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Batman: Arkham City hands-on preview – Joker dies at the end?

Before you get too upset, you should know that that headline isn’t a spoiler. Not really. The “end” we’re referring to isn’t the end of Arkham City, but of the latest demo we played through earlier this week, which we’re told is set relatively early in the game. When it concluded, however, there was little doubt that Joker – or at least someone who looked an awful lot like him – was deceased.

Long before that, though, we began the demo in the middle of Arkham City – the dark, thug-infested prison district created out of the slums of Gotham – just after the events of the E3 demo. If you’ve been following the game, you may remember that that ended with Batman following the path of a sniper’s bullet to a bell tower, which turned out to be full of explosives. Batman escaped the explosion (naturally), but not before tracing the signal of the remote-controlled rifle – and it was that signal that guided the early moments of our demo, becoming stronger when we pointed Batman in the right direction.

Determined to do a bit of exploring first, we started into a glide off the ledge Batman started on, and got a quick tutorial on how best to navigate Gotham’s skies. With the press of a button, Batman folded in his cape and went into a power dive, sending the street below screaming up at us. Pulling out of the dive gave us a sizable boost upward, and got us a little closer to a ledge that we could grab onto with the Batclaw. Double-tapping A (on the 360 version) gave Batman a speed boost as he zipped toward the ledge, which vaulted him right over it and let us resume gliding.

It took a little while to get used to, but pretty soon we were traveling across the rooftops more or less effortlessly. (If you’ve traveled much in Just Cause 2 using just the parachute and the grappling hook, then you already have a rough idea of how this feels.) Apparently, it’s possible for Batman to swing around like this indefinitely, never touching a flat surface – but for now, we had somewhere to be.

As we swung low near the ground, a squad of thugs gazed up at us from the street. Or maybe they were paid thugs; as we soared overhead, we heard a bit of radio chatter between Hugo Strange, the twisted psychiatrist who’s become the de facto ruler of the city, and his paramilitary goons. Strange’s instructions: keep an eye on Batman, but don’t engage him for now. Whether they worked for Strange or someone else, the thugs on the street started shouting about how Batman was chicken (and made chicken noises) when it was clear we weren’t going to dive down to the street and attack them.

For now, we ignored them, because right across from them was a tenement building with one side covered entirely in question marks – a sure sign of a Riddler puzzle. We swooped in close to investigate, but were warned away by our handlers, who said that the puzzle was a difficult one, and that we only had so much time. Nevertheless, we poked and prodded at it for a few seconds – but finding no hint of what we were supposed to do to solve it, decided to resume exploring.

Heading away from the signal, we found our way to Krank Toys, a disused factory (is there any other kind in this game?) on the waterfront. Here, we ran into the now-friendly (but still heavily accented) Bane – and one of the game’s side missions. While Arkham City still has some of the semi-random collectibles you’d expect after Arkham Asylum, like the Riddler’s puzzles and trophies, it apparently won’t feature dozens of meaningless collectibles for Batman to stumble onto. Instead, the team decided to add a bunch of smaller collection quests that fit better with Batman’s character. In this case, Bane asked Batman to collect and destroy six canisters of the mega-steroid Titan serum, while he did the same with six others. Clearly, Batman didn’t trust the hulking wrestler, but if the man who broke Batman’s back is a co-op partner, then he can’t be that bad.

Eventually, the part of the city we were in gave way to Joker’s territory, which added a nightmare of clown faces, balloons and other carnival trimmings to the already bleak-looking city. It was around this time that we ran into a patrol of Joker’s goons on a rooftop, and decided we felt like pummeling something.

Combat in Arkham City plays out more or less like it did in Arkham Asylum, which is to say that thugs will surround you, and little icons will flash over their heads when they’re about to strike. That’s your cue to hit the “counter” button and gracefully punch their faces in just as they move to do the same to you (you can also do this to thrown projectiles, letting you hurl them right back at their owners). Most thugs will go down after you’ve beaten them enough, but taking them out of the fight quickly requires a ground takedown once you’ve stunned them – and while those finishers are flashy, they also leave you vulnerable to attackers for a few crucial seconds. If your timing’s right and your enemies are close enough, it’s also possible to take down two thugs at once during combat, although those opportunities were rare.

Interestingly, it turned out to be impossible to simply knock thugs off of rooftops; if we slammed one too close to a ledge, he’d simply hit an invisible wall and get back up seconds later. A little disappointing, maybe, but it just wouldn’t be right if Batman actually let the perps tumble to their deaths. It’s apparently possible, however, to string the goons up and dangle them upside-down from rooftop ledges, Dark Knight Returns style, but sadly we weren’t able to pull that off during the fight.

Continuing our pursuit of the remote signal brought us to Sionis Industries, a huge, decrepit steel mill that the Joker had turned into his headquarters. Landing on its roof, we found token resistance in the form of a few thugs; once they were down, Batman called up Alfred for help with finding an entrance. It seemed the only way in was through the factory’s central chimney, which we grappled up to – leading Bats to automatically flip in and start gliding down into what appeared to be a very active furnace.

