San Diego Comic-Con 2011: Exclusive - Dread Central’s First Look at Batman: Arkham City and Video Interview with Dax Ginn
Rocksteady Studios did something almost unheard of with 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum; they made a game based on the Dark Knight that not only didn’t suck, but was actually one of the best games released that year. How do they plan on following up their initial salvo into the world of the Caped Crusader, you ask? By upping the stakes and making everything bigger and badder.
With a five times bigger environment, more villains, more combat abilities, more gadgets, over 400(!) Riddler challenges and even the addition of a completely new playable character, Batman: Arkham City looks like it’s shaping up to be a more than worthy follow-up to one of the best games of this console generation.
It’s been roughly a year since The Joker took control of Arkham Asylum, and a lot has happened in Gotham City. After that incident both Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison have been declared unfit to hold prisoners. Quincy Sharp, former warden of Arkham, has been elected mayor. After a bombing during his inauguration speech, Sharp, along with new warden Hugo Strange, has decided to cordon off the slums of Gotham and build his new prison right there in the city. The new prison’s only rule – Don’t try to escape.
This goes about as well as can be expected.
It’s largely lawless inside the walls of Arkham City. The heavy hitters of the Batman universe--namely, The Joker, Two-Face, and The Penguin--have set up shop and are vying for control of the prison. Each of them has staked his claim to a section of the city, started up a gang, and will stop at nothing until he is the last man standing.
The Riddler is in the mix as well. While he doesn’t seem to be one of the major players, that doesn’t make him any less dangerous. In Asylum Riddler was primarily a hands-off antagonist, being little more than an annoyance Batman had to deal with from time to time. This time around, however, Riddler is taking a much more hands-on approach. He’s kidnapped innocent civilians and locked them in seemingly Saw-inspired challenge rooms featuring all sorts of death traps including, of course, copious amounts of deadly saw blades.
Batman has to complete Riddler’s games, or innocent lives will be lost.
It’s unknown as of now exactly what calamity has required Batman to intervene in Arkham City, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that he’s the goddamn Batman and there are bad guys whose faces need to be punched.
And punch them you shall.
The combat in Arkham City will feel very familiar to veterans of the original game. It uses the same timing/combo based system as Asylum but with a few more bells and whistles. You can now use the famous explosive gel during combat. You can quickly spray a little on the ground, roll away, detonate it and stun a group of enemies. Very awesome. But my favorite new combat ability has to be the Batclaw Takedown. In Asylum you could use the Batclaw to pull enemies toward you to continue your combos. In City, however, they’ve amped up its use exponentially. During a combo you can launch the claw at an enemy, pull him toward you Scorpion style, sweep his legs out from under him, and clothesline him to the ground all in one motion. It’s visceral, brutal, and extremely satisfying.
One of the big changes from Asylum to City is the world traversal; no longer are you primarily confined to building interiors and small outdoor areas. As Batman, Arkham City is yours to explore. From the rooftops to the seedy alleyways, nowhere is off limits. Much like in Asylum, you can use your cape to glide, but in this game they had to amp it up just a little bit more. While gliding in Arkham City, you can pull the right trigger to go into a dive bomb; wrapping the cape around, you can build up speed and head straight toward the ground. Let go of the right trigger and you unwrap the cape, catch the upward thrust from the wind, and gain more gliding speed. The combination of the grappling hook and Batman’s cape allows phenomenal freedom of movement. It’s possible to go from one side of the city to the other without touching the ground.
THE biggest change, however, has to the inclusion of an entirely new playable character in the form of Catwoman. I’ll be the first person to admit that I was a little apprehensive when I heard she would be fully playable. I mean, I play a Batman game to be the man himself so adding another character that’s not Batman just didn’t seem like it made a lot of sense. Upon thinking more and more about it, though, I realize that it’s actually quite a brilliant addition. There’s no one in Batman’s rogues gallery, outside of The Joker, that’s as polar opposite to Batman as Catwoman. Where Batman is serious and stoic, Catwoman is light-hearted and playful. Batman has dedicated his life to ending crime in Gotham; Catwoman is a life-long thief. Batman has a very strict “no killing” rule, but Catwoman will ice a dude if the situation deems it necessary. It’s going to be very interesting seeing the Arkham world through her eyes.
Batman: Arkham City isn’t re-inventing the wheel here because there’s really no need to fix something that wasn’t broken to begin with. Rocksteady Studios is taking the formula that worked so well the first time around and jamming it with as much awesome stuff as they possibly can. And, in this instance, “more of the same” is more of one of my favorite games of all time. I’d have to be criminally insane to turn that down.
Batman: Arkham City hits the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC on October 18, 2011. Check out our exclusive video interview with Dax Ginn below to hear more about this upcoming game!
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