The lights are on
Game Informer magazine subscribers already know all about Batman: Arkham
City, but we wanted to give some love to our online-only readers as well. Read the
entire cover story right here! Be sure to check out loads of additional
right here while you're going through the story.
Diving into Darkness
Since the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum, warden Quincy Sharp has taken credit
for Batman’s successful quelling of Joker’s uprising and used that momentum
to win Gotham City’s mayoral election. The first of his broad-sweeping plans
is to proclaim Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison unfit to house criminals. Sharp
buys up a large swath of Gotham’s slums and walls it off, stocking the perimeter
with highly trained armed mercenaries from an outfit named Tyger. All prisoners
are transported to this new facility dubbed “Arkham City” approximately
a year after the events at the asylum. They are given only one rule under threat
of death: do not try to escape. No other policing takes place inside, leaving a
mix of two-bit criminals and super villains to eke out an existence in this lawless,
Sharp brings in a mysterious psychiatrist named Hugo Strange to head the new Arkham.
Hidden from the eyes of the public, Strange is rumored to be up to terrible things,
but nothing can be proven. Anyone who investigates his past or Arkham itself seems
to disappear, most likely within the walls of the prison city.
Batman believes this is a ticking time bomb and has kept a watchful eye on Arkham
City for months, looking for any excuse to break into the well-guarded prison. Recently
admitted inmate Two-Face needs to gain respect and followers fast or risk being
eaten alive by the other super villains on the inside. Both sides of his psyche
agree that the best way to accomplish this is with a high-profile show of power:
a public execution of Catwoman. Given their past, Batman has no choice but to enter
this hellish domain to save her and uncover what’s really going on. With an
all-new bag of tricks, he may just survive the night.
Following a Phenomenon
North London-based developer Rocksteady Studios is no stranger to staggering pressure.
Despite the lofty expectations of millions of Batman devotees worldwide, this 70-plus
person team proved that it’s possible to transform a seemingly cursed licensed
game property into a masterpiece – and they made it look easy. The way the
team naturally integrated Batman’s characters, combat, gadgets, and dark tone
into a compelling gameplay formula made gamers wonder why no one had been able to
do so before. This was all from a studio with only one game to its credit (2006’s
Urban Chaos: Riot Response).
“I think there’s always pressure to make the best choice at any given
moment,” says studio director Jamie Walker. “Obviously, we’re
aware the fans want a great Batman game. I don’t think that’s any different
from when we started the journey to where we are now.”
This time around, Rocksteady is excited to have a successful gameplay foundation
to build upon rather than starting from scratch. But that doesn’t mean the
studio is content to simply recycle the asylum environment and toss in a few new
“We want to top everything that we did in the last game,” says Arkham
City director Sefton Hill. “We didn’t want to do [an Arkham] 1.5. We
want to make the same jump we made from nothing to Arkham. We want to make that
same jump again for Arkham City – that same level of ambition.”[PageBreak]
A New Direction
Our live demo begins with Batman perched atop a building overlooking Gotham’s
prison city as a light sprinkling of snow falls in the night. Roving gangs of inmates
wreak havoc below. His communicator crackles to life.
“Where is she, Alfred?” Batman asks.
“Miss Kyle was last seen in the vicinity of the Solomon Wayne Courthouse,”
replies his faithful butler.
“That’s where Two-Face has been setting up camp.”
“Let’s hope she is still in one piece when you find her. Mr. Dent’s
fascination with the number two could prove fatal to Catwoman.”
Batman takes a flying leap off the ledge, dive-bombing head first toward the streets
below at an alarming speed. At the last moment, he spreads his cape and swoops back
up into the sky. Soaring smoothly through the night air, Batman spots the courthouse
in the far distance. He fires his grappling gun to the nearest skyscraper and uses
the pull from the retracting rope to slingshot himself higher.
It’s shocking to see the Batman we know from the mostly enclosed Arkham Asylum
navigating open world city streets. After all, an overly broad, boring Gotham is
exactly what the team wanted to avoid last time around. In the sequel, incorporating
Gotham in an exciting way is the number one priority. “What we wanted to do
was glide through the Gotham streets and fight crime, but we wanted to do it in
a way that feels concentrated,” Hill says. “What we wanted to do in
building Arkham City was to create a place with the same attention to detail that
we built with Arkham Island – to create something where there’s a story
around every corner. It’s not a big, empty, expansive world. We wanted something
with a real richness to it. We’re trying to create the most detailed and rich
city that has ever been realized in a video game.”
Batman drifts to the courthouse rooftop and sneaks through a window. It’s
immediately evident that Two-Face has made this place his own. Half of the interior
is an immaculate, classic courtroom while the other side has been trashed and burned.
