The Dark Knight comes to the big city…

Batman: Arkham City
“Give us more Arkham!” You demanded. And Rocksteady listened. But it wasn’t only you. For those of you who actually bothered to read my review of Arkham Asylum will have noticed we are just a little bit excited about the sequel to the multiple Game of the Year award-winning original. So much so that the team have commanded me to scour the deepest bowels of the information super highway and put it all together. For you. Well, aren’t you lucky?

Batman: Arkham Asylum 2, now officially titled Batman: Arkham City is going to be a big game. Five times bigger than the original in fact. The developers have suggested that this is going to more of a “sandbox” affair this time around, and not only will Bats have more moves and abilities at his disposal to get around, but the whole of the city will be available for exploration from the outset. Gliding has been beefed up, giving Batman the ability to scour the rooftops and pounce on unsuspecting prey with much greater freedom than before. And in a move we definitely approve of, all of Batman’s abilities from the first game will be available at the start. As Bioware have proved, audiences are very receptive to the idea of continuing on a story without the need to strip your character back down to the basics and go and unlock all that stuff, again.

As the more perceptive among you will have realised, this game will also not be taking place on the island of the first title. With the penitentiary system at breaking point, a section of the Gotham slums has been converted into some kind of Escape from New York-esque super-prison. Early reports and footage suggest that the events of the sequel take place about a year after Batman put the kibosh on Joker’s plans to create a team of monstrous super-villains. Joker is back, but it seems he’s still feeling the effects of the ass-whooping he received back at the asylum. Many of the villains hinted at in the first title but never showed up look set to have starring roles this time around: Mr Freeze, Calender Man, and The Riddler have all been confirmed, although as trailers suggest, Hugo Strange and Two-Face are set to be main antagonists this time around.

In keeping with the sandbox tradition, Rocksteady have promised a solid single player campaign, but a plethora of side missions that run parallel to the main story and can be played through whenever they are unlocked. Possibly the most intriguing little nugget of information that they have admitted to so far is that they wanted to explore the idea of having these super-villains locked up together; dropping Batman into a world where super-egos collide and deadly gangs battle for control of each dark alley. Fragile alliances will be made and the atmosphere out on the streets will change as the story progresses and a new villain comes to prominence.

The team are churning this game out at a faster pace than the original as it too will be running off the same Unreal 3 game engine and design scheme. Considering that the first one not only managed to be gorgeous but capture the Gothic visuals of the comic perfectly, we have very high expectations of the graphics in Arkham City. The stills and gameplay footage that have been released to date are very promising indeed; the dilapidated buildings and dirty neon set against the background of Gotham City skyscrapers and the WayneCorp HQ promises to deliver an even more immersive and satisfyingly dark Batman experience.

Contrary to earlier suggestions, the developers have confirmed that Arkham City will not have a multiplayer mode, despite the fact that Batman will be teaming up with Catwoman at some point in the game. Challenge mode will be making a welcome return to boost the longevity of the title, and as you can no doubt guess the combat has been substantially beefed-up. The team claim Batman now has approximately double the amount of moves and animations than in the first game, and trailers suggest that Batman will now have the ability to sneak up on and take out multiple opponents with greater ease.

Despite the massive challenge that lay ahead of them in terms of taking a tight, linear story and redeveloping it for a much larger open world, we are loving everything we are hearing from Rocksteady. Despite how awesome a co-op mode may sound at first, Rocksteady have made it clear that they aren’t throwing in multiplayer, or vehicles, or any other gimmicks just for the sake of it or because it is the “in” thing right now. They know exactly what made the first title such a hit: awesome gameplay, gripping story, and a team that isn’t pressured into shoehorning in every mode and feature of their competitors.

Batman: Arkham City is due for release on 18th October in North America and 21st October in Europe. You’d be a muppet not to pre-order now.

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