With the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum in late 2009, gamers finally had a super hero game that they could be excited about. The game was very well received and one of the most talked about titles of the year. When a sequel was announced for a 2011 release I, among hordes of others, were amped for another chance to play the man behind the mask. Get ready, put on your capes, and join me as I clean up the streets of Arkham City.
Game: Batman: Arkham City
Published By: Warner Brothers Interactive
Developed By: Rocksteady Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC (Review Sample)
Genre: Action Adventure, Beat-Em Up, Stealth
Release Date: October 18th, 2011 (PS3 and Xbox 360) November 22nd, 2011
MSRP: $49.99 (PS3 and Xbox 360) $29.99 (PC) GOTY Edition
Written By: Brennon
Screenshots By: Brennon
The story of Arkham City picks up about one year after the events of Arkham Asylum. Former Arkham Asylum Warden Quincy Sharp, who is now mayor of Gotham, has sectioned off part of Gotham to be used as a makeshift prison. The prison is being run by Hugo Strange who allows the inmates to do whatever they please so long as they do not make any attempts to escape.
Bruce Wayne….err Batman (Spoiler Alert: They are the same person!) is thrown into the city alongside some of Gotham’s worst Criminals due to his political stance against Arkham City. It is up to “The Caped Crusader” and you as the player to solve all of Arkham’s problems while trying to deal with Dr. Strange and his mysterious “Protocol 10”. Along the way you run into many notorious villains from the Batman universe, each with their own problems and additions to the story. You get to play as Catwoman and follow her on a quest to “Get rich or die tryin” as her path intertwines with the path of Batman as well as takes some twists and turns of its own.
From the very first moment you step into the shoes of Bruce Wayne it feels like you are a part of the game. You start off in cuffs and are very limited in what is possible, when your suit is delivered by Alfred however; it is a completely different story. From that moment forward you feel like The Batman.
Whether it is stringing together thirty hit combinations, or gliding from rooftop to rooftop and using your bat claw to pull yourself up, you ARE The Batman. Immediately you are given basic tools such as the bat claw, batarang, explosive gel, and a sequencer to help you start your journey into the city. The combat is such that different personalities will all have fun playing. You can play a stealthy Batman that is rarely seen, you can play an in your face rough and tumble Batman, or you can use all of your tools that you pick up to disarm, distract and disorient enemies while playing the tactical Batman. The health system is unique in that you lose bars of health every time you take damage, and only replenishes when you finish fighting groups of enemies. The amount of health that is replenished is dependent on how well you fought the last group of enemies. Even with these basic supplies and the very limited combat combos in the earlier parts of the game, you still feel like a super hero.
A minor issue is that the combat for Catwoman and Batman feels the same. The movement is very different, and they approach combat differently (Catwoman being stealthy and Batman being in your face) but when it comes down to fighting multiple villains, it looks different but feels the same. As the game progresses and you level up and progress in the story you start to unlock more gadgets, powerups for your current gadgets, and health and armor upgrades for both characters. With these the game becomes easier and you are able to reach different and more complex parts of the city.
With all of the tools at Batman’s disposal you might think that it would be a daunting task for an average gamer to keep track of how to use them all. Rocksteady did an excellent job of making the handling and controls in the game simple enough to understand and grasp, but complex enough to give depth and multiple choices on how to approach any situation. In the beginning you must learn basic combat and movement, which progresses to more complex and movement mechanics.
As the game opens up Batman acquires more tools and tactics, either through story progression or through leveling up, to aid you in your journey to clean up Arkham City. As each new tool is introduced you are given a brief tutorial on how to use it and an immediate chance to experiment with it. Throughout the game you will still be given hints on what you can do in certain situation, so if you have taken an extended break from the game and come back and forget how to do something, it will be there on your screen reminding you.
With all of that said, the game does feel like a console game. This is made clear when you go into the controls portion of the options menu and the first thing you see is a gamepad whether or not you have one plugged in. There is also no option to change any of the controls to better suit your style. To be fair though, Rocksteady has done an amazing job of making the controls work well on PC. I preferred to use a gamepad myself, but the game is entirely playable with keyboard and mouse. In fact, with both a gamepad and keyboard and mouse plugged in, I can seamlessly go from using one to the other without so much as opening the options menu.
The graphics for Arkham City are very impressive. While nothing about the beautiful slum that is Arkham City would be considered stunning, the environment is exactly that. From the details on the rundown buildings to the progressive wear and tear that your suit takes throughout the game, every bit of the game is visually stunning. The game looks real enough successfully make you feel immersed in the environment, but has just enough of a comic book feel that you are able to reflect and remininsce on childhood memories.
The audio is probably the best part of the game. Between the background music, the sound effects, and the voice acting, there is never a dull moment for your ears. The music is appropriate enough for the situations that you get put into, but the great part about this game in particular is that it gives you so much other stuff to listen to that the music doesn’t become annoying. You are constantly picking up on the conversations of your enemies as you wander around the map, they will talk about anything from storyline progression to just being afraid of “The Bat”. I honestly cannot speak highly enough of the voice acting in this game. From Mark Hamill as The Joker to the unsung hero that voiced Two Face Goon number twelve the voice acting is just superb. For anyone who might enjoy the silence, or for those that have other distractions around them, the game has subtitles.
Arkham City is a unique and enjoyable experience that builds on the story of Arkham Asylum while opening up the story to many loved and despised characters from the Batman universe. The ability to play as Catwoman, though a very little part of the game is refreshing and great change of pace during the game. With many different ways to approach combat and movement, the game can be enjoyed by different types of gamers, and even gives it a bit of replay value. While there may be some minor issue with controls in the PC version of the game, this is more than made up for in the graphics, audio and smooth gameplay.