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Tuesday
Oct252011

Batman: Arkham City Review

I don't think anybody was expecting Arkham Asylum to be the Everything you loved about Arkham Asylum is back with a vengeance!massive hit that it was. The game delivered an engaging story, incredibly fun gameplay and more comic book references than you could shake a stick at and found tremendous success as a result. The game pleased video gamers (both hardcore and casual) and comic books fans, seemingly hitting a bat-shaped hole in the market. All of a sudden superhero games were transformed from the butt of cruel jokes, to almost a brand-new genre of game that had potential to actually be good (as well as profitable). Unfortunately, since the original Arkham Asylum no other superhero game has even come close to that standard, so it is with great trepidation that we delve into the newly released Arkham Asylum, to see if Rocksteady can repeat the impossible, and make not only a good Batman game, but a fantastic game fullstop.

Arkham City opens with Bruce Wayne calling a press conference in which he expresses his displeasure at the prison city, which doesn't sit well with the prison's warden (and professional criminal mastermind/Batman villain) Hugo Strange. Needless to say it kicks off and Batman is forced to traverse the seedy underbelly of Arkham City to find various answers to various questions which I won't get into here, as this is the kind of game you just don't want spoiling, but I will say that the story is superbly well-told... more on that later though. The game takes place about 6 months after the first game ends, and feels like it starts somewhat abruptly, but this is because the events leading upto the start of the game are chronicled in the Arkham City comic book. Having no knowledge of the comic book leaves you a little bit on the dark, but luckily I found this article which should fill you in and doesn't spoil the game at all. In typical comic book fashion the story has as many twists and turns as a Curly Wurly, but luckily is just as deliciously satisfying to work your way through.

Hugo Strange is obviously evil, but dude rocks a pretty sweet beard...If you played Arkham Asylum you'll be immediately at home. The free flow combat system returns and is as joyfully, erm, free flowing as ever. Batman whips across the screen, flooring thugs left and right, catching their punches and throwing their faces into the floor at will, dispatching dozens of enemies in a matter of seconds. The combat system is supremely satisfying and makes you feel like a totally indestructible badass. The stealthy puzzle-like encounters from Arkham Asylum return, turning a room full of heavily armed bad guys into a playground of creativity. Sure, you can just creep up behind all of them and choke them, but why do that when you can lure them underneath a glass ceiling and drop down onto their heads, or blow up a wall with them on the other side? It's fun to toy with them and watch their heart rates shoot up as they become more terrified of what's in the shadows. As the game ramps up the enemies will gain equipment that makes them more effective at dealing with your stealthy escapades (like heat vision, or detective vision disruptors), but you're still always the most powerful guy in the room, and it never gets old destroying a room full of guys with guns using nothing more than fists, gadgets and your brain.

The game takes place in the better half of an entire city, so the scale compared to Arkham Asylum is huge. Luckily Rocksteady make great use of the space, adding in plenty of side quests, most of which have you interacting with a bunch of classic Batman characters. The side quests are varied and fun, and a welcome addition to the already awesome formula established in the first game. Riddler returns and bring with him 400(!) trophies to find dotted everywhere you go, aswell as the "classic" types of riddle found in the first game. Riddler also is a little more involved than in Arkham Asylum, as he's actually in the City somewhere, unlike Arkham asylum where he was transmitting from some apartment random. the Riddler challenges have to potential to take up alot of time, but every trophy is gettable if you can think your way around the puzzle the Riddler has set out.

The game is great looking, when Batman gets to the top of a tall Catwoman is agile but not quite as well equipped as Batman himselfbuilding and the city is sprawling out in front of you, you really can't help but stop and stare. The majority of the game's story parts take place indoors, and the indoor environments tend to be a little bland and boring, but this doesn't really end up mattering all that much. When story stuff is happening the last thing on your mind is whether the room you're in is pretty or not, all you're too busy going "Oh shiiiiiiit! No way!". The story in Arkham City is great, if not in content then in execution. In a similar way to Half Life, which delivers the story organically in first person, Arkham City does such a good job so often of delivering story to you without just throwing you into a cutscene that it really grabs your attention. Multiple times things will happen that you won't see coming, but instead of starting a cutscene when these moments happen, the game will keep you in control. It's a neat little touch that is done so well that it really feels like there an extra 15 layers of polish on the game.

The best thing about Arkham City though, bar none, isn't the graphics, or the story, or the side quests, or the comic book geekery... it's how well it conveys what it's like to be Batman. Whether you're gliding across the city skyline, listening in on unwitting inmates as they talk about you in hushed, fearful tones; scanning crime scenes for the evidence to lead you to the rampant bad guy like only the world's greatest detective can; or constantly crossing paths with enemies who have tried to kill you multiple times, and going from talking to them like best friends, to fighting them at the drop of a hat. It's a strange life the Dark Knight leads. Literally you'll be chatting to Mr Freeze like best pals, but then the next time you see him he's trying to murder you. You beat him and what does Batman say? "You wanna maybe grow up and have a nice civilised chat, please?". It really brings to light the fucked up world of Batman, whereby his enemies are also kinda his best friends. He knows these guys very well, and often talks to them on a first-name basis in a parent-angry-at-a-child kind of way. Peculiar... peculiar but fascinating.

The city is really impressive, and loads of fun to move aroundSo few games do such a great job of putting you into a character's shoes whilst also doing everything else right. It's so rare to see a game that is great in all areas, even games I've loved recently had areas they weren't so great in, but Arkham City can do it all: story, combat, characters and content are all fantastic. A challenge mode backs up the game's main story, and the game even let's you play as Catwoman at various points during the main game if you either bought the game new or bought it off your consoles store (The Catwoman download is actually a really cool addition I think really adds to the game!). There's alot to do here, and alot of fun to be had whilst doing it.

I thought it would have been impossible to make a Batman game that surpassed Arkham Asylum, even knowing it was being made by the same developer, but I'm glad I was wrong. Rocksteady have taken the framework they built for Arkham Asylum and expanded on it in literally every way they could. The conceit for the game is a little ridiculous, but we're talking about a universe where a man dresses as a bat to beat up a guy with a clown face, so I think we can let that slide. At the end of the day, when all's said and done, if you buy this game you'll be buying one of the best games of the year, and you really can't argue with that.

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    GameBanter.co.uk - Reviews - Batman: Arkham City Review

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