Batman: Arkham City (Xbox360)

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The gamescom 2011 demonstration for Batman: Arkham City was thankfully a little different (or a lot different, depending on your experience with these things) from other game presentations that we’ve seen so far, and not only because of its focus on peripheral modes in the game, as opposed to the title’s 40-hour plus singleplayer campaign.

Batman: Arkham City - Zafer, Dax and Sarah at gamescom 2011

The preview kicked off right away with the confirmation announcement that Arkham City will indeed support stereo 3D across all platforms (PS3, Xbox 360 and PC) and Dax Ginn (Rocksteady marketing manager), Sarah Wellock (community manager) and Zafer Coban (lead animator) promptly invited us to slip on our 3D glasses to witness the game in this mode. It looks as though developer Rocksteady has made good use of the effects of 3D, with the graphical user interface (GUI) showing menus and in-game combo counters popping out in front of the action.

Once the demo was done, however, I had a mighty headache so I don’t think I’ll be playing the game in 3D… although I don’t have the right TV, but this is all besides the point! I was here to see The Batman, and I didn’t leave disappointed.

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot 1

On show during the demo was the supposed “third part of the puzzle,” the Challenge Mode and maps of Batman: Arkham City, as well as the Predator Stealth mode included in the game. So what was so different about this particular presentation? The room was set up with two TVs and two consoles, flanked on either side by Sarah (on Xbox 360) and Zafer (on PlayStation 3). In the middle, Dax introduced the two as contestants as representatives of the ultimate ‘battle of the sexes,’ both competing for a highly coveted prize – the Commissioner James Gordon Gold Medal of Gotham City (a small gold sticker… but a really cool small gold sticker).

In order to finally settle the eternal battle between female and male, Sarah and Zafer would compete in a series of three challenges in Batman: Arkham City to determine the ultimate winner in this struggle. With Sarah playing as Catwoman (on Xbox 360) in her challenges and Zafer (on PS3) playing as (The) Batman in his, it was a close fight.

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot 4

The first trial was to score the most points in Arkham City’s Challenge Mode, a gameplay option that places you in an arena filled with thugs who want nothing better than to do you extreme harm. Luckily, both Catwoman and T. Batman were more than up to the task (as were Sarah and Zafer), delivering flurries of punches and kicks, as well as brutal, bone-breaking combos, throws and limb twists to the enemies, all while effortlessly juggling over six of these goons at once in a ballet of fierce skill and power.

This melee combat is all combo-based, and with every enemy struck and attacked, a score multiplier racks up to exponentially increase your score – every punch and face crunch is another chance to add valuable points to the tally, and once you’ve completed a challenge map by defeating all of your foes, you’ll be able to upload that score to an online leaderboard to challenge your friend’s scores.

Those hooligans didn’t stand a chance in our gamescom presentation of Arkham City, and while Sarah was leading in the points tally up until a point, Zafer came from nowhere to win the Challenge Mode trial. Two more to go, though…

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot 3

The next test came in the form of Arkham City’s Predator Stealth Challenge mode, which tasks players with sneaking through a set environment (and destroying thugs who get in the way) in the fastest time. Catwoman’s ability to quickly zip from place to place was showcased in the presentation as she used her whip to swing from the floor to a handy perch high up near the ceiling, usually on a well-placed stone gargoyle, to get a better overview of the room and leap down onto unsuspecting enemies for an easy Pounce Attack takedown.

Another of Catwoman’s cool moves was shown as she hung from the bottom of a platform with an enemy above her – it only took a second for the feline hero to whip that goon from his place down to the floor far (far) below. Looks very slick in action! In the full game of Batman: Arkham City, if you complete three takedown challenges during one Predator Stealth Challenge mission, you’ll receive special Riddler bonuses (as he’s the one putting you through these tests), but this mode is all about speed – set a fast level completion time and you’ll be able to rub your performance in your friend’s faces online… until they best that time, that is.

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot 2

During the demonstration, Sarah and Catwoman completed the provided Stealth mission in record time, leaving Zafer well in the dust following his great score in Challenge Mode. In case you’re not keeping track, this meant that the two Rocksteady members were neck-a-neck in the overall points tally, 1-1. Just one more challenge to go, and it was a race to the finish.

The pair then loaded up something that the developers called a ‘race,’ but were at pains to ensure that we knew this ‘mode’ was not included in the final version of Batman: Arkham City. Are we clear on that? No race mode in the full game, but this challenge did give us a great opportunity to see the jaw-dropping, super detailed and (dare I say it) breath-taking open-world of Arkham City – a world that Rocksteady’s Dax Ginn says is five times larger than any game the developer has created before.

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot 3

As you may know, the game takes place in the massive and secured mini-metropolis of Arkham City (…), a place where criminals of Gotham City are let loose to do as they please, only isolated from the rest of Batman, The’s stomping ground. In this race mode (constructed for purposes of the demo), Sarah and Zafer (both playing as the caped crusader this time) had to reach a set point in the world before each other. This meant taking to the roof tops of Arkham City and using Batman’s extended ‘glide’ ability to zoom from rooftop to spire to chimney to gargoyle.

The grandeur of Arkham City’s visuals can’t be stressed enough – as our Dark Knight glides high above the streets, the world stretches out before you, but unlike most other open-world games, every corner, crevice and cranny of the environment has received layers of detail to make for a beautiful patchwork of grit, grime, graphical density and understated vibrance – when we say jaw-dropping, we mean it!

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot 2

Who won this race challenge, though? Why, none other than Sarah who managed to reach the objective in no time at all, which made her the overall victor and recipient of the ‘coveted’ Commissioner James Gordon Gold Medal of Gotham City, and by the looks of it, it was the second one Rocksteady’s community manager had won that day!

Believe us when we say that Batman: Arkham City is easily shaping up to be a candidate for ‘Game of the Year’ in 2011 and a very worthy follow-up to 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum – the game looks incredible, sounds incredible, plays incredibly and contains all of the classic story and characters you expect from a game featuring The Batman.

Look forward to October 18th in North America and October 21st in Europe and the UK when the action adventure game is finally released, but until then don’t hesitate to peruse El33tonline’s vast previous coverage of the title over here.

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot 4