Release Date: Octoder 18, 2011
Systems: PS3, Xbox 360, PS
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Metacrtic Score: 96 (PS3)
If I’ve ever had a reason to regret my attempt to be come a professional game reviewer, this would be it. This is the second time i’ve played “Batman: Arkham City”, and in an attempt to get through it in a timely manner in order to review it there is so much I wasn’t able to do. Helping Bane find the Titan containers, the in counter with the Mad Hatter, the calls from Zsasz. So much content that i’ll most likely never play again as after this as i’ll be moving on to the next game and the next review. With some games this really wouldn’t have bothered me, but with “Arkham City” I really wish I could have more time in the game world.
“Arkham City” both continues the story of the previous game and tells it’s own story. Unfortunately I feel that the continuation is the more interesting part. That isn’t too say that it’s bad per se, but it is kind of a shame that the newer story elements weren’t treated with the same love and care as the idea’s in the first game. So what is the games story? I’m gla you asked.
After the events of “Arkham Asylum”, a man named Hugo Strange has managed to section off a part of Gotham city in order to create the Mega Prison Arkham City. Here the in mates of both Blackgate prison and Arkham asylum are both piled in and left to their own devises. This has caused the inmates to separate in to gangs and engage in all out war with one another. You main mission upon entering the city is to find out what’s really going on, but that quickly changes once you find the Joker. He’s sick and slowly dying after ingesting the Titan virus at the end of the last game. Worse yet, he’s infected Batman as well as a few hundred people in the Gotham area. So now you must rush to find a cure as well as find out what exactly Hugo Strange is planing with his “Protocol 10”.
The over all story here is kind of simple, but the places you go and the people you meet are the real reason it works so well. You know how in other games there is always something holding you back from getting where you need to go, and it feels like the developers are just padding out the game with mindless activity’s? Well that’s here too, but here it actually makes since. For example, in one early part of the game you have to find and destroy three military grade frequency jammers. This seems like needless padding, but once you learn what “Protocol 10” is and how it was allowed to come into fruition, it makes since why these would be on the streets of Arkham City. Even the part where you have to rescue Mr. Freeze, it’s understandable how a man who hates him and the Joker would try to stop them from being able to create the cure.
Even better is the fact that the whole 2nd act of the story does really feel like the team at Rocksteady knew where they wanted the story to go from the beginning of development of the first game. And like I said in my review of “Arkham Asylum”, this is really the most perfect blend of the comic book nature of the character and the more grounded take that people have come to enjoy. For me the best part of this was Mr. Freeze’s suit. It looked very much like a space suit, something designed to keep astronauts safe from outside conditions, and that’s exactly what his suit is meant to do.
However, once you have to really deal with Hugo Strange things feel like the game just wants to get through that section in order to get back to the more interesting part of the story. Luckily it actually does this in a well planed and (thankfully) short amount of time. Really, other than that small drag near the beginning of the third act I really can’t complain about the story.
I really cannot tell you just how good the game play here is. It takes the same formula as the last game but polishes it to a mirror sheen. On top of that there are so many items to play with that my biggest issue is figuring out witch one I wanted to use at any given time. If you’ve read my review for “Arkham Asylum” then a lot of this will seem repetitive to you. If you haven’t…why not.
Where the last game was broken up into two real sections, brawls and “invisible predator”, this is more laid out like an open world rpg (in fact, with the more robust leveling system, it wouldn’t be too far off to call this a rpg to begin with). Here you start off somewhere on the map, and the first thing you are going to have to do is find your way to your objective. While you may not be able to drive the batmobile (yet), the traversal in this game is super fun. Like in the first game you can glide and use the bat claw, but here you can also dive bomb and glide back up to gain altitude (i’m not sure how that works, scientifically speaking, but it sure is cool). In fact, I often found myself trying to see just how far I could go without having to land. Answer: pretty damn far.
Once you find your way to the objective (and to further the rpg-ish elements of the games, these almost always function are the games “dungeons”), the more traditional elements take over. These are the brawls and invisible predator modes. The brawls have a simple three button lay out. One for “attack”, “counter”, and “stun”. On top of the wealth of new gadgets you get, there is also a quick select for almost all of them, making it much easier to switch up the comb. This is even better with the inclution of the new “beat down” attacks,were you stun an opponent then beat the ever loving crap out of him. As the enemy’s progress, with better weapons and more armor you will have to switch up your tactics, and it’s always a hell of a lot of fun.
That is even more true in the invisible predictor sections. In the last game, i’d often just hide in rafters until someone got in range for an inverted take down or until I could get behind the goon in question. In this game, however, I might use a freeze grenade to keep a guard where I want him, or maybe i’ll trow a smoke bomb in the other direction to confuse the goods and force them to turn their backs to me. Then, when i’m down to the last guy, I might just jam his gun and watch him squirm as he realizes that nothing can save him. It’s a good time.
Really the only minor issue is the boss fights. You may have heard about the great battle against Mr. Freeze, and yes, it is a great boss fight, one of my all time favorites, but none of the others even come close to it. All of them are better than last time, and there is nothing as bad as the Titan fights from the last game (even the Titan fights here are better than the last game). With that said, however, there is an old saying for reviewers: review the product you got, not the one you wanted. Even though I may have wanted a little more, I can’t really dock a game for not being exactly what I would have wanted.
Game Play: 5/5
Music and Sound:
Once again, every one here does a great job, but there are a few notable differences that do kind of rub me the wrong way. For one, Arleen Sorkin is no longer the voice actor for Hariley Quinn. She is here replaced with Tara Strong. Strong puts in a (pun alert) strong performance, but she adds more of a whine to Hariley’s voice that, while not bothersome, was very noticeable. Troy Baker puts in a good performance as Tim Drake/Robin (the third one, for those who are wondering), but I really wish he was given more to do. But hands down the stand out performance goes to Mark Hamill as the Joker. Not only does he have to pull out the usual bag of tricks that the Joker calls for, but he also has to play that same madman, sick and dying and barely hanging on to life. He really does a great job in the role, as he has since 1992.
Even the score is better this time around. There still nothing as great as the classic theme songs we all know and love, but hearing it always brought a smile to my face.
Music and Sound: 5/5
Overall score: 4.8/5
Who is this game for:
Did you read this review? Have you played the game? No? Then go get a copy. On the off hand chance that you are looking for a gift for some one, this is a great game for just about anyone. It may not be suitable for younger children, but if you’re reading a game review for advise, i’m sure you could have picked that up for yourself. But yeah, this is a great game for comic fan, fans of Batman and really anyone who likes great games. If you haven’t played it, go do so. You wont be sorry.