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Batman: Arkham City [PS3]





The best Batman game to date.

9.5

Editors' Choice
Difficulty:
Just Right
Time Spent:
20 to 40 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Instant classic"

Summary

Batman Arkham City is an action adventure game in which you take on the role of Batman and takes place in Arkham City. The story finds Bruce Wayne captured and brought into Arkham City after he attempts to do a press conference outside one of Arkham City's entrances. From there it's up to him to figure out what exactly is going on in Arkham City. Arkham City itself can be best described as a sort of city/jail which functions as a way to house all sorts of evil villains and such. At the same time Batman Arkham City serves as a sequel to Batman Arkham Asylum.

Graphics wise Batman Arkham City is a real stunner all around. There is a plenty of attention to detail everywhere from the rooftops to the streets and right down the character models. The atmosphere itself also beautifully matches Batman's world and fits perfectly with the setting.

If you've played Batman Arkham Asylum you'll probably feel right at home with the combat system right and even if you haven't the system is very user friendly which makes it really easy to get into. Navigation also is really easy and once you don your Batsuit your free to explore and collect riddler trophies and do side missions at your leisure which really takes advantage of the open world setting.

If your fan or even just a passing one Batman Arkham City takes full advantage of the open world setting and as a result has incorporated numerous villains in varying capacities. As a result Batman Arkham City makes great use of the Batman brand in general while paying homage to some of the greatest villains to ever be in the Batman universe.

Audio wise Batman Arkham City features the returning voice actors for Batman, Joker and various other returning villains from Arkham Asylum while at the same time introducing great voice actors for the various new villains. Furthermore the musical score is perfect and fits wonderfully with the setting.

There is also some downloadable content and all new copies come with a onetime voucher code for Catwoman. If you're looking to buy the game used though you'll have to pay to be able to use her but even if you don't you really aren't missing out on much as her story is primarily separate from that of Batman's but to a very limited extent does intersect with his. However you won't be left with a sense of what the heck is she doing here if you don't get her though her story sections do provide some background as to why she's there. Outside of Catwoman you can also purchase various skins and other characters for use in challenge maps.

Overall Batman Arkham City is a fantastic game that pays homage to its roots while still providing a great all around experience.




I'm just not sure...

8.0

Superb
Difficulty:
Hard
Time Spent:
10 to 20 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Disappointing"

Summary

Having fully enjoyed the first instalment I was excited about the sequel. But recently I've become fed up with the lack of main story lines & the focus on side missions, and this game is the prime example.

I found myself drawn in from the start, maybe a little too much, as felt the countdown reminder of impending doom made me feel like I had to focus on nothing but the Joker mission, which needed to be completed before anything else or the whole of the city would be crushed. However this finished too quickly for me and was then left feeling cheated out of a full game. And having checked the stats after this I had only completed 46% of the game!

Now, don't get me wrong, I believe this is a fantastic follow on from one of the best games I've ever played and the new gadget's and ideas on how to use the character in the environment created were superb. Like the first game, they somehow managed to make the idea of going back over a previous level enjoyable as your new tool you pick up along the way make you really appreciate just how well thought out the levels, buildings and whole city really is by unveiling new secrets and areas you didn't even know you had to look out for, or interact with, the first time round. I played the PS3 version so played with Catwoman which was a great break up in the game and brought new elements to the series (lets be honest, there'll be another game). And like the Riddler task's in the first game, the side missions are bigger, better & harder than before.

New toys like being able to deactivate the guards guns without them knowing is fun and the fighting engine has, somehow, been improved and allows you to use several items in one massive combo. This is hard to master but gives you a great kick ass feel when you get in right.

My problem is that you don't really need to complete these side missions to complete the game. And recently I found that once I have completed the main game I have nothing left to play for and am looking for something else to play. Maybe I'm old school but for me, completing the game should be the challenge and getting the the last level on Mario and finally killing Bowser was hard & took ages - but you were rewarded with the knowledge that you had conquered the game. If you had to complete more of the side missions in order to get rewards which you need to complete the main game then this would be great. As it stands I just feel the side missions are a waste of time and unfortunately, this game relies on them too much.




