Released in 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum broke videogame lore by being a licensed title that didn't totally suck. Not only that, but the highly praised action adventure quickly became one of the best games of the year; boasting a good story coupled alongside a set of pretty solid mechanics. Two years have passed since then, and now Arkham Asylum's bigger and balder sequel Batman: Arkham City is close to hitting store shelves. Before then though, we managed to get a sneak peak at a behind closed doors presentation, and now we get to tell you all about it.
Play Arkham City for only a few minutes and you will instantaneously notice one of the most drastic changes - size. No longer is the caped crusader restricted to a single location, but rather is this time inserted into a much more open world environment, begging to be explored. Cut off from the rest of Gotham, Arkham City is a sect designed to hold inmates from the old asylum and is where all the action will take place. Developers Rocksteady Studios have sneakily kept the old asylum as a landmark that can be seen across the city's river. It's simply staggering to admire just how much the asylum pales in comparison to your new expansive playground and is a feat, that team are naturally proud of.
With a larger environment though, comes the need for a faster, more fluid traversal method; and so we have the new 'full momentum gliding system.' This system allows Batman to take a dive mid air in order to gain speed, or conversely spread his cape to increase height. Use this process in conjunction with your improved grappling hook and you have the potential to navigate your hero all across the city without ever needing to touch the ground.
Speaking of the grappling hook, this nifty little device can be used to pull Batman quickly towards a ledge and proceed to slam into any unsuspecting enemy who unfortunately resides upon said ledge. Within combat, it also allows you to haul enemies toward you (think Scorpion style). This is but a taste of Rocksteady's plan of integrating gadgets into combat to a greater extent, with claims that pretty much any gadget Batman possesses can be utilised in some capacity.
Not so much of a surprise to anyone is the highly publicized inclusion of Catwoman. While you may conjure horrible images of Halle berry and a whole lot of leather, rest assured Rocksteady have definitely thought their choice through. It's also worth noting that Rocksteady have assured fans that Batman's crime fighting ways will still take centre stage, with Catwoman's plotline said to hold a lower percentage of total game time.
Throughout your travels, your masked hero will come across many areas around the city populated by sitting cats. But fear not of these ominous creatures, as if you make your way to one such area you will then be presented with the option to 'take a break.' These breaks are the gateway for the Catwoman's portions within Arkham City. While the feline lover possesses her own storyline, it also runs fairly parallel to Batman's, the two crossing paths many times amidst their adventures. The mission we saw had Catwoman retrieving an orchid for Poison Ivy from some government types. However, upon finding it she promptly destroyed it.
Play style will differentiate vastly for Catwoman though, primarily in terms of agility; forcing you to rely much more on the environment to get around. You will be scaling walls or crawling across ceilings with some very sexy and slinky animations, rather than the flying or gliding of Batman. This paves the way for a greater emphasis on stealth throughout these sections, presenting Catwoman with the ability to pickpocket unsuspecting guards as well as perform stealth takedowns. You can also hit the X button in the middle of a takedown animation to cut right to the chase and knockout the opponent immediately in a 'knockout smash.' Finally, detective mode has been reworked for the seductress, instead employing 'Thief Vision'. Jump into this mode and the great plethora of objects that can be stolen will be highlighted for your light-fingered convenience.
Our demo ended with a big brawl between Penguin's goons and Batman. This crazy fight pitted the dark knight against a multitude of enemies; a number Rocksteady are trying to increase with the sequel. In addition, these enemies are now able to pick up things and throw them at Batman in order to further complicate matters.
It's a scope and scale indicative of things to come from Arkham City. With fantastic animations, great graphics and steady improvements over an already stellar Arkham Asylum, our indicators are hinting towards some truly awesome, spectacular crusading.