Thankfully, the computer was in control at this point, and once we’d regained control of Batman – who’d settled on a narrow little beam – we hopped over to a little pathway that led away from the fiery pit. After clambering over a few pipes and using the Batclaw to open a huge, watertight door – thereby cooling another furnace with a huge gush of water, and giving Batman a jet of steam to glide up on – we were in. And soon enough, Harley Quinn was addressing a herd of Joker goons from above a big, open arena while we watched, safely hidden in a ventilation passage.

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19 comments

  • jackthemenace - October 3, 2011 8:40 a.m.

    Looking forward to B:AC now. Especially with Harley Quinn. Hope to God the Joker storyline isn't going to take up the whole game again, as good as the last one was. Having loads of different Villains stories should be really fun to play through.
  • rob619 - October 3, 2011 4:51 a.m.

    Couldnt Gamesradar just go into gameplay, graphics aspects rather then going into actual storytelling of a game, which is why we buy the game for! Should really in the preview discuss, gameplay, graphics and sound etc.
  • Elementium - October 2, 2011 7:46 p.m.

    We'll have to see. The Joker isn't immune to death, but if he does die I'm hoping it has significant weight. This is also just a game and not the comics so that has to be taken into consideration too. ALSO now I know not to read GR articles if I don't want spoilers lol
  • StoutFiles - October 2, 2011 2:39 p.m.

    In a world with Lazarus Pits, no character ever dies. See Jason Todd. I do have a problem with the title of this article being on the main page, it was a huge spoiler.
  • Milliarto - October 1, 2011 6:15 p.m.

    I'm sure it's a ruse to trap Batman. Batman, Joker, R'as Al Ghul and other various characters in the Batman franchise have either stopped their hearts to appear dead with the help of meditation, drugs or will power and have always come back. Not to mention how many times a character has appeared dead only to be brought back to life. Who knows, maybe a dash of the Titan serum will bring Joker back. The Joker is the most iconic character in the Batman franchise. Batman's nemesis. The Ying to his Yang. They wouldn't dispose of him in a game this way. I also don't think it's fair to blame GamesRadar for spoiling anything. This is a games journalism site. If the developer showed GDar this gameplay footage and didn't embargo the information, they obviously wanted these fine journalists to report it. Heck, it's their duty to do so! Besides, if Rocksteady showed this to journalists they obviously anted this information out there to get the hype up for the game. This conversation that we're having is just what they wanted! We are all that much more excited for the game and eager to find out what really happened. Besides, it's Batman, do you really think they're going to kill of his nemsis so soon into the game?
  • LeSieg - October 2, 2011 7:12 a.m.

    Fictional characters do seem to have a poor grasp on what this whole "death" thing is.
  • StoutFiles - October 2, 2011 2:48 p.m.

    Whether he's dead or not, a major plot point was revealed in the article title. I should be able to read the main page without having the storyline spoiled.
  • lewis-barclay - September 30, 2011 2:58 p.m.

    The day joker does die is the day they will replace him with some new angst filled douche no one cares about. But batman working with bane (judging by the pic). awesome
  • Yeager1122 - September 30, 2011 12:06 p.m.

    Its just some kind of ruse to trap Batman joker will never die.
  • tekkenLilli - September 30, 2011 9:02 a.m.

    Joker will never die. He'll be plotting against Batman behind the scenes and getting back at him. Best game is just around the corner. I can't wait for it to come out.
  • shawksta - September 30, 2011 8:14 a.m.

    Its obvious bait, its ALWATS bait, when it comes to Batman. I cant wait for this game!
  • Sjoeki - September 30, 2011 7:42 a.m.

    I thought that whole first thing was over.. damn. Mark hamill said that this game would be his last time voicing the Joker, so in that case I would rather see him die then have another person voicing him. On the other side, if you ask me, the Joker is THE enemy of Batman, there are others but he is the most iconic, so it'd suck if he died.
  • AngryScotsman - September 30, 2011 8:37 a.m.

    Mark Hamill never said that Arkham City was the last time he was voicing Joker, he just said that it was hard to top compared to Arkham Asylum.
  • Sjoeki - September 30, 2011 10:11 a.m.

    I hate to be a wise ass, but if you don't believe me take a look at this site: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/05/27/mark-hamill-wont-voice-the-joker-again-after-batman-arkham-as/ Or google it or something.
  • AngryScotsman - September 30, 2011 10:33 a.m.

    It is I who hates to be a wise-ass, and yet... http://twitter.com/#!/HamillHimself/status/80781798900113408 There you go.
  • Sjoeki - October 1, 2011 9:09 a.m.

    Okay you're right and I'm glad I'm wrong!
  • JoeMulvihill1 - September 30, 2011 7:19 a.m.

    haha, the screenshot of batman punching one of penguins goons looks like a screenshot for facebreaker 2. KO! also i cried a little when i read the word co-op. why did you have to use that word!
  • Hobogonigal - September 30, 2011 7:17 a.m.

    First!!! Sounds good but doesn't have the hype it should from the first game. Might consider getting this when it releases...

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