The Good the Bad and the Ugly: Batman Arkham City
I’m a big fan of comic books, and DC comics to be more specific, however I’m not a huge fan of comic book video games. There are a few exceptions, 2009 had one surprise hit that seemed to come from out of the blue and that game was Batman Arkham Asylum. Batman staring in his own video game usually results with a side-scrolling action title that did little to showcase what makes Batman so unique. Batman is more than just beating people up, his deductive reasoning and (to coin a phrase from G.W. Bush) strategery are his greatest assets; which so happen to be lacking in other Batman games. Arkham City follows in the footsteps of Asylum, but does it hold a candle to it’s older brother: let me spell it out with the good the bad and the ugly.
Following the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum a new prison has open up in the middle of Gotham city now renamed Arkham City. Inside the city walls are criminals from not only Arkham but from Blackgate prison as well. Batman smells a mystery and decides to take a closer look at this new establishment first hand and shut it down if he can. The man in charge of Arkham City is an old Batman villian named Hugo Strange who happens to know that Bruce Wayne and Batman are one and the same and if Batman interferes with Hugo’s plans then he will reveal Batman’s identity to the world.
Arkham City does what any great sequel does-fixes the problems in Arkham Asylum (which were few) and opens the game up for a diffrent but familar experince. The free flow combat is back, but rocksteady games seems to have filled the game to the brink with enemies. Fairly early in the game Batman has to face 39 diffrent enemies at one time armed with knifes and various objects all trying to kill you. When faced with overwhelming odds its so satisfying to feel like you are Batman when you walk away from dominating 39 people. Not saying that combat is easy you can easily screw it up and wind up seeing the game over screen. Batman has a lot of his classic gadgets returning, the grappling hook, batarangs, explosive gel…etc, however what is great is how easy it is to use these gadgets in the middle of combat. Explosive gel is my personal favorite. When you use the gel Batman does a somersault and quickly spray’s the gel on the ground, with another quick press of the buttons you can detonate sending enemies in the air. Sequences that involve Batman silently disarming armed guards are back and far more difficult than before. On numerous occasions I would be one guy shy from beating a segment only to have the tables quickly turned on me. As hard as the experience was, it was more fun than frustrating. Detective mode is back but if you think you can rely on it as much as you did in Arkham Asylum think again. Also making a return is the Riddlers riddle trophies. Most of the trophies are un-accessible until you figure out the puzzle associated with it adding a fun twist to the old “hunt for the collectables” bit that seems to be in any sandbox game. Added to the game are side quests that are as fun as the regular story missions. The missions vary from tracking down missing TITAN canisters, to finding Deadshot before he assassinates his next target and much much more. Also included is the Catwoman sequences which are a fun distraction from the main story. Catwoman doesn’t play exactly like Batman which is great, she moves a lot quicker and doesn’t have as many weapons as Batman – she focuses more on stealth and avoiding fights providing a fun change of pace to the urgency of the main storyline. Lastly the story is just phenomenal. Much like Bioshock the setting becomes a character of its own and the more you learn what Arkham City is really about the more you want to keep playing. I don’t want to give away the ending but I must mention that it is one of the more memorable endings I have ever seen in a video game.
I felt that there were just too many villains and not enough game to feature all of them. Take for instance Tw0-Face who is featured in the very beginning of the game and then never heard from again (sans the Catwoman DLC). Of coarse there is plenty of the Joker and Harley Quinn but the big threat Hugo Strange almost at the end seems like an after thought by the time you deal with him. Every character acts like their comic book/animated series counter part but I found it hard to justify why certain characters are in the game for such a short period of time. Another minor complaint is the expressions on characters faces seem like they slept overnight in the Uncanny Valley. Lastly, another minor complaint, with all thats going on in the main story I actually found it hard to justify doing the side missions until after the game ends. The sense of urgency is so severe I felt like I had to continue with the main plot thread until it was finished.
I hate this trend with video games where they offer a code or extra content that prohibits people who rent games from experiencing the whole game. What I’m talking about is the Catwoman DLC that was bundled with the game. If you buy the game new you receive the content, but if you don’t you’re S.O.L. I would love to say that the game can be played with out the content, but I feel that this piece of “DLC” was intended to be part of the game and not some cash grab from people who buy the game used.
From the opening to the ending this game is filled with everything I could have asked for. This game is in the race for best game of the year for me…’nuff said!!!!
rating 9.5 out of 10