Batman: Arkham City Review (at last)

Well I’ve decided that it’s time that we finally get an actual review of Batman: Arkham City out there. Now if you have read our Discussion on the game then I just want to warn you that I might well be repeating some of the points me and the guys made. If you haven’t then I recommend you read both ANYWAY!

The sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City (by Rocksteady) is a third-person, over-the-shoulder game where you play as the Batman. Set in a whole section of Gotham City that has been turned into a massive prison by one Hugo Strange, Batman gets sucked into this prison city and finds it full of plotting and intrigue that he has to solve.

So first off, the game is divided into three main styles of play. There are the combat parts, the puzzle parts and the stealth parts and I figure that (as I’m reviewing the game) I should explain a bit about them.

The combat of Arkham City, like it’s predecessor is one of the best combat systems I have ever experienced in any game. It involves pressing a button to hit or counter or stun enemies and then you throw in the occasional combo move or dodge move, but while at the start you can just smack your enemies about however you please, slowly the game becomes one of great skill as you have to time every move and use every combo at the right time in order to keep your combo-flow going. And the fighting is all down to the flow. When you get a combo going up into the 20’s (20 hits in a row unbroken by any enemy attack) you start to feel like the hero Gotham deserves. You will be leaping and flying over the battlefield dealing pain and suffering to any scum in your way.

Also, improved from Arkham Asylum is there are now more combo moves for use and the ability to use new gadgets and attacks, which come in useful against the new types of close combat enemies (such as those with riot shields). And it is amazing. It’s one of the few games that I feel Assassin’s Creed could learn from…

The game is full of puzzles that you have to solve, using your own wits and with any of Batman’s variety of gadgets. Most of the puzzles take the form of “Riddler Challenges” scattered around Arkham City which you c an solve at your leisure. Some are ridiculously easy while some are fiendishly difficult. There is a far greater variety of puzzles than there was in the last game plus some of them in this one are genuinely challenging, while most in Arkham Asylum never really taxed your mental faculties…

Finally the stealth part: again like it’s predecessor, there are some sections where the enemies use gun and even Batman (being just a normal human) can’t expect to take a group of men with assault rifles head on and survive. So in these sections it’s up to you to swing about the rafters, or crawl through air-ducts or use any of your variety of gadgets in order to sneakily take out the guards one by one as they get more and more nervous about never, ever seeing you.

So that’s Arkham City… and WHAT a game it is!

Now it’s not an entirely perfect game (but it comes close in our estimation). For one thing, it IS a sequel to Arkham Asylum. Now that means that while it is amazing, it’s also not entirely as new or fresh as it was when it first came out. There ARE new things and what was there has been only been improved, but it is still the same game. The whole premise of the game is actually fairly ridiculous (a whole city turned into a prison… that of course could ONLY be a good idea) and while only a small problem in what is already a ridiculous universe, it does add a certain “What the hell were you thinking?!?” aspect to the game.

There is also very little replayability in Arkham City. Admittedly getting to 100% completion is  no mean feat and will take the most dedicated of players some time to achieve. But after you have done it, there’s nothing else to do unless you either want to start from scratch or spend hours perfecting your scores in the challenge maps. Speaking of! There are several Challenge maps in Arkham City (as there were in Asylum), there does seem to be, however, a ridiculous level of focus on them. All the DLC out for the game (and, as far as we are aware, all that is planned) involves new challenge maps or a new character to do the old ones with. And this is actually, REALLY annoying!

The challenge maps can be fun, but they are by far and away the most boring part of the game and yet there are achievements for doing them with each of the four available characters (Batman, Catwoman, Robin and Nightwing – the last two of which are DLC). So rather than give us some new content for the actual game (new missions or side-quests), what Rocksteady seem to think we want is to do the same thing four times in a row with sliiiiighty different abilities… Yeah… Cheers for that!

However, while the DLC and challenge maps are a definite flaw in the game, the rest of it more than makes up for it. The riddles and puzzles in-game range from “could do it with my eyes shut, one hand tied behind my back while being eaten by a shark… which is on fire” to fiendishly tricky. The combat and predator aspects are fantastically well done (which is the only reason I don’t write off the challenge maps completely!). Moreover: every new aspect in City that wasn’t in Asylum feels like a great and amazing addition, the most impressive of which is the massive open world itself and the new Batman ability to… well… fly… allows exploration to feel both easy and fun at once!

The story is pretty damn good, if confusing at times and the graphics and the way everything looks and feels are just astounding. The new enemies, new quests, everything just merges to form one near-flawless piece of genius!

On a final note before the rating. The Catwoman sections of the campaign seem to be very much a love it or hate it thing (as can be seen in the discussion). Tim did NOT like her at all while both me and Ali approved of her and her introduction into the game. While her lack of abilities made her more challenging on the predator maps she was also fun to play with and her sections (despite what Tim said) fit in well with the game. Plus the fact that one of Ali’s room-mates described combat with her as “Beating up loads of thugs with her vagina” just adds to the amusement!

Overall the game is absolutely astounding and has only a few flaws that let it down. Perhaps Rocksteady might decide to release some new stuff for the Campaign though, in which case we will forgive them everything! If you haven’t played it yet, I recommend you do so RIGHT NOW!

Rating: A+

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