Batman returns in terrific form, building on the near flawless groundwork of Arkham Asylum to varying degrees of success

8.5

Superb
Difficulty:
Just Right
Time Spent:
20 to 40 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Worth the wait"

Summary

If you want to talk about surprises in gaming you talk about Batman: Arkham Asylum. A videogame based off a hugely popular comic and film franchise is almost certainly doomed mediocrity, yet the then unknown Rocksteady took Batman and made him a gaming icon by pulling off the best action-adventure game in recent memory. As the direct sequel to the most pleasant surprise of 2009, Batman Arkham City has plenty to live up to, and despite a few poor design choices, Rocksteady have managed to pull it off again.

The most striking change to the Batman formula lies in the new "open-world" format, however one should not be fooled by appearances. Arkham City is in fact a large hub-world similar to Arkham Island in the last game, the difference being that Rocksteady have populated it with a plethora of extraneous activities to complement your Batman-ing experience.

The "open-world" is Arkham City's most significant issue, one the one hand it allows Rocksteady to provide Bat-fanatics with story-heavy side-missions that reveal the franchise's extensive rogues gallery, on the other hand it reduces much of denseness and focus that made Arkham Asylum so compelling. The game gates all side-content behind story missions, this which means playing any of them will show up Arkham City's false sense of urgency at every turn. Even though the story content within each of these missions is fantastic as both side-missions and fan service goes, access to it is gated behind repetitive point A to point B time-trials, mandatory collecting and exploration. This wouldn't be so much of an issue if Arkham City provided that rightful stalwart of all proper hub/open-worlds; the minimap, but instead it opts for a compass which never takes into account the fact that the city is based upon vertical levels.

Navigation of the city is made no easier by Rocksteady's decision to make many of the clutch tools that make moving around completely optional. For example: the grapnel boost which makes navigation a breeze can only be accessed if you complete 4 training missions, so plenty of players including myself at the time may not decide to do that first training mission and unknowingly forgo one of the best enhancements to the traversal mechanics that Arkham City provides. In fact Rocksteady assume that gamers are familiar with both the combat and traversal systems, throwing you into a combat situation immediately at the start of the game with Catwoman with little more than the explanation of "Yo Arkham Asylum right?" The rest of the game doles out new mechanics superbly, but even for an Arkham Asylum veteran like me the early stages of Arkham City were overwhelming from the get-go.

When you play Arkham City you would its predecessor, going from story mission to story mission, then the experience is incredible. The Zelda-esque structure lends itself perfectly to the missions once again, with each scenario providing new moves, gadgets and tricks for you to use against your foes. Rocksteady also haven't forgotten "the world's greatest detective" side of things, so you get to see Batman work his deductive magic and partake in the feeling of being a genius. During the main missions it's clear that Rocksteady has delivered on their implied promise of a pitch-perfect Batman simulator.

The 2 hours worth of Catwoman missions on the other play like Batman-lite, the mechanics and gameplay that is so fun with Batman being neutered by Catwoman's diminished moveset and manage said missions manage to bookend the game with underwhelming scenarios and tedium. It doesn't help that Rocksteady wrote about 10 lines of henchmen dialogue in these missions, almost all of them containing the word (B*tch) and that Catwoman herself is a dimensionless teenage fantasy sex-symbol who feels crowbarred into the plot to justify Rocksteady using her to dissuade used game purchases (as Catwoman is activated via download from the virtual store.)

The narrative itself is a delightful slow-burn, with little details trickling down as you investigate the goings-on regarding the super-villains of the city. It's fantastic hokey fun with a few surprising turns that never let you fall into a predictable groove. Admittedly, most of the twists are massive contrivances, a couple of them even descending to the realm to using a deus ex machina to move the plot forward. It feels awesome while you're playing, but once I looked back on the plot I couldn't avoid how dumb some of the plot elements were.

