Published on October 23rd, 2011 | by Kiron Ramdewar2
REVIEW: Batman Arkham City
Batman is becoming hot stuff right now. Since Chris Nolan showed a re-invented version of the camp crusader with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight it seems that everyone wants a piece of him. Rocksteady proved themselves with Arkham Asylum, creating an engrossing game that captured the story, atmosphere and characters from DC’s universe. With Arkham City it seems that they have done the same thing on a grander scale, but is the game’s formula getting stale?
Things have changed with Batman’s latest outing as developers Rocksteady have expanded the game to Arkham City, Gotham’s dumping ground for criminals. After attempting to speak out against the makeshift prison run by Hugo Strange, Bruce Wane is taken prisoner in one of gaming’s most cinematic openings. You then make it your task to take down Hugo Strange and those who have created the hell-hole that is Arkham City. The story is brilliant and every time things feel like they are getting drawn out, the plot twists in another direction.
Of course the story would be nothing without an amazing set of characters. Along the way you’ll have to work with and take down several of Batman’s biggest characters including Freeze, The Mad Hatter and of course, The Joker. There is a huge list of characters from the Batman franchise in this game and some came as brilliant surprises. Character models and voice work match the story in how well they are implemented into the game. Each character fits within the plot with none of them feeling forced. I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone, but some of these create surreal suprises which help to mix up the games look and feel. The voice acting is superb and a special mention goes to Mark Hammil’s (yes Luke Skywalker) voice acting for Joker who constantly jeers and taunts the bat. His voice perfectly matches the twisted mind that Rocksteady have set out to convey. It would have been easy for Rocksteady to use caricature versions of these characters but each one has been created in a way that fits perfectly into the story and never feels over the top.
I wasn’t Arkham Asylum’s biggest fan. While I agreed with most critics that the game was by far one of the best uses of an official license, I was never sold on the environment of the Asylum itself. I felt the contained in Arkham Asylum and didn’t properly emulate the feeling of a superhero. The new open world is the main difference between Arkham City and Asylum, it gives you a sense of freedom and grandeur that wasn’t available before. You feel more like Batman now, watching the city perched on top of a gargoyle and gliding off the highest ledge in the city and sweeping across to take out a henchman.
The world is made even more believable by some amazing art design. Areas such as the docks, museum and Joker’s own Fun House all have their own unique feel that blend in with the gothic surroundings. These areas are full of criminals and goons waiting to take Batman down. You don’t have to fight these criminals, but it is nice to have the option to do so. Add hundreds of Riddler challenges and a set of side missions and you’ve got a superhero game that rivals great sandbox games like the GTA series.
The side missions deserve a special mention too as they are integrated within the story. For example, one of them has you saving Freeze’s wife, Nora. I wont spoil the reason as to why Batman is saving Freeze’s Mrs, but it works a lot better than other games side missions as it feels natural, rather than a random npc saying something like, ‘hey my wife’s trapped, go save her’.
As for the gameplay mechanics themselves, these remain largely untouched from Arkham Asylum and are split into two areas, fighting and predator modes. When fighting (On Xbox) X attacks,Y counters and A jumps. Batman quickly can move across the screen from enemy to enemy and the whole thing looks amazing. You know that scene in Batman Begins in the docks where the superhero takes down a group of assailants in a circle? Well it almost feels like that, every time you get in a fist fight. As you play through the game you’ll unlock a set of gadgets and special moves that help you to mix up your game, which you’ll need to do as new enemies with blades, tazers and shields come into play.
In predator mode you are given a small area and have to take down all the opponents. Stalking enemies in the shadows, tying them from gargoyles and distracting them with batarangs are just a few ways of taking out goons. Get spotted while you’re doing this and you’ll have to get out of sight from enemies, or you’ll be killed quickly. It is great neutralising enemies one by one and finding different methods to take them out. Remain unseen and you’ll even get them nervous, with different behaviour and movement patterns.
Once you’ve completed Arkham City there’s even a new game plus mode that lets you take on the whole game with all of your upgrades and altered enemies with a higher difficulty. Challenge rooms return getting you to take down enemies with the best score possible and provide a nice distraction from the main game.
If you got the game brand new you’ll have received a free code for Catwoman. Her story is interwoven in with Batman’s and her character works largely the same as our hero’s. The feisty feline even has her own unique Riddler Challenges and upgrades, which is a really nice touch.
What is annoying is that this forces you to get the game brand new and as I couldn’t get hold of the Robin Edition I missed out on this character. Not to mention the extra suits and challenge rooms that were available as launch dlc. Unless you got the collector’s edition you’ll be missing out on at least one bit of dlc, which is a shame as I wish I could have got the whole picture of Arkham City.
I really don’t have many problems with this game. The map system can be annoying at times, with no way to distinguish between different levels and there’s no minimap, so quite often you’ll resort to pausing and looking at your map. The bosses in the game are mainly solid, but a few are questionable, especially the finale which went out with a whimper more than a bang (just like Arkham Asylum). Finally a few of the situations feel like they have been set up for future dlc, such as Poison Ivy and Catowman’s rivalry. Oh and can we please have the batmobile in the next game Rocksteady?
Overall though this game is a solid package that I never thought I’d be fully sold on. Brilliant art design, story and gameplay mechanics have made Arkham City one of the best releases this year and is well worth anyone picking up, even if you are not a fan of the bat.
Summary: An awesome game that really gives you the sense of being a superhero. The story is there too and when the credits began to role, we only wanted more!