Catwoman, bound in ropes, dangles upside down over a vat of acid while Two-Face
paces back and forth flipping his famously marred silver dollar. A couple dozen
inmates have come to see the show.
“The only way to get by in this place is to get ourselves some respect,”
says Two-Face’s more sensible side, all that remains of former district attorney
Harvey Dent. “Fear, that’s how we get respect. Show them all how we do
things,” replies his twisted and disfigured side in a noticeably more
sinister voice. “We should be fair, though. This is a place of justice after
all. Screw justice. Kill her and they’ll all fear us. Bring out the
“You certainly know how to keep a girl hanging, Harv.” Catwoman says.
“Hey, have you had some work done?”
Two-Face strikes her across the face. “That’s for spying on us. No one
spies on us,” he threatens.
“I’m sorry. I’ve been a bad kitty,” she teases. “Untie
me and I’ll make it up to you.”
“Let’s see if the coin thinks you’re telling the truth,”
Two-Face snarls. “This court is now in session.”[PageBreak]
As the cutscene comes to a close, Batman scans the area with his blue-tinged detective
vision and notices a single armed guard above his position. He grapples to a platform
behind the enemy and, instead of automatically dangling from the ledge like before,
Batman now has the option to instantly flip up into a roll that maintains his forward
momentum. He pops out of the roll right behind the armed guard and initiates a chokehold.
Like Gears of War’s reload mechanic, players can now hit the attack button
again at just the right time to bring down enemies faster.
A wire stretches above the scene, and Batman creeps along it to get a better vantage
point. He scans the inmates and finds one with a knife in need of disarming. With
a simple button press, Batman attaches his grapple hook to the wire, jumps off,
and goes into a swing kick that knocks the guy across the room like a golf ball.
Batman lands in the middle of the audience. Several goons run away in terror, but
plenty stick around for a beating.
Batman vaults over the closest one, casually spraying some explosive gel on his
back in the process (all gadgets now play a key role in combat). Two enemies swing
at him in quick succession and Batman palms both fists, crushing their hands until
they’re left writhing on the floor. As he wails away on another foe, a new
group fills in behind him. Batman summons a colony of bats to the scene to disorient
and panic his attackers. Two-Face fires a pistol intermittently, forcing Batman
to perform a series of gymnastic dodges. After the bats have moved on, Batman pulls
out a detonator and hits the switch. The previously placed gel blasts several enemies.
The last two inmates get desperate. One picks up a chair and chucks it at Batman.
Just when it’s about to crack him in the head, Batman reaches up and catches
it, instantly throwing it back. One left. Batman simply tosses him in the air and
finishes him with a swift kick to the back that sends him flying into a wall. Of
course, this finisher is presented in glorious slow motion.
“Because we felt that the system for [Arkham Asylum] was well-refined, we
didn’t want to deconstruct that and pull it apart and make a completely different
combat system. We wanted to build on it,” Hill says. New elements like multiple
simultaneous counters, gadget incorporation, and projectile counters are all in
service to the much larger crowds Batman will be fighting. “Basically, the
idea was to balance it so I’m focusing on the guys who are nearest to me because
they can hit me, but there might also be guys throwing things at me,” Hill
explains. “There can be guys with guns at the back. So I have to manage the
whole crowd rather than everyone funneling in front of me just waiting for me to
Email the author Bryan Vore, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
awesome thank you GI :)
Wow! I loved Arkham Asylum and this looks 10 times better. Really excited for this now.
So are we going to start getting the magazine cover stories online?
I can't wait to see Two-Face in action!
Any word if Rocksteady will release some sort of demo for this game, such as a gameplay video like Irrational's, or one that we can actually play through?
haha i saw 7 pages and said " ill wait til the magazine comes. "
I'm so pumped for this. Hugo Strange - the name gives you an excuse to suspect something is up. Isn't he the villain who knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne, but won't reveal it.
AWSOME! cant wait for it
Arkham City is gonna be great! How is it possible to put new and good things in an already great game, like Arkham Asylum?
I'll be waiting.
i want this game now. i hate waiting.
Ah. Thanks for posting this. Me and my bud subscribed but never got this issue in for some reason. Glad I got a chance to read this.
A great cover story.
This is great...but I feel conflicted. I used to read the magazine for years, but the website took over my time and I stopped subscribing. I feel kinda bad about that....
Already read this, but it's a terrific idea for those who haven't subscribed! Thumbs up GI!
Definitely started reading this and then went "Wait. This is the cover story from last month. Already read this." Either way, I'm so pumped for this game. It's going to be GREAT.