The Batman: Arkham City E3 demo begins in a room full of nervous goons. As ominous shadows flit about the darkness, the seemingly macho thugs voice their fears; "it's the bat!" they whimper. As a figure drops out of the gloom, the henchmen immediately relax. It's not Batman after all; it's just a poor defenceless woman. In a cat suit.
As the cutscene gives way to the game a proper, Catwoman teaches the goons why they should have been scared. She dances from enemy to enemy with a lot more grace than her bat-like counterpart, but combat still handles in much the same way as in Arkham Asylum. After clawing her enemies to death with dagger-like nails, she's left in the room to go about her business: theft.
Tapping LB, Catwoman is able to bring up her own version of Detective mode: thief mode. A scan of her surroundings reveals the objective; a vault at the far end of the room. As she saunters over to it, I become aware of the sterling job Rocksteady has done with her character model (she looks well fit, in other words). As a camera from within the vault shows Catwoman cracking it open, a hand appears from off screen and pushes a gun to her temple.
Cut to Batman, loitering on the roof of a building overlooking Arkham City. In the sequel, there's much more of an emphasis on the open world style of play - the whole city is open from the off this time around. Throwing himself off the building, Batman reveals a new trick: pressing RT while gliding prompts the caped crusader to close his wings and plummet towards the floor. Let go of the trigger in time, however - whilst pulling back on the left stick - and Batman will convert this momentum to a vertical direction. While he can't fly, he can use this trick to reach anywhere in the city without ever having to touch the floor.
Batman soon reaches the location where Catwoman is being held captive. One half of the building is furnished with expensive looking ornaments with walls plastered in fine wallpaper, whilst the other is downtrodden and literally falling to pieces; a house with two very distinct sides. I had a pretty good idea of who might have gotten the better of Catwoman by this point.
As Batman reaches the main hall of the building, we see poor old Selina Kyle hanging upside down with a pool of acid bubbling away mere inches from her lovely face. Shortly after we see her captor, Harvey Dent - or as he's better known: Two Face.
Despite beating the crap out of a room full or goons in order to save her, Catwoman manages to free herself, in the end. As the pair exchange feline related jokes - a shameless attempt at flirting - the conversation is interrupted by a gunshot narrowly missing Catwoman's head. Using Detective mode, Batman then works out the trajectory of the shot in order to determine where the bullet was fired from. Once again, the investigation side of the game is a big focus here.
The third and final section of the demo offers a first glimpse at The Penguin, who runs his mouth off for a bit before commanding a swarm of henchman to attack Batman. Arkham City can handle much more enemies on screen than its predecessor, allowing for brawls on a much larger scale than before. New additions to Batman's repertoire of moves also make things more exciting. My favourite from the demo was targeting an enemy with the grapple-hook, and then kicking their face in when they were yanked close enough. Gadgets will play a much more important role in combat this time around, I was told.
Arkham City is a sequel in the traditional sense: it's bigger, better and boasts improvements in all the right places. But it did strike me as more of the same. This isn't a bad thing at all, of course.
Batman: Arkham City is due for release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on October 21