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E3 2011: Toonzone Previews Batman: Arkham City

Toonzone.net got the chance to attend the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo — better known to fans and gamers alike as E3. Each year, software and hardware developers gather at the Los Angeles Convention Center to show off their new products to the media, business partners, and retail outlets. Over at Warner Bros. Interactive, Toonzone.net got an exclusive preview of the new game, Batman: Arkham City. Arkham City is the sequel to the 2009 breakout hit, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Arkham Asylum is hailed as one of the greatest comic book-based and Batman videogames of all time; and that is pretty good considering the stigma comic book characters sometimes bring to bad videogames.

In Arkham City, the former warden of Arkham Asylum, Quincy Sharp, is now the new mayor of Gotham City. After the events of Arkham Asylum, Sharp cordoned off a section of Gotham City to essentially serve as the new prison of the criminal element of Gotham City. The Arkham City section is home to many criminal masterminds including The Penguin, Two-Face, and Poison Ivy. Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill) and Harley Quinn (Tara Strong) will be back and appearing in the game, although we don’t know Joker’s full role. The developers of the game, Team Rocksteady, have admitted that the Joker is “sick” but would not go beyond that. Playing the game, we got to see the massive scale of the city. While the first game was set in on Arkham Island, now you have a whole section of Gotham City in which you can play. The environment is five times the size of Arkham Island from the previous videogame.

Playing the game, I was able to discover some new navigation features for Batman (Voiced by Kevin Conroy). Batman can once again glide through the air using his cape, but now he can also do a straight dive bomb which he can use to land and travel more quickly through the air. Batman can glide out of the dive bomb and also crash into enemies. Another navigation feature is how Batman can grapple to the edge buildings. And now, when Batman gets to the top of a structure, he can acrobatically flip over.

Batman’s gadgets look considerably jazzed up from the previous game. In my demo, I was able to use Batman’s frequency detection device to hack into radio and police reports to find out gang locations. Gang warfare and interplay is a big part of the game. In the first game you were dealing with Joker’s thugs, but in this game there are numerous gang and thug members who serve various criminal masterminds in Arkham City. The gangs also adopt detailed outfits and garb to mimic their bosses. The free flow combat system that Arkham Asylum was so popular and well known for is back. The controls and combat are still extremely impressive, smooth, and amazing. Batman can still stun enemies and mix in his batclaws and gadgets with his combos and juggling attacks. Another interesting feature is that Batman can take down or defeat two enemies at once when prompted. Detective mode is still available and can be switched on or off as well.

The other big recent announcement was that Catwoman is now a playable character in the game. Catwoman has a separate story arc that supplements Batman’s during the game. In the Catwoman story, Catwoman is out to steal the loot and money of the criminals previously incarcerated at Arkham Asylum. The loot has now been moved to the city and Catwoman is dead set on stealing it. In the Catwoman portion of the demo, Catwoman allies herself with Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy uses her vines to break open an entrance from the Gotham sewers to a vaulted area. Catwoman gets to the vault which is under heavily armed security guards. Then, Catwoman must use her stealth to sneak around the security area to steal the key cards on the guards’ person. Catwoman does not have Detective Mode in this game, but instead uses Thief Mode. Using Thief Mode, you can locate the guards who have the security cards that Catwoman needs to unlock the vault. In addition, Catwoman can use her skills to climb ceilings in order to quietly steal the cards. Once that is done, Catwoman unlocks the vault and the guards know that something is wrong. Catwoman then, once again, uses her stealth to attack and take down all the guards and get to the money in the vault. Catwoman has an entirely new set of moves and offensive attacks at her disposal. She also has a whip she can use to mix in during fights. Catwooman’s fighting style looks impressively accurate to the character.

Batman’s demo continues as he locates the Penguin’s hideout. There, Penguin threatens to kill cops and prison guards. Batman promises to take down the Penguin, but then the Penguin unleashes his own henchmen on the Batman and a furious fight ensues onscreen with a ton of enemies against Batman. The game is currently set for release on October 18 of this year on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows PC.

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