Batman: Arkham City

Rocksteady sets the bar high for action adventure games, expanding on an already excellent Batman formula.

By azn_pride, Posted 08 Nov 2011

Rocksteady certainly had an ambition to create the best superhero video game ever made with the DC Batman license. But with nary a track record to back it up, it was hard not to be skeptical about that ambition. However, the once unknown developer immediately became a powerhouse with the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum back in 2009. The game was met with high praise, giving gamers the hope that licensed superhero games can be awesome if given to the right people. Everything about Arkham Asylum was done right, from the fluid melee combat to the story and atmosphere. Two years later, Rocksteady aims to raise the bar for action adventure games with Arkham City and deliver a game that was as good as or better than its predecessor. Not only did they accomplish this feat, they refined and expanded on an already outstanding formula.

Batman, Arkham City, Review
Beating up thugs is fun. Especially if you're the Batman.

Of course, what I’m mostly talking about is the ‘Freeflow’ combat system, and they’ve made improvements to that formula. Among these enhancements allow you to counter attacks simultaneously, give you more combos to deal with stronger thugs, throw objects back at enemies, and enable you to use more gadgets in battle. Every combat sequence also demands your full attention. You’re not relentlessly mashing a single button; you’re constantly on the lookout for incoming attacks, in which timing is essential to avoiding lots of damage and racking up your combo meter. Everything about the combat is fluid and accessible. Unlike most hack-and-slash games, you don’t have to constantly block or evade incoming attacks; Arkham City gives you total control of the action without breaking rhythm. It’s a fantastic system that’s very easy to use, but difficult to master.

Arkham City itself is not exactly open world, though it’s much larger than what was realized in Arkham Asylum. Batman’s trusty gadgets return to help him deal with numerous situations. The Grapnel Gun lets you get from building to building in no time flat; Remote-Controlled Batarang enables you to hit unreachable switches; Cryptographic Sequencer tracks radio signals and lets you hack terminals, so on and so forth. Batman eventually gets new devices to mess around with, such as the Remote Electrical Charge to shock enemies and open doors via generators. Detective Mode comes in handy most of the time, as it lets you highlight objects of importance, playing into the game’s forensic segments. It takes a while to adapt to Batman’s wide array of high-tech tools, especially when it comes to Arkham City’s puzzle sequences. It’s likely you’ll be twiddling your thumbs the first time around, but it’s all about figuring out which device to use in particular sections. It’s great that every single gadget serves a purpose, and they’re all fun to use in combat. You can also upgrade your gadgets and purchase new combat abilities to help ease some challenge or help you get from point A to point B faster than before.

Batman, Arkham City, Review
Batman has more means to deal with enemies.

There’s much to do in Arkham City’s dirty, crime-filled streets, from rescuing political prisoners to collecting Riddler trophies scattered around the game’s well-integrated map. Collecting a certain amount of trophies gives Batman the chance to rescue a hostage taken by the Riddler himself. There are also Riddler informants around the city, in which you're required to knock out every thug in the vicinity before being able to interrogate him. In addition, each trophy unlocks a map for Riddler’s Revenge, a series of challenge rooms separate from the single player. There are two modes in Riddler’s Revenge: Ranked and Campaign. Ranked puts you in an arena-type scenario in which you fight off waves of enemies and rack up as many points as you can. Earning more points means more medals as your reward. Campaign mode is a series of maps straight out of the single player. Each map has its own set of medal challenges: Combat challenges have you maintaining your combo meter, stealth gives you a bonus for clearing a room undetected, and speed is when you finish a mission in a limited amount of time. Your score ties in the online leaderboards that lets you compare your performance with the rest of the world. Riddler’s Revenge is actually rather enjoyable, especially if you’re unsatisfied with just doing the main story/side mission offerings.

That said, the story is well told and the characters that inhabit its world are vital pieces that keep it all together. About a year has passed since the events of Arkham Asylum. Quincy Sharp has become the mayor of Gotham and builds a massive prison in the heart of the city, with psychiatrist Hugo Strange as its head. Left with no other choice, Batman has to use his other persona, Bruce Wayne, to help shut down Arkham City, though he is captured and thrown inside the facility itself. With Strange threatening to reveal Batman’s real identity to the world, the Dark Knight would have to stop him from doing so, as well as contain the criminals running rampart throughout Arkham City.

