Batman: Arkham City User Review
The story has Batman challenged with obstacles that frustrate his progress as he races to stop a mastermind from his maniacal conquest for greater power. On this quest Batman will encounter many villains popularized from the array of names that have filled catalogs worth of comic pages from over the last several decades: Bane, Penguin, and Mr. Freeze are only a few to name from the bunch. But Batman isn't entirely alone in his mission, as long time companions like Catwoman and Robin will offer their aid on occasion. The story does well to sell the viewer on the tension Batman must feel as arch nemesis, like The Penguin, are treacherous in their dealings with Batman, who near always antagonize and toy with Batman's emotions as much as they resolve in stopping him in his path. The voice acting performances are all a class act with familiar voices, like Mark Hamill (use the force Luke), Kevin Conroy, and Tara Strong. This lineup is always a pleasure to watching while the story unfolds.
Expect to perform all the many acts Batman is known for. He's perhaps a bit more daring that ever, as he will glide from building top to building top by engaging one fell swoop after another, using the downward momentum to spring himself back up into the air as he unfurls his cape, climbing altitude and covering great distances as a result. While flying the skies like an unbridled roller coaster Batman can whip out his bat grapple mid-flight and fire nearby building extrusions to zip himself to a stationary position, perching himself above the life dwelling below.
It's not all high flying action. Batman will carefully plot attacks on unsuspecting villains and pop out from the shadows to subvert an enemy. He can also ditch the stealth for straight up fisticuffs action. Aside from the usual punches and kicks, he's equipped now with many quick-fire techniques, allowing him to quickly throw ice grenades to freeze an enemy, or even use his bat grapple to disarm a weapon from a nearby thug. These quick-fire techniques are made especially effective as intercessory maneuvers in between punches and kicks.
The enemy AI and behavior is generally solid. Most enemies tend to do well attacking from behind when Batman is laying it in on an enemy for too long. They'll be smart about picking up a loose gun, container, or knife laying free on the floor nearby. The game does well to stagger the difficulty of Batman's encounters as he gains more abilities throughout the game. While many of Batman's initial combat episodes may be settled using the straight forward quick punch and counter button duo, the game will demand more from this combat hardened hero as time goes on. Batman will have to prioritize targets, quickly disarm the ones that may present the threat of guns, swords, or knives, and sometimes take a more in-direct approach in bringing down electrical baton wielding enemies. Some of the latter battles in the game will have Batman moving as written poetry where using one calculated move after another is the only sure path to succeed. To top it all off a handful of solid boss fights will keep Batman on his toes.
The control system works well to capture Batman's many actions. He is a complicated character, rivaling Solid Snake in tools and combat abilities. And like most games that have a detailed stealth-action component, there's a learning curve to overcome in order to get a grasp over the many mechanisms that govern Batman's play. The combat system is very responsive to button presses and never fails to translate inputs into onscreen actions. He also has many maneuvering resources. He can take cover against ledges or hang and shimmy on building sides, or make a quick exit by using his grappling hook. Most of these abilities are sewn together as a seamless fabric of inputs, but occasionally I found myself fumbling while waiting for context sensitive maneuvers to initiate. Whether that's not having the smoke pellet initializing exactly when needed, or having that corner cover cue to engage on demand, it's rare contrivances like these that occasionally present small hiccups in the fluidity of play.
Batman is a large game, spanning approximately 9 hours of play from the main campaign missions alone. Added to those main missions are the ample amounts of opportunities to tackle side missions and also finding or unlocking game bonuses, like art and 3D models. These side missions can have Batman saving the lives of victims from a criminal act or have him answering random calls from ringing city phones that sends him on time constrained races throughout Arkham. Add to this the return of the Riddler and all of his many puzzles that litter the areas for Batman to solve, which use mechanized contraptions that lock away Riddler trophies, opened only by solving what are sometimes carefully constructed puzzles. These Riddler trophies are desirable as they can add more challenge levels to the challenge mode, as seen from Arkham Asylum, or other goodies. Include in the added bonus of playing as Catwoman, possessing her own set of animations and abilities, and her own missions, the totality of what this game offers is unprecedented.
Rocksteady has made some strides in Batman's visual presentation. Batman is embodied as statuesque, powerful, and is equally fierce when needed. The supporting cast appearances all look excellent, doing well to present their prescribed roles with well animated facial gestures and movement choreography.
Arkham City is always presented as dark, damp, and gritty but kept livened with neon lights and cinematic special effects that make for itself an identity that serves to portray the foreboding criminally infested image of Arkham City's environment. All of this is accomplished while stylistically looking it's own, easily distinguishing itself from other games on the market with it's moonlit urbanized brick and mortar buildings, unkempt rustling leaves, brown and dingy gutters, and rain formed puddles that spot themselves in scattered pockets upon surface tops.
Sometimes small visual setbacks are detectable. Rarely, the frame rate may dip while traversing the building tops. Blurry textures may be observed while standing nearer to some objects, particularly noticeable of indoor areas. But these setbacks are few and far between when so much else of what the game does is handled with excellence.
The soundtrack is equally as excellent with strong instrumental pieces that set the right tone for the on-screen action. Sometimes the music that overlays the action can come off a little sparse, but the less is more approach the game sometimes takes seems to only add to the varied range of this game's audible offerings. The great variety of sound effects, both ambient and direct, are crisp and well realized. Anything from Batman and his many wonderful gadgets making satisfying sounds to the dull incapacitating bat boot to the face of a hardened thug do well to deliver just that satisfying effect.
Batman: Arkham City isn't just a great sequel to an already excellent first game, it sets the bar of the series and similar games to new heights. Taking Batman to the dark streets of Arkham City just works beautifully with the kind of Batman imagery we're used to feeling from comics and film. It's so right being that dark figure, seeing and hearing the sounds from above the city life residing below, calculating the right attack with the right gadget at the right time. While Batman isn't empowered with super human abilities he more than makes up for it as he's intelligent, physically powerful, and always prepared with the gadgets that enable him to feel super human. Arkham City sells the role of Batman's countenance and behavior without missing a beat. There's no other place I know where a person can get as close to Batman in action and in deed than Arkham City.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.