Thursday, July 28, 2011

Megabits’ Batman: Arkham City Wishlist

We loved Batman: Arkham Asylum. The combination of smooth combat, clever puzzle solving and exploration kept us hooked for hours, and the seamless way in which it blended esoteric pieces of batlore with a plot that would make perfect sense even if you’d never read a Batman comic meant it served an audience of gamers and fanboys equally.

With Batman: Arkham City on the horizon we thought we’d come up with a list of tweaks and improvements we’d like to see in the sequel. We had to think for a long, long time, but eventually we hit upon a few....

Discreet Detecting
About the only real complaint we were ever able to make about Batman: Arkham Asylum was that there was no compelling reason to exit the infra-red detective mode. We wanted to. It seemed a waste of some really gorgeous environment and character design to view it all through those funny goggles. But you know what pigeon-shooting, orb-hunting, feather-collecting purists gamers we are, we didn’t want to risk missing anything. We’re hoping that this time round the detective mode will be some sort of discreet overlay on the main view rather than a completely separate visual setting.

Mental Agility
On the subject of detecting, a lot of Arkham Asylum’s detective tasks basically involved following a trail of chemical breadcrumbs identified by the detective mode. It was a combination of automated mass spectrometry and walking. Not really what we’d call detective work. This time round, we’re hoping to see more puzzles that require genuine deductive reasoning and the ability to string together several pieces of evidence whilst identifying and discarding red herrings.

Cut the Combo-Count
The four-buttons-and-a-joystick combination resulted in some of the smoothest combat we’ve seen in a game for many a year, and it was a joy to occasionally abandon stealth and dive into a room full of hoodlums, all lycra and knuckles. The only drawback we found was that the need to string five to eight uninterrupted blows together to enable a special move meant that you very rarely got to use your special moves. We’d never suggest that the combat should be simple and unchallenging, but this is a Batman game, so we’d like to be able to feel like a superhero with a little more frequency, please.

Fanservice, please...
No, we don’t mean more shots of Poison Ivy in her knickers. One of the best things about Arkham Asylum was the amount of cameos by characters from Batman’s history. We’re really hoping that continues in Arkham City, with two characters in particular. Firstly there’s Deadshot, the marksman with a death wish who provides a perfect counterpoint to Batman. Formerly one of the coolest looking characters in comics, he’s recently been given an awful, generic armoured guy redesign by DC comics. We’d love to see if Rocksteady’s excellent designers can redress the balance by restoring his cool. Secondly, we’d like to see Orpheus, the protector of Gotham’s ghettos. He’s never been one of the most popular characters in the comics, but he’s strong, smart black man who’s trusted by the coolest characters and doesn’t speak in clichĂ©. Gaming needs more characters like that.

Holy co-op
Online challenge rooms and leader boards were ok, but we’d like to see some sort of playable co-op, wherein two characters can combine to progress through a series of environments. Perhaps one will need to use detective mode to find an exit while the other uses combat to keep the baddies at a distance. Maybe one person needs to be gliding around providing air cover while another player uses the batzip line. Seriously, just give us a chance to work together and we’ll be happy. Heck, I’ll even be Robin if I have to.