Batman: Arkham City Guide — Everything We Know So Far
Arkham City is five times the size of the original game, giving players a huge area to explore. Though not a true “sandbox” game, according to the developers, the city/prison will be packed with plenty to do, and will presumably be open to a good deal of player choice. Zsasz’s payphone calls, for example, will lead to side quests. Riddler Trophies, described in more detail under “Collectibles” below, will also serve as an incentive to explore.
When it comes to the city itself, players can expect to visit “legendary landmarks,” according to Dax Ginn. There will also be dynamic changes to the architecture based on the rise and fall of various criminal factions. Different villains will remake their hideout and the surrounding neighborhood in their own images. Once these villains are defeated, the buildings could return to normal or fall under the control of another Batman adversary. Take a close look at the bifurcated appearance of the courthouse Two-Face is tenanting (in the video above) to get a sense of what this looks like.
Combat was the defining feature of Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Rocksteady is wisely avoiding any sweeping changes. Instead, they’re working hard to expand and perfect the system. The biggest change is quantitative: Batman could take on up to 12 enemies at a time in the first game; for the sequel, that number has more than doubled, up to 27. To cope with this huge influx of adversaries, players can double or triple tap the dodge button to deal with double and triple threats.
Batman also has double the number of moves and animations (motion capture is actually not preferable, due to the flowing nature of the combat) including context-sensitive knockouts that trigger based on the surrounding scenery. Catwoman and Robin also have their own unique animations and movesets, but it’s Batman’s many improvements that deserve the most attention.
There’s an enhanced Glide Kick that delivers even more punishment. A memorable “batclaw slam” that ends with a vicious clothesline. A cape-based takedown move that has Batman climbing onto a goon’s shoulders, which can apparently be used to bounce off multiple enemies. The Dark Knight can even incorporate gadgets like explosive gel into his combos, spraying it onto the floor and then leaping away to detonate it in the middle of a group of thugs.
The Rocksteady team has taken care to augment Batman’s non-combat abilities. His cryptographic sequencer can now eavesdrop on conversations from afar, providing important updates on the fragile situation in Arkham City. The line launcher and the batarang have been upgraded — the former is now a “double” launcher, enabling Batman to fire a second line before he is done with the first.
New stealth mechanics will also come into play, including a smoke bomb that allows the costumed hero to rapidly escape from armed thugs. Stealth can be especially important when Batman is trying to traverse the city undetected, due to the turf wars that occasionally erupt in the volatile world of Arkham City.
Enabling players to get around all that vast territory was one of the developers’ biggest challenges. The first thing they did was perfect the bat signal — move it on the map like a waypoint, then follow its bright beam through the gameworld until you reach your destination. Also crucial was the grapple gun, which will whisk Batman to a seemingly endless number of promontories and ledges. Third, and most importantly, the team worked on perfecting the glide maneuver. After leaping off a building, Batman will glide along with the help of his cape. By pulling on the right trigger button, players can send him into a nosedive, gathering forward momentum that can be used to travel forward once the flight path flattens out. Navigating the city using the correct combination of glide, dive and grapple gun promises to be one of the game’s crucial skills.
Last but not least is Detective Mode, which has also been retooled. Seeking to avoid the silliness that pervaded its use in the first game, Rocksteady have created gameplay scenarios that require players to use Detective Mode to actually figure out complicated clues, rather than simply following trails of bloody footprints. Many early preview have mentioned a sequence in which Batman discerns the trajectory of a rifle bullet he just narrowly avoids, but expect there to be plenty of intelligent, nuanced puzzling to go along with the ass-kicking.
After creating a huge open world, the Arkham City designers were obligated to fill it will collectibles. They were once again abetted in this task by the Batman canon, which furnishes The Riddler; the gameworld is seeded with no fewer than 436 Riddler Trophies. Some of these collectibles will be easy to find accidentally, but others will require you to interrogate informants to learn their whereabouts. After certain collection benchmarks, players will have to tangle with the Riddler more directly, rescuing hostages from deadly, Saw-style traps and puzzle rooms devised by the masked maniac.
Batman enthusiasts can also spend their time tracking down character cameos that other, less-dedicated gamers might overlook — Arkham Asylum was full of similar fan-service. There’s also likely to be a full suite of side quests (including Zsasz’s phone booth missions, mentioned above), but details are thin on exactly what they’ll be like.
Even if we only a had a small portion of this information, it would be enough to make your average gamer feverishly excited for the release of Arkham Asylum on October 18th. The fact that the details above are only the tip of the iceberg is almost unbearable. Know something we don’t? Chime in the comments with your Arkham City scoop!
The Bat is back — check out our huge text and video walkthrough for Batman: Arkham City.