to explore Arkham City from a criminal perspective…when you’re playing as Catwoman, you get the chance to do the wrong thing. And I think gamers like that opportunity.”

Catwoman has her own distinct fighting style and set of animations. GameFront writer Mitchell Saltzman described them as “quicker, wilder, and more acrobatic.” She can climb along the ceiling and drop down on unsuspecting enemies, incapacitate them with thrown bolas, and use her whip to swing around the city like Spider-man. Her “Thief Vision” acts as the converse of Batman’s Detective Mode, highlighting objects for the light-fingered, bosomy burglar to pocket.The ten-minute gameplay clip that Rocksteady released gives a great sense of the character.

Quincy Sharp
Another character whose morality is in doubt. When Arkham City begins, he has been elected mayor of Gotham City, but it’s not clear exactly what his motives are.

 Hugo Strange
Always one of Batman’s most powerful adversaries, Dr. Strange has a crucial role to play in Arkham City. This resourceful, cunning psychiatrist, who is one of the few people to know Batman’s true identity, has been put in charge as warden of Arkham City.

This trailer shows you all you need to know about the Penguin. Less campy than the DeVito take on the character, but also more uncanny than the comic version, the Arkham City Penguin is voiced by Uncharted alum Nolan North, of Nathan Drake fame.

Mr. Freeze
Also enshrined in video, Mr. Freeze is an intimdating presence — much less fun when deprived of Schwarzeneggerian one-liners.

The insane district attorney features prominently in the ten-minute gameplay clip linked above, narrowly avoiding getting dumped into a vat of acid.

The Riddler
The Riddler, as is his wont, is mostly involved with collectibles. See that section at the end for more details.

He broke Batman’s back in the comics, and he’s the big threat in the new Christopher Nolan movie. Arkham City has him, along with a possible stolen chemical sideplot that’s as-yet unconfirmed.

Black Mask
Not one of Batman’s best-known adveraries, but he’s got a cool name and an intimidating visage. Revealed thanks to the “Black Mask Hideout” DLC map, which comes as part of the Robin pre-order bonus from Best Buy.

Talia Al Ghul
Daughter of Batman’s mentor and eventually the mother of his child (in the comics), it is unclear what role Talia has to play in Arkham City. There’s definitely a screenshot of her virtual likeness though.

Unstable hero/villain Jack Ryder aka the Creeper appears in the above clip, giving Batman a tip on some nearby Riddler trophies. No word on whether he has a bigger role to play.

Though he may not appear on camera, this palindromic psycho has some scheme going on with the city’s payphones.

The Joker/Harley Quinn
What Batman game would be complete without these two? Harley looks as skanky as ever, and Joker’s laughing menace has not dissipated.

3. Story
Rocksteady are wisely playing its cards pretty close to the vest, but the essential details of the setup are these: After the conclusion of the first game, which saw Batman thwart the Joker’s plans, Arkham warden Quincy Sharp seizes an opportunity to do a little political grandstanding. Downplaying Batman’s involvement in the situation in favor of his own heroism, Sharp rides a wave of approbation into public office, becoming the mayor of Gotham.

Blackgate Prison and Arkham Asylum lie in ruins, however, and Sharp has a serious criminal justice problem on his hands. His dubious solution is to buy up a section of Gotham City and turn it into a gigantic walled prison. He hires a private military contractor called Tyger to provide security — giving them a mandate to shoot any potential escapees on sight — and turns over administration of the teeming penal colony to the enigmatic Dr. Hugo Strange. Its not clear exactly what the pair of them are up to, but there certainly must be ulterior motives of some kind yet to be revealed.

The events of the game kick off with the events of the video embedded above. Two-Face attempts to publicly execute Catwoman — demonstrations of power are key in the factious world of Arkham City — and Batman is forced to intervene. One assumes that things go rapidly downhill for the Caped Crusader from there.

4. Setting
Arkham City is five times the size of the original game, giving players a huge area to explore. Though not a true “sandbox” game, according to the developers, the city/prison will be packed with plenty to do, and will presumably be open to a good deal of player choice. Zsasz’s payphone calls, for example, will lead to side quests. Riddler Trophies, described in more detail under “Collectibles” below, will also serve as an incentive to explore.

