Batman: Arkham City Challenge Modes Preview -- Can Catwoman Best the Bats?By Kevin Kelly - Posted Aug 31, 2011
Gadgets. Soaring through Gotham (er, Arkham) City. Taking down Two Face, Mr. Freeze, and others. That's what Batman: Arkham City is all about, and that's what Batman: Arkham Asylum was all about. But I'm going to stray outside those lines and tell you all about the Challenge Modes. Which is where you'll be able to play as Robin... and it looks like other iconic heroes or anti-heroes from the Batman universe.
When we asked Dax Ginn from Rocksteady during our Gamescom 2011 demo about a curious box we saw indicating that you'd be able to select another character besides Batman, Catwoman, and Robin, Dax pointed up in the corner and said "Hey! What's that up there?!" and then vanished. So look for additional characters to be announced or kept secret up until launch. Our money is on Nightwing or Huntress, but c'mon Bat-Mite!
At Gamescom, Dax introduced Sarah, the community manager, and Zafer, the lead animator, both from Rocksteady, who were on-hand to challenge each other in the Challenge Maps, and see who was the Batmannier of the two. Dax ran down the extreme amount of content that's already packed into the game, including the newly announced Mr. Freeze, and asked, "What are you going to do with the rest of your life after you've played through the 40+ hours of the main game?" The answer is the Challenge Modes. (You might remember that the Challenge Rooms were also available in the last game via unlocks and DLC.)
Before launching into the challenge of Sarah vs. Zafer, Dax explained that all three editions of Arkham City, PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, will work in 3D. We got to experience the game with 3D on, and it actually looks fairly fantastic, especially when Batman is gliding high above the city and using his bat-grapple to swing between structures. When you're in close-quarters combat it's not nearly as impressive, but there are some vistas of Gotham that look amazing in 3D.
But back to the Challenge Modes, where Sarah and Zafer were competing for the coveted Commissioner James Gordon Gold Medal of Arkham City. Or in other words, a fancy gold sticker. But you wouldn't have known that they were just playing for a piece of tinfoil with adhesive on the back of it by the way they fought. Sarah played as Catwoman, and Zafer as Batman, and they both went through the paces in the "Rooftop Rumble" Combat challenge, taking down multiple assailants at once and clearing waves of baddies.
Catwoman is definitely the sexier of the two, and Sarah handily won the combat challenge moving around lithely, while Batman is traditionally clunky and chunky, although he's able to move fairly deftly. Both of them earned Riddler medals as they hit point totals in the waves, but Sarah's points far outstripped Zafer's, and by the end of the combat, she was way ahead of Zager. Both of them used multiple takedown techniques, including Catwoman's whip and Batman's explosive gel and remote electrical charge, which has a shotgun-like knockback effect.
Moving on to the Stealth mode in "Meltdown Mayhem," the silent predator aspect of the challenge map showed off even more differences between Batman and Catwoman. Catwoman is able to crawl on ceilings and walls, often going places that Batman can't. She's also able to use her whip like Batman uses his grapple, pulling herself up and out of enemy range. But Batman also has some new tricks up his sleeve, including his new Smoke Pellets. These can be used to disguise Batman's exit, or they can be tossed at enemies to disorient and confuse them. A skilled player can toss a pellet in the midst of three enemies that are close together, then drop in and take them all down.
Moving on to the final challenge, Catwoman and Batman both raced from one point in the city to another, although Dax underscored the fact that this is not a mode in the game. Although after watching it, I sure wish it was. Both of them had to move through the city as quickly as they could, finally getting to the top of a Ferris wheel on the edge of the city. This is where Batman pulls ahead, showing off his new Grapple Boost ability that allows him to use the Grapple Gun while gliding to give himself a boost up and over obstacles.
He's also now equipped with a Dive Boost ability, letting him plummet to the ground, and then pull up quickly and to gain an altitude boost. Batman can also grapple off of a helicopter if he wants, using it as a swing point, or he can crawl up and under the chopper, hitching a ride across the city. Zafer won this challenge, although only by a few seconds, crowning Sarah as the winner of the sticker, and sending Zafer into the halls of shame. Still, he's getting to play Batman: Arkham City on a daily basis, so we can't feel too sorry for him.
Batman: Arkham City is out on October 18, with Challenge Modes intact, and we're eager to get our hands on it.