Review by SolidFantasy

"Riddle me this. Riddle me that. What is the greatest licensed game of all time"

Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum. Gamers went nuts over Arkham Asylum as well and although I personally wouldn't give that game higher than an 8.5 (which is still really high on my scale) I can see why they did. Let's face it, aside from Spiderman 2 and a handful of Genesis/SNES games most licensed games are cheap and shameless cash-ins that suck (*stares at the pile of dog crap that came out 3 weeks ago- X-Men Destiny* and are sure as hell not worth $60. Rocksteady did in Arkham Asylum what most developers wish they could do; take a licensed character/world and not simply just do it justice, but prove that you can take a character like Batman and make a game that isn't just looked at as Batman game or super-hero movie cash-in tie-in game #376 or a piece of crap. These games are seen as terrific games… period. Arkham City though is not just a good game though, it is hands down the BEST licensed game ever made and will go down as one of the greatest games of all-time.

Story: Arkham City takes place roughly 1 year after the events of Arkham Asylum and obviously in a city this time. Seeing as how the asylum was pretty much a failure, half of Gotham city has been turned into an asylum that houses all of our beloved villains. Speaking of villains there are a ton of iconic characters in the game. The Joker returns still sick from the aftermath of Arkham Asylum but that's not all. Hugo Strange plays a major role in the game running the asylum/city and more. He plans to unleash something called Protocol 10 and states it will become a monument to Batman's failures. During all of this you have other gang factions such as Two-Face and Penguin duking it out as well. Catwoman is also in the game (and even has her own missions integrated into the main game if you buy new) to further flesh out the story. The Riddler is back in another supporting role too. I really don't want to spoil much about the actual villains or plot or even the premise but know this, when the game ended I was beyond impressed. Never in a million years would I predict the last few hours or just in general the route the story goes. Of course all the characters are amazing and extremely well-voiced too. The story won't just be praised as a good video game story but rather one of the best stories ever told in Batman lore. If this were a comic or movie it would get just as much critical acclaim. There is absolutely nothing to complain about here.

Game-play: Arkham City expands on every single thing that made Arkham Asylum so fun to play. For starters the game is now in an open-world environment and easily twice the size of Arkham Island. Combat is already some of the best you will ever find in any game but is now more refined. The basics are still the same with Square attacking and Triangle countering attacks with Circle cape stunning and X rolling/doing various acrobatic stuff. You can hit L1 and throw Batarangs during combos, lay down Explosive Gel, shock people, use the Batclaw, and throw Freeze Bombs all in real-time now using the Quick Gadget Controls. There are numerous other attacks such as Ground Pound's, Bat Swarm, a move that instantly breaks an enemies' weapon, and more that can be used as you rack up the hit combo. Again, building up your hit combo is incredibly fun and extremely satisfying as the bigger your combo gets the quicker Batman moves and before you know it you're hitting enemies back and forth like ping pong balls. Obviously melee combat isn't going to work in a room full of thugs with guns so you stealth around picking them off one by one which is again intense, satisfying, and extremely rewarding. Whether you're hanging from a gargoyle statue or just sneaking up and doing takedowns the stealth combat is incredibly deep. You can enter Detective Mode (which gives you a skeleton view of everyone, highlights interactive objects, and even lets you see through walls) and actually see the mental status of thugs (calm, nervous, and terrified). It's incredibly fun messing with these thugs too. For example one of your gadgets lets you shock people, and if you shock a guard he'll become alarmed and may even start shooting bullets everywhere like an idiot. You can drop smoke disorienting your enemies causing them to shoot each other. You can hide in vents and do take-downs from them, glide kick thugs from afar, and everybody's favorite; string someone up on a gargoyle statue when they pass under you. There are weak walls that you can do takedowns from punching through them. As you can see the variety in how you can go about everything is just insane and I haven't even mentioned that you can upgrade your gadgets and combat moves with experience from defeating enemies and completing objectives. You get a firearms jammer, you can get Sonic Shock Batarangs, Remote Controlled Batarangs; it's again insane. You can of course upgrade your armor too if you want. You know how most games have one item assigned to each d-pad button? This game has to make use of double tapping and diagonal functions of the d-pad because there's that freaking many gadgets. I love the new additions, new moves, and really think this game has some of the best combat aspects ever. Tying in with my claim in calling this the best licensed game ever, trust me, you will feel like the goddamn Batman while playing this game.

Whether you're taking out thugs on the streets or somewhere on a mission you'll want to be able to maneuver like Batman. Getting around a world map has never been this fun. Whether you're gliding and grapple hooking or using Catwoman's whip, touring Arkham City is a blast. It helps that there are a plethora of side-quests to do around the city with each focusing on a specific character. You will find yourself investigating sniper victims, tracing locations and bullet trajectory, hunting for extra gadgets and even some more personal stuff like helping Mister Freeze find his wife. Also returning is one of my favorite aspects of Arkham Asylum; The Riddler. He is back with 400, yes 400 new challenges. And unlike say Assassins Creed where you groan at the thought of collecting stuff, Riddler's collectables require you to think and work for them. Some of his puzzles will test your patience whether it's figuring out how to step on pressure plates in order without touching the ground, hitting switches, or getting to seemingly inaccessible areas, whenever you obtain one of his collectables you will have earned it. He doesn't just have collectables too; some of his challenges give you actual riddles that you solve by scanning the environment. Again, they test your brain, and not only are fun to attempt but are very true to the Riddler. There are also various items such as balloons and cameras he wants you to destroy and physical challenges for you to do such as finish three fights with a Batarang. Every Riddle challenge that gets marked off will feel like an accomplishment. To top it all off you are rewarded for all of this (and not with something dumb like a cape in Assassins Creed 2) for every 80 challenges you solve. You get a special riddle that you solve by rotating the analog sticks to create whatever word the answer is and when you get it a location is marked on your map with a hostage to save.

