The inmates aren’t just running the asylum anymore, they’re running the city. Arkham City to be precise, a highly controversial city built to hold the criminals in the heart of Gotham city. While rallying a political protest against Arkham City, Bruce Wayne is taken into the city by armed guards and held hostage. Furthermore you find out that Hugo Strange knows Batman’s true identity and this leads to a string of mysteries and plots underlying Dr. Strange’s Master plan known as “Protocol Ten”. It’s up to Batman to not only figure out what “Protocol Ten” is but how the Joker and other villains from the Batman Universe are involved.
What I love about this story premise is that it’s so original and unique for a Batman title. It’s no clear cut problem and no clear cut solution and the blurring of the lines between right and wrong makes the drama in this game all the more cinematic and enticing! I can’t give this game’s story too many superlatives though as this formula doesn’t always work to the game’s advantage. What brings the game down from time to time is that certain story arcs never seem fully developed and this is extremely adamant near the end. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you listened to our October 22nd Podcast Bryan had the right idea when he said the game ended suddenly. In short, the climax was under developed.
Climax was not the only thing wrong with the presentation here in Arkham City. When you first start up the game, one thing that becomes very apparent pretty quickly for many gamers is that the game’s size and scale feels very intimidating and doesn’t ease you into the story as well as the previous title. I felt a little thrown in from the get go and it took until about halfway through the main story before I felt comfortable with the gameplay and style.
Story is great for a batman game and what helps the story dramatically is the graphics. The dark undertone that is present throughout the game sets the perfect mood for this latest title without being a copy and paste from Arkham Asylum. The vistas of the city are beautiful and the color scheme changes with almost each new area you visit. From the underground subways to the Steel Mill there is a lot to be seen (and explored). The characters in Arkham City look impressive as well however when they talk there never seems to be enough emotion in their face. It’s like you can see their head move and their lips speak but their face never shows enough emotion towards what they are talking about. Besides facial animations however the fighting animations are superb and your hits seem to make a lot more sense than they did in the asylum. What I mean by this is that while playing Arkham Asylum some of the finishing blows looked a little off like they either missed or aimed the wrong way and in here that is not a problem! Of course one graphical issue that many others have brought up about Arkham City as well as Arkham Asylum is that the Detective mode really blankets many of the great looking graphics that you will see throughout this game. This is still true but what is interesting about Arkham City is that during my time playing I found myself switching off the detective mode from time to time to see where I was going better. What I mean by this is that while in detective mode there are a lot of areas on the map that you just can’t see too well (this easily could have been a TV brightness issue.) This ended up causing to me not to use the detective mode as much, which did add to a greater appreciation of the graphics. This may or may not have been intentional on the developer’s part but either way the fact remains that the game looks so much better without the detective mode visual filter so I highly encourage people who are playing this game to turn it off from time to time. There is one last graphical issue that needs to be pointed out however, and that would be the pop-in. There is a fair amount of cut scenes in this game that you will easily see massive amounts of pop-in where the textures take a little too long to load. This is very distracting during the cut-scenes and is just annoying when you see it on buildings while you are gliding through the air.
Graphics are one part of performance but sound is quite another. The sound effects in this game are just as good as they we’re in Arkham Asylum and by that definition they are pretty decent. From the batarang sounds to the knock-outs, this game presents a clear unique identity that almost any player will be able to recognize even with their eyes closed. The voice acting in here is also phenomenal as Mark Hamill does another great job reprising his role as the Joker and all the other characters throughout the game all do just as well. Even the thugs in this game do great and the chatter you hear while just exploring Arkham city sounds decent despite the cheesy lines that sometimes come up. Otherwise the soundtrack is decent overall and is one of the better sounding games we’ve seen in a while.
Gameplay is always the most important part of any video game and in Batman Arkham City gameplay is great. One thing to note about the gameplay in Arkham City however is that there are essentially three forms of gameplay that you will employ on your venture through the city. First is the fighting, performing knockouts, counter moves, and stuns have never been so easy. This is not just a curbing of the fighting system from the last game either; there are clear enhancements in terms of new moves and more ways to string your combos. It makes challenge rooms much more diverse but also a lot more challenging.
The Second gameplay style in Arkham city is your predator skills. When Batman has to take out a room full of armed thugs he can’t risk using hand to hand combat so the stealth aspect has been improved as well, not just from gameplay enhancements but also from level design prowess as well. New gadgets like the smoke bomb and Ice grenades all add unique uses. This is not to say that it makes these predator parts of the game any easier, they can still be extremely difficult to someone who is not used to stealth games.
Finally the last part of the gameplay is the traversal portion. From using the line launcher to get from place to place to being able to use the grapple to get height off of batman’s flight getting around the City is easier than it would seem. Remember when I talked about the intimidation factor? Well this plays into that a little bit. The Map seems much bigger than it really is because you can get from place to place so much faster than you would be able to in Arkham Asylum.
Let’s not forget though that Catwoman is also a part of this new Batman game and while I won’t get into the controversy over the DLC factor it has, I will say that Catwoman has a lot of uniqueness to her gameplay styles. It’s amazing how the exact same styles of gameplay batman uses all feel just as good yet so much different from using a different character. Catwoman may not have as much gadgets and abilities as batman but she does have enough for the times she is seen in the story as well including her side missions.
From all of this you should be able to tell that Arkham City is a large game. Though the main story may not take you that long to beat the well developed side missions as well as the riddler trophies and even the New Game plus feature will all suck up a lot of your time. It would probably take at least 50 hours to get this game close to 100 percent completed. With the promise of some interesting DLC we are sure looking at a strong game for lasting appeal and in the appeal you will find a lot of satisfaction.
Overall Batman Arkham City is a great game, that is not to say that it goes without flaws. While many of these flaws are small errors or details, there are some imperfections that can be seen throughout the whole of Arkham City. There is big difference between being a great game and having an amazing game, and Arkham city is not quite an amazing game but still is a very great piece to look out for and I would recommend this game to any gamer looking to add some crime fighting to their list this holiday.