Batman: Arkham City Preview -- Catwoman, Riddler Challenges, and Gadgets Galore
- Posted Jun 02, 2011
Batman: Arkham City still has some surprises up its spandex sleeves, but by now you've probably heard that the Bat meets the Cat in this title. That's right, Catwoman appears as a playable character in Arkham City, although her portions are only "about 10 percent of the game" according to developers. This is still Batman's game, and you're still going to be kicking a lot of ass as the Caped Crusader. It's just that he has a lot more to deal with this time around, with no Boy Wonder in sight to lend a helping hand.
Our hands-on time with the game started by taking control of the felonious feline, who was interested in a little breaking and entering. That translates to fighting with goons and cracking a safe, and luckily Catwoman has her own set of skills, gadgets, and moves that help her do what needs to be done. She's a bit more agile than the Dark Knight, is armed with a handy whip, can crawl on the walls and ceiling, and instead of "Detective Mode," she has a "Cat Vision" mode that highlights things she'd want to steal. She's been added as a playable character to let players "take a walk on the wild side" a little bit, and to help them "take a break from being the Dark Knight," according to Dax Ginn, marketing manager for developer Rocksteady.
Despite the nifty addition of Catwoman in her leather and goggles outfit, Batman still rules the belfry in Arkham City
. Only now, the battle has spilled beyond the walls of Arkham, and into a walled-off portion of Gotham City that they now call Arkham City. It's huge, especially when compared to the last game, and Batman has some upgrades to help him deal with the increased scope and threat. There's now a kick-boost you can trigger when speeding up a line from the grapple gun. As he gets near the top of line, you can hit a button to thrust up and above the point where the grapple has locked on; it's a great way to get extra air and increase your height quickly. Since Arkham City is much more spread out than the island we were on in Arkham Asylum
, anything that aids in locomotion is a nice addition.
The city itself is a mashup of different areas, and it's definitely a dark and gloomy place. Alleyways and rooftops are the palette that you'll be dealing with, and you can even visit the familiar spot where Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered by Joe Chill. But there's not much time for nostalgia here, as you're constantly battling goons and helping the citizens left inside the city. There are plenty of random encounters to get into as you zip and glide across the skyline, and you can freely wander and pummel as much as you like without affecting your main objectives. It's very open and sprawling, and you'll spend a lot of time just patrolling and being the lone force of justice in the city.
But there is a linear story that you'll be playing through. Many of the side quests are optional, including the new Riddler challenges that take a lot of their cues from the Saw movies. You'll actually see the Riddler this time, albeit via video projections (so far), as he taunts you and tests your brains and patience with challenges. Following clues around the city, we were led to a Riddler challenge that featured a security guard strung up over an electrified floor topped with whirling blades of death, and we had to slowly work our way through and figure out how to save him without dying in the process.
Helping in that objective is one of Batman's upgraded features, and that's the ability to fire a second zipline while you're currently zipping down one. This allows you to change direction horizontally immediately, and you'll definitely be using this skill throughout the game. In fact, we wouldn't have been able to get past that Riddler challenge without it. Other little changes include the ability to focus Batman's perception, or slow down time, while zipping down the line, or while firing a remote-controlled Batarang. That comes in handy when you need to nail a particular target, or have to plan your next zip carefully.
Of course, most of Batman's encounters involve punching your way out of a mob of thugs, and that involves the previous game's "Freeflow Combat System," which took me awhile to get back into. Watching for the signal that foes are about to attack you is key, as you'll want to fluidly move from one opponent to another, taking them down as quickly as possible. In a world where I've gotten used to just punch, punch, punch, punch without really looking at cues from my opponents, I had to remind myself to play in that familiar (yet unfamiliar) Batsy style. Once I was back in the groove, it was like remembering how to ride a bike.
With Arkham City controlled by different villains, you'll be fighting henchmen from the Joker, Two-Face, the Penguin, and ... possibly more? There's a lot of Batman: Arkham City that we haven't seen yet, and hopefully it will manage to hold some punches back for the retail game. Batman still does a fair amount of detecting in this game, and it's nice to know that Rocksteady still considers him to be a detective of great skill; like Sherlock Holmes with a penchant for costumes and combat. One of my favorite additions to the game was the marker that highlights your next objective. Instead of relying on a compass, or constantly dropping back into a map, you can now look up at the sky to see the tried and true Bat Signal illuminating the sky over your current destination. Bat-tastic.
Batman: Arkham City
looks to trump the gameplay and story experience provided by the excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum
. Everything we've seen so far indicates that Rocksteady has manage not only to clear the bar that they've set so high for themselves. With writer Paul Dini returning, and the development team firing on all cylinders, they've vaulted well beyond it. Batman: Arkham City
will be out on October 18, 2011 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the PC.