Loyal fans of Rocksteady Studios have come to have some seriously inflated expectations. The scale and scope of Batman: Arkham City is already looking to eclipse some of this year's supposedly 'sprawling' games, but the gadgets and combat of Batman's gang is what the success of the game will ultimately be based on. With Arkham City's challenge modes players will now be able to embody the characters of Batman, Catwoman, Robin and yes, Nightwing himself employing different strategies and fighting styles in the process. We've already gotten a good idea of how the Bat and Cat will be holding their own in combat, but now we have word from the developer that Robin will bring a very different approach to crime-fighting altogether.
When Robin was first revealed to be playable, it was clear that Rocksteady was going to have plenty more design time on their hands, as the usual commitment to source material the studio showed with Arkham Asylum would demand that Robin be very distinct from his partner. This was confirmed when the new Robin's design was explained, with Rocksteady showing just how much time they had spent creating a Boy Wonder that was uniquely at home in the world of Arkham City.
But as cool as the new 'cage-fighter' style was to see, the exact details on how Robin would differ from Batman wasn't explained. Catwoman's playable sections have been previewed frequently since her announcement, and the mix of acrobatics and whip-wielding look to offer completely new gameplay. But where does Robin fit in? And how is it that the developers think players may prefer Robin's fighting to Batman's?
Luckily, the Bat-addicts at arkhamcity.co.uk got to speak with Rocksteady Animator Adam Vincent at this year's Eurogamer show. While many of Arkham Asylum's combat animations have been brought into the new title, the designers have been tweaking and imrpoving just as much.
Particularly, Vincent says, in the case of Robin:
"I mean Robin for example, he's the only guy that has a staff; so you know, he has a weapon! I mean Batman can use his gadgets as weapons but it's different, with the staff it's a real weapon, with Batman his main weapons are his fists, he's the ultimate fighter.
"Oh yeah! With the staff, it uh, well it *Makes circular motion with his arms* kinda opens out into this shield, and you shield barge the with that, and knock them over; he's got a, it's kinda similar to the grapple gun, so he can shoot that guys and pull himself into them and kick them! He's got these cool shurikens, which are like his batarangs which he can throw at people. He's more explosive based, so you've these proximity mines that you can, you know put on their back and that knocks them over, or you can detonate it when you want!"
It's nice to hear that Robin will still have his own array of gadgets, since the new additions we've seen so far are ones we'd like to see adopted through all aspects of the game. But the actual fighting style is a bit harder to nail down. The acrobatic attacks preferred by Dick Grayson would fall very close to Catwoman, and this new Robin is clearly not the same as the comic incarnation of Tim Drake. Vincent did his best to explain the new fighting style:
"I don't know how to put it; it's really MMA, you've got him using his staff obviously, and then you mx that up and he's using he's knees and elbows, and fists. He's kinda, I guess he's between Catwoman and Batman it terms of agility, you can really feel it when you play it!"
Vincent also explained that Robin would be able to soar in the same way as Batman, but side-stepped the question of whether or not Talia al Ghul was in fact the game's mysterious fourth playable character. Speculation surrounding the female assassin's role in Arkham City has only grown since she was revealed, especially after being glimpsed beside Joker in the latest trailer.
The fourth spot will remain secret for the time being, but hearing that Robin will give players a third playing experiences is good news. What do you think of the choices made for Robin's combat style? And his new gadgets? We'll have a better idea of what to expect when we see the Robin trailer, which should be coming soon.
Batman: Arkham City will launch on Xbox 360 and PS3 on October 18. A PC release has been delayed into November.
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