Unfortunately the "rogues gallery" nature of Batman means the game rarely settles on a villain to be an antagonistic force. Nolan North's rendition of Penguin almost rivals Mark Hamill's glorious Joker but you never get enough of each major villain, meaning those with prior knowledge will get more out of the characters than I did. This is to be expected in a sense because Rocksteady have such an infatuation about all things Batman that every piece of Arkham City is saturated in love for the Bat-verse to the point where a fanboy of the Dark Knight will probably explode with excitement, something that makes even a neophyte such as myself happy.

The groundwork set by Arkham Asylum has received nothing but improvement. The already superb freeflow combat has been perfected, now allowing you to mix in gadgets and special moves into your combos. Combat in Arkham City resembles an elegant ballet of pugilism with Batman effortlessly weaving in and out between henchmen with what seems like hundreds of bespoke animations blending seamlessly together, making Batman's ability to take down a group of enemies believable. The combat actively rewards the player for not button-mashing, skillful timing and situational awareness will make any gamer feel like a god, or more appropriately, like Batman. The game wisely changes things up gradually with new enemies and weapons that you will have to contend with, from beginning to end the combat feels fresh and nothing short of brilliant.

Predator mode, Batman AA's unique situational take on stealth, also returns with added toys and mechanics. The faintly ridiculous ability to swing from gargoyle to gargoyle to escape the gun-toting thugs in Arkham Asylum has been neutered, meaning you will always be mixing things up to deal with the newfound intelligence and equipment of those you are hunting. The part-puzzle, part-stealth gameplay requires a whole new set of strategic thinking which is executed well, is oh so satisfying.

The production and presentation have also been significantly improved and lacquered with pomp and circumstance. The rousing peal of the orchestra as Batman examines a new gadget is wonderful, as Rocksteady's devotion to making every camera angle of the Dark Knight look impressive. Arkham City loses none its predecessor's detail and severe design take on the Batman universe in the transition to the larger setting, and though everything is cast in shades of grey the city and its venues are still a delight to look at, if subject to some slow-loading textures and a general chunkiness to everything.

Both of the combat and Predator modes can been found in the challenge rooms that now have the added wrinkle that you can now play "Campaigns". These feature three challenges with different modifiers that change things up. It's a smart addition that builds on the original game's challenge rooms that allowed you to prepare for the hard and new game plus difficulty modes and also chase some highscores. Unfortunately, this content is again gated behind the Riddler secrets strewn about Arkham City and there are 400 of the damn things. There were quite a few of the same types of challenges in the last game but the number of actual puzzles and riddles is markedly less than the obscene numbers of collectible trophies that you need to progress a side-mission and get challenge rooms, this plays into the open-world to an extent because if you want to explore the wonderful world of Arkham City, you'd better like throwing batarangs to get trophies.

Make no mistake, Arkham City is a fantastic game that reaches the bar for quality action-adventuring set by Arkham Asylum. But its grandeur fails to hide the fact that this is most definitely a sequel to an almost flawless title. The moments when you're not investigating, fighting henchmen and stalking armed goons are the closest to filler than the series has come to thus far. It's a better game than its predecessor for sure, as the highs soar above any game out there, but more Batman doesn't necessarily equate to better Batman.




Rocksteady Studios proves yet again that good superhero games are possible; Arkham City is even better than Asylum.

10

Editors' Choice
Difficulty:
Hard
Time Spent:
20 to 40 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Masterpiece"

Summary

2009 is the year to be if you are Rocksteady Studios. You've been working on this Batman game, Arkham Asylum, for a while, and you are nervous for reception at release. Luckily, they did nearly everything right, fitting in a brooding atmosphere with satisfying combat. Now, two years later, lightning has struck twice with Arkham City, improving nearly everything over the predecessor.

Professor Hugo Strange has gained control over a sector of Gotham City, closing it off and creating a super prison in the process. Strange is preparing a super secret plan, known only as Protocol 10, and the Caped Crusader has to find a way to prevent Arkham City, and even Gotham City, from plunging into anarchy.

Protocol 10 and Strange's evil deeds aren't the only thing to look out for in Arkham City: several famous villains inhabit this massive prison, including Joker, Harley Quinn, Mister Freeze, Penguin, and Riddler. Each villain plays a large role in the main story, giving Batman a tough time throughout.

