Is Batman: Arkham City Game of the Year material?
Don't get me wrong, I've got absolutely nothing against Oracle. If I ever needed somebody to sort out something on the computer she'd easily be top of my list. But when Batman puts his finger to his ear and it's Alfred on the other end, well, it just feels more like Batman - you know?
Batman: Arkham City, British developer Rocksteady's sophomore crack at the Caped Crusader, immediately smacks as one of the most loving and extensive recreations of the Dark Knight legacy ever produced. As for the game itself, a few minutes within its take on Gotham establishes Arkham City as a very real contender for Game of the Year, and that's after you exclude the fact it has Batman in it. And Alfred, of course.
The latest demo, taking place just a few weeks before the game's launch on October 21, starts at the end of the game's first act, with Batman perched over a destroyed bell tower - courtesy of the Joker - and surveying the sprawling Gotham skyline.
Rocksteady's English heritage worked wonders on the gothic mansion of Arkham Asylum, and now these sensibilities have shifted and developed, if you can ignore the flickering and decrepit neon signs, into a full-blown Victorian slum. The smoky, ice-tinged sky and cobbled ground could easily be as much a home to Jack the Ripper as Bruce Wayne.
Having recently dealt with Two Face, the Dark Knight turns his attentions to the Joker, following the Gotham coastline through the Docklands into the heart of the Industrial District. Like Arkham Asylum, Batman's movements are simultaneously hefty and graceful, with the sequel adding in dozens of new animations and flourishes to complement the satisfying simplicity of hooks and uppercuts.
With a greater emphasis on outside exploration, with each street corner littered with undesirable rogues, Batman has a few new tricks up his sleeve when it comes to navigation. His cape is his primary mode of transport, with players able to dive downwards before swooping up for bursts of forward momentum. A new boost grapple has been added, for some additional welly, allowing Batman to propel himself into the air at the end of long hooks - whooshing open the cape at the apex of the jump.