PAX Prime 2011: Batman Arkham City Impressions & Details

Yesterday, I got a chance to get some hands on time and questions answered about WB’s highly anticipated title, Batman: Arkham City. This was my favorite title that WB had to show here at PAX, followed closely by Lollipop Chainsaw. It’s likely that you already know a fair amount about the game already, so I won’t waste your time with the basic run down. There isn’t a lot that has changed visually in the game since Arkham Asylum (but as the saying goes: if it aint broke, don’t fix it), however there are some nice changes and additions to the gameplay.

The first thing that I noticed, playing as both Cat Woman and Batman himself, is that the combat system feels a little more fluid than it already was. Beating up a room full of dudes has never looked so stylish, but it also feels very natural and is a lot of fun as well. I seem to remember Ninja Gaiden for the xbox being one of the first games to have a dynamic combat system that would stream a combo together against multiple enemies, and I love it to death (for example: one punch on the guy in front of you, an elbow to the one behind, and then a jump kick to the one in the corner). Although I didn’t really get a chance to explore the city in it’s entirety, I really started to get a feel for how much bigger the open world of Arkham City felt compared to the somewhat boxed in walls of the Asylum.

Two Face is one of my fave's

When I asked what sort of changes this open world made on the development side, I received an interesting answer. With Arkham Asylum, players were stuck in the Joker’s play house, giving the the whole experience this omnipresent feeling of anxiety and fear as we played through the deadly game of cat and mouse with the clown faced psychopath. After taking away the Asylum walls and giving us free reign over such a large section of Gotham, the game lost that feeling, and the devs wanted it back. How do you make the player feel like they are in constant danger without placing them in a confined space? The solution they landed on was pitting us against every single villain from the Batman universe. Good answer…sweet mana from the heavens!

I followed up by asking what villain the dev’s liked most in the game, and received a definite and quick answer: the Riddler. Of course, I had to ask why because that wasn’t the answer I was expecting. Edward Nigma has always been one of those quirky villains who always seemed to like drawing attention and posing fun (for him) riddles for Batman to work out more than causing chaos. He was never as ruthless or insane as the Joker (nor as clever, sadly), and I always thought of him as a cooky burglar, or some sort of tainted jester with an addiction to riddles and cold hard cash. However, according to the dev’s, in Arkham City, the Riddler won’t be playing games anymore. After being humiliated by Batman in the last game -for merely trying to play what he thought of as an innocent little game- he is now out for revenge, and has crossed the line into madness.

No more Mr. Nice Guy!

The game is said to be at least forty hours long and will also feature a ‘game plus’ system like we have seen in previous games -such as Ratchet and Clank- that will allow players to go back through the game using all the gadgets and upgrades they unlocked during their first play through. Gadgets have been revamped slightly as well. I wasn’t able to get many specific details, but you can expect to see a more advanced upgrade system for each of your favorite gadgets such as the Batarang or Batclaw. The detective mode will also still be there, but shouldn’t be as easy to take advantage of. I personally cannot wait to play this game all the way through, it is going to be epic. It hits shelves on October 18th, so get your pre-orders in!

Double K.O.

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