September 27, 2011, 13:00

Hands On: Batman: Arkham City

By Ryan Martin, Writer

Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman were some of the comic book heroes I grew up with due to their massive fan base and newly created animated series but even then, Batman was always the darker, grittier hero – especially for a child of my age. I never really got into Bruce Wayne and his alter ego until Nolan released the latest films which was when, with help of my own personal comic expert, I started buying comics featuring the Caped Crusader. Then Arkham Asylum came along and it instantly became one of the best superhero video games.

Hands On: Batman: Arkham City

Now Rocksteady are nearly ready to release their sequel to the masses but not before they give a taster demo at this year’s Eurogamer Expo. It all kicks off with Two-Face’s thugs attempting to crack a safe until they are stopped by a shadowy figure. This is when the I takes control and act out the part of a Batman game where you don’t play as Batman – odd I know, but it is quite brilliant. It’s immediately noticeable the massive difference between the fighting styles of Batman and, new playable character, Catwoman, with the feline thief being more flexible and agile whilst using a difference set of tools. Combine that with double the amount of fighting animations compared to 2009’s title and it certainly makes for an entertaining watch but ultimately, it is the same quick and satisfying gameplay fans are used to.

“I expected great things from Rocksteady and from what I’ve played, it doesn’t appear they will let us down.”

Enemies have also been improved upon since the crazies took over the Asylum. In the previous title, the groups of bad guys Batman had to handle were small and couldn’t co-ordinate an attack together with the game only ever forcing one opponent against the Dark Knight. Both qualities of the enemy have improved with the quantity being doubled (in most cases) and in some instances, I was attacked by two thugs while another was readying to an object to throw. Having taken care of Two-Face’s brutes, I was cast into the boots of Batman. It was here I found out how vast Arkham City is with Rocksteady claiming it to be over five times the size of Arkham Asylum. Batman still has his trusty cape to use for gliding and his Batclaw for reaching high ledges swiftly, but he also has a new dive ability. To reach high-speed, ergo height, Batman can dive from a ledge and at the last-minute, extend his cape. This allowed me to travel long distances quickly.

Hands On: Batman: Arkham City

As I traverse the city using this new ability, I came across multiple question marks indicating the locations of some of The Riddler’s conundrums. With caged off areas and even audio pressure pads, there appears to be an impressive amount of Riddler side missions to take and we’re sure they will challenge even the World’s greatest detective.

Whilst taking in the remarkable cityscape, I made my way to the mission objective with the help of a HUD and compass. Before entering the marked building, a small group of enemies awaited my entrance which gave me the opportunity to try out the more fluid combat system for Batman. As well as introducing new moves, Rocksteady has also made it easier to pull off combos using gadgets such as the Batarang and Batclaw. In Asylum, using the tools was fairly sluggish and left B-Man open to attack making them a fairly risky manoeuvre for players wanting to create long combos. Luckily for those players, gadgets have been further integrated into combat. For example, Batman is now able to pull enemies towards him using the grapple hook and clothesline them, or he can lay explosive gel mid-combat and detonate it in a cluster of thugs.

Arkham Asylum fans will not be disappointed with the sequel. It brings in a whole host of new features such as an open world prison to explore, a massive ten-to-fifteen hours of side missions on top of twenty-five hours of story and a new playable character. Let’s not forget the detective mode from the original present as well, although with several new features. That’s without mentioning the fan favourite villains that Arkham City is lined with. I expected great things from Rocksteady and from what I’ve played, it doesn’t appear they will let us down.

Batman: Arkham City is due out October 21 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC and OnLive.