Batman: Arkham City Review – Playing as the Dark Knight in the Big Bad City

Batman: Arkham Asylum showed us what being Batman was like. Batman: Arkham City shows us what being Batman is like in the big city. Arkham City takes place about a year after the events of Arkham Asylum. As a sequel, it expanded on the location and features Batman’s top villains including the Joker, Ra’s al Ghul, the Riddler, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze and Penguin. Catwoman is also thrown into the mix as you’ll get to play her for about 5 to 10% of the main story (you’ll have to have the online pass to get access this portion of the game).

Story

Arkham Asylum is now in ruins. With the inmates having nowhere to go, Mayor Quincy Sharp and Dr. Hugo Strange have devised a plan to round them all up and barricade a run-down part of Gotham City, calling it Arkham City. The Joker, Two-Face, and Penguin have taken advantage of the situation and have recruited the inmates in a three-way turf war.

Batman, posing as Bruce Wayne, tries to stop Arkham City from existing, but gets arrested and thrown into the barricaded city. This is where the adventure begins as Bruce Wayne becomes Batman and brings on some street justice while trying to investigate Dr. Hugo Strange’s true motive. There are some shockers near the end, but I won’t spoil it for you guys.

Gameplay

The world of Arkham City is Batman’s playground. We’ve had a little taste of what free-roaming was like for Batman in Arkham Asylum, but this is the city we’re talking about. Although it’s not all of Gotham City, we still get a good chunk to mess around with in the game.

Batman starts off with most of his gadgets from the first game like the batclaw, batarang, and explosive gel. Off the bat (I can’t help it), Batman can explore most of Arkham City by gliding around and using his grapnel gun to reach to higher ground. To really travel with style, complete phase 1 of the aerial trials to get the grapnel gun boost. With this, you’ll be able to launch Batman over building so that he can get enough air time to glide without ever having to stop.

While perched on top of buildings, Batman can survey the areas around him with his naked eye or use Detective mode, where all the bad guys in his vicinity will show up as different colors, depending on what they’re packing.

Batman: Arkham City takes cues from other games like Assassin’s Creed with story-based missions and side missions. You can choose whether to continue with the main story or get sidetracked and have fun in the city, collecting Riddler trophies and doing side missions. Each mission will be located on the map, and some side missions will have to be earned to receive the locations.

The simple-to-use fighting combo system is back with the attack, counter, evade and stun buttons. Just because you have one button for attack, doesn’t mean it’s that easy (okay, most of the time, it’s easy). You’ll have to time your moves as bad guys will try to gang up on you from all directions, ranging from hand-to-hand combat to gunfights. New additions include quick use of Batman’s gadgets. My favorite one is the batclaw combo. When using it, Batman will pull the thugs into the air towards him while he slams them onto the ground.

The boss battles are more varied, but are also easy. The only tough time I had with a boss was when I was facing Two-Face as Catwoman. Mr. Freeze was pretty creative in how you took care of him, but other than that, the other bosses are your typical evade, attack routine.

What’s a Batman game without the ability to be all sneaky. Batman knows when not to engage in a direct fight against thugs with guns, so it’s up to his stealth abilities to take care of them silently. You’ll have gargoyles and other objects on walls to help you stalk from above. You’ll also have vents and walls to help you hide from sight on the ground level. The one thing I’m happy to see is that not all buildings will have the gargoyle platform, since Arkham Asylum was plagued with them.

Once finished with the game, you can check out plus mode or continue after the main story to finish up on side missions and trophy collecting. In it, you’ll be able to carry over all your gadgets that you’ve acquired while playing the game on a harder difficulty. You can also check out Challenge Maps and earned Character Trophies.

Playing as Catwoman

As Catwoman, she has her own set of items and moves. I still can’t get it out of my head that the motion-capture actor that plays her is a dude. Her hip movements and sexy combos, all from a guy. Obviously Catwoman is going to have to move differently than Batman, but she can do almost anything as good as Batman in terms of combat and stealth. Traveling around the city? Now that’s a different story.

Since she doesn’t have wings like the Bat, she’ll have to rely on her acrobatic skills, climbing from point to point, and using her whip to move around the city. She’s also weaker in terms of strength and health, so you’ll have to be extra careful when engaging in combat. The coolest stealth feature is the ability to hang and crawl upside down on chain-linked ceilings.

Once the main story is complete, you’ll be able to change between Catwoman and Batman at designated spots. Catwoman also has her own set of Riddler trophies to collect, as they are marked red.

Graphics

The visuals for the game is impressive, from the big world of Arkham City to the many characters that inhabit it. Mr. Freeze looks really impressive, with his cold, lifeless eyes and pale-blue skin tone. With so much going on in the city, the finer details tend to get lost. When playing Arkham Asylum, you’re confined to just the different facilities on the island. Having an enclosed space had me appreciating the graphics more, as I tend to look at the details of the knocked-out inmates I had taken out, with their veiny arms and detailed hand prints. That’s not a knock on Arkham City though, as the lights and tall buildings are equally as impressive.

Audio

The sound is amazing as it immerses you more into the city. You can hear Batman eavesdropping on inmates, the sound of nearby surveillance cameras whizzing, and the air gushing towards you as you glide around.

Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy return as the Joker and Batman respectively. It’s sad to hear that this will be Mark Hamill’s last time voicing the Joker. He truly is the best Joker there is, beating out both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. Kevin Conroy plays both Bruce Wayne (what what little time we had playing as him) and Batman perfectly. He sounds threatening without sounding constipated (I’m looking at you Christian Bale). The supporting voice actors all do a good job, especially Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. I feel she does a good job of keeping close to how Arleen Sorkin did Harley.

I love the fact that once the game is over, the inmates are aware of the aftermath of the game, so it feels like you’re still continuing on.

Final Reaction

The game delivers on being Batman in a Batman world. The gameplay is as fun as always, the story keeps you invested as you want to stop Dr. Hugo Strange from taking over Arkham City, and the visual presentation is breathtaking. This is the ultimate Batman game that allows you to fight, glide, detect, and be like the World’s Greatest Detective.

How is Rocksteady Studios going to outdo themselves with the inevitable third Arkham game? I want to see Batman take on the larger portion of Gotham City, where civilians will be plenty and can be implemented together like in the Assassin’s Creed or GTA games. I want to be able to visit Wayne Towers and actually visit the actual Bat Cave while test driving the Batmobile. It may be hard, but I believe this to be the next logical step.

Grade: A

The version I’ve played is the PS3 version and it took me around 15 to 17 hours to complete some side missions and the main story mission with 60% completion.

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