Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Three words and you have brought up what I consider the greatest videogame adaptation of an existing comic-book in history. Everyone I know that played it fell in love with it. From the voice cast of the 90's Animated Series returning to most of their original roles, to the amazing art design, the smooth fighting system that really made you feel like Batman, and the well designed ability to sneak around like a Dark Knight and drop entire groups without a sound.
What do you do after making something that highly regarded by both the comic-book and videogame communities? Three choices really. 1: Let it be a one off we love and remember and move on. 2: Try and repeat the same thing and hope it flys. 3: Go all out making it bigger, smoother, and deeper than the original.
Thank you Rocksteady for choosing door number 3.
Thankfully at the 2011 Comic-Con in San Diego we were fortunate to grab and interview with Michael Elkind of Warner Brothers Interactive about Batman: Arkham City along with our own hands on demo with this upcoming title. And I have to say many of my worries where thankfully put to rest.
My first issue was in regards to the combat system and how they could improve from the impressive system that Arkham Asylum had already started. The big improvement that I did see while playing is the smoother ability to handle more enemies at once. Grabbing onto multiple guys (they come in groups now...no more one at a time fights) so while you have to work more at juggling your crowd, the mechanics they added for multiple takedowns, grabs, etc felt as smooth and as well animated as it had been.
Second was the ability to get around the city itself. Arkham City is five times larger than Arkham Island from the first game which was already a pretty good size for running, gliding, and climbing. No word on if the Batmobile will be usable, but using the new enhanced cape glider, the grapple gun, and grapple boost proved to be a fairly fast way to get around the city from above and still be able to keep track of the world or drop in on a random gang to clear them out. The grapple boost is a nice way to achieve some verticality a bit easier as you hold the grapple button down when you connect so it speeds up and launches you over your grab point as long as you have enough distance from your start point. With all of these together, you find yourself just going from rooftop to rooftop on your mission of justice.
The last things gamewise that we talked about, but sadly couldn't demo at this time, were the extra playable characters of Catwoman & Robin. Catwoman will be a fully playable character with her own story (albeit smaller) and even unique fighting styles, while Robin (Tim Drake) is a limited exclusive for Best Buy but will be available to all sometime later. Catwoman will play differently in regards to a faster yet weaker fighting style and emphasis on using her claws and whip to move around the environment. She won't just be a modified reskin of Batman like the Joker was in the PS3 Arkham Asylum edition. Robin on the other hand is still a bit of a mystery. All we have at this time is that he will be usuable for the Challenge Rooms. I have a hope that he will be in the full game as I have always enjoyed the Tim Drake version of Robin from the comics.
Robin & a whole assortment of different costumes will be made available depending on where you purchase the game. Robin as I said will be from Best Buy, but Batman will be getting a whole variety depending on store (and sadly country). Here's a picture and a breakdown of the suit/purchase location. Starting on the left: Batman Begins (GameStop UK/MightyApe New Zealand), Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns (all Collectors Editions), Earth One (MightyApe New Zealand), 1970's Batman (Toys R' Us US/ShopTo UK), Animated Series (MightyApe New Zealand) and the last one is the standard suit from the game.
Also posted are some images from the collectors edition that I found at Comic-Con showing off the Kotobukiya Statue that comes with the game. With that you also get and Art Book, early access to the Penguins Iceberg Lounge Challange Map and Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns skin DLC items, a code for the downloadable soundtrack, a DVD of Batman: Gotham Knight (Blu-Ray on PS3), and four collectible cards.
So give the interview a listen and look forward to the release of Batman: Arkham City October 18th for the Xbox360, PS3, and PC.
Editor and Host of the Zenspath Podcast