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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.