The main story is ultimately satisfying, giving players the most of the gameplay. The storyline is intense, starting with a bang and never slowing down; a quality that many will find perfect.

Arkham City returns the satisfying combat system of it's predecessor. One button presses can attack, counter, or stun, allowing for a handful of combos that make you feel good after you complete it.

In addition to his powerful fists, Batman brings all sorts of gadgets to battle. The Remote Electrical Charge can shock your enemies, a Smoke Pellet can distort enemies, and a Disruptor can prevent enemy equipment from working. All these gadgets are key to navigating Arkham City, as well as defeating foes.

Also returning from Arkham Asylum is Detective Vision, allowing you to see through walls, locate armed and unarmed enemies, and locate different terrains (such as breakable glass). Although Detective Vision is very helpful, you commonly find yourself using it often, making the game much easier.

Arkham City is an open world game, allowing you to do main story missions at your own pace. When you aren't doing story missions, you can hunt down a phone booth killer, search for an assassin, and destroy TITAN containers.

The world in itself is very satisying, lacking a large area, but making up for it with details. Even some Batman references appear now and then for that diehard Dark Knight fan.

The graphics are very nice. The character animations are smooth and satisfying, matching the movements the characters would do in a movie or real life. Fans may be mad at Rocksteady's decisions to alter certain character's appearances, but you come to enjoy their new looks.

Arkham City's sound goes great in the voice acting department. Featuring the likenesses of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Grey DeLisle, Nolan North, and many others, the characters all have a voice that is unforgettable. Sadly, the in game sounds are good, but not as great.

Consumers who buy the game new get access to a code that redeems Catwoman DLC. Miss Kyle has her own unique moveset that manages to feel satisying, yet does enough to feel different from Batman's. She also has a unique storyline that revolves around her plot to retrieve her goods that were taken from her. Sadly, her appearance makes up a measly 10% of the game, which feels too short for some.

Overall, Arkham City is the perfect package for Batman fans. Rocksteady has struck yet again with another fantastic Batman game. An exhilarating story, a multitude of characters, satisfying combat and navigation, a richly detailed world, and impressive animations make this the game to get in 2011.




Batman: Arkham City is a near perfect combination of heroic storytelling, good graphics and flawless gameplay.

9.0

Editors' Choice
Difficulty:
Just Right
Time Spent:
20 to 40 Hours
The Bottom Line:
"Worth playing"

Summary

Many licensed games simply do not capture the atmosphere from the stories they are based on. They create a predictable story, horrific gameplay and repetitive soundtrack which only dampens the experience. Batman: Arkham City is the complete opposite.

Arkham City is a violent and dark place; but it is here where many extraordinary things happen. The plot is fresh and exciting, the atmospheric graphics are absorbing and glorious and the gameplay is addictive and thrilling. Everything from the variety of enemies, to the flawless combat and cinematic soundtrack is purely tremendous. It truly does sets the bar high for licensed games, and is one of the best licensed games ever made.

As far as the plot goes, Arkham City does a excellent job at crafting a memorable and unpredictable tale with a shocking conclusion. Hugo Strange knows Batman's true identity, and to make matters worse many of Batman's worse enemies are freely roaming the streets of Arkham City including The Joker. The story follows a undeniably exciting path starring many of Batman's most memorable, fearful opponents and does a great job at introducing familiar characters. The pacing is quite good too, but some parts drag on a bit long. Luckily, every time I started to grow tired of a part it would normally end.

The game is about ten hours long, but it's easy to get distracted in Arkham City, a place full of content. There are Riddler puzzles and challenges placed all over the city, and they can sometimes be difficult. They aren't overwhelmingly so, but it all adds to the fun. The side-quest are also decent, and features appearances from more of Batman's most feared villains. Obviously, the game has trophy support and also a intense Challenge Mode where you get points for pulling off brutal combos, and defeating waves of enemies.

Finally, the game has a good amount of replay value thanks to a New Game+ where all gadgets and upgrades you acquired in your previous playthrough return, but the difficulty is far more tedious and a few gameplay changes makes it far more interesting, like the disappearance of the counter alert symbol.

