Review by Bkstunt_31
"The Dark Knight is truly at his best!"
Licensed game's have a stigma on them for a reason: traditionally they are NOT very good (and that's me using my PG language). But developer Rocksteady Studios broke that stigma convincingly with 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum. Batman games in particular were KNOWN to be garbage, but Arkham Asylum was one of the best games of 2009, so you KNEW that Rocksteady was going to continue the franchise.
Well, it's 2011 now and Batman: Arkham City is out and on shelves, but is it worth your time? Did Rocksteady get what it means to be Batman right twice in a row?! Read on and I'll tell you EXACTLY what you can expect out of Arkham City.
It's going to be a LONG night, Bruce...
So, like many of you my first question was: what IS Arkham City exactly? Well, Arkham City is BUILT by the time you start the game, and it is essentially Gotham City's answer to the growing criminal element in Gotham: section off a part of Gotham, build huge walls around it, and dump all of Gotham's criminals into it. It's essentially Gotham City's Australia. Here's the kicker though: Hugo Strange is in CHARGE of the facility! Oh, and he just happens to know that Bruce Wayne IS Batman, and so at the very START of the game he kidnaps Bruce as he's making a speech on why Arkham City is a BAD idea and throws him INTO Arkham City...
From there you'll find yourself in a veritable city of chaos, as Arkham City is ruled by anarchy with Batman's rouge gallery running the show and fighting amongst themselves for turf. Without giving away too much, you'll find yourself facing a TON of Batman villains, easily double the amount of villains that you faced in Arkham Asylum. And you'll not only face them in the main plot of the game, but many will appear in the game's MANY side-quests. The story itself can only be described as a classic Batman plot, with plenty of tension, drama, and suspense (and absolutely jam-packed with characters). In short, Arkham City is the best darn (more PG language) Batman story in a video game you've ever seen.
Being the Dark Knight has never felt so RIGHT!
One BIG reason Batman games haven't really succeeded until Rocksteady entered the picture is how poorly they displayed Batman. Batman's not some muscle-bound freak, he's a martial-arts master, a detective, and a predator! He uses his mind just as much as his brawn! Rocksteady did a superb job of showing us this in Arkham Asylum and took that formula and ran with it for Arkham City!
Controlling Batman in combat is SMOOTH. Silky smooth. The animations are nothing short of fantastic and you can counter SEVERAL enemies at once (which is a site to behold). Using Batman's gadgets mid-fight is incredibly easy and satisfying. As you play Arkham City Batman will level up by defeating enemies and completing quests, which lets YOU improve your armor, learn new combat abilities, and improve your gadgets. This is important to know because as you level up you'll learn new combat abilities that are dependent on your combo gauge, a gauge that tracks how well you are fighting a group of thugs and rewards you by letting you do special moves to incapacitate your enemies. Bonus experience is awarded for variety and flawlessness, which urges you on to do better. Enemies in this game are nice and diverse too: you'll be facing a variety of unarmed thugs, thugs with baseball bats and knives, as well as thugs with guns, shock rods, body armor, and riot shields (I could go on, but you get the idea). They are smarter than Arkham Asylum too: thugs will break gargoyle statues knowing that you use them to hide and will even pull out head-signature goggles to try and find you! Pretty smart for a henchman! You'll be very satisfied with the combat system in Arkham City.
Fans of the "predator" aspect of Batman won't be disappointed either. This game is jam-packed with ways to prey on your foes. Most of these predator options are unlocked right from the beginning (as many are re-used from Arkham Asylum) and are dependent on your environment. Granted, Batman is in a MUCH more open world now, and positioning/getting the drop on your enemy is important. The bat-claw and traversing the open world are, like the combat, VERY smooth. You'll feel like the Dark Knight in no time.
The "detective" portion of the game is very prominent throughout the story. Batman constantly relies on his bat-computer to provide analysis of his surroundings and help him track various criminals down. This means you'll often have a unique readout on your HUD to help you as you play. Arkham City also brings back "detective vision", allowing you to see where your foes are, whether they're armed or not, and what kind of psychological state they are in. You'll also be able to inspect your environment out much more thoroughly, which is often needed to advance in the game. You'll also heavily rely on your detective vision to solve the Riddler's MANY puzzles. He literally has HUNDREDS of trophies for you to collect, which often require solving a simple puzzle nearby.
In short, the game play in Arkham City captures Batman perfectly. It's smooth and chock-full of good ideas, with enough game play variety and gadgets to make anyone happy. You're going to love it.
One good-looking nightmare.
Make no mistake, Arkahm City itself is HUGE (as it should be since it's a sectioned-off portion of Gotham City). You'll have free reign of the place right from the start of the game and with your handy bat-claw you can zip between building with ease. And the entire city looks FANTASTIC. It's dark and gritty just like you want it to be. The landscape is just FILLED with those dark and gritty details and full of vantage points for you to use. The character models look great. Now granted, the common thugs on the street are often recycled and look the same, but character models are fantastic. The many big-ticket bad guys you'll encounter look AWESOME with fantastic detail. Heck, even those thugs that often look the same are often wearing clothing that shows who their fighting for. This game looks good.
What ramps it up to SUPERB though is the presentation. The lighting throughout the game is excellent, and even though you have full control of the camera the game will "borrow" the camera from time to time to showcase a particular awesome scene. The game will also use the graphics to trick you, such as in particular boss fights where Batman may be under the influence of drugs or other unknown substances. The camera will show show you in your perceived reality, fighting for your life, then switch back to actual reality (which is awesome). The presentation of Arkham City is excellent, and will take your eyes on a ride.
Can't get these voices out of my head!
The music in the game (and in most Batman-related subjects) is like an orchestra. Albeit, a grim and sweeping orchestra, but you get my point. The music places an emphasis on being serious and enhances the drama throughout the game. It picks up a more hurried pace when you get in fights, but all in all the music perfectly fits the mood of the gaming and does nothing but enhance the atmosphere.
Now onto the voice acting. My god, the voice acting is going to be PERMANENTLY EMBEDDED into my head! Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy return as the Joker and Batman and give award-winning performances. In fact, throughout the entire game the voice acting was superb. I didn't hear anything that threw me for a loop. The writing is cleverly done which is an amazing achievement considering the game has a LOT of recorded dialog. Be sure to check out Batman's radio gadget to hear it all!
It ain't over til' it's over!
I touched on this earlier, but let's reiterate: this game is BIG. Beating the main quest (and the game) won't take you too long (a couple of good day's worth of playing), but COMPLETING the game is something else entirely. There are over a dozen side-quests that each have their own story and literally hundreds of Riddler trophies to find. There's "level ups" to be gained and gadgets to master.
Oh, and when that's not enough guess what? There's DIFFERENT characters to play as (like Catwoman, for example). Heck, Catwoman even has her own set of Riddler trophies! On top of all of this you can also visit the training rooms to practice and earn trophies. Add in a big trophy/achievement list (for you trophy and achievement hunters out there) and a NEW GAME PLUS when you beat the game and Arkham City boosts some SERIOUS re-playability.
I don't hand out 10's lightly. I really don't, but Arkham City impressed me THAT much. Its clearly taken what Arkham Asylum did and boosted up the AWESOME factor. It's got the staying-power to be worth buying, but whatever you have to do you NEED to play this game. Look for Arkham City to rack up some Game of the Year awards this year. Have fun and keep playing.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/11/11
Game Release: Batman: Arkham City (US, 10/18/11)
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