BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY
AVINASH BALI | 27 December 2011
For : Best superhero game ever, Expands upon Arkham Asylum tenfold, makes you feel like Batman, terrific presentation, tons of content.
Against : Navigation is a bit weird, Unlock system is a tad underwhelming.
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY
Batman fan or not, Arkham City is one game you cannot afford to miss.
By Avinash Bali
Batman: Arkham City
I admit, I’m not a huge Batman fan. But I do appreciate a good licensed game because it’s such a rarity. 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum showed us that games based on comic book superheroes can be uber-awesome, and developer Rocksteady was nothing but passionate as they packed in a well-rounded, highly polished experience that allowed gamers to explore the psyche of the Dark Knight, something no game had done before. In doing so, they not only won over the affections of gamers, but of die-hard Batman fans as well. With Arkham City, they’ve taken fan service to the next level, expanding upon what was already a very kickass action game.
The action has moved out of the confines of the Asylum and into Arkham City, a super prison of sorts that’s now a breeding ground for Gotham’s scum. Dr. Hugo Strange is now in charge of this place and it’s up to Batman to find out what his end game is. At the same time, his arch nemesis - The Joker, has a few tricks up his sleeve. Along the way, Batman will encounter a ton of bad dudes from the Batman universe, some of which will probably only be familiar to hardcore fans. Thankfully, the story unfolds in a manner that can be enjoyed by those who don’t know the difference between Cobblepot and Solomon Grundy.
With the move to Arkham City, gamers definitely have more freedom than before. This isn’t an open-world game like GTA IV, but there is a stupendous amount of content to play through. Besides the story itself, you have a ton of side quests scattered all over the map. Some could be as simple as rescuing an unfortunate soul from a beating, to teaming up with a certain recurring villain to destroy an ‘X’ amount of Titan containers all over the city. Side quests don’t feel like they’re thrown in forcibly to increase the game’s length as they tie in to the Batman lore in some way or another, introducing quite a few surprises along the way. You also have The Riddler making his return with way more puzzles, some of which are actually quite deadly. Finally, you have the Challenge Rooms that will test your skill at both stealth and combat. Based on various maps inspired by the campaign itself, Challenge Rooms will push your skills to the limit as you take on waves of enemies to attain high scores or knock out a roomful of enemies silently in a stipulated amount of time.
While I appreciate the change in scenery, I had a minor gripe with the navigation system. Now that the game’s far bigger in scope, I found myself circling an objective for minutes before I found an entry point. Keeping the quasi open-world structure in mind, a mini map would have really helped. Another aspect of gameplay I didn’t particularly care for was the unlock system. In Arkham Asylum, you revisited parts of the island with newer gadgets and improved abilities so you could access areas you previously couldn’t. This aspect is significantly reduced here, as you begin the game with pretty much all your abilities, making the unlock system pretty redundant.
Besides these two minor niggles, Arkham City delivers the perfect Batman experience. If you’ve played Arkham Asylum, you’ll be right at home, since gameplay mechanics largely remain unchanged. Both stealth and combat return as the two core pillars of gameplay and are more refined than before. The fluid and responsive FreeFlow combat system is back with the addition of newer moves and counter attacks that make going through a group of enemies feel like violent poetry in motion. Another part of the combat that always gets to me is its raw physicality driven home by stellar sound effects and wicked camera angles.
No matter how badass Batman is, he still is very much human so a shot to the face can, well, kill him. Sure, you can now go up against these guys as you have the ability to deploy smoke bombs to disorient them, but it’s way more satisfying to outwit and outflank them, picking them off one by one. Crawl through vents, climb up on the gargoyle statues, or just sneak up behind an enemy and take him down. It’s familiar territory for those who played the first game, and it feels awesome.
Arkham Asylum was a gorgeous game and its successor is no different. Built on the same Unreal 3 engine, Rocksteady has managed to churn out some mighty fine visuals both indoors and outdoors. As you set foot in Arkham City for the first time, the staggering scope of the city hits you as you gaze upon the skyline ripe for exploration. The city itself is packed with so much detail that it will take you a few minutes just to soak it all in. Batman’s animations have also been heavily worked upon and the act of jumping or gliding from building to building looks extremely fluid and natural. Character design, as always, is top notch and everyone from Batman himself to the villains and their grunts are very well designed. This is one game that screams of high production values and immaculate attention to detail.
If you’re still reading this review and haven’t made a beeline for your store to pick up a copy yet, it’s a given that this is a must-buy action game. Minor issues aside, Arkham City delivers the perfect Batman experience. It looks good, plays well, and offers a stupendous amount of content that will keep you within Arkham City for days. It is a shining example of licensing done right and I really hope other developers sit up and take notice.