Batman: Arkham City Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Rocksteady Studios
genre: Action Adventure
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Oct 18, 11
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Rocksteady Studios simply astonished us back in 2009, with their captivating action adventure, Batman: Arkham Asylum. As gamers grew tired of the whole super-hero (or indeed the 'anti-hero') concept, nobody really expected that a new Batman game would be such a hit. The critically acclaimed game was a financial success to boot, in addition to walking away with top honors in the ActionTrip 2009 Game of the Year Awards. What made this one work was the excellent combination of terrific and varied gameplay mechanics and first-class art direction, all tightly packed in a superb, cinematic atmosphere. Rocksteady decided to make a follow-up, so the project was underway almost immediately.
In Batman: Arkham City players, once again, have the chance wear the mask and armor of Gotham City's silent guardian - a.k.a. the Dark Knight. It's been a year since the events in Arkham Asylum. Quincy Sharp, once the warden of Arkham Asylum, was credited for putting a stop to Joker's Asylum occupation. He consequently used this to boost his popularity towards becoming the mayor of Gotham. Sharp eventually shutdown Arkham and Blackgate Penitentiary, thus making an effort to turn a huge portion of Gotham's slums to a maximum-security prison named Arkham City. Psychiatrist Hugo Strange was given free reign of the facility, accompanied by a private military firm called Tyger Security. At the same time, the Joker, Batman's arch nemesis, has been struck by a deadly disease, which was triggered as a nasty side-effect when he took the Titan formula (back in Batman: AA). In the ensuing chaos, constant gang wars breaking out and random violence everywhere, Batman enters Arkham City, only to find that his old 'friends' are also there to keep him company, including Freeze, Penguin and others.
I just wanted to frisk you.
"And now I'm through with love, I'll never fall again..."
Gamers who have already played Arkham Asylum will surely feel right at home in Arkham City. There familiar elements every step of the way. The combat mechanics are very straightforward and are damn fun, which makes the game particularly inviting for both newcomers and those who have played Asylum. Riddler challenges and trophies are scattered throughout the whole of Arkham City and you'll probably be tempted to solve and nab each and every one of them, which certainly prolongs the experience (pretty much the same way it has in the previous game). The story presentation is perfect and, once again, similarly handled like in the original, with skillfully written dialogue and interesting characters, not to mention a lot of unexpected twists awaiting you along the way. While all of this is Rocksteady's way of paying homage to the original and making the game as good as Arkham Asylum, there are a number of changes made as well. To begin with, there are new skills and moves at your disposal and some pretty cool new toys, in addition to an electrical gun that can be used to temporarily stun enemies. There's also a 'gift' from Mr. Freeze - i.e. the freeze bombs that can solidify your foes, allowing you to finish them off with one powerful blow.
When you pause, you'll notice that the main interface received a makeover so players can access their skills, gadgets and upgrades with no trouble at all. Accessing all the skills, going over character trophies and so on, is a very important segment of the game. The slick new GUI isn't the only thing that was changed. The map, which you'll be bringing up very often, has also been redesigned, making targets and goals a lot easier to locate. At first I couldn't understand why they'd go through all these changes, then, of course, I remembered although the previous one looked cool, there was a bit of room for improvement. This one's certainly more intuitive.
What's probably best about Batman: Arkham City is realizing how huge the game is and how many choices it gives you in a single playthrough. The developers have made the environment more open this time around, so you'll have an entire city to move around in. Batman has a lot of work to do, so while he's chasing super-villains and going for his main objective, he might also decide to put a stop to random acts of violence that occur frequently within the confines of the crime-infested city. Helping people who are being threatened or beaten up is a good way of gathering experience. Apart from those, you'll always have a whole selection of nifty challenges from Riddler and, believe me, these are even more fun than in the previous game. In fact, chasing Riddler's question marks and solving his puzzles are mostly likely going to be your priority (I can't explain why, but when I see those greenish hints from Riddler, I just can't fight to urge to discover the secret behind it :)).
You might say that this game is as fun and engaging as Arkham Asylum, albeit it's important to underline that Rocksteady didn't just throw us back into the same game. Each step Batman takes hurls players into a completely new set of challenges, each one tougher than the last. It's easy to get entangled in the story, because it just treats you to surprises around every corner. While we miss the absolutely awesome Scarecrow moments from the original, we were also very pleased to witness how Batman falls into traps, as he slowly enters the terrifying world of yet another twisted criminal mind. So, this time around you'll have sudden rather bizarre encounters with characters like the Mad Hatter. Villains like the Penguin, Freeze and the Joker will bring about some pretty exciting boss fights, which are cool and certainly more varied than they were in the previous game. It was fun to come up against these guys and figuring out how to beat them. At the end of the day, these boss fights aren't as tough as one would expect. So, yeah, we were hoping for more of a challenge there.
Everything just feels in place, the visuals, the music, the voice acting, the gameplay, it feels complete in every way;
I guess the main story could've been a little longer and the boss encounters a bit more challenging.