Review by Jump_Man7

"The Asylum Was Just The Tutorial Level"

The Asylum Was Just the Tutorial Level

The Good: The perfect Batman experience | Combat is engaging and simple to pick up | Stealth is just as good as the predecessor | Plenty of content and side missions to complete | Riddler's Revenge provides for a big challenge | The level of detail given to the city is amazing | Graphics are stunning | Many nods and references to the Batman mythos | Gliding mechanics are flawless and plenty of fun | Improved Boss Battles
The Bad: Lack of character development for most villains | Lackluster ending to the main campaign | Relatively short main campaign | Riddler Challenges can get a bit tedious
Recommendation: Any and all gamers, especially Batman fans

Where do I even begin with a game like this? Batman: Arkham City is the much anticipated following to Rocksteady's critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum, which set the bar high for any sequel. And Arkham City definitely surpassed that bar. It delivers in everyway you can think of, from the addictive combat mechanics to the heart pounding stealth portions of the game. To put it simply, Batman: Arkham City is not only the best licensed video game ever, its one of the absolute best video games ever. Period.

Summary:
In Batman: Arkham City, you take on the role of The Dark Knight detective himself as he sets out on a mission to find out what is really going on in the eponymous super prison that is Arkham City. The game is a quasi-open world affair that takes place in an impressively detailed hub world. While dealing with the various villains trying to crush Gotham in the main storyline, Batman must also solve the many mysteries and restore order in Arkham City by completing the dozen or so sidequests found throughout the game.

As fans of the predecessor will know, Arkham City's gameplay is divided into two categories: Combat and Predator Mode. In combat mode, you are charged to defeat enemies using your gadgets and fighting prowess. In predator mode, you must find a way to subdue armed enemies by using a combination of stealth and skill.

Also featured in the game is the return of Riddler's Revenge (or Challenge Mode as it was called in Arkham Asylum) which holds an assortment of Combat and Predator challenges for the player. All of your high scores can be uploaded to online leaderboards so that you can see whether you're the better Batman than your friends. The main story will take you about eight hours or so to complete while finishing all the sidemissions will net a total of about 20-25 hours. If you're really dedicated, you can hunt for the 400 Riddler secrets located across the city and try to obtain all the medals in challenge mode for 100% completion. Added to all of this is a new game plus mode that will lengthen the time you spend in Gotham.

Gameplay:

As stated above, Batman: Arkham City features two distinct gameplay styles; Combat and Predator. Combat is very smooth and easy to pickup. You'll find that, although its relatively simple, combat can be very addicting. The variety of enemies added later on in the game force you to think smarter as you pummel your foes into the dust. For instance, an enemy introduced at about the halfway mark of this game wears a protective armor that can only be pierced by landing a series of focused blows. Also, while Arkham Asylum had you face only handfuls of thugs at a time, Arkham City pits you against at least a dozen enemies at a time, upping the difficulty of combat.

The gadgets from the previous game return, only this time they are much more useful in battle. Most gadgets now have a hotkey mapped to the controller that allows you to get to them easier. Using the Batclaw, Explosive Gel and Batarangs in one combo has become a very practical maneuver in this game. Rocksteady has done nothing to hamper the combat portions of this game and have instead made it much more streamlined and addictive. You'll find yourself competing for high scores in the Riddler's Revenge Challenge maps much more often than you'd expect.

Predator Mode returns and is relatively unchanged. You'll glide across various vantage points and try to find the best strategy to pick off armed henchmen that you can. Some new devices make the Predator sections a bit easier than the ones found in Arkham Asylum. Batman now carries a Smoke Ball with him that allows him to escape when he's spotted. The Caped Crusader also carries a device that allows him to jam guns and detonate mines from afar. Other than that, Batman still retains his many maneuvers from the previous game. You can still use Sneak Attacks, Inverted Takedowns, Crate Takedowns and the like to pick off your foes and strike terror in their hearts. Most of the Predator sections found in the main storyline won't be too difficult for most players, but the Predator Challenge Maps found in the Riddler's Revenge definitely up the difficulty (that is if you want to collect all the medals.)

Batman starts the game with all of the gadgets and upgrades he had at the Asylum (minus the Line Launcher, Triple Batarang and armor upgrades.) The game designers have set up clever puzzles and secrets that require the use of your gadgets to be used in innovative ways if you ever want to solve them. Some of the old gadgets received nice upgrades, such as the Batclaw's ability to latch onto Riddler Trophies.

The new gadgets add another layer of depths to the game that most players will enjoy. The RAC Gadget allows you to shoot a ball of electricity that will raise/lower gates, shock enemies and power magnetic devices. The Freeze Grenades are about as much fun as they sound (and they sure as hell sound like a lot of fun.) Not only can you use them to freeze enemies and create “Freeze Mines,” but you can also create frozen platforms in water. All of these new gadgets come in handy in combat as well, as the majority of them are mapped to hotkeys for your convenience. You'll have a blast hitting powerless thugs with the RAC Gadget over and over again.

In the Asylum, there wasn't much use for gliding and maneuvering about. All of that has changed in the sequel. With new gliding mechanics and an upgraded Grapple Gun you'll be flying around town at breakneck speed. You'll find yourself having a blast as you launch across the Arkham City skies in search of your next objective. Nothing in this game feels as great as flying across the city to see how far you can go without touching the ground.

