Batman: Arkham City (2011)
Developed by Rocksteady Released for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii U, OS X and Windows.
A Bad Movie Studios Video Game Review
With the third entry in this franchise, Batman: Arkham Origins, on the way very shortly (maybe even released by now I’m not sure) I decided that I would do a review on it’s predecessor, Batman: Arkham City. Arkham City is the sequel to 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. This series is notable for giving us the Batman games we’ve always wanted. It’s got fun gameplay, a good story, and plenty of the animated series thrown into it, making for a really cool experience. So let me just break it down to a few finer points.
Graphics: The first thing anyone notices about any video game, are the graphics. And if someone tells you different, well that’s just a great big load of hipster bullshit. Frankly, this game looks good. It’s dark and stylish, sort of a gritty noir tone to the whole thing. There aren’t too many graphical glitches to be found in the game either, at least I didn’t really find too many. Something really cool about the game is that when wearing Batman’s animated Series costume (you have multiple unlockable skins for a few characters) it takes on this cell shaded look that seriously seems like the Caped Crusader jumped right out of the show. It’s really cool. Robin and Catwoman are also playable characters in the game and they too have Animated skins that look equally as awesome. Really you just can’t complain about how this game looks, it doesn’t push the limits of the hardware by any means, but the visuals are just pretty damn appealing. (8.5)
Gameplay: Well, you really couldn’t ask for a better motif for a Batman game. A stealth-action free roam sand-box game complete with a fun main story, entertaining side quests, plenty of bonus missions and about a billion hidden trophies and Easter eggs. The controls feel pretty good and responsive with the exception of the occasional slight tough of clumsiness. It feels a bit better than Assassin’s Creed does to me, but it’s not 100% perfect. Then again, 95% perfect isn’t bad either. The gameplay isn’t overly complicated and honestly is a lot of the same thing done over and over again, but it’s largely the right same thing. There are some puzzles in the game that can tease your brain but for the most part aren’t that difficult to figure out, and the combat can at times seem a bit unfair or challenging without proper means, but it’s still satisfying. Batman: Arkham City makes you feel like a total badass, but deservedly so. One armed thug with a gun does indeed have the potential to kill you, so a room of five of them has to be approached properly in order to proceed onto the next objective. It’s interesting that the game doesn’t make you invincible. After all, you aren’t Superman. But I will say that after you’ve faced those five armed criminals 3 or 4 times, you’ll pretty much have the pattern down as to how to beat them and the challenge will be gone for the most part. I noticed that after beating the game, unlocking all of the gadgets and upgrading the bat suit and combat maneuvers (an awesome addition by the way, I love the RPG like elements here) combat became pretty easy. Where as before a few guys with guns could bring you down in a few seconds if they all on a bead on you, now you can pretty much take 50 bullets to the chest and still manage to beat them all into a coma. That’s probably the weakest area of the gameplay here. There isn’t really a well thought out learning curve to the difficulty. You just tend to engage different groups of enemies made up of guys you have to beat in different ways. The freeflow combat engine is great for taking on big groups of bag guys and the quick time reversal mechanic works well and responds accordingly. The problem is though it just makes things a bit too easy. Now I should mention that you can play the game over again in Game+ mode, which basically changes up the damage ratio and gets rid of hints and button prompts to make the game more difficult, but since this isn’t something that the game does on it’s own but rather an option the player must choose to do, I can’t really say that it counts towards increasing this games learning curve. At the end of the day though, the combat in this game is still fun no matter what. The stealth gamepley works pretty well too, but it’s surprisingly not nearly as deep as you’d think. You can use the grappling hook to get around your environment, hang from overhead structures, use corner cover, you know the basics. It all works but Batman in this game is no Sam Fisher. And you know that seems like an odd statement to make, but it’s true. I think adding a few more options to the stealth mechanic would help fine tune the experience a bit more. Like I said before though, after all the nitpicking, the game is still fun to pick up and play long past the completion of the main story. (8.5)
Sound Design: To go along with the fun game play, Arkham City offers up a pretty good musical score to help immerse you into the life of the Dark Knight. Unfortunately, we don’t always get this great music and instead are treated to the sounds of action. This isn’t terrible I guess, but I would have liked to hear that music more often. After completing the game, you really don’t hear it too much as it doesn’t play in the free roam section really. The sound effects are all good, there’s not much to say about them except that they function quite well. What really stand out in the sound department in this game is the voice acting. Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker both continue the fantastic work that they brought to the Animated Series, the Justice League, and now this series. Really they’re a treat to listen too. And everyone does a good job really. Robin sounds cool, Selina Kyle comes across with the perfect attitude, and a host of the villains are portrayed very well. Even the average thugs are done well, although there are only about 4 voices for the lot of them and you’ll hear the same lines repeated over and over again. It’s okay thought because you won’t have to hear those lines after you’ve pounded them into next week. The excellent V.O. Work really wants to make me score the sound design higher, but that nagging lack of music in some parts of the game bugged me enough to knock it down a few points. (8)
Story: I really don’t want to give anything away about the plot to this game, but I will say that A. you really don’t have to play the first one to enjoy this one, and B. it’s really fun with ample fan service. Of course it isn’t Academy Award worthy, but honestly it’s far more entertaining that the Christopher Nolin Batman movies. Not that they were bad this is just that cool. I had some gripes about a few particulars in this games storyline, but that didn’t take away from the fact that I enjoyed playing through the missions and advancing the Batman saga. (8)
Misc: I guess the only things that bothered me about this game really were all essentially fan things. For example, you get to play as both Catwoman and Robin in this game, each complete with their own side story missions. That’s awesome. But after you beat Robin;s you can’t replay those levels like Catwoman’s or even the Main Story, and that felt unfair. Also, you aren’t allowed to use him in free roam mode like you are Catwoman, and it just seems like being able to do that would have been common sense. You let me use him for his own missions, but if I wanna play as him again I have to do the challenge maps? I can’t just go around Arkham City as the boy wonder, beating up villains for making fun of the green short shorts? In all seriousness though, that would have been a smart idea. Also, this game screams for some sort of multiplayer component, allowing one of you to play as, say, Batman, and the other as, oh I don’t know, Robin? Being able to free roam around the game AS the Dynamic Duo themselves would have been awesome.
Quite frankly you’re getting a lot for your buck here, and since the Game of the Year Addition is only like $20, it’s really hard not to recommend this game. With all of the bonus content, side missions, and unlockables, you’ll spend a lot of time enjoying this game. And it’s definitely worth enjoying. I easily recommend Batman: Arkham City to anyone who hasn’t played it yet. If that’s the case, seriously, add it to your library asap. You won’t be disappointed.
Overall Score – 8.25 out of 10.
Final Thoughts: This is one of those games that comes along and really gets you ready for a sequel. Today’s game market is basically run on sequels at this point, and that’s a shame to me honestly. But sometimes a game really does deserve one and this is one of those games. Hell, the first in the series deserved a good sequel, and it got one. This game is a definite improvement over the last one. Hopefully developer Rocksteady will shine again with another great installments to the series with Batman: Arkham Origins. I’m really looking forward to it.
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