The lights are on
Batman: Arkham City
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Gameinformer Score: 10- Reviewed by Andrew Reiner
Arkham Asylum had a near perfect combat system, an excellent use of stealth gameplay and gadget usage, a really well done story, and was very faithful to the Batman franchise. How could anything top that? Rocksteady answered with Batman: Arkham City. The game was incredibly ambitious. The concept/goal was to adopt the Arkham Asylum combat and fiction, and make it an open world game. The concept was incredible, and if done correctly could actually top the best Batman game ever made. Rocksteady had a daunting task before them, and they met it head on. Arkham City is not only as good as Asylum, but even better than the best Batman game ever.
Arkham City sticks to the same dark, dull color palette of the first game, and once again pulls it off perfectly. The city seems to be engulfed in permanent darkness, but it works just fine. That is where Batman is most comfortable. The graphics are still gorgeous, but I think even more so this time around. The look of everything is just outstanding.
It is one thing to have a massive open world, but with lack of detail, the world would still seem terribly bland. Luckily, Arkham City takes great care when it comes to detail. Building look real, all of them have windows, ledges, things you would expect to see. There are a variety of different things in the world. Nothing in the entire game looks exactly the same as something else. And really, it is the little detail that counts.
Characters look extremely realistic as well. They often have blood stains, dirt, or something. You see tears in the close. Batman's cape is torn up in various places, and muscles look authentically drawn. Nothing ever really feels out of place. The animations for all the characters look right and fell real.
The voice acting is the same from the last game, with new actors taking on new roles. They all sound wonderful though. Mark Hamill is retiring as the Joker, and he did an outstanding job. The emotion and depth to the voices makes listening to conversations enjoyable and not a chore, it is part of what makes the story so well done.
Not the Cliche Chemical Story
In my review of Arkham Asylum I accuse the game of having a very cliche, but well written story. This is not the case of Arkham City. The story is better tenfold. The very cliche use of Titan to create an army, and things of that sort is not a focal point of Arkham City. The Joker, despite being very prominent in the ending, really doesn't feel like the main villain. That is the best part, it is almost impossible to pick one central villain. Some would argue Strange, others Ra's Al Ghul. Some would say the Joker, and really that is part of the story.
Arkham City manages to bring in almost every major Batman villain known to mankind. Mr. Freeze, Ra's Al Ghul, Deadshot, and Hugo Strange were all surprisingly missing in the last game, but not this time around. They all get a chance to shine. The Joker, Harley, Bane, Poison Ivy, and other also rejoin the cast of villains. It is possibly the best gathering of villains that I have ever seen.
The story begins with Mr. Wayne, Batman, being sent into Arkham City. A brawl with penguin soon commences and Wayne fights his way to a rooftop to receive the batsuit. This begins the epic tale of Arkham City. You are first led to the museum to find Two Face and Catwoman. After rescuing her from a sniper, who you soon find out is the Joker, you hunt him down.
This takes you to Joker, who is dying and needs a cure from Mr. Freeze. Penguin has Freeze locked up due to a gang war between Joker and Penguin. You rescue Freeze, and revealing anymore would ruin what is an excellent and most importantly, original story.
The ending will literally leave you breathless. I loved the twist, and you will never know who is behind the whole thing. There are just so many twist, turns, and things that are unexpected. It really is a well done story and the ending makes it all worth it.
That Flawless Combat from Arkham Asyulm, but Better
In my Arkham Asylum Review I bragged about the combo system, upgrade system and the visceral feel of the combat. The counter's, tools, and attacks of Batman could be executed flawlessly and quickly, giving you a really real feeling game. The slow motion stops, camera zooms, and sounds really added to the feel of combat. That has only been improved in Arkham City. You will fight even bigger groups of enemies and even more exciting bosses. The combat feels even better in these scenarios.
You will gain more tools than you could in Arkham Asylum, you get more upgrades, and all around a better system when leveling up. These tools are used very well in combat and in the environment. You get a gun that will stun people with electricity, you get freeze blast to freeze people, you get the return of the Batclaw, batarangs, and cryptographic sequencer. All these tools can be just as easily used, and necessary in the various puzzles of Arkham City. The remote controlled batarand will be used for hitting out of reach switches, and the batclaw will be used for pulling down grates.
The awesome stealth sequences make a return in Arkham City, but are even more prominent. Rooms will once again me guarded by enemies with guns that you can't face head on. Gargoyles, ledges, and grates will once again be used to attack unnoticed. It still feels as great, and the new tools make it more fun than before. Detective mode makes a return as well, allowing you to find all the hidden places that are hard find.
Riddler has set up a series of challenges, the return of trophies and challenges. These are best tackled using a variety of gadgets. Some are more difficult than others, but there are plenty to find. The challenges can be tackled later on in the menus or the story itself.
Multiple side missions beside Riddler challenges exist. Bane has you wipe out Titan containers. You have to find Zsasz before he kills people. There are political prisoners screaming for help. There are lots of other things that you just find by running around the world. Just exploring is a game in itself. It may not be as expansive as Skyrim, but it is certainly jam-packed with stuff to do and in high quantities and quality.
A Feline Friend
Catwoman, while not as exciting as Batman, is fully playable in five missions of the game, and then all over after you finish the game. You can do all the same things that you can with Batman, in a different way. Catwoman has her own method of traveling, her whip. It is not quite as exciting as the flying and grappeling of Batman, but works well none the less and still allows a fresh take on travel.
Her combat works similarly, but she is much faster. She can be upgraded just as Batman can, but not as expansive. Making her strong is part of the fun. She has her own supply of weapons and gadgets as well, but very few. Still they help in combat situations.
Her story arc is also not as interesting, but still fun and a good supplement to the already incredible story. The ways her story often intertwine is nice. She will help Batman in various ways, directly or indirectly. Her namesake also has a lot to do with her story, being that most of it will involve theivery, but you do see a special appearance from Poison Ivy.
The game is truly remarkable, and in a normal year of gaming would probably be game of the year. While others beat it out for me, there is obviously a reason why this one was so close. It is full of action and detective work, but is also supplemented with an amazing story and even better ending.
- Incredible story, especially the ending.
- Best Licensed Title to date
- Intense, visceral, and fun combat
- Great boss battles
- Loads of content
- Possibly the highest presentation values of the year.
Final Score: 9.75
This is a very good review. I love Arkham City.