Arkham City is a atmospheric, beautifully fascinating city nothing short of absorbing. It feels ultimately dangerous and even mysterious. While exploring, you may notice various areas that make this city feel as if it was once peaceful, and busy. The city isn't necessarily massive, but it is spectacularly detailed and graphic, where prisoners walk the streets, attacking who ever they see and snow falls continuous onto the city. Icy bridges lead to locations like a police station, and a museum which are astonishingly detailed to a unbelievable point.

The graphics are colorful yet dark, and very comic-like. Some blurry textures are noticeable, but overall it's a excellent looking game. Water-effects are also quite good, and animations are fluid, stylish and realistic. In my time with the game, I didn't experience any frame-rate drops and pop-in textures which is amazing for a game of this size, especially since there are a lot of things happening on screen at one time.

The soundtrack does a great job at crafting a cinematic experience, delivering most strongly on the epic action segments. Sound effects in general are perfect, and a few subtle details add to the atmosphere such as distant sirens, and gunshots. The voice-acting is also top-notch, with my only complaint being some lines repeating among enemy A.I.

The gameplay is considerably the greatest thing about Arkham City, blending puzzles, combat and sneaking into one single masterpiece. Starting with puzzle-solving, there are over 400 Riddler puzzles lying around Arkham City. You have to complete puzzles in the main story also, using many of Batman's most iconic gadgets including the Batarang. These are normally easy, with the only exception being the number of gadgets in the game. It's easy to forget you have some of them, and when they are required to get pass a certain point it may not occurred to you what to use.

There's also Detective Mode which was also used in the predecessor, Arkham Asylum, a useful feature Batman often uses to investigate different environments. These aren't necessarily puzzles, but makes full use of Batman's detective skills. Detective Mode also highlights enemies and other useful clues.

Combat is exciting, responsive and hard-hitting. Melee combat is handled through a simple system which never feels too complex. By pressing one button, you can counter opponents and attack them with another. Many combos are available, and add more involvement in taking down enemies. You can also quickly use gadgets in combat, which makes it feel cinematic and cool while still being useful.

The variety of enemies is vast, and each one requires different techniques to take them down. A enemy with a stun baton for example requires you to get behind him, while an armoured foe makes use of Batman's cape. This helps with the pacing too, because every time the gameplay became dull a new enemy type was introduced.

Other opponents have guns, and this adds a stealth element to Arkham City. Batman can be taken down in just a few shots, so bravely waiting out in the opening raises the possibility of being killed. By using various tactics, you can attack enemies from above, behind and even below. Taking out all enemies while remaining entirely silent is interesting, and unpredictable but very exciting.

And this brings me to one of the most surprisingly good factors of Arkham City; the A.I. Shockingly, when you get spotted by enemies they don't ignore your presence after a certain amount of time, and go back to their everyday lives as criminals. Instead, they split up, mostly in groups and search for you. This makes things sometimes difficult, but admirable due to the realism. The A.I also works perfectly together in melee combat, attacking in groups and even using different weapons in the area. This opens up possibilities for more combos of course, but it also makes it far more intense.

As you play through you game, you earn points and can level up. You can get new gadgets, combos, sneaking bonuses and finally, suit upgrades. This enhances the experience even more, and adds even more content.

Getting around the city would normally be difficult, but a fun transportation system is in place. Batman can use his cape to glide through the air, and also use a grappling hook to reach rooftops at a press of a button. It's very convenient, and is a easy, yet perfect system for Batman's transportation.

Arkham City sets a new height for licensed games. It stays true to the character it's based on, while creating a different, fantastic story. The graphics are dark and mysterious, blending with engaging gameplay and wonderful, magnificent heroic soundtrack worthy of the masterpiece it's assigned to. Even if you don't like Batman, it's worth a try for the marvelous gameplay alone. Everything about Arkham City is simply, ridiculously breathtaking, and is personally, the greatest superhero game created so far. It truly is heroic.
9.0

Editors' Choice
9.6
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