Batman, Arkham City, Review
Did I mention Joker was in it too? No? Well, he is.

Arkham City has its strong moments, and it’s pleasing to watch as the narrative becomes darker as you progress. Arkham City is pretty much a ticking time bomb that can go off at any given moment, and it presents some much needed edge to the narrative. It’s a little disappointing however, that it’s a short adventure (around 7-8 hours to complete). Arkham City is definitely rife with fanservice, and a cornucopia of key and familiar Batman characters make appearances as either side quest givers or cameos in the form of easter eggs.  I won’t say much beyond that, but they’re basically clues to a big, potential sequel Rocksteady has perhaps cooked up their sleeve. Plus, the side missions are worth it as they extend your playtime, and they help flesh out more of the story.

There’s also the matter of playing portions of the game as Catwoman, in which you would need a code to unlock. Additionally, if you bought a used copy of Arkham City, you’d have to buy the bundle for $9.99. As questionable a move that might sound, you necessarily don’t need the Catwoman story bits to finish the main storyline. In fact, you can get through Arkham City without her just fine. Catwoman’s role in the game is miniscule at best, and it doesn’t really connect with the main story nor do anything to hamper that experience. Other than her being faster and more delicate than Batman, she’s not that different. Her combat abilities are similar, notably her Thief Vision, albeit less sophisticated than Detective Vision. Still, if you want something extra, Catwoman is a fun change of pace.

Batman, Arkham City, Review
Hello, kitty.

Batman: Arkham City is a great looking game. The city’s gritty look is impressive, from the intricately detailed building interior designs to the entire location’s distinctive, ominous feel. Arkham City puts a lot of emphasis on its dark atmosphere, and the environment and music helps capture the tone of the Batman universe perfectly. Character designs are also worth noting, and various animations and movements are smooth and realistic. However, the game is not without some minor technical problems. I’ve experienced a drop in framerate in some spots, and the game temporarily freezes in-between cutscenes. The camera work can also be frustrating to deal with sometimes, especially when it clips through a wall and it’s hard to see what’s happening on screen.

The music also helps in setting the game’s overall mood. Heavily inspired by both Danny Elfman’s and Hans Zimmer’s work, composer Nick Arundel amazes with some marvelous orchestra themes that give Arkham City such intensity and thrill during play. Moreover, the voice acting is excellent, featuring some fine work from Mark Hamill, Nolan North, Grey DeLisle, Kevin Conroy, and others. The only downside is some of the dialogue comes off as hammy and clichéd, though it’s well-written for the most part.

Batman, Arkham City, Review
Many villains make an appearance. Like this penguin-looking mother effer. God, what was his name...?

Batman: Arkham City doesn’t establish anything new to what was already done in a Batman anything, but it manages to deliver such a strong experience that it’s needless to complain about what should and shouldn’t be done. What you get is a combat system that’s as fluid and engaging as they come, a dark, intense story, great characters, and a chaotic world that immediately sucks you in. If you enjoy action adventure games or are just a huge Batman fan in general, Arkham City won’t disappoint.

David Gabriel, NoobFeed.

comments powered by Disqus

  • Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday. Great review Dave.

    Posted Nov 12, 2011

  • Some calling it the GOTY already and some calling the game of the decade. I don't think I can't blame them after playing it for few hours. This is video games at its best.

    Posted Nov 16, 2011

  • Awesome review Dave!!!  Game of the Year for sure!!!!!

    Posted Nov 20, 2011

Related Review

  • 0

    Batman: Arkham City (PC)

    By Daavpuke, Posted Dec 07, 2011

    Rocksteady has set the bar fairly high for any licensed game with Batman: Arkham Asylum. Where most franchises rely on an easy cash-in using some source material and slapping a na


General Information

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer(s): Rocksteady Studios
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Fantasy
Release Date: 2011-10-18

View All

Popular Articles