Posted by John on December 13, 2011

Batman Arkham City (PS3)

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Rob McCaulley
Reviewed by Rob McCaulley
December 13, 2011
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Last updated: December 13, 2011

Batman: Arkham City (BAC) is just plain an evolution of what Batman: Arkham Asylum (BAA) was; sometimes evolution is an improvement, and sometimes evolution is nothing more than a progression. BAC has taken a lot of what was good about BAA and made it better, but in doing so, they also made some of what made BAA so great a lot less good. That being said, the comparisons between the games will be kept to a minimum whenever possible.

The options menu:

The GAME OPTIONS menu has all kinds of good stuff like Control Inversions (look, Rotation, Flight Controls, and Batarang Flight Controls), Camera Assist, Hints, SIXAXIX wireless controller Glide, and Brightness.

AUDIO OPTIONS include Subtitle, SFX Volume, Music Volume, and Dialogue Volume.
The options for CONTROLS are limited to either Type-A or Type-B and the only difference between the two presets is whether the player prefers the Aim Gadget/Grapple/Use Gadget, Detective Mode/Hold to scan/Crouch to be located in the L1/R1 positions on the shoulder or the L2/R2 positions (presumably similar in both PS3 and X360 console versions).

There also exist 3D OPTIONS, but to get any use out of them, players will need a 3D enabled TV.

The game itself:

When starting a new game, players will be given the option of playing on EASY, MEDIUM, or HARD Difficulty, choose whether to play with Subtitles ON or OFF, and choose Brightness on a sliding scale. Once everything is to the player’s liking, Start Game and be ready to take care of some serious Bat-business.

Inside Arkham City, players will notice that it is largely more of Rocksteady’s Batman, and that isn’t a bad thing at all, though with the grandeur of Arkham City in its vastness in comparison to time spent in Arkham Asylum, there comes a bit of bad, by which is meant gliding around the city; it was simple in BAA, just hold down the X button and go. In BAC, Batman is asked to complete challenges that force him to not only glide, but dive while in mid-glide in order to glide further. This is not only one of Bats’ fun new tricks, but also a pretty integral part of the game as one of the bosses tasks players to do this multiple times as a precursor to the boss battle.

Making its return on Batman’s utility belt is the Remote Control Batarang (RCB). If this was the player’s nemesis in Batman: Arkham Asylum, unfortunately it will continue to be the player’s nemesis in Batman: Arkham City. Unlike BAA, the RCB is a necessary evil , and Batman will be forced to use it to not only gather riddler trophies, but will also need it in order to gain access to certain areas that must be accessed to not be forced to call it game over prematurely. Fortunately, the batarang can be somehow slowed in order to make a tight turn which is a positive, although the batarang is something of a double-edged sword in that it sometimes needs to be used in a way which some might see as being similar to threading a needle.

Arkham Asylum had a lot of crawling through air vents which meant mashing a button rapidly and successively; Arkham City asks that players be able to do that, but it doesn’t ask that players do that with the frequency of a closed space like the previous game did. If the player was able to do it in BAA, it can be done in BAC which is good news, but with Ying comes Yang, and the Yang isn’t good. In a boss battle, player’s will find themselves in a compromised position where they’ll need to rapidly and successively mash a button in order to free themselves in order to progress in the game. Players can find themselves in the grips of this contest for quite some time and not find that it’s game over, but eventually it will happen, and sadly it happened to me forcing me to break out the assistive technology in the shape of a rapid-fire controller.

The gadgets on Batman’s utility belt haven’t greatly changed from Batman’s night on Arkham Island to his night in Arkham City, though there are some new devices that may prove to be too much for some gamers; for instance, there is a boss battle wherein players will need to run up on a baddie and use a device in order to get in close enough to initialize the battle. This is an event where timing is a good thing. There is a little bit of room for error, but not much.

As for other tools at The Batman’s disposal: a few of them have learned new tricks – or maybe Batman just didn’t need to employ them in this manner previously. Either way, the tools of the vigilante trade have gotten a bit more complex. Not inaccessibly complex, it’s just that this game around, players may need to press an extra button here and there to be successfully batty.

