Posted by John on October 23, 2011

Review: Batman: Arkham City (360, PS3)

I feel I should thank you all for reading this, because, frankly, we all played Arkham Asylum, so we’re all aware that it was the single best realized superhero video game of all time, that it was amazing, and chances are you probably all planned to play the game regardless of what us reviewers say anyway.  And you made the right choice.

It’s eighteen months after the riot at Arkham Asylum, and Quincy Sharp, Arkham’s director, has taken the credit for quelling the riots and used the resulting popularity to get himself elected mayor of Gotham City.  Blackgate Prison still burned down, and Arkham’s security full of more holes than Zantanna’s fishnets, Mayor Sharp rapidly pushed through to wall off a section of Gotham and throw all the criminals in there to fight it out Escape from New York style.  Upset over the action, Bruce Wayne gets political, demanding answers and another solution, and gets tossed into the newly formed Arkham City to shut him up.

Maneuvering around Arkham City is pretty much like Arkham Asylum was, only much more open and much more dense, and I say “dense“ half because there‘s a slew of side missions to lose yourself on.  Engaging in the side quests means having to try and ignore that, like any good Batman story, the Dark Knight is in a race against time (story-wise, not gameplay-wise), something that was often hard for me to let go of.  You start with a healthy selection of wonderful toys for your quest to reveal the truth behind the City, and you’ll get several new ones, all of which are fun to use (my personal favorite is a Freeze Charge that lets you freeze enemies in place for a short time, a huge advantage in combat).  Most every one of Batman’s gadgets has a combat and puzzle solving use to it, making Arkham City feel very Zelda-esque at times, as you stand in front of a Riddler Trophy running through your inventory list in your head to try to figure out how to get to the glowing green shiney.

 

Yes, the Riddler Trophies are back, as are the scan-to-answer Riddles, and the other half of why I call Arkham City “dense”.  You can’t swing a bat with out running into three or four of the little buggers, though collecting them is much more or a brain and skill exercise than Asylum’s were.  Challenge mode is back, and though still the only two options are “Combat” and “Predator”, they have added some new chrome in the manner of “Campaigns” which are a series of Combat and Predator Challenges that you play back-to-back, and the ability to tweak Challenges to design your own scenarios. And, of course, a ton of artwork and backstory is unlockable to make your stay in Arkham City feel that much deeper.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned anything about the packed-in Catwoman “DLC”, and there’s a good reason for that.  See, I happened to review this game while moving, and I’m glad I did.  The home internet had not been transferred over to the new place, so I played the game minus the Catwoman stuff, and boy, did the game go out of my way to remind me.

Every start up of the game, you’re reminded that you haven’t activated the Catwoman pack, and would you like to enter a redemption code or buy one online?  Then, throughout Arkham City are Riddler Trophies that only Miss Kyle is allowed to touch, giving Batman a jostling shock if you happen to get to close to them, purposely or not.  It’s an annoyance.  I get that the whole pack-in DLC plan is an attempt to encourage new sales, but it’s kind of a slap in the face to the half of the gaming populace, who don’t have their consoles online.  It’s easy for those of us online to forget that there’s a huge non-online cross-section of gamers, but they’re there, and WB Games kind of dooked all over them this time.  It’s a shame, because the reality is that I expect things like this to get worse in the future.

Ultimately, I consider placing so much weight on an optional part of the game a negative, but a small one that doesn’t detract from the overall game.  The gameplay is for the most part spot-on (I did run into a few cheap deaths because Bats wasn’t smart enough to grapple to someplace with an adjacent landing zone, and the story is good, although it feels a little “pushed”, like they were trying just a little too hard to outdo Arkham Asylum.  Visually, Arkham City is amazingly detailed–to the point of near-OCD detailed.  Playwise the boss battles are all amazing, and show proper respects to the classic villains you’re pitted against, and the replayability, Asylum’s biggest stumbling block, has been given a big boost with the extra challenging New Game Plus that unlocks after finishing.

 

All-in-all, Arkham City doesn’t give you the same fresh excitement that Asylum did the first time you played it, but chances are at the end of Asylum you were begging for more, and City has that in spades.  The slights are small, and the highlights are big, so I have to give Arkham City a

GRADE: A-

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