Review by cairnsay
"Batman: Arkham City - The Definitive Superhero Game"
Rocksteady Studios Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to 2009's critically acclaimed and commercial triumph Batman: Arkham Asylum. In just over two years Rocksteady have taken its successful formula and turned the volume up... way up, and in doing so have created this generations greatest superhero game.
Gameplay: Rocksteady have taken a 'if it's not broken don't fix it' approach to many aspects of the game. The same easy to pick up, yet challenging to fully master combat system of Asylum makes it's return here. Nothing makes you feel quite like The Dark Knight like swooping down into the middle of a group of thugs and taking them all on, and as with the first game, newcomers will find themselves pulling of some pretty sweet looking moves and counters at the mere tap of the X or Y button. Yet if you really want to rack up those 50+ hit combo's its going to take some serious practice, especially as the game progress. Indeed the only minor tweak to the combat make themselves known after a few hours when you find yourself coming up against thugs carrying shields, or decked out in some body armor. Its a clever addition, requiring the player to plan out the attack in more detail.
The biggest change comes in the form of the game world itself, instead of Asylums 4 or 5 smaller hubs, Arkham City is one sprawling city, which almost seems intimidating in size when you're first let loose upon it. However once you get a few hours in and receive some gadget upgrades you soon find gliding about map is another of the games many high points. In order to make it easier for you to get around Rocksteady have given you a grapple gun boost upgrade, allowing you to boost up into the air straight away from the point of the ledge you have grappled too rather than having to land and take off again. The scale of the map however does lead to one of the few minor niggles with the game, an open world game generally benefits from the presence of a mini-map in the corner of the screen, something lacking in Arkham City. This means until you get more familiar with world and its landmarks you will find yourself pausing to check out the map with regularity.
The bittersweet Detective Mode makes its return too. Allowing you to locate enemy positions, how they are armed and any equipment they may be carrying. As with the first game its a mode so handy and, at times, necessary, that you find yourself spending long stints with it switched on and can't help feel like you're missing out on the atmosphere of the world when its switched on. Though this time round there are certain things that cannot be seen while in detective mode, such as the batsignal, which acts as a guide marker for your next mission
The games other big change arrives in feline form. If you buy the game new you get a DLC code in the box for the Catwoman portions of the game (for those that buy the game secondhand the DLC can be purchased). She has her own set of gadgets and upgrades, which, whilst don't match Batman's in number or usefulness, provide a welcome change from using the same Batgadgets all the time. Catwoman does not move around the world with the grace, or ease, of Batman, and would likely need a lot of work were she to star in her own game. However as a distraction for a few missions she is entertaining, making you think differently about how you approach groups on enemies and getting from location to location.
Story: Paul Dini returns to writing duties after delivering a compelling and satisfying story in Asylum, and once again excels. Without wanting to spoil any plot points, Dini and Rocksteady have crafted a fantastic story that more than holds it own with some of Batman's greatest adventure's. Fan service is at an all time high, with a super-villian count that makes Arkham Asylum look pretty small scale. As well as the return of the Joker (with Harley Quinn), we have Hugo Strange, the man seemingly behind the setting up of Arkham City, The Penguin, Mr Freeze, Posion Ivy, Zsaz, Deadshot, and a few more I won't go into for fear of spoilers. Well maybe one more, The Riddler is back, and this time as well as the trophies (some of which can only be collected by Catwoman) we also have movement challenges, which are trophies that can only be collected by hitting a series of riddler pads in sequence, or hitting questions marks with Batarangs. They range from simple to mind warpingly difficult. The more trophies you get, the more of The Riddler's side quest you unlock. Which involves rescuing hostages from increasingly difficult Riddle Rooms.
Graphics: Graphically Arkham City isn't much different from Arkham Asylum. Which isn't really a bad thing as Arkham Asylums look and subsequently the atmosphere created by it, was one of the games strongest points. The game walks a line between the gritty realism of the Batman films, and the flamboyance of the graphic novels. Whilst it isn't a technical tour de force, it certainly re-creates the dark atmosphere of Arkham Asylum. If you were in the business of picking nits you could comment of the textures starting to look slightly dated, and the re-use of many on the animations from Asylum, how to do so would be doing a disservice to a game that captures the feel of Batman like no game has done before.
Longevity/Replayability: Again, the game shines here. Sure, if you wanted to just blast through the main story mission and ignore or else you will probably be done in 7-10 hours, however you will have missed so much of the game, and subsequently wont have as many of the upgrades so will probably have a harder time. Wheras if you start to delve deeper into Arkham City, take on all the side quests, focus on finding out just where The Riddler is holed up by collecting over 400 Riddler Trophies/Solutions you will be playing for a long long time. When you eventually do finish the game the first time round you then get to jump into the New Game +, very 'in' this generation! This allows you to play though the story again, starting with all the upgrades you gained on your previous playthrough. Its not as easy as it sounds though, as this times the enemies are tougher to defeat, and packing far more of a punch. Indeed some of the battles facing big groups of thugs become a test of skill and patience, you go swinging in hammering X and you will be sent back to the Batcave to lick your wounds. Indeed you could be play Arkham City for a long time, especially when factoring in the soon the be released Robin and Nightwing Challenge Room DLC's coming soon.
I can say with some confidence that, in my opinion, Batman: Arkham City is not only a step up from Arkham Asylum, not only the greatest superhero game of this, or any generation, but one of the true all time great action-adventure games. Fans of Batman will once again be delighted with the care and attention taken by Rocksteady with what is now one of THE big licenses in gaming. Batman can proudly perch atop a gargoyle safe in the knowledge that as far a superhero's in the world of gaming, he is currently the undisputed king.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/31/11
Game Release: Batman: Arkham City (EU, 10/21/11)
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