Three of the aforementioned issues tripped me up to the point where I was close to calling this game a wash; a failure limiter to keep players from having to fail endlessly would be a nice touch – especially when those players are spending not only $60 on the game, but $100 on the collector’s edition of the game. Spending hours flying an RCB to open a door is ridiculous.

Where other issues of accessibility are concerned; Batman: Arkham City is a darker game than Batman: Arkham Asylum in all facets of the game. Although it is completely expected to find an area of a city that has been fenced-off from a larger city in the condition Arkham City is in, players should be glad there is the ability to adjust brightness. As it does make for a nice backdrop for the game’s subtitles, it doesn’t do anything for Detective Mode which makes a completely expected return as well.

Detective Mode continues on with the theme of Arkham City being a dark place as it removes a lot of the light from the environment and draws attention to brightly colored objects of interest. These objects of interest like riddler trophies, enemies, and collapsible walls/floors/ceilings glow brightly as they did in BAA, but this time around, some objects glow in a multitude of colors. For examples enemies who are armed and wear armor glow in two or three different colors which won’t make the game any easier for those who have color issues. Similarly, enemies who are armed, and happen to be working for The Riddler glow red and are washed over by green (although this effect extends outside of Detective Mode to include green washing over their regular henchmen garb).

Another area where darker environments help as opposed to hindering are Arkham City’s subtitles which benefit a bit of the time from darker backgrounds and a white font which sometimes makes up for their lack of a dedicated background for the subtitles to appear on. Also going for them is the fact that they announce prior to the dialogue who is speaking which is nice as there are almost constant announcements over the loudspeakers throughout the course of the entire story from a character that isn’t Batman. The big downside to these subtitles is that they aren’t quite large enough.

There is no captioning of sounds throughout the game; guns, which get fired at the Bat quite often don’t get captions, which would be nice. Henchmen yelling at Batman from a city block away could benefit from subtitles as henchmen sometimes need to be dealt with, especially since certain henchmen will point players in the right direction of collectibles that they would otherwise need to spend far too much time and energy looking for on their own.

At a glance

~Batman: Arkham City is a bit darker of a game, but adjusting the brightness of the game is an option.
~Detective Mode really only darkens the screen, which in places makes the world seem a bit too dark and not quite defined enough. (-1 point)
~Detective Mode also draws the player’s attention to objects of interest by turning certain objects bright colors which does make them quite well contrasted to the environment, but at times the color combinations used for certain objects may get a little difficult for those with color issues. (-1 point)
~The subtitles in the game suffer a few visual problems – enough, in my opinion, to warrant the loss of half of a point. (-0.5 point)
Recommended score of 7.5 out of 10

~No captions in a game that would very much benefit from captions. (-1 point)
~Subtitles can be turned on/off.
~Subtitles follow the usual pattern of white font surrounded by a black outline on any old background made up of a font that could easily be larger.
~The darker atmosphere of the game lends itself in quite a few locations to the white subtitles as it provides a nice contrast for dialogue that would be better served on a dedicated background as opposed to just appearing on any background towards the bottom of the screen. (-0.5 point)
~The character speaking is noted prior to dialogue in subtitles which are nice as speakers will often times not be on camera or have their back to the camera which is nice as it makes for a very well informed player.
~The size of the font could be a bit larger; not crowding the screen is understandable, but taking one step to improve the overall accessibility of the subtitles just makes every other shortcoming of the subtitles seem that much more glaringly obvious. (-1 point)
Recommended score of 7.5 out of 10

~Game features 3 difficulty levels
~Controls are not remap-able, although there are two almost laughable preset configurations to choose from. (-1 point)
~One handed gamers will more than likely have a really hard time if using the stock console controller. (-1 point)
~Lots of button mashing. (-1 point)
~At one point, button mashing got so bad that reviewer had to make use of assistive technology. (-1 point)
~All of Batman’s gadgets will need to be used to get through the story aspect of the game and some players may have trouble using these gadgets causing the game to end prematurely for them. (-1point)
~Players can try endlessly to pass certain checkpoints, but there is no set number of attempts that can be made before the game decides the player has struggled enough in one area and gracefully moves them to the next. (-1 point)
Recommended score of 5 out of 10

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