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Batman: Arkham City - Shocking revelations in latest hands-on

Danger: Spoilers beyond this point...

Rocksteady's thrown so many Arkham City surprises our way this past few months, we were worried there'd be nothing left to knock us sideways in the actual game.

Which would be a shame because it was the way Arkham Asylum would creep from stellar third person action title to psychological tormentor so seamlessly that made it stand out. The revelation of being exposed to The Scarecrow's fear toxin for the first time will stay with us forever. The way Rocksteady hit us with it not once but twice more to equal effect is testament to a truly inventive studio that understands the power of showmanship.

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So why has Rocksteady splurged its secrets all over the internet so freely? Okay so the studio says it has more up its sleeve but, as we readied ourselves to swoop into Arkham City in search of The Joker, after everything we've already seen, we were a bit sceptical.

The core of Arkham City, after all, is more or less exactly the same as Arkham Asylum. Battling through clown-faced goons in Sionis Industries, the free-flowing combat, is still expertly executed using square/X to strike and triangle/Y to counter

Batman's a bit more empowered this time though with a new clutch of gadgets at his disposal - as well as the ones he picked up in the last game - and a whole new set of head-smacking, leg-snapping animations to make sure that the Caped Crusader is still at his most badass. Still, the weight of a fight and the way it pans out is very familiar.

Similarly the Silent Predator sections make a strong return even if they are mechanically and tactically identical to Arkham Asylum. The glide kick is put to good use, our favourite way to take out a thug is still to engulf him in our cape from above and leave him hanging and, if you get spotted by a criminal packing a gun, you'd better make sure you have a swift exit strategy. Apart from the ability to yank out a double take-down every now and then, it's all par the course.

But that's not a bad thing. In fact it would be a bad thing if any of that had changed. The combat of Arkham Asylum was its stand out feature, after all, it was the bit that really made you feel like Batman.

The only aspect of Arkham Asylum we are a little disappointed to see return is the boss formula. After knocking out a few goons, saving a doctor from potential torture and breaking ourselves out of a Harley Quinn trap by crafting a projectile taser out of odds and ends (you know, hero stuff) we were faced with the classic big, slow guy boss type.

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Remember that one-armed chap with the hammer? Yeah, he's called Mr. Hammer and he's coming for us. It'd be scary, only we dealt with problems like him until they became run of the mill inside the Asylum. The old springing over the top of his attack and pummelling in the back technique makes short work of the situation.

BOSS MAN
Boss variety was the main thing we felt needed to be addressed after Arkham Asylum and, if it hadn't been for the Mr. Freeze trailer earlier this year, showing off the frosty doctor as a potentially interesting challenge, we'd be worried.

It's probably a good thing that we've seen Freeze in action then but, on the other hand, it's another potential surprise down the Bat-chute. So, how is Rocksteady going to deliver the shock-factor in the Batman sequel? Well, the biggest change in Arkham City - and definitely the game's biggest asset - is its size.

Before we got to Sionis Industries, we had to glide over the urban jungle itself, grappling, dipping and diving past all kinds of buildings, some of which are recognisable landmarks from the comics.

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