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Batman: Arkham City Review - The Parent's Guide to Video Games

 Batman: Arkham City Review

      Kid Safe: Moderate (4.5  / 10)    Game Quality: Very High (9.5 / 10)

Genre: Open World Action/Adventure
-          This game takes place where choice is everything. Rather than providing a set story that a player has to follow, they are provided a world that they can explore and do as they wish with a focus similar to an action movie. Likewise, as players adventure through this title they will find alternate means of completing their tasks including battles, negotiation, and puzzle solving.

Internet Requirements: Low
-          Batman: Arkham City features a low amount of internet requirements. While this game does not feature any kind of online multiplayer function where players may interact with each other, it does feature a "leaderboard" system that allows gamers to compare their high-scores in a variety  of game-modes. Likewise, Arkham City will be offering "downloadable content" via the internet later on so that players might purchase additional game content to play and enjoy; some of the more notable content will allow individuals to play as the superhero "Nightwing".

Story Summary:
-          In Batman: Arkham City, you take the role of the iconic Caped Crusader as he unwittingly finds himself locked into one of the most terrifying "high security penitentiaries" known to man. Arkham City, the brain-child of Prof. Strange, is the answer to Gotham City's needs when the Arkham Mental Asylum is damaged in "Arkham Asylum", this games predecessor. Now, every manner of crook, criminal, villain, and deranged maniac is locked into a walled off section of Gotham City that has been given over entirely to the criminally mad. Major villains like the Joker, Two Face, Mr. Freeze, and the Penguin are all marking their territory, claiming sections of Arkham City for their own, and declaring war on anyone and anything in their vicinity. With this and Prof. Strange counting down to the launch of the mysterious "Protocol Ten", will Batman be able to restore order to Arkham City and find his way out alive?


Kid Safe: Moderate (4.5 / 10)
-          Foul Language: High
o   Batman: Arkham City contains a high amount of foul language in the form of the following words: "d*mn", "h*ll", "s*it", "b*tch", "a*s", and "b*stard". These words are used pretty regularly throughout gameplay during both combative sequences and dialogue between characters. The most commonly heard words are "b*tch" and "a*s". These profanities are most commonly expressed by enemy characters including both thugs as well as major villains. Foul language is used regularly without regard to extreme emotion such as frustration or anger.

-          Violence and Gore: High
o   Batman: Arkham City features a relatively high amount of violence and minimal blood and gore. To start off, as the Batman, players will be fighting a wide array of different thugs and villains. Players will be using a variety of hand-to-hand martial arts techniques as well as specialized technology and gadgetry in order to knock out and/or disable enemies. Players will not be able to kill enemies and the game will, in fact, discourage killing others as a means to an end. Players are unable to harm innocent civilians; i.e. individuals that have no interest in causing harm to either you or others.

o   During combat scenes, players will see a fair amount of violence however little to no blood or gore. Batman will primarily use martial arts in order to dispatch his enemies; utilizing a number of different punches, kicks, and grapples to injury or knock out his opponent. Players will occasionally hear bones cracks when certain moves are used, however most often "booms" and "thuds" will overlap it so as to ease the visceral tension. Players can also use a number of gadgets such as "batarangs" and "freeze grenades". These gadgets will often simply knock enemies over, send them flying, leave them hanging upside down, or freeze them in place. Lethal weaponry is not used by the character. On the contrary, enemies will often be armed with stun-rods, knifes, and firearms, although blood and gore is not shown if Batman is shot or injured by these weapons. Players will never kill their enemies, only disable and knock out.

o   Aside from combat, players will see some violent and gory scenes. To start off, there are a number of "political prisoners" throughout Arkham City that are often cornered by thugs and criminals. These criminals will often threaten the "prisoner's" life and make some motion to injure the individual until Batman steps in. Likewise, there are some situations in which individuals who have been taken hostage are killed if Batman fails his mission. There are some brutal references and discussions that make reference to an individual having his hand cut off and the like. There is a scene in which two individuals have a sword run through their chest; however an open wound is not shown and only a small pool of blood forming under the shirt is visible. The game takes a bit of a violent turn later in the game in which players will find bodies in piled up, although explicit blood and gore are not visible, as well players will hear soldiers "ticking off" how many inmates they have dispatched in the city.
             
-          Sexually-Related Content: Low
o   Batman: Arkham City features a low amount of sexually-related content that takes place primarily through suggestive reference as well as some revealing costumes and camera angles. Starting off with the costumes, several of the female characters are wearing costumes that reveal a notable amount of cleavage and/or accentuate the buttocks. The occasional camera angle also helps to focus in on this aspect, most often with a focus on swaying hips and buttocks. As for reference, players will see a sign in Arkham City that features what appears to be the silhouette of a nude woman in neon with lettering that reads "Live Nude". Likewise, certain dialogue has a sexual overtone including "Sure could go for some porn right now." and "I'm gonna make you meow, b*tch" (in reference to the character, Catwoman).

-          Use of Drugs and Alcohol: Very Low
o   Batman: Arkham City features a very low amount of drug and alcohol usage. To the best of the reviewer's knowledge, there are no scenes of illicit drug consumption. Players will witness one major villain, the Penguin, smoking a cigar. As for alcohol, there are several minor references to consumption, however no visible usage. Examples of references include "I'd give anything for a nice cold beer right now."

