Is the Batman Arkham City hype justified? All gaming elements aside, it's simply one of the best Batman interpretations we've seen to date. That's including film, TV, even comics. Quite simply a masterpiece
“Wait! The Joker can’t be dead!!”
T3’s jaw has been nailed to the floor. Surely this is some mistake? There’s no way Rocksteady, the studio behind Batman: Arkham City, would kill the Joker, right?
Yet there he is, slumped in a chair, flatlined with Harley Quinn sobbing her eyes out in front of us at the end of the twenty-minute demo at Warner Bros. HQ in London. The Joker is dead, and when we ask, T3 is told that Rocksteady aren’t taking any questions on what we’ve just seen. You could knock us down with a feather.
To understand our reaction, we have to take you back to the beginning of the demo, which kicked things off in the neon-encrusted hellhole of Arkham City. Anyone with any interest in this game will be familiar with the story details that Rocksteady have drip-fed so far.
Batman Arkham City: Gotham
For the rest of you, here’s the scenario; large tracts of Gotham City have been walled up and turned into a super-prison for Batman’s worst foes. Arkham City, as it’s being called, is run by a shady character called Hugo Strange who has allowed the criminals free-run of the prison, provided they don’t try to escape – attempting to do so, means death. Batman, fearing that Strange has nefarious motives, has gone over the wall of Arkham City to check things out.
The demo we saw picks up the story just after Batman has managed to escape a trap set for him by the Joker. After leaping to safety from an exploding bell tower, Batman pinpoints the Joker’s whereabouts in a steel mill nearby. As we use his rapel-gun to take a higher vantage point, we hear Harley Quinn announce to the flunkies around the building that they’d better keep “Mr Batman” out of the mill. Fat chance.
Batman Arkham City: Combat
During our time in control of the caped crusader, we notice how similar a lot of the mechanics are to those of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Rocksteady’s new Batman title is still a sublime cocktail of brutal combat, stealth action and puzzle solving. Players need to think twice before barging into a room full of foes; in a lot of instances, the head-on approach will get them killed, so they may need to tackle each scenario with a combination of stealth, timed attacks and, when required, a good old fashioned punch in the face. There are still plenty of vents and air ducts for Batman to creep around in and tapping LB still brings up ‘Detective Vision’, a kind of X-ray viewer that shows the points of interest in the environment, the number of enemies in it, and – crucially – what they’re armed with.
Batman Arkham City: Bat gadgets
However, Rocksteady has crammed a ton of new features into the Dark Knight’s new adventure, aside from the new story. First of all, unlike nearly every single superhero video game sequel in existence, players don’t need to unlock any of Batman’s gadgets from the first game. All of his wonderful toys are present and correct and his arsenal only gets bigger as things progress. In the demo we were shown Batman’s new gadgets include remote-controlled batarangs and the Remote Electrical Charge or REC for short. The REC is a gun Batman can quick-fire at opponents to give them a brief electrical shock, or use on generators and magnetic outlets for puzzle solving.
Batman Arkham City: Cat woman
Batman’s brawling has been tweaked somewhat. Players still use the two-button combo of attack and counter, and they can still flow gracefully between foes, pounding the living daylights out of them. However, as they chain combos together, Batman starts showcasing new moves and attacks, and his finishers are even more eye-wateringly brutal than before. As we mentioned in our earlier Batman Arkham City preview, players will also be able to control Catwoman, and as such, T3 were allowed a hands-on with Batman’s feline love interest. She handles quite differently from the Dark Knight; her attacks are lighter, her movement quicker and instead of using a cape to blind her opponents (as Batman does) she uses a whip.
On top of all this, Batman’s gliding ability as received a bit of a boost. Players can rapel up to high points on the map, and then make Batman overshoot his target, giving him greater time in the air. They can also increase the length of his glide, by plummeting earthwards and then use the momentum to send him soaring over longer distances.
Batman Arkham City: Plot
Of course, all of these new gadgets, attacks and abilities wouldn’t be much cop if that weren’t at the service of a decent plot, and from what little we’ve seen, Arkham City looks very promising. The backdrop of Strange’s urban prison is a madhouse run wild where all of Batman’s villains are fighting each other for turf – aside from the Joker, Harley Quinn and Two-Face, who have already been unveiled, we were told that the Riddler and Mr Freeze are set to make an appearance. As we used Batman to rescue a doctor from the Joker’s clutches in the steel mill, Strange ominously intoned over the radio that his men should initiate ‘Protocol Ten’. Rocksteady wouldn’t be drawn on what that is, but it sounds pretty bad.
Batman Arkham City: Joker
And then, of course, there’s the Joker, slumped in a chair, dead. At plot reveals go, it’s pretty courageous. At the same time, it’s utterly devious, because taken out of context, we can’t take it at face value. The clown prince of crime has hoodwinked Batman too many times before in the past for us to accept his untimely demise.
Let’s face it, there’s no way the Joker could be dead, right? Right?
Batman Arkham City availability: October 18
Batman Arkham City price: £34.99 on PS3 and Xbox 360 and £29.99 on PC