E3 2011: Batman: Arkham City Hands-On Preview

By Lauren Alessandra on June 12, 2011, 5:06PM EDT

Plenty of sequels have been announced to release this year, but with all of the hype and buzz it's received, it's safe to say that Batman: Arkham City is one of this year's top contenders. As the first sequel of the series, naturally Rocksteady is expected to up their game by improving almost every aspect of the first game and then some. Based on the demo we got to play at E3, it seems as though our prayers have been answered. Not only is the world extremely open compared to its predecessor, the battle system has been polished and a whole new playable character has been added.

From what we gathered, the story starts shortly after the former warden of Arkham Asylum becomes the new head of Gotham City. His first motion is to handle Arkham's congestion issue and find a way to hold all of the notorious prisoners in one place. He decides to section off one area of Gotham City and call it Arkham City. Of course, the prisoners take this as an opportune moment to take control of this new section of the city and create massive amounts of havoc "“ they are also vying for control at the same time. Batman doesn't take too kindly to the situation and so he decides to take on all of Arkham to promote order once more.

Many villains from the previous game will be returning along with some fresh faces. The most anticipated newcomer would have to be the double agent feline Catwoman. She is a playable character, however, she was only featured in a cinematic scene of the playable demo "“ more about her stuff will be coming soon in another preview.

The gameplay seems very similar to first game, but if you aren't familiar with the series, here's some insight. You have the standard fighting move, a dodge roll, and a counter. There are quite a few combos you can use, but on a basic level, you can progress by simply button mashing "“ it's up to you. The combat now features a ton of extra animations though, so Batman will be able to kick butt with some new moves.

Aside form that, there are quite a few detective tools in your utility belt which help you view any important items like blood stains or valves. Other utilities include explosive gel, the famed Batarang, and grappling hook all of which appeared in the first game.

Batman's gliding mechanic also returns, but he now has the ability to perform a power dive. This will see Batman fly straight, down taking out any oblivious thugs he lands on. With the open nature of the city, the gliding mechanic, when combined with the grappling hook, means that you barely even need to take to the city streets if you don't want.

Fans of the series should also be happy to know that the Riddler's trophies are back, but you'll need to work a bit harder this time around to get to them. Some of the collectables are now encased by a green dome-like prison and can only be obtained by finding the corresponding switch and then solving a puzzle. Every so often, you will also encounter Riddler Challenges, whereby Batman has to solve a conundrum posed by The Riddler.

The art style seems pretty similar to Arkham Asylum, but with Arkham City things have been made a bit more gritty. With all of the dark alley ways and grimy buildings, it would have been hard not to. One of the most interesting additions is the incorporation of the bat symbol. If you are ever lost or stuck wandering about the city, you can turn to the bat symbol in the sky which will hover over the location of your next objective. But if you are more for exploring, Arkham City should be enough to keep you satisfied. Nearly everything can be explored or latched onto - even helicopters. And it's the open-world nature of the game that will appeal to people now. In the previous game, you didn't have to progress with the story, but exploration was quite confined. With Arkham City, there is so much to do if you tread off the beaten path. In the demo we played, we found ourselves not even bothering to do the objective-based stuff, instead, we just explored and beat up thugs.

From the demo alone it appears Arkham City will live up to the hype. All of the additions mesh well with the gameplay from the previous game and also keep it fresh and new, especially with the addition of Catwoman. The new direction for the open world gameplay also looks like it will scratch that itch from the first game.

Batman: Arkham City is lined up for an October release on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Those who haven't played the first game, now's the time to.

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