If you asked me what the biggest flaw of Arkham Asylum was I'd tell you two things. The boss fights aside from Poison Ivy were awful including the joke of a final showdown, and that the pacing was all over the place. These aspects are drastically improved and every single boss fight feels unique. One of them in particular is probably one of the best boss battles of the generation primarily because it embodies everything that the two characters are about. It forces you to be extremely strategic and utilize just about everything in your arsenal. The boss fights in general are a massive step forward as is the pacing of the game. Not only is the pacing better due to being open-world and allowed to played at the players pace, but the variety in level design feels improved a hell of a lot too. A lot of this is due to adding so many iconic characters that each mission feels different and unique. I never once got bored playing the game and even played it for a few hours after beating it. The only flaw I have with the entire game is that the world-map objective marker navigator can be annoying and not always lead you or show you exactly where you should go. It will lead you to the general area but good luck finding the way in the building. Otherwise, Arkham City is simply a masterpiece

In addition to the main game, Challenge Mode is back which puts in you different arenas against numerous waves of thugs. You earn points by perfecting the combat system and being extremely varied with your attacks. I do agree that the melee combat is simple, but mastering it is a whole different ballgame. If you want a gold medal on all of these challenges you will need to perfect the combat. Same thing goes for the stealth challenges too. I also highly recommend you buy the game new and not just out of principle supporting these incredible developers, but because you will get a code that unlocks the Catwoman missions. Catwoman plays relatively the same as Batman but uses her trademark whip in combat and to maneuver around Arkham. I'll even go out on a limb and say that sometimes Catwoman is more fun than Batman. I also love that this DLC is added into the main game rather than something you do separately. It makes the game feel more complete and breaks up the game-play rather nicely. It's also worth mentioning that Catwoman has her own Riddler and combat challenges. This is how DLC should be done and for anyone that is whining that content is being locked out from them; go work on a game for 2 years and tell me how it feels when someone buys a second-hand copy resulting with you getting none of the profit. These used buyers deserve something taken away. Once again though, Arkham City is a masterpiece that pulls off everything it attempts with perfection

Graphics/Sound: This is one of the best looking games of all time from a technical standpoint and art design. Every major characters' area just clicks with the graphical design whether it's Penguin's Iceberg Lounge or the Joker themed industrialized amusement park. The city is huge and unlike most other games, the rest of the textures and other technical aspects don't suffer. Things like the frame-rate rarely go down and the game never ceases to look impressive. When you're gliding around the snowy area where Freeze is, you will see snowflakes hitting your cape and leaving a wet residue. As the game goes on and Batman goes through hell your cape will get torn up. Many of the locales are iconic to the Batman lore and incredible to visit. Notable areas are the alley where Bruce's parents were murdered, the Courthouse, Museum and so many more. The orchestral soundtrack is incredible and I found myself letting the main menu music play a bit before continuing the game. Some of the music dramatically improves the intensity of the combat and just improves the already amazing atmosphere by a lot. Of course the voice acting is incredible with Kevin Conroy voicing Batman and Mark Hamill playing Joker yet again, but everyone else deserves so much credit too as this is one of the most well acted video games of all time. Not to sound like a broken record but Arkham City goes above and beyond here too.

Replayability: Arkham City took me 20 hours to beat doing some of the side-missions along the way but content is one thing you have nothing to worry about here. Doing all of the side-quests and completing all of Riddler's challenges will take you 40+ hours without a guide. Once again there is a handful of combat and stealth challenges too that will force you to perfect the game. There's also a gallery with a ton of concept art and character models including character bios and stories that you unlock from completing Riddler challenges. If that wasn't enough there is also a new game+ mode that not only lets you keep everything but ramps up the difficulty. Basically this game is definitely worth the $60 price tag.

Pros

Simple yet deep combat
Rewarding combat and stealth
Terrific story
Amazing voice-over work
Outstanding graphics
Intense music
Arkham is a blast to explore
Locales and level design are awesome
Some of the best side-missions around
400 Riddler challenges
Awesome boss fights
Great pacing
Implements DLC right
Combat Challenge mode
Insane amount of content

Cons

Sometimes confusing where to go -.2

Verdict: I'll say it once more. This isn't just the best superhero game ever made or the best licensed game ever made, but one of the greatest games of all time- 9.8/10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/25/11, Updated 10/26/11

Game Release: Batman: Arkham City (Collector's Edition) (US, 10/18/11)


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