Batman: Arkham City Review

November 25, 2011 at 12:58 AM | Posted in (All Posts), Reviews, Video Game Reviews | Leave a comment
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Perched on a gargoyle statue, draped in darkness, I look out into the darkness that is the Gotham City nightlife. Turning on my detective vision, I can clearly see four outlined bodies on a nearby rooftop. These are the Joker’s henchmen, all of them criminals with dangerous weapons, looking to hurt anyone who opposes them. One of them walks onto a ledge alone, talking about the animosity between Two-Face and Joker. Without hesitation, I pounce on him from above, bringing him down in an instant. One after another, the remaining “henchmen” come up to the scene where their ally now lay on the ground, but a wave of batarangs and some quick combat skills leave them all lying unconscious before they realize what has happened. I am Batman.

No — I have not lost my mind. This is just one account of the awesome experience that is “Batman: Arkham City.”

Developed by Rocksteady Studios, Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, also from the same studio. Arkham City was released on October 18th for the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3, and the PC version was released on November 22nd.

As the game opens up, you play as Bruce Wayne, using your image and wealth to protest this walled-off-section of Gotham City, but you are quickly kidnapped by TYGER, the Arkham City taskforce working for the villainous Hugo Strange. Strange has risen to power to work alongside Quincy Sharp in running Arkham City, and is just one of the many Batman villains featured in the game.

Once inside the walls of Arkham City, you fight your way through prison riots and the chaos that your arrival has caused and get to suit up as Batman. From there, you have the entire Arkham City area at your fingertips. You can fly from rooftop to rooftop using Batman’s gliding abilities and grappling gun. At any point you can drop below the buildings to encounter the thugs and criminals roaming the streets, often saving whatever few innocent civilians are inside.

While the main story quest can be finished in around 10 hours, the side missions and Riddler tasks will increase the gameplay time by an immeasurable amount. Not counting my time playing the “challenge maps,” it took me close to 50 hours to 100% everything in the campaign, and I enjoyed every single moment of it.

I will be honest with you – it is hard to find things in this game to complain about. Arkham City suffers from something that few games suffer from: it leaves you wanting more, even though the game offers more than enough.

The gameplay that was created in Arkham Asylum has been perfect in Arkham City. The combat system works so well in such a beautiful way, flowing from one enemy to another with the tap of a button, using another button to counter an attack, and stringing together combos that only bring about more detailed animations to the way you bring down your opponents.

The visuals in the game are so good that it’s easy to take them for granted. Like Arkham Asylum, you go into so many detailed environments that these buildings feel almost feel like dungeons, usually each with one significant villain taking having control.

You encounter Two-Face in a courthouse, Mr. Freeze in the abandoned Gotham City Police building, Penguin in a museum, Joker in a steel mill (which has been decorated a bit to match his tastes), and many other locations that Batman fans will recognize. The cast of villains and other supporting characters is impressive. I ran into characters that I was legitimately shocked to find out were in the game, not to mention that you can actually play as Catwoman during segments of the game, and Robin and Nightwing have been offered as downloadable content to play in all of the games challenge maps.

The soundtrack is amazing, sounding like a perfect mix-up of the Batman: Animated Series music and songs that sound like they could have been side-by-side with the Hans Zimmer produced tracks on The Dark Knight soundtrack. It’s always amazing to hear Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman and the Joker, and everyone else in the game with a voice rivals their performance in capturing the essence of these characters.

So is there anything to complain about? Yes — but it’s hard to justify taking off from a grade when the core of the game is so close to being perfect. But there are some things worth complaining about.

The story is mostly well done, with a few exceptions. Some characters are criminally underused (no pun intended), and there are a few moments in the game where Batman acts out of character — so much that even Alfred and Oracle are calling him out on it. Towards the end of the campaign mode, a few characters appear and reappear — and it seems a little “thrown together.”

That being said, I picked up Batman: Arkham City back when it was released and have still been burning through it, coming back to play the New Game Plus feature and try and outscore myself on the challenge maps.

Even though there are games yet to come out in 2011 that could rival Arkham City for “game of the year,” I can’t imagine anything topping my experience with this game.

Batman: Arkham City is another miracle, and any Batman fan – whether an intricate comic fan or a casual fan of the Nolan films – should give this game a try. I still can’t believe I get to be Batman in a video game THIS good.

The amount of enjoyment I’ve gotten out of this game overshadows any quibbles I might have. I can sleep easy with this score — Batman: Arkham City gets a 10/10.

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