Batman: Arkham City Review
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An expansive and brilliantly crafted playground to test Batman's abilities as a detective, brute, and predator, Batman: Arkham City is highly addictive, and a work of digital art.
- Exploring Arkham City and everything it holds
- Heavy Batman atmosphere
- Fantastic opening and exceptional ending
- Some characters are underdeveloped
- Narrative is strong, but a bit disjointed
- Some boss battles are weak
Rocksteady Studios learned a lot from its inaugural attempt at crafting an innovative and compelling superhero game in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Some two years in the conceptual and development oven, Batman: Arkham City is sprawling compared to Asylum. The combat is still free-flowing, but with the use of more quick-fire gadgets in brawls, melee feels fresh if not a bit out of control. The narrative will still hold the attention of casual Batman fans, but diehard devotees of this quintessential DC Comics hero may adore the expansive use of villains, even if we are inundated with them in a more cameo than leading roles. But while a lot of the changes and additions are relatively moderate, Rocksteady deserves enormous credit for giving us a beautiful, exciting, and highly addicting playground to explore all of the Dark Knight’s potential.
Batman: Arkham City opens with a bang. In minutes you find yourself perched atop Arkham City’s dark, snowy sprawl. After that opening segment, take a moment to soak it all in because you are in for one action-packed adventure. From the top of the highest skyscraper to the underground subway system, Arkham City is an absolute joy to explore. While it’s not nearly as large as some other open-world games—and you can argue that this is not a true open-world—Arkham City makes up for its relatively small size by its enormous density of side quests and pure atmosphere.
Picking up after Arkham Asylum, players are tasked with regaining control of the slice of city reserved for Gotham City’s criminals, gangsters, and the super villains vying for control. Blackgate prison and Arkham Asylum are now closed, and new mayor Quincy Sharp has ordered the relocation of all inmates to a super-prison some five-times larger than Arkham island. Dr. Hugo Strange controls the city, and while he serves as the game’s primary antagonist, he does so largely behind-the-scenes compared to the incredible presence of The Joker in Arkham Asylum. As such, you’ll want to learn more and more about Hugo Strange, helping drive the narrative to its incredible climax, but you may be a bit let down at the narrative in between that initial wow-factor opening and that jaw-dropping final chapter.
It’s the hours upon hours of narrative that will likely catch you off-guard. One minute you’ll hunt the infamous collector, nicknamed the Penguin, in a fantastically detailed museum, and in the next you’ll stealthily prevent Two-Face from dropping Catwoman into a vat of acid. This is only a fraction of the characters, both good and bad, you’ll encounter throughout the campaign. There are so many characters in Arkham City that it’s not uncommon to forget which villain you are hunting throughout the various levels. The Joker, voiced again by Mark Hamill, is an absolute menace and in many ways feels like the true super villain. Hamill’s performance, coupled with Kevin Conroy’s reprise as Batman, is easily one of the best this year, if not the current generation of consoles.
While Batman is perhaps best known as a superhero without a true superpower, he comes equipped with a utility belt full of gadgets to help his detective work, and of course fight hordes of thugs. You start off with the gadgets from Arkham Asylum, like the Batclaw, Smoke Pellets, and Cryptographic Sequencer, but you’ll find new gadgets throughout the campaign. You can now throw freeze bombs, shoot electrical bolts, and there are even tweaks to old favorite that allows you to use gadgets more easily in combat.
This allows that FreeFlow Combat system to feel fresh and more brutal. Tap a trigger button and in seconds you’ll electrocute a baddie, while deflecting an incoming baseball ball, followed by a roundhouse kick to knife-wielding thug. Combat is still quite exaggerated and allows for either button mashing, or a more clever focus on timing and finding the right opportunities. You’ll face a decent variety of enemies and have to rethink each battle depending on if thugs are wielding weapons like knives or electric prods. Batman is extremely tough and has generally no problems taking on 20 or more enemies fist-to-fist, but if you don’t give enough respect to the variety of foes, you will die. When those enemies carry guns, you ... (continued on next page)
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