|BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY|
RELEASED: October 2011
AVAILABLE ON: PC, PS3, Wii U, X360
DEVELOPER(S): Rocksteady Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
The London-based Rocksteady Studios - who had only one prior game under their belts - blew the bank with 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum, which was not only nominated the best video game based on a comic book ever created, but also one of the best overall games of all time. Before the smoke had even begun to clear, the team revealed the development of a sequel had already begun, back when Arkham Asylum was about 70% done. The expectations for the game were already humongous, but when they revealed this game would remove the restrictions of being stuck on an island and take the action to the city, as well as feature the most impressive rogues' gallery ever seen in a single piece of Batman media, some critics and fans alike were almost certain that Rocksteady would screw up, by stumbling on their own ambition to create a piece of Bat-fan service like no other. Well, they didn't, and Batman: Arkham City is the best thing to ever come out of the Batman franchise. It's a game every Batman fan simply must own, and a game that just as surely helps to create a new generation of Batman fans. I dare to say it's just a tad overrated, though.
To live and die in Arkham City
Kevin Conroy : Batman / Bruce Wayne / Hush
Grey DeLisle : Catwoman / Martha Wayne
Corey Burton : Hugo Strange
Mark Hamill : Joker
Nolan North : Penguin / Black Mask
Martin Jarvis : Alfred Pennyworth
Tara Strong : Harley Quinn
Maurice LaMarche : Mr. Freeze / Calendar Man
Dee Bradley Baker : Ra's al Ghul
Wally Wingert : Riddler
Arkham City is a secluded part of the Gotham City coastline, turned into a mega-prison. The infamous supervillains of Gotham City, previously incarcerated in the now defunct Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison, have been allowed to run rampant and plot against each other in the run-down streets of Arkham City, and a psychiatrist named Hugo Strange has been placed in charge. Batman grows suspicious of the whole concept of Arkham City and risks his life by infiltrating the criminal playground to investigate Strange's activities. Much to his dismay, he has to rely on the aid of many of his sworn enemies to discover Strange's true purpose and simply survive Arkham City.
|Hmm. A ferris wheel, here - seems a little off. |
Wonder who owns this joint.
Considering that Arkham Asylum was loosely based on perhaps the darkest Batman special ever - Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (1989) - and retained storyline elements that were brought into the franchise by other critically acclaimed 80's comics that were not suitable for children, The Killing Joke in particular, the game really wasn't as dark as I expected. Well, you can count on Batman: Arkham City to punch straight into the heart of darkness. The amazing storyline's full of shocking events that will leave Batman fans speechless, and the side missions that go with the semi-sandbox territory range from tracking down a political assassin, to investigating a series of gruesome murders in which the perp cuts his victims' faces off, to racing against time to stop another well known serial killer from exercising his primitive urge to stick his huge blade in just about every poor, random son of a bitch he sees. All this while, Batman isn't quite like his usual self. You'll have to see what truly motivates him for yourself, but let's just say he's VERY angry, VERY desperate to get to his goal, and perhaps the biggest asshole he's ever been. The developers brought out Batman's love for himself quite effectively in Arkham Asylum, here they exploited that even further, but managed to keep a balance so that players wouldn't grow to downright hate him or be annoyed by the guy to the point of wanting to quit the game.
|Ah, should've guessed.|
The storyline and its cinematic presentation are so perfect that one has to clutch to straws in searching for splinters, but there are some. The grand finale is totally unpredictable and well written, but a little anti-climactic in terms of gameplay - as is the case with a sad amount of promising boss fights. Since there are so many villains in the game - I seriously can't name many standout villains who aren't at least referred to by name - some are bound to have weaker character development and less screen time than the rest of 'em. I love the Joker, I seriously do, but I think since he was already the main villain in Arkham Asylum, he could've easily been made more of a supporting character this time around - the kind of which he was promoted as in the teasers - instead of one of the many big cheeses of the game. And, if they had to make him one of the main villains, for the last time in the whole Batman franchise at that, why not explain his background a little better - is his backstory in The Killing Joke now the official one? I'm not quite sure. Anyway, Rocksteady squeezing this game full of fan service also leaves us questioning the future; another sequel is obvious, but what do they have left to blow our minds to shit with? Arkham City does it all.
