Batman: Arkham City
Gotham: a hell of a place to make your name. With the inmates loose from the asylum and carving the gothic cityscape up between them, Batman's got a hell of a job ahead. But he's not doing it alone.
It takes balls of steel to strap on some blackened kevlar shrouded in a figure-hugging cape and fling yourself from rooftop to rooftop on a fine rope.
It doesn't take balls to approach a licence that's been rolled around in the development dirt for nearly two decades with the intent of cleaning it up and making it shine - the past is littered with the wreckages of best intentions turned sour, like a string of alcoholics promising much better at the next A.A meeting.
Yet Rocksteady has managed three, arguably four, impossible feats. It made good with a licensed title, a poisoned chalice in the industry if there was ever one. Two, it created the best Batman title in the history of videogames, but it also crafted one of the finest games of this generation. That's three. Four: the London-based outfit has made Asylum's sequel, Arkham City, one of the most anticipated titles of next year.
Any two of those feats would be amazing in themselves. but together? Rocksteady must be bowled over and swaggering with the weight twixt their neither-regions. You'd imagine David Attenborough monologuing their ascent upwards from forest fauna to the towering oaks of the industry's best.
But when you're up there, its also a long way to fall. Which is why we're very glad to say from all accounts so far, Rocksteady are cupping the the licence like an old friend.
Let's get those "difficult second album" worries out of the way first. Batman will retain all his moves and gadgets from the first game - he's not going to be stripped off all his tech and thrown back to the basics by way of some ill-concieved accident at the game's start. Rocksteady instead will be expanding on the current moves list and evolving it naturally. Hence multiple and unbroken bat-rope swings to transverse the city, as is the ability to clamber and swing down from the line launcher at any point.
With these and more helping the Dark Knight sweep across the city, you'd half wonder why he'd need wheels (or wings) at all. Well, the developer has all but confirmed in a recent interview that while they might appear in the sequel, you won't be getting behind either the Batmobile and Batplane/Batwing for a spin during the game's length. Rocksteady want Batman to "be the ultimate vehicle", which while sounding like a god-awful tagline for a reality TV show, shows the developer has still got its head screwed on right in beefing up the ultimate detective.
Again, more tweaks and evolutions. The use of the amazing Detective Vision, which let you track clues and ID gun-carrying thugs through Bat's visor, has been made more varied this time round to break up the monotony that slowly crept into the original. Such as now you can use it to spot potential informants in a crowd of thugs, who all have been redesigned visually to mark their particular super-villain affiliation.
Informants will drop clues on what's happening across the breadth of Arkham City's perimeter, leading you on multiple bread-crumb trails as various quests and missions open up across the city, which will also expand on the original's side-quests. Whether or not we're looking at a true sandbox title now is unknown, but as long as Rocksteady keep nailing the mood and atmosphere of the caped crusader we'll be too busy busting the heads of Batman's rogue's gallery to care.
There might be an uneasy ally in all of the chaos. Catwoman has featured prominently on the first pieces of artwork released by Rocksteady, and given her natural agility and whip letting the leather-bound thief match Batman's moves, there's a faint whiff that she could become playable in the game - either as part of a side-quest, unlockable alternative version of a game, or whisper it as a full-on cooperative mode. The developer has remained silent on such rumour and speculation though, so it might just be the cat-nip talking.
Most anticipated game of next year? It's certainly up there, and its one of the few times we've greeted the news of delays with glee - it means everyone involved is determined on proving the first title wasn't just a lucky fluke. If Rocksteady want an extra few months to polish those steel balls, we're happy to let it. It's earned the right.
Watch the latest teaser trailer for Arkham Asylum below, and come back this weekend when we'll be covering all the Batman news spinning out of the Spike TV Video Game Awards
- System:PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer:Rocksteady Studios
- Publisher:Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Offline players:1
- Age limit:From 16 years
- Release date:21 October 2011
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