Another aspect that Rocksteady has improved on is the boss battles of the game. While the previous game featured the same basic formula for each encounter (with one exception), Arkham City has a lot of variety in the boss fights. You won't find yourself stuck with the same “Titan” boss fights as you did in the last game. I won't go into each one in detail as that would spoil the game's secret villains for you, but I will say that some of villains you do end up facing will prove to be worthy foes for the World's Greatest Detective.

Added to the game is the ability to play as Catwoman. Catwoman is just as fun in combat as her male counterpart. She fights faster, but has less gadgets and fighting techniques to work with, making her just a bit weaker in battle than the Batman. One thing that you will find disappointing with Selina is her ability to move around the city, or lack thereof. While Batman is able to glide across the city with all the grace in the world, Catwoman must run and lasso her way across buildings to get around. The lasso takes a lot longer to get you to your destination than the Grapple Boost does. Besides this little frustration, Catwoman is a lot of fun to play with and won't disappoint anyone in the gameplay department.

Story:

Although casual fans and hardcore comic geeks alike will find a lot to like in this game's storyline, there seems to be a bit lacking in terms of character development. In fact, this could be the game's biggest fault. Some of the villains are just tossed in for the sake of appearance and never really get the time to shine. This creates a situation where the majority of villains are treated as afterthoughts who do not appear to pose a threat to Batman.

Hell, I'd go as far as to say that only The Joker (voiced perfectly by Mark Hamill) appears strong amongst the villain's side. This is something that contrasts greatly with Arkham Asylum, where each of the game's villains are given their time in the spotlight. While Scarecrow, Ivy and Killer Croc got their chances to terrorize the Caped Crusader, Two Face, Mr. Freeze and Hugo Strange look like complete pushovers. Even some of the villains that haven't been revealed during the pre-release look absolutely pathetic in this game.

And it's not just the villains that get the shaft. On the hero's side, Catwoman and Robin get almost nothing to work with. Catwoman, a character featured heavily in promotions, is relegated to an uninteresting side story that has her trying to rob Hugo Strange's vaults. Robin makes one cameo appearance in the game before taking off.

Despite the lack of character development, Arkham City's main story provides for a lot of entertainment. You'll want to rush through the main story and skip the side missions to find out what is really going on in the super prison. The pacing is great and the cinematic scenes are phenomenal. The ending is a love it or hate it affair that I personally did not enjoy, but the rest of the story still provides enough thrills for even the most jaded fan.

Content:

Arkham City won't floor you with the size of the world, but it will definitely wow you with all the detail and content located within its walls. The level of detail and care taken into each building gives the city so much character that you will find yourself looking around just to catch all of the easter eggs and nods to the Batman mythos (and trust me, there are a lot!) Big time Batman fans will enjoy all of the cameos and hidden goodies found in Arkham City.

The main story and side missions provide for a good portion of the game, but really dedicated players will find themselves devoting a lot of time trying to defeat The Riddler. There are a mind boggling 400 riddles found across the city that are just waiting for you to solve them. In this reviewer's mind, the amount of Riddler Challenges you'll find in the game is a bit bittersweet. On the one hand you'll have a lot to look out for as you jot across the city and plenty to do after the main story is finished, but on the other hand you'll find that there just might be too much riddles. I'm not exaggerating when I say that about 40% of the game is devoted to The Riddler and his missions and challenges.

Some players will find it to be very tedious looking for all of the riddles in the game. I can assure you that if you want to finish all 100% of this game you will be spending more time on The Riddler than the rest of the game combined. The time it took for Rocksteady to program all of these riddles could have been used in other areas, such as the main story's length. At the end of it all it feels like the riddles just fluff up the game's length, which could turn off some gamers.

Outside of the main game you'll find some very enjoyable challenge maps. A new type of challenge has been added; The Riddler's Campaign. This is the ultimate challenge to players, as it pits you in a set of Combat and Predator challenges that must be completed while being affected by an assortment of handicaps and boosts. You'll be able to choose which handicaps and boosts to use in each round, but you must use every single one by the end of the campaign. This new challenge mode provides for a lot of fun and really tests your skills as the bat.

After completing the main game, you'll unlock a new game plus. In this mode, all the enemies are tougher and won't show counter signs. You start off with all the upgrades you had in your main file as well as all the Riddler Challenges you've completed, but everything else resets. It's a fun addition that adds plenty of incentive to replay the game.

Also included are an array of collectibles that range from interviews with each character to story logs that provide back story for the game to concept art and even character trophies. These are all unlocked by completing Riddler Challenges.

The Verdict:

Aside from a relatively short main campaign and lack of character development, there are practically no fault with Arkham City. The gameplay is flawless, the graphics are jaw-dropping and all of the references to Batman lore will make you fall in love with the game. Rocksteady has created a game that makes you feel like the Batman, and at the end of the day isn't that what anyone wants?

Even if you're not a fan of the Bat (which is crazy, but I digress) you'll be blown away by the level of detail found in the game. You will fall in love with the combat, stealth and gliding mechanics. The level of challenge found in Riddler's Revenge will have you screaming in frustration, but will also leave you with a feeling of accomplishment that you won't find in most modern games.

Batman: Arkham City accomplished everything it set out to do. It has absolutely usurped its predecessor as the best use of a license in all of gaming. Batman: Arkham Asylum feels like a tutorial level to the much greater experience that is Arkham City. This game has my full recommendation for any fan of gaming.


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

Game Release: Batman: Arkham City (US, 10/18/11)


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