|Playing with the "Bat-PSP" has changed a |
The sound of the game is perfect, the only possible flaw lies in the repetition of random dialogue between Arkham City inmates and the motivational speeches by the villains heard on the radio. The sound is almost worth a fabled ten, then. Nick Arundel and Ron Fish return, only this time Arundel's been credited for most of the actual composition. Arkham Asylum already had some killer, original Batman music, but the epic, emotional and spot-on score of Arkham City will blow your fucking mind if you're half of a Batman fan. I think Arundel and Fish should give some RPG a go some time - with a few more high-profile titles such as this under their belts, they could become the greatest video game composers of this generation and join the all time Hall of Fame already including guys like Nobuo Uematsu, Akira Yamaoka, Robin Beanland, David Wise, Koji Kondo and Peter McConnell. Yes, the music's that great.
|Checking out the gruesome sights of Arkham |
Where should I... hmmm... start (?). Well first of all, Arkham City is a pseudo-sandbox of a game, which means you'll be able to explore the whole environment from the beginning, with the exception of Wonder City - the center of the town formally known as "Restricted Area" - and some small buildings which become accessible during side missions. The storyline is linear, but not nearly as linear as in Arkham Asylum. Even though you're in a world of hurry according to storyline (you'll see), you always have time for side missions. It's a golden rule of sandbox games, even pseudo ones. There are a few periods of time within the storyline during which you cannot do anything but proceed in the game itself, but don't worry, you cannot miss anything for good; there's always a chance to return and take care of some loose ends, even after the storyline ends. That's where Arkham City puts one over on a masterpiece like Red Dead Redemption, but again, rating Arkham City higher than a beautiful, totally original game such as that is more than exaggeration. A lot of flaws connected to the story were already covered, but the gameplay's not spot-on perfect either.
Detective Mode has been heavily altered to prevent players from resorting to its awesomeness full time. In the first game, Detective Mode enabled players to see through walls, make quick scans of enemy movements and patterns, and spot every breakable wall and hidden object from afar. It made things easy. It still does make things a whole lot easier, and you'll find yourself relying on it a lot, but there's a twist; Detective Mode only helps you detect distinct forms. The GPS doesn't work as long as the mode is active. If it's a solution to a traditional riddle you're looking for, you won't find it as long as the Detective Mode is on. You cannot see posters on the wall - the usual solutions to the riddles - or highly detailed background objects. It's more of a pure thermal scan this time around. Riddler Trophies can still be seen from afar, but seeing them is just half of the story; you'll need to really work to get them this time around. You'll not just need a wide variety of gadgets, you need a pair of active brains. Arkham City features some of the trickiest video game puzzles seen in a decade.
|It's not a good day to get on a bat's bad side.|
There was really no way to make the enemies' base A.I. any better than it was in Arkham Asylum, so Rocksteady loaded them up with advanced tactics, unique behaviours and even gadgets to counter Batman's toys to draw the line. You're going to have your hands full in any predator sequences beyond the standard playthrough. They leave landmines to paths you usually must pass to get to a vantage point. Not only will the landmines deal damage, but the sound of them exploding attracts a lot of attention (duh). If you use the same tactic too many times or are caught doing something, such as swinging from gargoyles and hanging people upside down from them, the guards catch on to your antics very quick, to the point of shooting the gargoyles down. There are also guards equipped with thermal goggles; the bastards that are the worst to deal with are guys with electronic jammers that are programmed to disrupt your Detective Mode, meaning you cannot scan the environment for any vantage points, hazards or other enemies as long as that guy is conscious. These guys are a very solid part of New Game +, which I'll deal with later.
|Like I said.|
Simple walking's still a bit stiff, that blade dodge is what it is, and being able to grapple a freakin' GRAPPLE POINT is still a bit random, but in the big picture, the controls are great; grappling has at least improved to the point you can grapple from mid-air, which is a feature mandatory to your success. Rocksteady even nailed what seemed impossible to nail by allowing Batman to perform a dive bomb from mid-air and switching to a steady glide in the middle of it, and vice versa. All in all, I could not have asked for better improvements, and in fact, the Catwoman DLC brings out the best qualities in Batman's occasional stiffness.
Like I already said, you will not be done with Arkham City in a day, a whole matter of them, or if you're really enthusiastic, even months. For a story this short, and for a game of this genre, Arkham City is a long enduring piece of work. There's plenty to do, and the Trophies/Achievements demand an extra mile or a dozen of them to be travelled. Some of the Trophies are extravagantly random, like having to speak to a character on twelve different holiday seasons - it's all tracked by the system clock - but well over 90% of them push the player to attempt to achieve complete ownage in every aspect of the game, 'til there's simply nothing more it can offer you. That will take a long time; even if you aced Arkham Asylum, there's no guarantee you'll ace Arkham City. Just taking care of the Riddler's 400 challenges in the main game takes time; again, just managing to locate each and every Trophy won't get you much closer to completion.
|Perhaps the finest addition to the extremely |
fine gallery of rogues.
