Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment bought their ‘A’ game with them to EB Expo 2011 this weekend with hands-on play test of the highly anticipated sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City. Calling this game highly anticipated is somewhat of an understatement if the queues for play-testing is anything to go by. It is easily one of the most popular games of the event, despite the title being available in Australia from October 19th this week.
The lines to experience Batman: Arkham City ranged from one to two hour waits no matter what kind of ticket holder you were. Even if you were fortunate enough to have VIP privileges, you were still in for an hour long stand around. It wasn’t all bad given the WBIE display booth had the caped crusader plastered all over the walls. There was much eye candy to be had if a masked man dressed in black gets your juices flowing.
To make the wait a little more bearable, fans were given the chance to enter a competition to win one of three Batman: Arkham City Collector’s Edition. These beauties are already sold out in Australia, so there’s going to be three very happy gamers in OZ when they announce the winners.
After an hour wait in the queue, my time had come to give Batman: Arkham City a run around. Once I got my hands on the controller I was told by staff the demo I was about to experience is the E3 2011 preview code from five months ago and the final product could vary drastically from what I was about to try out. I kept that in mind as the game booted up.
The hands-on begins with the player in control of the feline femme fatale, Catwoman. The lady in black attempts to break into a safe heavily guarded by a mob of masked henchmen who you’ll have to take on all at once. It’s an action-packed clobbering that combines brief on-screen tutorials with fast-paced action to set the tone of what’s to come. Controls are fluid and responsive as Catwoman leaps, twirls and bounds her way from one villain to the next. It feels as if Rocksteady Studios have designed this initial encounter to be manageable by just about all gamers no matter the skill level, but still retain the kind of combo heavy combat that was so endearing in the original.
The inclusion of Catwoman as a playable character offers a more agile experience compared to being control of the more bulkier Batz. Catwoman is lightning quick and performs moves no man (ordinary or superhero) should attempt. Slash, clawing and springing around the enclosed room still provides a level of freedom in movement and maneuverability, in spite of the limited environment Catwoman is tasked with. Bringing her own unique brand of take-down moves, the feline will definitely prove to be a popular choice amongst male gamers. Not only are you getting an eye-full of tight leather-wearing female, she’s surprisingly loads of fun to control. I took a moment to glance around to see if the other participants were struggling with controls. From what I saw, not a single person looked as if they weren’t having a good time. All eyes fixated on the screen with rapid button pressing going on in their hands, except for myself scanning the room and being all creepy.
Graphically, Batman: Arkham City is comparable to Batman: Arkham Asylum. Much has been said about the graphical enhancements in Batman: Arkham City and the screenshots revealed by WBIE has looked very promising thus far, however in my playthrough it was hard to see any stand out details or distinction that surpassed the Asylum, or took it to that extra level. Perhaps this is due to the masses only given an unfinished build to try which; mind you, is still a stunning gaming experience in its incomplete state. The framerate runs smoothly with no noticeable slow-downs during my play experience. The only thing slow were the slow-motion animation sequence of a take-down being inflicted on a deserving criminal. I have heard others complain of slow-downs during their playthrough so perhaps I was just lucky with mine.
Once Catwoman’s fight sequence is completed, we’re given control of the original superhero that started it all, good old local boy Batman. Perched atop a high rise building with decryption gadget in hand, players are instructed to decode an intercepted broadcast signal and literally ‘wing’ it down to your destination. The environment extends as far as the eye can see, giving a real sense of size and immersion in Gotham. Leaping off the edge and weaving between the buildings, Batman is able to glide with finesse above the monumental structures as he descends to a safe landing. The world of Arkham City feels sinister and dangerous as gangs occupy the streets littered with neon lights, amidst eerie shadows and dark surroundings.
My landing wasn’t quite as smooth as others as I grounded Batman slap bang in the middle of an unsuspecting mob. The henchmen instantly turned on me and I was forced to engage multiple targets at once. I managed to knock a few down in true Batman fashion before I got a tap on the shoulder letting me know my play time had come to an end. Although my playthrough was abruptly cut short, my impression of Batman: Arkham City hasn’t changed. It is still a quintessential example of how to create, and build upon an original idea without comprising on the fundamentals of what makes a good game. In an end of year line-up for 2011 filled with so many quality titles, Batman: Arkham City remains as a strong contender for the coveted Game of the Year award.
You’ll be able to descend into the overrun sandbox world of Gotham City (I mean Arkham City) from
October 19th 2011 I mean, right now =X. Don’t forget to pre-order buy your copy of Batman Arkham City Steelbook Edition from EB Games if you haven’t already done so.