Batman: Arkham City - finally, an actual gameplay preview

We had our doubts about Batman: Arkham City. Would it live up to our 2009 Game of the Year? Could it possibly maintain what was so great about Arkham Asylum while making the transition into the genre of the open world game? What about the relatively short development time? Could they possibly make a game as fleshed out and polished in just about a year and a half? As it turns out, yes. Yes they can.

While we didn't manage to get our greedy little hands on the World's Greatest Detective's controls, our preview involved watching about 20 minutes of full-on gameplay. This time around, Bats won't be working his way around the confining corridors of his previous baddie-stomping romp, he'll be gliding around the skies of what is now formerly Gotham, part of which has been transformed into an Escape from New York-style prison city. Of course, shoving that many ruffians into one, cloistered-off area is a terrible idea. Especially when supervillains like Two-Face, Catwoman, and The Joker are involved.

Our demo started with Batman looking for Two-Face, who has been holding Catwoman hostage with plans of killing her in a grand gesture of power in the hopes that he will gain influence amongst the city's inmates. In true Harvey Dent fashion, he's got his feline enemy strung up in a courtroom above a pit of acid and is setting about flipping his trademark coin in order to decide her fate. Surrounded by his henchmen, many of whom have taken it upon themselves to grab whatever machetes, lead pipes, or guns they could get their hands on, Two-Face seemed pretty well protected from bat-attacks. Of course, this is The Dark Knight that we're dealing with. After turning on the returning Detective Mode to spot and take out the hidden gunman above the scene, he jumped right into the middle of the mob, causing most of them to flee. The rest were taken out the old fashioned way.

And then Two-Face shot Batman. Don't worry, this doesn't end with Batman dead in a ditch or anything. He only got knocked down and stunned for a bit, thanks to his bulletproof suit. It's just an example of how up-close and personal Rocksteady Studios are letting him get to his nemeses. No more of the small Joker appearances before shuffling off to do whatever he does; in Arkham City, Batman will be going hand-to-hand with a lot of his more elusive villains. In a later scene, Harley Quinn charged the B-man, only to be tossed to the side like the marionette she resembles. It's all to give the game a much more gritty and real feel, which we applaud in a world where superheroes tend to fall into the slightly more childish realm.

This new sense of characters being up close and personal extends beyond just Batman beating on his various enemies. Each of the various villains is vying for power and influence over the rabble of the city, and Two-Face and Catwoman are no different. They're willing to do whatever damage they need in order to get the power they want to control the few city blocks that Gotham has afforded them. In this case, Two-Face seemed to have the one-up on Catwoman. That is, until she freed herself from her hanging position and proceeded to help Batman string up Mr. Dent. What followed was a typical interaction between Bat and Cat, with the former remaining stoic against the advances of the latter. That is, until a sniper shot rang out, intended for the Caped Crusader.

This is where Detective Mode gets really cool. By examining the bullet's entry point through a window and where it landed on the floor, Batman was able to deduce that it came directly from the tower of a church a few blocks away. Of course, this means it was time to go check that place out and see who fired the bullet.

But first, Batman had to get there. His ability to glide has been improved in order to explore the more open environments that Gotham has to offer. Instead of only being able to float slowly downwards from a high vantage point, he can now fling himself up into the air using his grappling hook, catch updrafts to fly higher, and use his momentum to carry himself much further than he could in Arkham Asylum. It looks like a super fun way to travel around the city.

But why would Bats fly around under his own power when he can grab onto the bottom of a surveillance helicopter and take it for a ride like he did in our demo? This let us check out the full power of the newly upgraded Detective Mode, showing us not only where enemies were hiding, but entrances to various sewers, people in distress that we could go help out if we had the time (we didn't), and even some curious clues left by the Riddler. It's a lot to think about.


DC Comics


  • Cruddi - March 8, 2011 4:54 p.m.

    this game will kick a**, i 100% the last batman and i WILL 100% this one on the ps3
  • IRIsH - March 1, 2011 6:54 p.m.

    i want to see the footage but it sounds sooooooooooooooooooooo good i cant wait for this game. day one pure and simple
  • nerdemon - February 28, 2011 4:48 p.m.

    Batman Arkham Asylum was my personal choice for game of the year in 2009 and something tells me that Arkham City will be my choice for 2011. I LOVE DETECTIVE MODE!
  • Sleuth - February 28, 2011 3:03 p.m.

    Man, this game is going to be outstanding!
  • Yeager1122 - February 27, 2011 10:29 p.m.

    Looking more and more like a day one purchase.
  • EdDeRs1 - February 27, 2011 4:13 p.m.

    i still say it needs Judge Dredd to come through from his universe like in the comics
  • l_eden_l - February 27, 2011 6:53 a.m.

    I wasn't big on Arkham Asylum (which is weird considering my Batman obsession, but maybe it was just hype backlash), but the gliding mechanic alone has me bought. And can I say that's the best Harley Quinn design ever?
  • Fr00b - February 27, 2011 6:31 a.m.

    A11 1 c4n s4y 1s, 7h47 7h1s g4m3 b3773r b3 1337. I b34t 7h3 f1rs7 0n3 7h3 d4y I g07 17.
  • tdomg - February 27, 2011 1:44 a.m.

    So stoked
  • FreedomPhantom - February 26, 2011 10:38 p.m.

    Is the detective mode still blue?? or whatever color it was? In the last game it seemed like you never needed to take off the detective mode. I would be playing for a while and realize that everything was monotone and people were skeletons at which point I would turn it off. Otherwise Arkham Asylum was one of my favorite games for my 360 ever! I'm really excited for this :)
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  • NightCrawler_358 - February 26, 2011 10:33 a.m.

    it'll be like a dark, gritty, spider-man 2! Gliding around the city does sound fun, but a bat-plane sounds even funner.
  • soranamineforever - February 26, 2011 10:04 a.m.

    In my opinion, an open-world sort of setting suits Batman moreso than a bunch of cramped corridors. Don't get me wrong, I loved the original, but the way it had Arkham Island set-up was really underwhelming. Now, set loose in a (relatively) huge city, I think the game can accomplish the Batman feel even better. I really feel that this game can reach GOTY status, even against Zelda, Uncharted, and Mass Effect.
  • IceBlueKirby - February 26, 2011 4:27 a.m.

    This has just become my second most anticipated upcoming title, after Skyrim. I mean, I wanted it for sure already, but after reading this, I HAVE TO HAVE IT.
  • Hecticvoodu - February 26, 2011 12:20 a.m.

    "By examining the bullet's entry point through a window and where it landed on the floor, Batman was able to deduce that it came directly from the tower of a church a few blocks away." GEEKGASM
  • batmanboy11 - February 25, 2011 11:53 p.m.

    Can't wait for this game.
  • sgloomy - February 25, 2011 11:10 p.m.

    I really can't wait for this game to come out. I loved the first game and it sounds like this one will be just as good if not better.
  • GillaMobstaYBD - February 25, 2011 8:52 p.m.

    This looks really exiting i cant wait till it drops.
  • JADENkOTOR - February 25, 2011 8:25 p.m.

    This looks absolutely incredible... It looks like they have fixed many of the major issues with the highly overrated Arkham Asylum, and have listened to what people would like to see from this franchise.
  • Genericpenisjoketista - February 25, 2011 8:19 p.m.

    I agree with Canaryfarmer. I'm sure that The Riddler will have his own radio show (maybe along the lines of Fallout 3?) in which he'll probably give clues to where hostages have been taken.

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