Batman: Arkham City is not a perfect game, but it pretty much is the perfect Batman game, the best licensed video game in history, and the pinnacle of the whole Batman media franchise. These are some huge words, and I assure you that the game lives up to them. In its own way, it is a masterpiece, but I refuse to treat it as an equal to completely original ideas that have translated to the most phenomenal video games in history during the last two decades. Even having Batman at his prime of being an asshole as a lead character, ridiculously awesome all-around style and the greatest bunch of villains since Metal Gear Solid isn't enough to render this game virtually flawless.
GRAPHICS : 8.9
SOUND : 9.9
PLAYABILITY : 9.1
LIFESPAN : 9.3
CONCLUSION : 9.2
|CATWOMAN BUNDLE PACK|
The ridiculously sexy professional thief Selina Kyle is after the "score of a lifetime". Unfortunately for her, it's in Two-Face's possession. Two-Face is using the funds to beat Penguin and Joker in the quest of becoming the most influential crime boss in Arkham City. Selina finds herself having to choose between the chance of gaining unimaginable wealth and leaving Gotham for good, and her romantic feelings for Batman.
Since what belongs in the Catwoman DLC is so easy to separate from everything going on in the base retail, let's put it this way: if I had finished Arkham City without taking the occasional sidestep with Catwoman, I would've been seriously disappointed with the game. Catwoman and Two-Face both appear in the game, but their presence has close to no meaning without the DLC. The intro to the game, as great as it is, would not have nearly as much spunk if the game wouldn't actually begin with the first Catwoman episode once the DLC's installed. It's so God damn stylish, it's far from being just a promotional item - it's definitely a part of the game. And, Catwoman's so freaking sexy that it hurts. The character model puts its most obvious influence, Michelle Pfeiffer in her Catwoman suit, to shame, and here I thought that was impossible.
Grey DeLisle downright FEASTS on her character's ultrasexy looks, and goes totally over the top with her sexy and sarcastic tone of voice. I love everything about this "new" incarnation of Catwoman, and this game just further proves that Catwoman is one of the most misinterpreted, underrated, perhaps somewhat spoiled and wrongly utilized characters in the DC Universe. You just can't live without this DLC in tow, it does so much wonders to the story of Arkham City and considering that you'll be watching Catwoman shake her amazing ass for the most of its duration, even paying a ten for it doesn't seem like a bad deal at all... even if the controls suck.
'Cause controlling Catwoman sucks, as opposed to controlling Batman. First of all, Selina doesn't have a cape to glide with, she only has her incredible ability to jump to great heights, use her whip to swing around, and her razor-sharp claws to scale walls with. Climbing walls in particular is very awkward compared to Batman's smooth(er) use of the grappling hook. Selina uses Thief Vision as an equivalent to Batman's Detective Mode, and she has a small variety of gadgets of her own - nothing too useful. Most of the time, you just need advanced melee combat tactics and her ability to grab and move across certain types of ceilings to get by. The biggest problem with the controls, I think, is that Catwoman is way too quick and agile, she's out of control - no pun intended. It goes to show how much Batman's stiffness actually benefits the joy of gameplay instead of dragging it down.
Catwoman has 40 Riddler Trophies of her own to collect, and they're easy to obtain, so if you're having trouble with some of Batman's Trophies or the physical challenges, you can collect the Catwoman Trophies in their stead. They also tally up to Sphinx's Riddle, one of the six new Trophies/Achievements that come with the DLC. Three different models of Catwoman are added into the Riddler's Revenge challenge maps to be used any time, and there's an option to replay each of her four storyline chapters without having to replay the whole game.
Besides the somewhat awkward controls, I have absolutely nothing but praise and upward thumbs to offer to this DLC. So much good promotion of downloadable content goes to complete waste, since after Catwoman, I finally see that a sad amount of DLC IS complete waste. It's so good, and Arkham City just wouldn't be the same without it. If you buy a used copy of the game, do yourself a favour and download this bundle. Even if you're disappointed with the bundle's content in itself, IT WILL MAKE THE WHOLE GAME BETTER. And more immersive. I guarantee it.
