Gotham needs the Dark Knight. Criminals better run.
Batman and Gotham City share a special connection. On the rooftops, it's as if the Dark Knight is connected to the soul of the city. He knows every alleyway, every criminal safe haven, every trouble spot. Trapped in Arkham Asylum last game, Batman was disconnected from the city that speaks to him. In Arkham City, Batman is in his element. This isn't Batman trapped in an asylum; this is a city full of criminals trapped with Batman.
Arkham City is a section of Gotham run by Warden Hugo Strange where the inmates of Arkham Asylum and Blackgate prison have been placed. The major criminals have secured their own districts and run them with some autonomy. To ensure gamers feel like Batman at his best, the city is wide open from the start. Each district has its own set of missions, its own narratives to experience. Go where you're needed and unravel the clues to the larger plot and Hugo Strange's true motivations.
Batman starts out strong, with the gadgets he needs. His grappling hook, cryptographic sequencer, Bat Claw, remote-controlled Batarang and more. These items can be upgraded, but you don't begin Arkham City stripped down. Far from it. Arkham City is a large open city and Batman is ready to take full advantage of familiar ground.
Probably the two most crucial pieces of equipment are his cape and the grappling hook. Gliding is a major part of Arkham City, with Bats making use of momentum to adjust his speed. Couple this with the grappling hook and Bats can easily get around the city. He can grab onto billboards, the sides of buildings, even the legs of patrol choppers. Movement was fairly limited in Arkham Asylum, but the city is a very different story. This is Batman's city and he's developed these tools over the years to best take advantage of Gotham's architecture.
The city is quite a sight. It's a gritty underworld filled with seedy bars, dark alleys, and danger around every corner. Though I only saw Two-Face's district, the sense of scale in Arkham City's impressive. The game world's five times the size of Arkham Asylum, but more importantly, it has vitality and a sense of life. It's worn down but seems brimming with activity.
Batman may not approve of these plans, but we sure do.
It's amazing to view, but there is one downside. Detective Mode is not only back, but it appears far more crucial this time around. In the span of 20 minutes, there must have been a half-dozen occasions where Detective Mode wasn't just helpful but necessary. Hidden Riddler clues, tucked away criminal, armed guards and so on. I'm really excited for a fully powered Batman to take on an entire city's worth of criminals, but not if I am watching the world through x-ray goggles most of the time.
It sucks to have Batman being such a badass right from the start -- punching through walls, diving from the air and landing with his hand around an enemy's throat, disarming an thug and cracking their head with their own bat -- only to see him relying on the same old Detective Mode crutch.