Review by Taenju

"Batman: Arkham City, as much content as you could want in a Single player Batman game."

With a rather smart, if controversial start with launch-window advertising, Batman: Arkham City is a modern game with a philosophy to pure amount of content more reminiscent of the older generations when one game could pacify your gaming thirst for weeks. With an hour count spanning potentially into several days for the whole package, this game is definitely one that any gamer would find a worthy investment at full price. The only hitch is that the game will refer to the previous title in the series, but the tie in isn't so total that one wouldn't understand what is happening in the sequel though if you can, this reviewer highly recommends playing through Batman: Arkham Asylum if at all possible. Here's what one can expect from the game:

Gameplay:
Score: 10/10

The gameplay is solid, where the first title in the combat was limited to about half a dozen enemy types that required the use of a strike, counter, or stun, the second game triples that easily. The enemy types in Arkham City, when you include weapons that will have to be disarmed or circumvented, easily goes past a dozen leading to exponentially varied battle scenarios and strategies. The addition of simple attack combos also increases your options on how to get around the different enemy types. Arkham City's battle system could be considered to be based on strategy and decision-making, where a wrong move can mean a punishing strike or crippling blow, but those who master their patience and aforementioned decision-making will find themselves racking up combo counts and felling foes left and right.

The other facet to gameplay is the games advancement or "leveling-up" system, every time Batman gets enough experience through combat or the Riddler's challenges the player can choose between a selection of gadgets and combat skills to provide an edge in combat. Each upgrade feels substantial and can almost always be immediately applied in a practical fashion in your next few fights. Rewards are also given for solving the Riddler's Challenges which could include finding hidden trophies, unlocking tricky contraptions, scanning objects to solve word riddles, or even taking on one of his challenge rooms once you've gotten enough secrets. Side missions are also abundant, almost being as thought out and engrossing as the main plot missions and will update on the map as Batman intercepts radio chatter adding immensely to the games content value.

The cast of super villains is beefed up beyond the Joker to include returning cameos from Bane, Ivy, Killer Croc, and Zsasz, to new faces such as Ra's al Ghul, the Riddler, Two-Face, Penquin, Mr. Freeze, Hugo Strange and many more I don't want to spoil each with their own interests in Arkham City. For consumers buying the game new, Catwoman is unlocked as a playable character with four unique missions and her own set of Riddler trophies and challenges to complete, and though not as customizable as the main bat she essentially controls the same way. Robin and Nightwing are also available provided you have access to the right retailer's preorder bonus or are planning on buying the optional downloadable content packs down the road, offering a different flair to Arkham City's combat system for the Challenge Maps though they do not have their own main-campaign missions alongside the Dark Knight.

All and all, the consumer can expect a Storied Campaign that will take only about 10 hours, that's if they purposely skip every hidden collectible, side missions, Catwoman's Missions, and only played the critical story Missions. Factor all that back in, and once you've solved every riddle, seen to the end of every side mission, and collected every gadget and goodie of Batman's arsenal, game time is easily doubled if not tripled through the Campaign mode alone. Once players are done with the campaign on Normal or Hard difficulty, they can also partake of the New Game + mode that lets you carry over all of the upgrades you've collected to a new game where enemy group composition is beefed up offering more of a challenge and requiring a variance in your strategy. If all else fails the Riddler's Revenge game mode is also available, where maps unlocked through solving in-game riddles are accessible and the player can attempt to either throwdown with enemies or enter stealthy predator challenges arcade-style for the highest score possible with a bronze/silver/gold and score based ranking system. With this much content, there is no question Batman: Arkham City is worth the asking price of $60 in the US, if not definitely deserving of more.

Narrative/Story:
Score: 9/10

The plot centers around Arkham City, a prison super-complex constructed in the middle of Gotham City to house every super villain Batman has ever had to face, all constructed by Hugo Strange. Very early in the game Batman as Bruce Wayne is campaigning to demolish the institution when he himself is incarcerated under Strange's orders. In with the Joker, left ill after the previous game, Two-Face and Penguin running the streets and the player is given almost complete run of the prison straight afterwards and the series of Batman inspired events ensues. The story is everything one could want from a Batman game without needing to be a fan of the source-material, with every cameo making interesting scenarios and a couple truly inspired plot twists (especially if you watched launch-window news concerning Arkham City) keeps the pace going strong and leaving the player wanting to see events through to the end. Tied along with the gameplay, Arkham City seldom leaves the player with nothing to do, and keeps the world varied and it's characters interesting.

Presentation:
Score: 9/10

The graphic and sound quality of Batman: Arkham City has been drastically up-scaled compared to Arkham Asylum, the lip-syncing and voice acting are more professionally handled, the animations are no longer floaty and always connect now when Batman gives a finishing blow, and overall fidelity has seen great care for the entire open world. One note to keep in mind though is that textures do tend to pop-in when the game switches to a cinematic though should not be noticeable beyond the first few moments of any clip. The sound quality is also great in the sense that no sound is out of place but instead well implemented and aids the graphics and animations where appropriate, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill refill their roles as Batman and Joker respectively. The soundtrack also includes dramatic orchestrated pieces befitting the Batman ethos that swells and falls at appropriate moments adding to the emotional impact of the events show. The attention to important details is also something to be commended, Batman will scar, his suit will tear, and he will show every scuffle add up in his appearance until you get to the end of the narrative and he will truly show that he has been through hell and back which helps to sell the sense of time in Arkham City, making the game feel even faster paced as everything seems to happen within a mere one evening. This also means the the entire game occurs until the shadow of night, but really that will never leave the scenery looking stale as eccentric lights and building designs all throughout the city keep the world interesting as you venture from one spot to the next.

In Summary:

In sheer content, the Campaign Mode and Riddler's Revenge modes will easily pay for themselves on the price of admission, and the New Game +, alternate characters and varied difficulty options give Arkham City a substantial amount of replayabiltiy. The plot stays interesting and the side-missions were given just much attention to detail and the presentation has been given a serious shot of steroids since Arkham Asylum. This reviewers humble recommendation, any action-adventure fan, even if not necessarily a Batman fan, should consider giving this game a purchase, as they should not be disappointed and all others would be doing themselves a disservice to not at least rent the title.

Play Time: Bare Bones: 10-16+ Hours
Full content: 30-40+ Hours
Score: 9 out of 10
Final Recommendation: Purchase


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/20/11, Updated 10/31/11

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


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