When it comes to the city itself, players can expect to visit “legendary landmarks,” according to Dax Ginn. There will also be dynamic changes to the architecture based on the rise and fall of various criminal factions. Different villains will remake their hideout and the surrounding neighborhood in their own images. Once these villains are defeated, the buildings could return to normal or fall under the control of another Batman adversary. Take a close look at the bifurcated appearance of the courthouse Two-Face is tenanting (in the video above) to get a sense of what this looks like.

5. Combat
Combat was the defining feature of Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Rocksteady is wisely avoiding any sweeping changes. Instead, they’re working hard to expand and perfect the system. The biggest change is quantitative: Batman could take on up to 12 enemies at a time in the first game; for the sequel, that number has more than doubled, up to 27. To cope with this huge influx of adversaries, players can double or triple tap the dodge button to deal with double and triple threats.

Batman also has double the number of moves and animations (motion capture is actually not preferable, due to the flowing nature of the combat) including context-sensitive knockouts that trigger based on the surrounding scenery. Catwoman and Robin also have their own unique animations and movesets, but it’s Batman’s many improvements that deserve the most attention.

There’s an enhanced Glide Kick that delivers even more punishment. A memorable “batclaw slam” that ends with a vicious clothesline. A cape-based takedown move that has Batman climbing onto a goon’s shoulders, which can apparently be used to bounce off multiple enemies. The Dark Knight can even incorporate gadgets like explosive gel into his combos, spraying it onto the floor and then leaping away to detonate it in the middle of a group of thugs.

6. Other Mechanics
The Rocksteady team has taken care to augment Batman’s non-combat abilities. His cryptographic sequencer can now eavesdrop on conversations from afar, providing important updates on the fragile situation in Arkham City. The line launcher and the batarang have been upgraded — the former is now a “double” launcher, enabling Batman to fire a second line before he is done with the first.

New stealth mechanics will also come into play, including a smoke bomb that allows the costumed hero to rapidly escape from armed thugs. Stealth can be especially important when Batman is trying to traverse the city undetected, due to the turf wars that occasionally erupt in the volatile world of Arkham City.

Enabling players to get around all that vast territory was one of the developers’ biggest challenges. The first thing they did was perfect the bat signal — move it on the map like a waypoint, then follow its bright beam through the gameworld until you reach your destination. Also crucial was the grapple gun, which will whisk Batman to a seemingly endless number of promontories and ledges. Third, and most importantly, the team worked on perfecting the glide maneuver. After leaping off a building, Batman will glide along with the help of his cape. By pulling on the right trigger button, players can send him into a nosedive, gathering forward momentum that can be used to travel forward once the flight path flattens out. Navigating the city using the correct combination of glide, dive and grapple gun promises to be one of the game’s crucial skills.

Last but not least is Detective Mode, which has also been retooled. Seeking to avoid the silliness that pervaded its use in the first game, Rocksteady have created gameplay scenarios that require players to use Detective Mode to actually figure out complicated clues, rather than simply following trails of bloody footprints. Many early preview have mentioned a sequence in which Batman discerns the trajectory of a rifle bullet he just narrowly avoids, but expect there to be plenty of intelligent, nuanced puzzling to go along with the ass-kicking.

7. Collectibles
After creating a huge open world, the Arkham City designers were obligated to fill it will collectibles. They were once again abetted in this task by the Batman canon, which furnishes The Riddler; the gameworld is seeded with no fewer than 436 Riddler Trophies. Some of these collectibles will be easy to find accidentally, but others will require you to interrogate informants to learn their whereabouts. After certain collection benchmarks, players will have to tangle with the Riddler more directly, rescuing hostages from deadly, Saw-style traps and puzzle rooms devised by the masked maniac.

Batman enthusiasts can also spend their time tracking down character cameos that other, less-dedicated gamers might overlook — Arkham Asylum was full of similar fan-service. There’s also likely to be a full suite of side quests (including Zsasz’s phone booth missions, mentioned above), but details are thin on exactly what they’ll be like.

Even if we only a had a small portion of this information, it would be enough to make your average gamer feverishly excited for the release of Arkham Asylum on November 18th. The fact that the details above are only the tip of the iceberg is almost unbearable. Know something we don’t? Chime in the comments with your Arkham City scoop!

Related For Review, All About Batman Arkham City Guide That Must Be Know