RATING : 9.0
|ROBIN BUNDLE PACK|
This Robin is the third one, Tim Drake, since in this continuity, Dick Grayson (I'll just call him Richard from now on) has adopted the guise of Nightwing, and Jason Todd is indeed dead and buried. Batman treats Tim like shit, which is probably because of Jason's death; he doesn't really like having a sidekick around, mostly because he worries about him. It's funny that Tim actually saves Batman's life in the one single point of the game he makes an appearance in. What can I say, Batman's an asshole. Already, Tim shows a lot of promise, and if you bought the game from GameStop, or were patient enough to wait for the Robin Bundle Pack to become available for a fee of seven on PSN or LIVE, you'll not only be able to see more of him, you get to play as him on the challenge maps. And it's damn great. Especially if you're lucky enough to get it for free like I was.
Robin has a few gadgets of his own, which might come in handy during the predator challenges. Basic freeflow combat's where he shines, though. Tim wields a kick-ass staff which can be used for some awesome combo moves that pack some serious hurt. Unlike Catwoman, the middleweight Robin is optimal to control, perhaps even more comfortable than Batman. I'm not saying that I would like to play as Robin throughout the whole experience, and I'm also not saying I would ever like to see a full-length Arkham spin-off starring Robin, but perhaps I would like to see Robin taking Catwoman's place as the secondary protagonist, IF Arkham 3 ever comes out.
The Robin Bundle Pack comes complete with two additional character models, the cowled Red Robin - the recurring DC Comics identity which Tim assumed in the comics in 2009 - and the animated Robin that's supposed to be Tim's character model from The New Batman Adventures.
By far the only thing that drags the Robin Bundle Pack down is its high price in relativity to the Catwoman DLC, which is only a tad more expensive and features all content on display here, and a lot more. I got both for free, so this is not really a personal issue for me, but I know there are plenty of people who've planned to save money by buying a used copy of the game, and had to pay for every bit of downloadable content. I still remember what it felt like when the Ultimate Edition of Dragon Age: Origins was announced after I had just busted my ass to get every add-on pack for the game.
RATING : 8.5
|NIGHTWING BUNDLE |
Nightwing is by all means an extra character for true DC fans only. Some casual Batman fans of my age, who grew up with The Animated Series or the 60's show, might not even recognize the character at all, since this is a quite rare appearance by Nightwing in mainstream media; apparently he had a more important role in The New Batman Adventures, which I haven't watched at all yet, but mostly, DC sticks to keeping Nightwing in print only. He doesn't even have a voice actor.
Not only is paying the same amount of money for Nightwing as Robin a bit salty, Nightwing is awkward to control. His standard physics are pretty much the same as Robin's, but his weapon of choice (a pair of electrified nunchaku) lacks the impact of Batman's fist, Robin's staff or even Catwoman's claws. Argue with me if you want, but he's simply not fun. I bought him to get the complete package, but unlike the previous downloadable characters, he really doesn't bring any fresh spice to the table, just a few additional - and typical - Trophies to go for.
Downloading Nightwing is a better deal than downloading a playable Joker for Batman: Arkham Asylum, but this is Batman: Arkham City we're talking about, and after the stellar main game and two such fabulous DLC packs, it doesn't really feel like anything. It's worth half of its price at the most.
RATING : 6.5
a.k.a. Batman: Arkham Asylum 2 (working title)
Batman: Arkham City: 90.00% (PC), 96.16% (PS3), 94.24% (X360)
Nightwing Bundle Pack: 70.00% (X360)
The game was released on the same day as the straight-to-video animated movie Batman: Year One.
Wikipedia lists 35 Batman villains under the category of "Central rogues' gallery" in the article "List of Batman Family enemies". No less than 19 of them make a physical appearance in the game, and almost everyone is referenced in some capacity.
Mark Hamill voiced the Joker for 19 years, from the first season of Batman - The Animated Series to Batman: Arkham City. Before the game was released, he said that Arkham City - in which he initially refused to perform - would mark his final performance as the Joker, since he believed to have reached the peak of his legendary portrayal of the villain in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
There are many blunt references to the TV series Lost, made by inmates and even Joker. Paul Dini, long-time Batman writer as well as the writer of Batman: Arkham City, was part of the team of writers for Lost during its first two seasons.
Batman: Arkham City marks Solomon Grundy's second appearance in a DC Universe product solely involving Batman. Grundy has more prominently appeared in many other DC Comics' publications, such as Swamp Thing, Superman and Green Lantern.