Monday, 24 October 2011

Review: Batman Arkham City

The opening to Rocksteady's first Batman game, Arkham Asylum, stood out to me as one of the best introductions ever in a game as you escorted the captured Joker into Arkham Asylum. Of course with the Joker things are never simple and soon everything escalated into full blown chaos with lots of death and mayhem along the way. Arkham City starts with chaos and things just keep getting worse and whilst I don't think the opening is as memorable as Arkham Asylum's was it does a good job of bridging the gap between the two games. The premise of the story is simple; Arkham Asylum has been extended into part of Gotham which has been sectioned off from the rest and all criminals are sent there. Within the larger prison factions are fighting for supremacy with very little control exerted by any authority. The whole system was set up by Dr Hugo Strange and part of the story revolves around solving how this could of happened and the other half is a continuation of the events started in Arkham Asylum with the Titan formula. This is some of the darkest Batman material around with lots of murder, mutilation and a tone of sustained threat throughout.
The environments in Arkham city are beautiful, dark and varied.

The whole game is pretty cinematic with a lot of cut scenes to break up the action and to keep the story going. The voice acting throughout the game is done to a very high standard with Batman and the Joker voiced by the actors that portrayed them in the 1992 animated series. The stand out performance has to go to Mark Hamill who does a great job at making the Joker intelligent, funny and witty whilst still being totally insane. The concept of a cockney British Penguin at first seemed ludicrous to me but having played through the game I was impressed by  Nolan North's performance and convinced that, for some strange reason, it does in fact work. In the last game expressionless faces prevented the full emotion in voices coming across and whilst it's still there the effect has been lessened by more emotive character animations. The city of Gotham is beautifully realised with varying locations, no load times and a dark tone; it isn't actually that big which I think works in it's favour.
Brute level opponents aren't repeated too much through the game like they were in the last.

The feeling of nostalgia that this game conjures for the animated series is great as all the main villains make an appearance; except for Scarecrow who was in the last game. At first I was concerned that too many villains would be introduced and that they would all suffer from not getting enough time each, and whilst this is true for some of the characters, Rocksteady did a good job of making most of the characters seem important. I feel that Two Face and Poison Ivy could have been expanded on a bit more but they were more cameos and not integral to the story. Even if you don't see the villain very much you hear about what's happening though conversations that other inmates have as you fly around the city. Robin also has a very brief cameo but it hardly seemed worth it; it would have been nice to just see him in the distance or to hear from inmates what he's been doing. Side missions give some of the lesser known villains some screen time and break up the more serious story part of the game. Side missions vary from stopping random acts of violence in the street to catching serial killers and finding Riddler secrets. There are 440 Riddler secrets in this game and to get all of them it is going to take you a long time but in return you are rewarded with concept art, character models and challenge maps.
Dive bombing unsuspecting enemies is brilliant.

Arkham City makes you feel like Batman as you glide around the map, take on massive groups of enemies and use gadgets to unlock more areas and secrets. Using gadgets in the combat is more encouraged in this game and easier to do whilst sustaining your all important combo. Bosses in the last game were boring and didn't require much thinking and whilst they aren't very difficult in this game I still think that overall they are to a higher standard and less repetitive. Also, in the last game, Titan infused enemies were all too common but in this game there is only about two and in general brute level encounters are much less common and less repeated. Towards the middle of the game it sort of felt like I was just going were I was told for strenuous reasons but by the last third of the game I was totally drawn into the concept that time was of the essence and I just wanted to keep going until I had finished the game. After I did finish the game I spent a further four hours or so just doing side missions and flying around the city and I still didn't get bored; even though by the end it did feel as though my eyes were bleeding. Throughout the game you play small sections as Catwoman who is similar to Batman but more agile and whilst this is nice it can make the game feel disjointed.
Catwoman plays an integral part of in the story though I prefer to play as Batman.

Overall Arkham City offers an engaging story, fun fluid combat and wonderful visuals. When I first sat down to write this review I thought to myself what would I want improved and found it really hard to think of anything; every aspect of this game is done to a very high standard and for this I am going to give this game:

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