Batman: Arkham City (PC)

The greatest comic book game to date.

By Daavpuke, Posted 07 Dec 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 name on it, the developer went above and beyond to create a strong, compelling title. Its newest iteration, Batman: Arkham City, as the name suggests, builds a whole city on top of that project and expands the universe it already innovated the first time around.

NoobFeed Review - Batman: Arkham City (PC)
Welcome to the splendid hell of Arkham City, bat-brain!

It’s hard to hit a figurative dent into the game’s delivery, as the visuals are clean, dark and vivid at the same time; combined with masterfully crafted audio. Using the source material of comic books, a world is painted where both dark undertones and more lively nuances intertwine with each other in an enchanting ballet for the caped crusader to roam through. By using this as a key point for lighting techniques, shadows and lights further amplify the dark detective feel of the game. But this is only half of the magic, as it is the storyline and shadowing audio in both orchestral ensembles and grimy voice acting that complete this comic book come to life. Characters such as The Joker, Harley Quinn, but also just random inmate conversations, are to a point right in between the somber reality of a city-wide prison and over-the-top slapstick; fusing into the perfect blend for the genre’s source material.

In third person, this action adventure follows a story of Bruce Wayne a.k.a Batman, Dark Knight, Caped Crusader and so on getting himself trapped in Arkham City, where all of Gotham’s villains have free play over the territory. This unfolds much in the way an underground network of syndicates would: Each of the villains have their own agendas and some have sections of territory bound to themselves and run their henchman around the premises.  The issues of this erratic concentration of evil soon spirals out of control for both Wayne and Gotham alike, which leads to the compelling drive of the story.

In order to complete the main story arc and all underlying subplots, Batman will need to hover over the city and use all of his detective skills and tools to complete puzzles, thwart plans and most of all; beat everyone into submission. By using both his cape and gadgets like a grapnel gun, he can swoop effortlessly and swiftly over the rather large territory, filled with activity on every square foot. Following the story isn’t overly long, nor too short, but it’s this free roaming spirit and thwarting every single villain that makes the game excel. As the plot thickens, so do the motives of new baddies and each have special designs, specific for that character. This makes the entire sectioned prison-town into one big puzzle. Each part is somewhat linked with the other, but each requires a singular approach or gadget. As such, there are puzzles to overcome with speed, dexterity, ingenuity and so much more.

By using a Batarang, Wayne can hit unreachable switches or by using an electric charge gun, he can alter the direction of door grids and open them up or change current flows. There are many examples for many new devices, but all of them serve a purpose, which on the same turn don’t come off as trivial or forced. There are just that many side challenges, such as the ubiquitous Riddler trophies, that solving a certain portion of the game will always require some thought as to its completion. Arkham City doesn’t explain itself, but luckily, most challenges have a very natural logic that can be deduced with time; which unlocks the detective potential within. And that’s without delving into Detective Mode, which transcends Batman into a forensics expert. Players that also go above and beyond the call of duty get naturally rewarded with more content and extra challenges outside the campaign. This extends once more the game’s longevity and adds a new way to play in Ranked or Campaign maps.

But the true victor is the natural game flow, displayed in some clever and effective controls. Beyond the use of gadgets, Batman relies on sheer combat skills to incapacitate flocks of enemies. This combat mechanic is built into a progressively sweeping rhythm, which creates a trance of beatdowns. Chaining attacks together and being mindful of countering incoming attacks heightens the pace and unlocks more devastating moves. As this continues, combat gets more hectic, but organically, which is easy to fathom and feels incredibly satisfying. But mainly, this locks players’ attention to the action at hand, rather than having to resort to more simplistic inputs.  Additionally, doing well also unlocks more experience that can be used to level up and in turn unlock even more content for both Batman as well as the, granted somewhat lesser, gameplay sections with Catwoman. In all, Catwoman feels like a slightly less skillful Batman and can be viewed as a side-bonus, fleshing out a bit of story, rather than a necessary addition to play. But both characters can have move tutorials enabled and disabled at whim, which makes for an innovating teaching implementation that puts the control into the player’s hands.

While the game has no true flaws, the smallest of indiscretions are based upon the PC platform specifically. The game has a tough time optimizing to the appropriate graphical standards and cutscenes slow down and get desynchronized regardless of this. Additionally, anyone that decides to stick to traditional controls, rather than use a controller, is only setting themselves up for unneeded aggravations. Great as the controls may be, the game is obviously designed to be played with the ease of a controller. These are the only minuscule differences between platforms; my apologies for not noting this earlier.

Batman: Arkham City might very well be the greatest comic book game to date. With what feels like the most pristine mix between gritty realism and dark humor, the game is the most organic feel in the most unnatural universe possible. With perfect controls, tons of challenges and captivating gameplay, the game invites players in to never let them go; just like a prison. Come for the satisfying gameplay and challenges, but stay for the unparalleled lore and overall enchantment.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

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

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