Promo art is usually interesting, but the art for Batman: Arkham City is really something to behold; it turns the colour schemes and palettes upside down, with an emphasis on large, white spaces and high contrast figures — yet, nevertheless, it still manages to retain something of an ominous air.
As the name suggests, Arkham City takes you outside the confines of the crazy house, and the game sprawls all over Gotham, multiplying the size of the map many times. With this style of gameplay, you now have much more to do than stick to the main narrative; there's always something untoward going on in the seedy streets and alleyways, so you have a lot more freedom in what you choose to do.
With larger spaces, the familiar combat system has had to evolve, but only for the better — taking down a passel of clown goons like these is still a raw, animalistic pleasure.
They look damned great, too. Coulrophobics should probably stay clear, though.
The Joker is, of course, back — the yin to Batman's yang, and a bit the worse for wear after the kicking he received in Arkham Asylum a year ago in game time. Now he looks like he has merged with the spirit of C Montgomery Burns.
Biff! Don't be fooled — he's not even half 'armless. Joker's lieutenants are stronger, tougher and designed to give Batman a good run for his money.
One of the new takedowns lets you get two guys at once by sneaking up behind them and bonking their heads together like some sort of grim slapstick.
Harley has a new look, too; we particularly love the way her pigtails are dyed two different colours: it's a great touch, and very Harley.
Confirmed back is also The Riddler. While he never showed his face in the previous game, though, this time he has stepped up the game and is taking a more hands-on approach, to the point where he threatens the lives of innocent civilians as well as Batman. If you choose, you can tackle a sub-plot to take him down.
The way to unravel this sub-plot is — surprise! — Riddler trophies. But these get a lot trickier to find this time around. Question marks that appear in Detective Mode often point not to the trophy itself, but to goons who know where they are — and you'll have to beat the information out of them. The trophies themselves are also in much harder to reach locations, so if you want to take the Riddler down, you're going to have to work for it.
Catwoman's costume is modelled partially off the Darwyn Cooke 2001 redesign and partially off Adam Hughes' pin-ups of Catwoman as Audrey Hepburn, but with a lot more décolletage showing. Girl's gonna catch herself a chill.
You know, if Gotham's villains could work together, they'd probably be pretty much unstoppable. Luckily for Batman, they spend as much time trying to double-cross each other as they do trying to tackle him. One of your first missions involves rescuing Catwoman from Two-Face, who is moments away from dropping her in a vat of acid. Catwoman has been confirmed by Warner Bros as a playable character; and rumours abound that there may be co-op gameplay with Catwoman. We're keeping our fingers crossed.
Two-Face up-close is a grisly sight; rather than obscuring most of his burned half with a suit, the designers have taken a different approach, showing how the suit has become fused with his raw flesh. Shudder-inducing.
Posters seen all over Gotham riff on the old Uncle Sam war recruitment posters; as you will later discover, Two-Face is attempting to seize control of the Gotham crime cartel.
Other rumoured villains include Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, Bane, Mr Freeze, Talia al Ghul, Black Mask, Hugo Strange and Solomon Grundy; the Penguin was confirmed just this week. (Image of Poison Ivy is from Batman: Arkham Asylum.)
As per the last game, you will have a veritable utility belt's load of Bat-gadgets at your disposal. They've been upgraded, too. Shown here is the cryptographic sequencer, which Batman used to hack security panels and unlock doors. In Arkham City, you can use it to tune in to conversations anywhere in the city, which means you can find out who's planning what, where and when.
The Line Launcher also has exciting new possibilities. Here, Batman is using it just as a flying fox to get from point A to point B, but now he can also flip around on top of it to balance or, as he flips, fire another line at a perpendicular to change abrupt direction mid-air.
Goons! Hired goons!
Another thing we absolutely love the look of is Detective Mode. Batman is, after all, the world's greatest detective, and in Arkham City, you really will be expected to solve puzzles to solve crimes in a more intensive manner than the mechanic was employed in Arkham Asylum. It's also been restricted; detailed visibility is lower, so you won't be able to play the whole game in Detective Mode the way you could in Arkham Asylum.
Foes are highlighted according to their threat level: blue guys are armed with fists or blades, but orange indicates higher threat — the guy in this image has a gun. This helps you to figure out who to take down first.
Gliding looks A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It's a quick way to get around Gotham, and we can't wait to swoop and soar with the skyline in our sights and the streets down below. You can also drop down and take out a bunch of dudes with a takedown, as seen in the official gameplay trailer.
Here's that balancing-on-the-Line-Launcher trick that we mentioned earlier. Batman seems to like playing with fire.
Gotham City really opens up the scope of the game, with some truly jaw-dropping sets coming into play.
Batman: Arkham City is due out in Australia on 19 October 2011. Seems a long time to wait …