             
Game Quality:  Very High (9.5 / 10)
-          Graphics / Visuals: Very High
o   The lights from Gotham glitter brightly in the distance as the cold, winter snow falls across the bleak and darkened streets of Arkham City. Your cape blows softly in the wind, only accentuating the holes that some creep with a machete punched through it in his attempt to stab you earlier. Far below, a group of Joker's thugs can be seen discussing their plans to attack a passing band of Two-Face's men; and yet, they aren't the most important element. All around you: men on rooftops, trash blowing through the streets, Question marks, a sure sign of the Riddler, litter the sides of buildings: inviting you to solve his puzzles. Am I building a vivid enough picture?

o   This is what Batman: Arkham City is like: a massive open world that allows players to swing and glide anywhere they so please within the confines of the Arkham City district. Every area of Arkham has a very unique feeling based on the criminal that occupies it. Whether it is the carnival-esque restructured Steel Mill, now known as "Joker's Funhouse, or the remnants of the Gotham City Police Department, which is now frozen over by Mr. Freeze; every are feels distinct. When you combine this with the fact that the city has ever manner of nook and cranny to explore, tunnel to crawl through, and rooftop to jump off; there is a lot to Arkham City.

o   The game is not only excellent with reference to environments, but also character models. One of the cooler features to note is in the patented "Detective Mode" which players can turn on at almost any time. This mode not only helps players pinpoint special items or hidden secrets, but it also helps highlight special "evidence" to solve crimes as well as see an X-Ray of enemies: I will admit that it's kind of cool to see all of a character's bones move together. Aside from the anatomy lesson, the overall character design is equally well done. The developers did an excellent job of trying to bridge the gap between comic books (Batman's initial starting platform) and realistic animation. What comes of it are beautifully crafted characters that look and move realistically and yet still have an animated flair to them which fans of the comic can still greatly enjoy.
   
-          Audio: Very High
o   Where to start with the audio quality of Batman: Arkham City? The sound effects? The music? How about the voice acting. Starting off, the voice acting is incredibly well-done and even features a number of big name voice-actors that have already lent their talents to the Batman franchise before. Kevin Conroy reprises his role as Batman as well Mark Hamill for the final time steps into the clown shoes of the Joker. Long time Batman fans will recognize both of these gentlemen as voices from the older, but incredibly popular, Batman: The Animated Series. Additional talent includes Kimberly Brooks, Troy Baker, Chris Cox, Crispin Freeman, Grey DeLisle, and a massive host of other incredible voice actors. Everyone nails their roles perfectly and I can't even begin to think of a complaint about their performances.

o   Aside from voice acting, players will also hear a bouquet of both musical and sound-effect delight. The music is all orchestral done with a variety of wind and string instruments that provide a perfectly moody score to the dark and dreary setting that is Arkham City. The tunes all float perfectly in a subtle yet somber manner that carries gameplay along up until action ensures where the tone become harder, more fast paced, and yet, still subtle enough to not be overbearing. Likewise, the sound effects are incredibly satisfying without being overplayed. The zip of the batclaw, the clank of metal, the thud of a punch, and the "boom" of a victorious finish all make the audio for Batman top-notch.

-          Gameplay / Playability: High
o   It looks good, you say, it sound great, you boast, yet how does it play? Starting off with playability, I will say that the game does a good job in introducing MOST of the concepts and taking care of the player; however there are certain elements it misses out on. Arkham City seems to presume that you have played its predecessor, Arkham Asylum, and literally drops you right into combat without any introduction or explanation. While the game will display the two most necessary buttons (attack and counter attack), if you have never played the Arkham franchise than you most likely will be knocked out several times before you manage to beat the first minute of the game. Past that that game is actually pretty good about introducing every element of gameplay to you; explaining what buttons to push, where certain abilities are best you, introductory situations on how to use them, and providing a picture-based menu that players can look at if they forget how to do something. Everything is mostly well-done with the exception of the introductory fights and a couple of group fights later on in the game which feel more akin to dropping a mouse in a snake pit.

o   Aside from playability, the gameplay is expertly crafted. At any given point, players will be able to follow a well-done comic-book style narrative as well as a wide-range of other side-missions that can lead them through saving wrongly-imprisoned inmates, destroying toxic chemicals, going through a variety of virtual training, tracking a telephone-based killer, solving the case of an identity-stealing madman, and more. Players can go anywhere, do anything, and all with a system that makes navigating the bleak and incredible world that is Arkham City incredibly easy. With the touch of two buttons players will find themselves zipping up to the ledge of a building and then diving off to glide effortlessly through the chilly night sky as they explore all of their possibilities. The combat system is equally well-crafted; making it rather easy to pick up but surprisingly difficult to master. Players can use techniques as simple as "punch that guy, block this guy" to utilizing a vast array of gadgetry, martial arts, gymnastics, finishing moves, stunning attacks, and more; all of it flowing quickly and simply with only a free button clicks.
          
-          Dollar-Value: Very High
o   Overall, Batman: Arkham City has an incredibly high dollar value. I was shocked to find that, after completing the main storyline, I had only completed roughly 48% of the total game. If players are JUST playing the storyline, the game will easily boast  anywhere from 12 to 15 hours of solid play. When you factor in this as well as having over 400+ trophies to find and puzzles to solve (compliments of the Riddler) as well as a vast array of "Challenge Maps" that will pit a player's skill against a variety of enemies to earn the best possible score: there's alot to do. If you don't mind the slightly darker themes of Arkham City, the amount you spend versus the amount you get through gameplay will be pennies on the dollar.


Recommendations
-          So long as you are okay with the darker themes, Batman: Arkham Asylum is an excellent choice if you have not enjoyed it yet. Equally, titles such as InFAMOUS and Sly Cooper will boast a similar exploratory gameplay. Marvel Ultimate Alliance would also be a great choice if your little ones are fans of superhero titles. If you are looking for a more mature option, you might also check out titles like Prototype or Crackdown.
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