Batman: Arkham City Review
Batman was created in 1939, and this is arguably his best outing yet, video game or otherwise. Rocksteady Studios set a new benchmark for superhero games back in 2009 with Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Arkham City improves on its predecessor in every way, as a sequel should. There are a lot of different topics to cover in this review so why don’t we get started.
On the combat front, Batman doesn’t do anything terribly different from what he was able to do in Arkham Asylum, but anyone who is familiar with the combat system from that game knows that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Combat continues to be one of, if not the best part of this series. The fundamentals are essentially the same, although Batman does incorporate a few new gadgets and a healthy new dose of special moves once you reach a designated combo multiplier. The most important part of the combat is the same as it was in the last game, which is that the game truly makes you feel like you are Batman. Combat with Catwoman is a little different. She doesn’t have as much strength or health as Batman, but what she lacks in those areas, she more than makes up for in quickness and agility. She can also take an enemy’s legs out from underneath him, which can be very helpful when you are staring down four gun-toting thugs.
The story is another area in which there were only a couple hiccups in AA, and Arkham City all but demolishes them. The storyline in this game is one of the best Batman stories I have ever experienced, period. There is only one minor flaw, and it has more to do with location than actual storyline. This blemish is so small that it is easily forgotten and in no way takes away from the grandiose tale that Arkham City weaves. Almost every major villain, and a handful of minor ones, make an appearance at some point in this game. There are a couple that get left out, but honestly let’s not split hairs. The sheer number of characters that make an appearance in this game segues perfectly to my next topic, which i feel deserves a whole paragraph to itself.
The voice-acting in Arkham City is in one word, phenomenal. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are superb as always as Batman and The Joker, respectively. A lot of praise should be given to some of the other voice actors as well though. Corey Burton is methodically evil as Hugo Strange, Danny Jacobs is genuinely creepy and unsettling as Victor Zsasz, Nolan North nails The Penguin, Maurice LaMarche expertly portrays the internally tormented Mr. Freeze, Dee Bradley Baker is a fantastic Ra’s Al Ghul, and Tara Strong does as well as can be hoped for in replacing Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn. Only one character’s voice really felt off to me, but luckily he has a very minor part in the game so it isn’t bothersome for more than a few minutes. I would also like to commend whoever wrote the frequently hilarious banter that takes place between the various groups of thugs. I would often just sit atop a building and listen to a whole conversation before swooping down and dispatching my foul mouthed enemies.
The sheer size and scope of Arkham City is overwhelming at times. There are most certainly bigger in-game worlds out there, but not many have as much content packed in them as this one. Every time you turn around in Arkham City you see something that you can either break, collect, scan, or otherwise interact with. Believe me when I say that you can barely throw a batarang in this game without hitting a riddler trophy. There are 440 riddler achievements in all, a seemingly ludicrous amount, but one that keeps the game fun and challenging. Finding famous places in Batman lore while exploring the game world is immensely satisfying. A trip to Crime Alley accounts for one of the more emotional times in the game, albeit a brief one. The alley will be instantly recognizable to any Batman fan.
While there wasn’t really a specific encounter that I enjoyed as much as the fear toxin induced Scarecrow segments of AA, the game as a whole was more expertly paced than its predecessor. Also, the best boss fight in either game definitely occurs in Arkham City, with this specific boss fight requiring you to use a handful of different gadgets, instead of just a single gadget like some of the boss encounters. The overall challenge is greater in Arkham City as well, with the open world being more enemy friendly than the cramped rooms and buildings of AA. More enemies also make it easier to get high combo multipliers.
One of my favorite parts about Arkham City is the quality of the side missions. In most games, side missions serve as a temporary distraction until you get back to the main story. However, in Arkham City some of the side missions can be just as intriguing and long-lasting as the main storyline. One side mission has you tracking an assassin by studying his crime scenes, and that mission took me up until almost the end of the game to complete. These side missions are also a great way to put some villains in the game who couldn’t be fit into the main story. Rocksteady could definitely teach some other developers how to do side missions.
Another example of Arkham City’s greatness is the quality of the game’s opening and ending. The beginning is probably not what anybody expected it would be, and that’s why it works so well. It gives a great lead-in to the events to come and it succeeds in being undeniably memorable. Almost as memorable as the ending, which left my jaw on the floor and had me in a state of disbelief for a few minutes. That kind of expert writing is not hard to believe however, when you take into account that the game’s story was written by veteran Paul Dini.
Making your way around the game world is made easier by the dive bomb technique that allows you to cover massive amounts of ground at once. You can also acquire the grapnel boost upgrade that makes gliding to far away distances even easier, usually. Catwomans mode of transportation comes in the form of her whip, making it harder to get around than it is with Batman.
One of the greatest achievements of this game is that you can tell just how much love Rocksteady Studios has for the Batman universe. The portion of Gotham City that is represented in this game is represented exquisitely. Every alleyway and building is dripping with the dark architecture and tone that Batman is known for. Rocksteady has made the best Batman game that I could have possibly asked for, forever sealing the dark knight in the upper echelon of gaming.
TheGameGuide rates this game a 9.5 out of 10.
Posted on October 25, 2011, in PC, PC Reviews, PS3, PS3 Game Reviews (Recent Posts), Reviews, Sony, Xbox 360, Xbox 360 Reviews and tagged arkham city, batman, rocksteady studios. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.