Fans of The Dark Knight will be very happy to hear that his return to video games is going to be an experience that will make Arkham Asylum feel like playing in a cardboard box. As you already know, Batman: Arkham City will take place in, well, Arkham City, a district of Gotham that has been walled off to house the inmates of both Blackgate Prison and Arkham Asylum. It's not a very friendly place.
The Batman: Arkham City demo was present at last week's Microsoft Press Event, and although it was not playable for us eager gamers, we did get to watch it closely, over and over again.
Rocksteady Studios' design approach for Arkham City was to take everything that made Arkham Asylum great and try and transpose it into a larger world. Where 20% of Arkham Asylum took place outside and 80% indoors, Arkham City flips it, putting the Batman in a larger place to operate in. Asylum was very atmospheric and closed in, City is now wide open, expansive and explorable. It's almost reminiscent of some of the previous open-world Spider-Man games.
The 20-or-so minute demo featured Chapter 1 of the game, with Batman communicating with beloved character Alfred Pennyworth and finding out that Catwoman has been captured by Two-Face (who sports a look evocative of The Dark Knight) and is being held in a courthouse for “prosecution.” The first chapter is meant as an introduction to several of the new and reworked mechanics that were found in Arkham Asylum.
Batman will start the game with all gadgets acquired in Arkham Asylum, with some of them expanding their uses to reduce his Utility Belt weight. There won't be any weird Metroid moment where you lose your tools at the beginning and have to run back to the car to pick up something -Batman will have what he needs.
Immediately seen is a redesigned Cryptographic Sequencer, the device that allowed Batman to hack into electronic locks with ease. The gadget still does that job, but now doubles as a frequency interceptor, allowing the player to listen in on anything that takes place within the city. Transmissions vary from an intercepted conversion with Hugo Strange regarding the Two-Face/Catwoman situation or local surveillance on regular thugs around the city. From the use of the sequencer, Batman can also listen for distress calls and initiate side missions, one of which was shown. DC Comics reporter Jack Ryder was being attacked by Riddler henchman (highlighted in green). We watched Batman arrive to save the day, which gave a glimpse into the combat system.
To setup for the fight on the group of henchmen, Batman used one of his new moves: a drop attack for when Batman is elevated above an enemy position. After dropping down on an enemy and knocking him out, you seamlessly flow into the combat. FreeFlow combat returns and is just as bad-ass as before, except in Arkham City, Batman has brand new attack, counter and takedown animations (double the number from Arkham Asylum). From the look of it, if you were a master at Arkham Asylum combat, you'll be right at home with Arkham City.