One of the generation’s most anticipated sequels is finally here, gracing the presence of Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and soon, the PC. Batman: Arkham City has been promising to fulfill the desires of Batman fans everywhere, but has it lived up to the media hype that has been swirling around it?
Set in an open-world Arkham City, a mini-metropolis for criminals, Batman is out to stop the exploits of the Joker, Mr. Freeze, the Penguin, Two-Face and a few other Batman baddies that we won’t mention to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. You, of course, command the Dark Knight as he tackles his duties with the usual broody aplomb, skillfully taking out his enemies with his stealth, his gadgets, and of course, brute force.
Unlike Batman: Arkham Asylum which was more of a beat’em up Metroidvania style game, Batman: Arkham City is a beat’em up Assassin’s Creed-style game with Metroidvania elements. Confused? Don’t be. To put it simply, you can travel anywhere in the beautifully rendered Gotham-y city. You can enter buildings to explore their environments and take on smaller missions, but there are elements and locations in the game that cannot be reached without unlocking some of Batman’s signature super gadgets.
Unlocking gadgets can be done automatically through story progression, or by building up experience by completing missions, finishing training sessions, and of course, crushing your enemies.
The main campaign is a little longer than Arkham Asylum, but there are tons more side missions, collectibles to find, and puzzles from The Riddler to solve. That doesn’t even account for the tons of challenge maps that can be unlocked and played. Simply put, it is a much beefier experience than its predecessor. The story itself will leave you guessing until the very end. The voice acting is absolutely phenomenal from every performance. And the end result feels like a more true-Batman experience that what you can find from cinema.
Control-wise, you’ll be hard pressed to find a game that is more precise than Batman: Arkam City. Attacks and counters are all performed with split-second accuracy and the improved combat system allows for multiple counters at once, resulting in some of the best-looking and feeling fight sequences in gaming.
Traveling through the city can be done with your grapnel hook and cape which makes getting from one side of town to the other not only effective, but fun too. And of course, along the way, you can dive-bomb some of your enemies. Some of your gadgets have seen some nice upgrades too like the line hook that will allow you to not only change directions mid course, but you can also use the line as a tightrope too.
Graphically, the environments have seen some huge improvements over its predecessor. Some of the textures on the consoles, however, look like they’ve taken a hit in terms of pixel count, most likely due to the larger environment size. It’s nothing terrible and it won’t ruin the game, but it is noteworthy. We’re hoping that the PC version promises to pack a few of those missing pixels back into the experience.
If you’ve purchase Arkham City, you can download and install the Cat Woman side quests. All of her Riddler trophies can be seen right from Batman’s main quest and she plays a sizable role in the storyline. However, if you’ve only rented the game, or you’re borrowing it from a friend, you need to purchase her missions for a pretty hefty price. This, we feel, is a slightly underhanded form of DRM and therefore unacceptable. If her missions came at a later date a few months down the line, we could understand. As a launch-day DLC, it is certainly a clever marketing campaign, but Rocksteady seems to be cheating its renters out of a key portion of their title. It also puts the game’s future integrity in jeopardy when the Playstation Network and Xbox Live aren’t what they are today. Simply put, we feel she should be part of the package for everyone.
But aside from that, Akham City is an improvement in almost every way over Akham Asylum. The storyline, the combat, the challenge and the environment have all seen some major renovations. The challenge maps, side quests, and puzzles will leave everyone busy for a very long time. Even those who simply rent or borrow the game will find more than enough content to keep them happy. The new game plus mode is a welcome addition that will keep this single player masterpiece in your system until the next AAA game is here.
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Name: Batman: Arkham City
Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Developed by: Rocksteady Studios
Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release date: October 21, 2011
EG Score: 5 out of 5 / “Worth Buying and Renting”