One of the problems with covering some of the most anticipated games of the year, from a journalistic standpoint, is that there is already so much coverage dedicated to the game in question that it is quite difficult to actually report on it without recycling the same information over and over again. And that is exactly the problem we had when writing about Batman Arkham City.
You’ve probably seen the footage online from the press demo (Rocksteady released a 10 minute gameplay video detailing a chunk of the game’s opening act) to tease those that are starring impatiently at their calendars, waiting to get their hands on Batman’s next big videogame outing.
For those that haven’t seen it, the basic gist is that Two Face’s goons are attempting to break in to a safe containing an important document, only to be ambushed by Catwoman. At this point you take control of Catwoman and must defeat the room full of thugs. From the start one thing is abundantly clear, Catwoman is no mere reskin of Batman. As well as having a distinct sensual walk, she has her own individual moves, including whipping enemies with her whip and using her claws. A nice touch revolves around one of her reversal moves – after flipping over the enemy she tenderly kisses him on the cheek before smashing his brains in, displaying the character’s seductive and playful nature.
Shortly after defeating the thugs, Catwoman is apprehended by Two-Face, and the game flashes forward 24 hours, putting you in control of the titular caped crusader. After hacking into the Arkham City security feed you are told that the guards have spotted Catwoman being escorted to the court house, where she is likely to be executed. However, rather than following the bat signal in the sky, which is a genius way of indicating where your next mission is, we decided to venture off into Arkham City to see what we could find off the beaten track.
It turns out that the massive city is positively packed full of side missions and distractions. One of the new features of the game is Batman’s ability to glide, which makes traversing the city at speed incredibly easy. Gliding itself is very simple, all you need to do is jump off of any building while holding forward and Batman will automatically start gliding. It is actually quite fun, and our first instinct was to see how far we could glide before hitting the ground, or crashing head first in to something. Fortunately, for the clumsy players out there, you can fire your grapple line to attach to any building by pressing the right bumper, which comes in handy should you wish to avoid losing your dignity by smashing (square) chin first in to the side of a building. You can also attack groups of enemies from a glide by pressing X when prompted to, which leads to Batman performing a devastating gliding kick.
Within moments of starting I noticed a passing crowd of thugs and immediately put the combat to the test. One of the best parts of Arkham Asylum was its deceptively simple combat system – sure you could bash buttons and just about get your way through the game, but in order to truly succeed you needed to carefully time your every action. As with the previous game, when an enemy is about to hit you a flashing icon appears above their head, indicating that you can counter their attack. While you could only counter one enemy at a time in Arkham Asylum, in Arkham City you can counter two enemies at once, resulting in some impressive cinematic reversals being performed. This is especially handy as the groups of enemies patrolling Arkham city are significantly larger, and seem to be very aggressive.
Speaking of Arkham City, the most immediately noticeable thing about it, apart from the sheer scale of the place, is the fact there the city is literally plastered with Riddler graffiti. Almost every other building we went past had some sort of question mark graffiti plastered all over it. These act as a signpost letting you know that there are Riddler trophies or challenges nearby.
The first trophy that we came across was clearly visible behind a metal fence, secured away beyond our reach. After inspecting the scene it became clear that there were a number of Riddler branded pressure pads dotted around the scene, however only one of them would activate the hatch that would grant access to this specific trophy. It turns out that the challenge is not so much the act of identifying which pressure pad opens the locked door, but it is getting to the trophy before the door closes.
Much like in Arkham Asylum, whenever you collect a trophy the Riddler will contact you to sarcastically congratulate you on your accomplishment, however after collecting a few trophies the Riddler offered up a special reward in the form of an optional side mission. The Riddler has kidnapped a number of innocent civilians and will only reveal their location, one by one, as you solve more riddles. After a quick button press the map updates with the location of this hostage and we were on our way to save the day.
Unfortunately that was all the time we were allowed to have with Arkham City, and being left on a cliffhanger like that has made us even more impatient for the game’s October release date. Despite feeling very familiar we feel that enough changes have been made to improve the overall experience, easily making it a contender for newbreview.com’s Game of the Year title. We won’t have long to find out for certain, as the game is released in the UK on 21st October. Stay tuned to newbreview.com for our full review around the game’s launch.