Title: Batman: Arkham City
Formats: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release: October 21st.
"It's perhaps one tantalising fact, crystallising the knowledge that this is without doubt, one of the most hotly anticipated games of the fall.
It's not entirely unexpected given the critical and fan acclaim garnered by its predecessor Arkham Asylum. But its not that, nor even the fact that despite the pressure to deliver a sequel that surpasses the original.
Rocksteady seem confident that its crafted the ultimate Dark Knight experience, promising multiple innovations to make this not only the ultimate comic book game, but one of the best action adventures period. Something that's no idle boast, due to the context of the game's development cycle.
Because the simple fact, and the one that makes us eager with anticipation, is that, three months before release, the game's finished and all, and the studio is simply spending the time until launch polishing it to perfection.
That's not speculation either. The studio has admitted the core game has been finished and playable from start to end for some time. The outfit's London office is now the centre of one of most excessive spit and polish jobs seen in the industry; it's improving, tidying, tightening every aspect of the title so its as perfect as the company can get it ahead of its October release.
It parallels what Rocksteady did for Asylum - an added few months as the release was pushed back that perhaps proved vital in the game performing so astoundingly in reviews. No delays here though; everything is scheduled in. How often is it that you hear a developer isn't marred in a development crunch period at this point of a game's creation?
It's not as if the game's a replica of the first, either. An island roundup becomes a city patrol, as Rocksteady expands its take on the Batman mythos to Gotham City. This new Arkham is transplanted into its own sealed off section of the city, divided and governed by the Caped Crusader's gallery of rogues. The city is rumoured to be five times larger than the island from the first game, with each street and corner dogged with criminals, puzzles and side-quests.
We know by the very first teaser trailer, ushered in after the wake of the first title's release, that the Joker is alive, if incapacitated in some fashion after his exposure to the Titan formula in the events of Asylum. He's one of the driving forces of the new order, though not the only one. Harley Quinn is also back, while the Riddler, who appeared in voice only before, brings a new collection of nefarious puzzles and deadly traps to taunt Batman with.
But it's the new additions who are most intriguing. The villain who was teased at the tail end of the first game; Harvey Dent, Two-Face, has been front and centre of the demos seen thus far. And then there's Catwoman, sometime-ally of Batman and who boasts similar moves and gadgets will be a playable character in the sequel, forming around ten percent of the play time. And Robin is due to appear in the franchise's returning Challenge Rooms, where Bat-fans can hone their skills as well as attempt to beat Leaderboard scores.
Thankfully we shouldn't expect a multiplayer mode. Rocksteady Studios had initially planned to introduce a sort of multiplayer in the world of Batman but decided to abandon all these ideas, simply because they believe it was better to save the energy and focus on the single-player adventure. A sentiment we whole-heartedly agree with.
Draw the curtains closed, or draw them over your face as a makeshift cowl in readiness. Come October 21 criminals (and sales charts) will have something to fear once more as Batman: Arkham City heads to consoles. And given past glories, we're not surprised any more to say one of the greatest games this year could be a licensed title."