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...
Every copy of Batman should come with your own personal BAMF card.
When you play a game at E3, you're most likely surrounded by people who are actually working on the game. Sometimes you can tell that they're studying what you're doing, almost like a mini-focus group. How do you play a game like that? The pressure is so intense! But it's times like these that you must channel your inner Batman, because with how much pressure Batman faces in Arkham City, that's nothing.
The story, as far as I can tell it, is set up as a detective story, one that's befitting of the Dark Knight. Yes, Arkham City is an open world and Batman has the ability to glide, grapple-hook, and dive his way across the city. He can battle thugs in the streets before heading inside a super-villain hideout. However, that doesn't mean the methodical investigation, exploration, and combat has been lost in the seedy Gotham City ghetto. Warden Quincy Sharpe has been elected mayor and he's walled off a massive section of Gotham to block off the thugs, hoodlums, and generally not-nice people from Arkham Asylum. Batman is out to find out why.
Rocksteady developer Dax Ginn sat down with me while I played a section of Arkham Cityhe had shown previously at GDC. The demo started me off on top of a building where I was immediately instructed to walk off the edge and start gliding. When I saw a right bumper prompt, Dax told me to hit the button and double-tap the A button. This sped up Batman's grappling hook so that he would slingshot over the top of the building and continue his glide at a new height. With enough space between me and the ground, I was then told to push down with the left stick and hold the right trigger. This sent Batman into a dive, which I could pull out of by letting go of the right trigger.
With an enemy stunned and several others surprised, Batman then opened up with a long combo that instantly took me back to the challenge rooms in Batman: Arkham Asylum. I even performed a ground submission without being prompted to do so by Dax. His enthusiastic response made me feel like a badass, but that feeling comes with the new moveset Batman has in Arkham City. I was able to pull off triple-takedowns and triple-counters and everything in between, like a glide kick into a dive-bomb-chokeslam on a ground-level thug.
Rocksteady's blown everything from Asylum out to 11 with Arkham City. Whether you're measuring the city size or the number of enemies on screen, there's so much more for Batman to do. Of course, the developers behind this second outing recognize that you might get a little bored of staring at Batman's cape for 40 hours. That's why they revealed that Catwoman will be a fully playable character in Arkham City's storyline.
The feline anti-hero's moveset is varied enough from Batman's to feel different. Of course, a full departure from Batman would feel too disjointed so Catwoman uses her whip like Batman's grappling hook, although she's got more of a snap to ledges. The femme fatale can also leap and bound over the skyline and cling to walls. Within specific mission objective areas, she can cling to mesh ceilings for stealth. She's also got a mix of silent takedowns to dispatch guards.
The demo we were shown had Catwoman stealing from a vault that Poison Ivy had busted into. While Catwoman originally agreed to steal a rare plant, she's really out for her own ends. She dropped the potted plant on the ground and stomped it with her heel. You really can't trust anyone in Arkham City.
Rocksteady's been planning Arkham City for a long time. If it plays as well as it did at E3 and keeps the surprises coming, Arkham City will be well on its way to being a Game of the Year contender. With every demo of the game having character dialogue and every piece of gameplay looking better than the last, be ready for October 18th.