Batman: Arkham City Review
I’ve finally put the controller down long enough to offer up my take on Rocksteady’s followup to Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City. Full disclaimer up front: I’m a full-on comic geek (except I have a wife and don’t store my comics in my Mom’s basement…they are in the closets of my old room in her house if you must know). So when a game comes out featuring a character I am a huge fan of, the gloves are off and I’m going to pick nits with a fine-toothed comb. Batman Arkham City is, without a doubt, one of the best games I have ever played. I really have nothing to nitpick here. This is definitely going to be the clear leader in the Game of the Year category. It does everything right in terms of gameplay, graphics and immersion. It also nails the character and world of the Dark Knight in a way that most comic licensed characters to video games can only dream of. But enough gushing, on to the review.
Story and Gameplay
I don’t want to spoil too much about the story. Suffice it to say that it is a deep one with lots of twists and turns to keep you interested throughout. The game starts off with Bruce Wayne kidnapped and trapped behind the walls of Arkham City, the replacement for the old Arkham Asylum that now sits in the center of Gotham City. The inmates are now a combination of normal thugs and the lunatic super-criminals that make up Batman’s Rogues Gallery. Regular inmates serve one of the Rogues as henchmen you will encounter throughout the game. Other inmates are political prisoners, placed in Arkham by the mad Hugo Strange who runs the city and has a nefarious agenda that will be revealed in time.
After fighting your way past a few enemies in what serves as the games’ quick tutorial on the basic controls, you eventually get an air-drop from Alfred, Batman’s faithful butler, that delivers the Batsuit along with a few initial gadgets.
Fighting is easy to get into: On the PS3, the triangle button is for counter moves (good when enemies swarm and surround you), while the square button is for strikes. As you progress throughout the game you will unlock more weapons, moves and combos. Many upgrades will be made available via your Waynetech screen. Experience points, or XP gained through fights and solving The Riddler’s many enigmas can be used to upgrade battle armor, fighting skills, and more. There are also VR (virtual reality) training icons spread throughout the city that you can dive into and work on skills like gliding. And then there are the ringing phones. But you’ll have to play to see what those are all about.
I’ll let you experience the rest, but I will say that this is a very detailed world. (What the Joker does to you will literally have you fighting for your life). While there are of course missions to accomplish and goals that must be met, their are plenty of side-quests and extra missions (save victims trapped by goons on a rooftop, search and retrieve deadly canisters, etc.) that will have you going off the main tale for many hours.
The game also comes with a code to play special story episodes as Catwoman. I’ve only played through the first three and while not as much fun as the Batman mission, they are a fun change of pace. And it’s Catwoman. Meow.
I pre-ordered my copy from Gamestop, so I was given a code for a special Joker Map. Specifically, this unlocked the Joker’s Carnival Challenge which will have you fighting off the hordes of inmates your arch-enemy throws your way.
Graphics and Sound
The game is beautiful. The graphics really capture the gritty, sprawling mess that is Arkham City. From a visual standpoint, cutscenes and gameplay flow seamlessly one into the other. The character models are a bit exaggerated and can appear stiff at times, but overall the look works for the comic book world the characters inhabit.
The music in game sets the perfect mood for frequent romps through Batman’s world. The voice acting is also top-notch, with longtime animated Batman voice of the Joker Mark Hamill (That’s right, Luke Skywalker himself) reprising his role. Presumably this will be the last time he cackles as the Clown Prince of Crime. Yet another reason to savor this game.
Final Verdict: 5 Batarangs out of 5. This game sets the bar for all other third-person action games this year.
Batman: Arkham City is rated T for Teens and is available now for $59.99 for the Xbox 360 and PS3. It will be available for the PC at a price of $49.99 on November 15th. There is also a Collector’s Edition available for $99.99 which includes exclusive collector’s bonus items, the Batman Arkham City Soundtrack CD, the Batman: Gotham Knight animated movie, a Batman statue, collectable cards, and an art book.
Finally, the trailer for the Nightwing DLC pack was just revealed. Nightwing will be available on November 1st to be followed on November 22nd by a Robin pack. Each will cost $6.99 on the Playstation Network and 560 Microsoft points on Xbox Live.
So who else has picked up the game or is planning to do so soon? Let’s make like the Gotham City Gazette and discuss below. One last thing, because I can already hear my sister-in-law asking: “Is Batman Arkham City okay for kids?” If by kids you mean teens and grown men and women who act like kids, then sure. But as far as little gamers go, I would have to leave that up to the parents to decide. For me the violence is not that bad, but it might be a bit excessive for children. For them, I’d say stick to the LEGO Batman series for now. But if your 12 year-old is capable of handling the Catwoman innuendos and Bat-violence, then by all means let them have at it.
That’s it for this week folks. Until next time, you can follow my tweets on all things video game related via Twitter @SavingsGCapes. Same Bat time, same Bat station.