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FEATURED VOXPOP oblivion437 Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that.  It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece.  I strongly recommend anyone...

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Batman: Arkham City Will Be Better Than Spider-Man 2 Was

Posted on Thursday, March 10 @ 01:11:46 Eastern by

Arkham Asylum was mind-blowing for one reason: it was a good Batman game. Batman was given a position of notoriety in our video gaming culture: as awesome as the hero is, no one could pull off a decent game with the Dark Knight. Arkham Asylum did away with that notion by crafting a perilous balance between beat-em-up and Metroidvania. In my mind, Arkham Asylum will stand the test of time next to Spider-Man 2, another amazing superhero game. Both opened up the imagination and proved that superhero gaming was playable with the right controls.

Go back and play Spider-Man 2 and you'll notice that one thing stands up after all these years. Swinging through the city still feels good. Latching on to the highest roof tops, running along skyscrapers, and pulling Spider-Man through a tangled nest of buildings with a web-zip will always be amazing. Spider-Man 2 hit the nail on the head so well that Spider-Man games after it couldn't replicate the feeling.

Open-world web-swinging was so amazing that the actual missions and gameplay suffered. Developers have struggled with Spider-Man since then. Either web-swinging was good and combat suffered or combat was good and movement suffered. Even the most recent Spider-Man title did away with an open world. Noir Spider-Man's gameplay practically ripped off Arkham Asylum's!

Fast forward to GDC. I'm sitting in a dark room and an enthusiastic developer from Rocksteady is walking excited journalists like me through a demo of Arkham City. When he spins the camera around to reveal a busy cityscape behind Batman, I'm immediately reminded of the opening tutorial in Spider-Man 2. I swear to God Bruce Campbell started telling us how to control Batman.

A little further into the demo and the developer latches on to a helicopter to move throughout Gotham's landscape, triggering another Spider-Man 2 flashback moment. He clicks on detective mode and I can see a million different things to do at any given moment. The dev practically shouts "booya!" in excitement after taking down a thug in a dive-bomb throat grab. As awesome as that last attack was, I keep thinking back to Batman standing on the rooftops at the beginning of the demo.

You see, Batman: Arkham City already benefits from this generation's powerful hardware, but the game stands to gain even more from a fundamental difference between Spider-Man and Batman.

Spider-Man's exhilarating method of transport took him up, off the ground and into a dense jungle of urban development. The trouble was that you'd have to return to the ground to find something to do. The only real, randomly generated missions that took place in the air and on the fly were lost balloons. Even those had to be returned to ground level. As amazing as web-swinging was, landing was clunky and taking off was just as awkward.

Imagine a graph of Spider-Man's world. The X and Y axis represent street level. Spider-Man swings upward on the Z-axis. What's he going to find up there? Maybe there's a helicopter. Occasionally, on a low rooftop he might find a few thugs. Mostly, the action is on the ground.

Now imagine Batman's world in Arkham City on the same graph. While Spider-Man's X and Y was on the ground, Batman's X and Y axis is comprised of the rooftops littering Gotham's skyline. Variation rules, even among the dense netting of buildings. Batman can glide, he can dive, he can gain altitude, but instead of taking off upwards into the Z axis, Batman dives down. Batman's Z axis goes low to the streets.

It only makes sense that Batman will find tons of things to do in the alleyways, courtyards, and streets of Arkham City. It also seems stupidly obvious that Batman will be able to use his grappling hook to head quickly back up to the roof tops. Batman's fluid movement between street level and skyline will make the open-world just as exciting to move in as it was in Spider-Man 2. The fluid combat only sweetens the deal and the wealth of Batman lore hidden in every nook and cranny is the cherry on top.

Good luck to the superheroes that come after Batman's outing in Arkham City later this fall.

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