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Arkham City: New Screenshots and Details

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Arkham City: New Screenshots and Details

Post by CraZoY on March 12th 2011, 6:10 pm


Posted by James Gallagher // Blog Manager, SCEE


My flatmate cites Arkham Asylum
as his favorite game, and when I got home and told him that I’d been to
see it at Warner Bros. London office, he put his fingers in his ears
and turned the stereo up. It confirmed something I’d been thinking on
the train home: this is one of those games that we’re better off not
knowing much about.


There’s five of us in the private screening room and Dax Ginn,
marketing game manager at Rocksteady, has just played through an early
mission from Arkham City, lasting around 30 minutes, which I’m not going
to spoil for you. We are free to call out questions afterwards and one
journalist asks, “Will we see anything like the Scarecrow missions from Arkham Asylum?”
“Did you like the scarecrow stuff?” he replies to slow nods. “Well we
did too. Aren’t you glad that you didn’t know about the Scarecrow
levels before you played Arkham Asylum? If they had been part of the
marketing campaign they wouldn’t have had that kind of impact, so I’m
just going to leave it there.”

The biggest difference between Arkham City and its predecessor is the
move to a more open setting. In the intervening 18 months, Quincy Sharp,
who was the warden of the Asylum, is elected Mayor of Gotham and
transfers all of the inmates to Arkham City. Batman has been watching
all of this happen and he knows that he’s going to have to deal with it.
Arkham City is also around five times bigger than the Asylum and most
of it is open to the player from the start.” Anything that is open to
the sky is open to player right from the off,” Dax explains. “Nobody
tells Batman where to go so it was important for us to give that freedom
right at the start. The interiors are gated and will open as a result
of narrative progression.”


“Our attitude towards pacing is to throw everything at the player
straight away and let them decide how and when they want to navigate
those options. Telling a story in Arkham Asylum was very easy because it
was a very linear experience. Arkham City isn’t a sandbox game but it’s
not completely linear either – it’s somewhere in-between.”
“What we don’t want to do was ruin the pacing with frivolous
collection missions where you have to go and find 50 things while Gotham
is burning – Batman wouldn’t do that. We have a tight core narrative
with clear paths; going off-piste inevitably yields other options but
they are always character driven, whether that’s answering a phonecall
from Zsasz and having him taunt you or finding an informant who reveals
another snippet of information.”
Batman is able to negotiate this large, open space by gliding and
swooping to gain momentum, using his Bat Claw to catch the corners of
buildings and propel himself skyward. He can even hook onto patrol
helicopters and perch on the landing gear as chaos unfolds beneath.
“If you’re just flying around the streets looking for a fight,” Dax
adds, “you’ll pick up bits of information that have been designed to be
communicated in an ambient fashion at that particular stage in the game.
There is a vast amount of conversational dialogue that has been a
serious job to write and record, but we finally finished it last
Wednesday.”


“We’re constantly looking at Arkham Asylum and seeing how it feeds
into Arkham City. The same applies to characters, combat, moves; they
all carry over but how they have evolved is directly related to the new
challenges Batman is facing.”
This also applies to Detective Mode, an X-ray overlay that you use to
gather forensic information. Some people had mixed feelings about it
because, while it was very useful, they felt like they were missing out
the game’s incredible visuals by using it.
“There weren’t a lot of criticisms of Arkham Asylum but that was one
of them,” says Dax, “and thinking about why people reacted the way that
they did and what we’re going to do about it was really interesting.
Batman is a detective, so removing detective mode wasn’t an option for
us because it suits him so well and it allows us to do these slower
paced investigation sections.”
“Our thinking was more about why people responded to it in that way.
Gamers wanted it to be more of a tool, just like the Bat Claw is a tool.
We hadn’t balanced it right so it felt more like an exploit than a
tool, because it gave you so much information. That’s our understanding
of the criticisms and our response has been to balance that information
better.”
Before we finished, one journalist enquired if Rocksteady would be
interested in working on a game adaptation of The Dark Knight Rises.
“He [Christopher Nolan] is a pretty amazing guy and that would be a
brilliant lunchtime meeting to have, discussing how that might work. But
what we find with the comic book license is that we get creative
freedom to push the characters in pretty much any direction we like;
we’re not bound to a single narrative. I’m not saying we’ll never make a
game based on a movie, but as of right now and from a creative
perspective, it’s not something we want to be doing.”
Arkham City is looking very much the worthy successor to my flatmate’s favorite PS3
game. From the sound of it, we can expect plenty of surprises when it
is released, and I can promise you won’t read about them here first.
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