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

It seems that exposure to Titan in Arkham Asylum has left Joker more than a little ill, and to help him get better, Harley went and kidnapped a few emergency doctors – none of whom have been able to cure Joker. One unlucky medic got shoved out of the high door in which Harley stood, dropping a good 20 or feet to the ground before writhing around in a fetal position. Joker’s goons slowly closed ranks around him, and at their center was Mr. Hammer: a hulking, one-armed clown covered in Russian prison tattoos, who tapped out a steady rhythm against the floor with his sledgehammer as he stared down at the helpless doctor.

Above: A big chunk of the footage in this trailer comes from this demo - and, we're guessing, shortly afterward

Realizing that Batman probably wouldn’t just sit and watch an innocent man get smashed, we started looking for a way in – and instead saw another doctor, one Stacy Baker – get thrown up against the grating of our tunnel and menaced by more of Joker’s men. Harley ordered her dragged away and – after picking our way through a few inconvenient jets of flame that shot out regularly – we followed.

When we found Baker, it turned out she was under guard by several armed thugs. Clearly, the situation called for stealth, and - using Detective Vision to keep an eye on everyone’s movements – we snuck up behind a couple of guards and used a new, silent double-takedown move to knock their heads together. It wasn’t too long before someone saw us, unfortunately, and as they opened fire, we were able to rapidly duck out of the way with Batman’s dodge move.

That wouldn’t work forever, though, so we selected a smoke pellet from Batman’s (surprisingly expansive) arsenal of tools – accessed with a simple d-pad menu – smashed it against the ground and used the momentary confusion to grapple up to the gargoyles and swing to the other side of the room. With the thugs thrown off the scent, it was easy to take one down with a glide kick and creep up on the rest to dispose of them silently.

That just left the guard standing over Baker, who was locked in a control room with her. He was also getting jumpy, so we ran up, smashed Batman right through the window, and took him down before he could start shooting.

By the time Baker was free, however, Harley had grown wise to Batman’s presence, and ordered her thugs to weld the room’s entrance doors shut. It turned out to be a momentary setback; while Baker fretted, Batman walked over to a workbench, picked up what looked like random components and quickly fitted together an REC (for Remote Electrical Charge) gun. Using this, we were able to fire little balls of lightning, good not only for stunning thugs but also for opening previously inaccessible, electrically controlled doors.

Armed with the REC, we short-circuited one of these and made our way back to the huge, open chamber where Harley had addressed her troops – and where, unsurprisingly, we ran afoul of the same goons we’d seen earlier. Shooting them with the REC and watching them spasm a little was entertaining, but nowhere near as fun as Arkham City’s free-flowing combat, which still manages to straddle a unique line between frantic button-mashing and expert precision.

Once the thugs were down, we used the REC to open the door Harley was hiding behind, and grappled up to its ledge – only to immediately get kicked in the face by Mr. Hammer and sent sprawling back to the ground. After he’d come down to play, attacking him head-on turned out to be unwise, especially when he had a few wingmen along. Opting to take out the small fry first, we found ourselves getting hit with leaping, hard-to-dodge smash attacks from Hammer, which brought us near death more than once.

However, hanging back and hitting him with the REC sent him into a literal spin, during which he’d blindly smack down anyone unlucky enough to be near him. And while that proved somewhat effective, it was only after we’d delivered three consecutive cape stuns that he was vulnerable to attack. And once he was, we were able to run up and – by hammering the punch button – deliver a cartoonishly rapid flurry combo that finally knocked the big clown unconscious. All things considered, he went down pretty easy once we’d gotten him alone.

Finally, it was time to pay Harley a visit – and when we did, we found her sobbing over the Joker, who slumped motionless in a chair, wearing a respirator mask. As the cutscene continued, Harley yelled accusations at Batman, saying it was his fault, that he’d hounded “Mr. J” too far until Joker’s body gave out. Scanning the scene with Detective Vision revealed that the body in the chair was indeed the Joker – and his status was “deceased.” So yeah: Joker dies at the end.

But yeah: Probably not. Either way, we’ll all find out in a few weeks, when Arkham City ships on Oct. 18 (or Oct. 21 in the UK).

Sep 30, 2011

Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.