Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive
One of the most highly anticipated titles of the year, Batman: Arkham City has finally been released. This follow-up to Batman: Arkham Asylum takes the caped crusader from the asylum to the big city, with more villains, henchmen, and an open environment. So gravel up your voice boxes, the review to Batman: Arkham City is in.
The Doctor is in
Batman: Arkham City picks up some time after the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum. City officials have moved all the prisoners out of Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Penitentiary and into a walled-off section of Gotham City renamed “Arkham City”. The game begins with Bruce Wayne speaking out against this move at a press conference, but then Tyger Security, the security firm in charge of Arkham City, knocks out Wayne and takes him into custody. When he comes to, Hugo Strange, who is in charge of Tyger Security and Arkham City, reveals something called “Protocol 10”. During Wayne’s transfer into the city, Penguin kidnaps him only to have Wayne escape. From there, Wayne contacts Alfred and then receives the Batman suit, and now Batman must find out what “Protocol 10” is and how it can be stopped.
Block party in Arkham City, everyone’s invited
One of the biggest – if not the biggest – stars here is Arkham City itself. The city is decayed but with varied touches of color, such as the theme park and the green question marks scattered around which signify the locations of Riddler trophies. The feel of the environment is both vibrant and foreboding. Thugs are all over the city, either working for their boss or beating up on political prisoners. The city itself is vast and you are free to explore and find Riddler trophies, easter eggs, and plenty of other things.
SOCK! POW! BIFF! OOOF!
When it comes to the controls, combat is simplified but can be modified at the discretion of the player. Also, the action on-screen is visceral to the point where you almost feel as if you yourself are punching the bad guy in the face or countering an attack and smashing his skull.
What good is being Batman if you don’t have the toys? In Arkham City, the staples of the Asylum are still there: Batarang, bat-claw, explosive gel, etc. New gadgets come into play as you acquire them or buy them through upgrades, and some of these include an electronic/magnetic gun which can stun enemies and open some doors, a freeze ray to freeze enemies or to make ice platforms, and a line-launcher to create a makeshift line on which you can balance or use to pull yourself across great distances. All gadgets work in about the same way, it’s only a matter of choosing between them with the directional pad.
A bat in the hand is worth two in the belfry
When roaming around Arkham City it’s not just the visuals that make the game great but the voice casting too. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman and the Joker, respectively, and it’s not just those two who give their characters life. Corey Burton’s version of Hugo Strange has a sense of danger and madness while Grey DeLisle’s Catwoman is strong and flirty. I just find Nolan North’s Penguin fun to listen to simply because North is the guy who voices Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series; has done a few rounds as Deadpool; and was even the Space, Fact, and Adventure Sphere in Portal 2. Even Calendar Man sounds like a genuine psychotic killer rather than a criminal with a silly gimmick. So in short, the voice acting in this game is top-notch.
Let’s let the coin decide
Playing through Arkham City, there are two major flaws, the first of them being the Augmented Reality Training. Flying through hoops while being timed didn’t work for Superman 64, and it just doesn’t work here. However, a vast majority of them are optional, so they get a pass. The second flaw is (I hope you’re sitting down) that this will be the final time Mark Hamill will play the Joker. It was a great ride and this game is a fine swan-song for Hamill’s Joker.
Everything else in Batman: Arkham City makes the game a must-buy for not only Batman fans but all fans of action/adventure games in general. From beating up thugs to sneaking around armored guards to figuring out Riddler puzzles, the game is one of the few with perfect pacing throughout. Combat is visceral and makes the simplified controls deceptively challenging. The A.I. presents new challenges, such as armed gunmen destroying gargoyles, limiting your places to hide, and overall the game gives you the feeling of being Batman – although without the feeling of being in the upper 1% of payroll earners in the world.
Outside of the regular story mode there are other features such as Riddler Challenge, where you must complete random challenges, along with concept art, 3D models of characters, and other unlockable content. A lot of care went into Batman: Arkham City – it’s almost as if Batman intimidated the developers himself. So look out L.A. Noire and Portal 2, Batman: Arkham City has just put itself in the running for Game of the Year. We’ll even be so bold as to say that Batman: Arkham City is better than the Christopher Nolan movies.
Final Verdict: Batman: Arkham City gets 10 beaten Batman villians out of 10
[xrr rating=10/10, max_stars=10]
This review is based on the retail version of the Playstation 3 copy of Batman: Arkham City by Rocksteady Studios