Is Batman: Arkham City Game of the Year material?
Upon reaching the Joker's steel mill, the game inverts itself and heads indoors - an aesthetic more familiar to those acquainted with travelling around Arkham Asylum. Most of the action here takes place in the mill's smelting chamber, rescuing a captured doctor with a predatory sequence reminiscent of the first game.
Like with the flowing combat system - detailed in my last preview - skulking around to hunt foes has been enhanced with a wider variety of tools and a greater emphasis on ingenuity. Zipping from pillar to pillar to evade your gun-toting adversaries is still an integral part, but areas have been beefed up with more tricks and traps, and the puzzle-like satisfaction derived from a perfect chain of silent takedowns (and the new ability to dispatch two enemies at once) is hugely gratifying.
Weaving through the insides of the steel mill involves a multitude of scuffles with Harley Quinn, who frequently does her best to trap you in one spot. It's a lovely touch that Harley's preferred option to deal with Batman is attempting to halt his progress rather than confront him directly, as it makes the confrontations - where you effortlessly smash through packs of thugs - all the sweeter.
Another nice touch for the sequel is that collectibles can be marked on the map for later collection, allowing you to progress with the matter at hand rather than forcing yourself to dither about with the puzzle for a few minutes because you're worried you'll forget the location of the valuable pickup.
A few minutes and a couple of environmental puzzles later, with the doctor safe and our hero now armed with the electric-spewing R.E.C. (for those worried about it being a gun, have no fear - it's an attachment for the Batclaw) gadget, Batman returns to the steel mill's main hall to confront the Joker directly.
What happens next, well, it's a pretty big spoiler so I'm not actually going to write about it - I'm sure you'll be able to find out from another website if you're determined to know. I, however, don't want you to know, because it's good, very good, and if you've got a soft spot for Batman you'll definitely want to be counting down the days until it's released. I know I am.
Batman: Arkham City will be released for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on October 21.