Batman: Arkham City Review
A new open world setting and improved combat make up the best Batman game yet
Batman: Arkham City, developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, is the follow up sequel to 2009’s smash hit Batman: Arkham Asylum. This Batman game has a new open world setting with a few gameplay changes and additions. There is a large amount of content in this game with side missions, more Riddler trophies, alternate characters, and the return of challenge rooms. This isn’t without fault as this experience does suffer from some minor technical hiccups, but overall comes together in a nice complete package. If you are a Batman fan, pick up a copy.
The narrative starts off with a bang and does not let up. The first minutes of the game are filled with spoilers so the story can only be summed up as such: Batman needs to stop Hugo Strange before he enacts his secret plan that will spell certain doom. The game has a breakneck pace that makes you feel like time is your constant enemy. This is implemented quite well with Hugo Strange counting down the hours you have left and calls from The Joker and Alfred telling you to hurry up. There is also a large cast of Batman villains that make up the side quests. These villains range from fan favorites (Joker and Two-Face) to some lesser known villains like (Dead Shot and The Mad Hatter). All together this tale brings you in and doesn’t let go until the final cut scene.
This experience if full of content that gives it quite a bit of breadth and replayability. Unlike Arkham Asylum, Arkham City has a large open world hub that lets you travel from area to area with an improved glide system with tasks littered along the way. A large portion of the gameplay still takes place indoors and is very reminiscent of Asylum. Outside of the main story you can engage in a variety of various side missions and optional objectives. These side missions are quite lengthy in their own right being self-contained stories on par with the main plot. Augmented Reality Training spots are also littered along Arkham City’s large map helping you hone your flight skills. Riddler trophies make a comeback and are harder than ever rewarding exploration and back tracking.
If you are willing to pay a few dollars, there are DLC characters in the form of Catwoman and Nightwing, with their own stories, missions, and combat styles that mix up the gameplay. Challenge rooms return with varying enemy types, enemy configurations, and scenarios that need to be completed for a high score. These challenge rooms are unlocked as you complete more of the side missions and Riddler trophy objectives. There are also various difficulty levels and a new game plus mode that lets you battle against new enemy formations resulting in a much more challenging experience. Batman: Arkham City is full of content and replayability, this time around, resulting in quite a few hours of enjoyment.
Batman: Arkham City has a very similar combat system to its predecessor with a few tweaks and upgrades. The fluid combat returns with well-timed hits and counters resulting in powerful finishers that are mandatory on harder difficulties. The melee combat is mixed with new gadgets like the freeze bomb, which result in a good variety of options during a fight. Stealth segments are also plentiful as it wouldn’t be Batman without them. You are sometimes tasked with taking out a room without being noticed and this gets drastically harder with thermal imaging, snipers, and proximity mines. Finally there are boss battles that are quite large in scale that test your dodging skills and gadget use, as many of Batman’s foes can’t be taken on toe to toe. This culminates in an enjoyable battle system that rewards well timed button presses and mixed up gadget use.
The presentation of this game is top notch, but does suffer from a few minor technical issues. The aesthetic is classic Batman with a gritty, dilapidated, crime ridden city that feels gloomy and hopeless. This also comes through in the character models as each character has their own distinct feel, especially the villains with strong animations that are fluid and natural. The game has crisp textures with pretty long draw distances. This is all marred by Arkham City’s decently long load times though. Every time you transition indoors or die you are greeted with a load screen. The load time isn’t unbearably long, but if you find yourself dying in quick succession it can get quite aggravating. There are also some slowdown and frame rate issues in areas with large amounts of enemies on the over world. This was only noticeable in a few areas, but it is worthy of note.
Arkham City sports a good soundtrack and an even better cast of voice actors. The soundtrack is versatile, switching between quiet in the background to strong and loud in the forefront. This helps to accentuate battle scenes and the panic during stealth segments. The voice work is top notch with Mark Hamill returning as the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman. Other strong voice actors fill in the rest of the cast including Nolan North who slips in playing a character you may not recognize him as. The soundtrack and voice work really come together and add to the presentation and style.
Batman: Arkham City is an excellent follow up to Arkham Asylum, building upon the gameplay mechanics introduced in its predecessor. The main story and side missions are fast paced and enjoyable creating a strong narrative that flows well and at a consistent pace. The game is packed with missions and diversions that encourage multiple playthroughs, resulting in a lengthy experience. The presentation and aesthetic is classic Batman with a run-down and gloomy city fraught with villains. The soundtrack and voice work help to accentuate the experience making you feel like you are in a Batman comic. Unfortunately the game suffers from some annoying load times and slowdown in some areas, but these technical issues are minor in scope. If you enjoy action games and are a super hero fan - be sure to check this game out.