Batman: Arkham City


By: Angus Deacon    On: Xbox 360
Published: Wednesday 19 Oct 2011 8:40 AM
 
 
 
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Rocksteady Studios sure do know their onions. A couple of years back, not only did they make a critically acclaimed, award winning game – they also managed to breathe new life into DC Comics’ struggling interactive entertainment division. Batman: Arkham Asylum won multiple ‘Game of the Year’ awards, for both console and PC versions, holds a ‘Guinness World Record for Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever’ and even won a bloody BAFTA for ‘Game of the Year’ as well.

Not bad for a small studio in Kentish Town, London. Especially one founded only in 2004 and with only a single game under its belt. Their first release Urban Chaos: Riot Response, was met with tepid reviews. Now it appears that Rocksteady have found their element and even in the face of Arkham Aslyum’s break-away success, they have managed to produce an even better sequel with Arkham City.

The game opens up one year after the events that took place in Asylum. In typical Dark Knight fashion, Quincy Sharp, the former warden of Arkham Asylum, has taken credit for stopping the Joker – leaving Batman in vigilante status. Due to Sharp’s ‘heroism’, he is now mayor of a dilapidated Gotham City and is using his new found position of corrupt power to further tarnish the city. Large sections of Gotham's slums have been converted into a sprawling, open-air prison known as Arkham City to house the ever-growing criminal population.

The inmates are given free rein within the prison’s urban walls, allowed to form gangs and run their own quadrants as they see fit. Like a barrel full of demented monkeys, it isn’t long before things start to get out of hand. Concerned about the level of freedom and potential chaos happening within Arkham City’s walls, Batman maintains a vigil over the detention facility.

Naturally, it soon becomes apparent that Bats is going to have one long night. To start with, the penitentiary is run by criminal genius Professor Hugo Strange who has recently discovered Batman’s true identity. The Joker, housed somewhere in Arkham City, is dying of a rare blood toxin and soon shares that he and Bats have suddenly got a lot more in common. Meanwhile the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, the Riddler, the Ghul clan, Victor Zsasz, Deadshot and Two-Face (who soon becomes One-Face) are all driving their own stakes into the ground in the urban warzone as well.

It’s not just the bad guys Batman has to keep an eye on either. Arkham City is patrolled by a trigger-happy, equally insane squad of heavily armed mercenaries working for a rogue private military firm known as Tyger Security.

Thankfully, The Caped Crusader will have some help. His ever-faithful, possibly highly underpaid, butler Alfred is constantly at his beck and call to help remotely analyse data and send additional equipment to his master out in the field. Commissioner Gordon’s daughter is also on hand as a guide and researcher, while lurking in the shadows of Arkham City are Catwoman and Robin, who both offer their paw / hand to help Bats in his time of need.

For those who haven’t had the joy of playing Arkham Asylum, every detail supplied by Rocksteady is a comic-book lover’s wet dream. Gotham City is beautifully sinister, filled with shadowy tones, mismatched architecture and about a million shades of cold grey. For further effect, it’s the middle of Winter in Gotham and snow flakes will swirl around the rooftops clinging to Batman’s cape as he glides around the city.

All of the characters are brilliantly modeled and offer their own little twist on Bob Kane’s comic-book lore as well. The Penguin is now a London-born cockney nightclub owner, who after a violent altercation is left with the bottom half of a glass bottle embedded in his eye. A genius and artistic interpretation of his out-dated monocle. Naturally Catwoman is ‘fully appreciated’ as well, minxing around with more sauce than a Wattie’s factory.

Adding to the top-notch character models and dialogue is an equally impressive cast of voice-actor talent to match. Long serving actors Kevin Conroy and the one-and-only Mark Hamill both return as Batman and the Joker respectively. Corey Burton does his best Christopher Lee impersonation for Hugo Strange and veteran Nolan North adds to his tally of over a hundred different video game appearances with his take on the Penguin.

A personal favourite, Harley Quinn also returns with her delightfully screechy Brooklyn quips - although she is voiced by a younger actress than in Arkham Aslyum this time round. Finally the soundtrack rounds off the audio aspects perfectly, often borrowing the high-pitch drones and orchestral swells of the iconic Christopher Nolan movies.

The gameplay and controls remain basically untouched since the previous title and fans of Arkham Aslyum will have no problem settling in. The occasionally claustrophobic, ‘right behind the shoulder’ camera angle can take some getting used to, but players will find that the camera changes seamlessly to best suit your current situation. They range from classic third-person, to cinematic shots when grappling ledges - all the way to first-person views when crawling through vents. It sounds like a lot to take in, but the game flows through every switch perfectly and always focuses on the action when you need it to.

The biggest talking point in the gameplay is the combat. Rocksteady almost perfected the fighting mechanics in Aslyum and this game continues to improve the engine. It namely focuses on two buttons, an attack and a counter attack and although this may sound overly simplified, it’s still easy to screw up. Successfully taking down multiple foes from every angle and building up devastating combos is all about timing and awareness of your surroundings. By countering at the right moment, Bats can take down multiple enemies at once, while evading and throwing his own attacks into the mix. When mastered, it becomes a smooth, rhythmic and highly rewarding process. Sort of like an evening with a Caribbean prostitute.

The movement controls are slick as well, letting The Caped Crusader sneak up on enemies, glide over the streets of Gotham, or traverse a five-story building with ease. Of course it wouldn’t be Batman without a trusty utility belt thrown in and Arkham City is packed full of gadgets to try out. On top of his grappling hook, the Dark Knight will be able to use smoke pellets to evade line of sight, Batarangs to knock-out enemies, electro-guns to stun, Batclaws to disarm enemies and plenty more. The advanced remote-controlled Batarang is a highlight, letting you take control of the spinning projectile and manually guide it towards your target for a satisfactory takedown.

Admittedly, for what is essentially a third-person beat’em-up, there are a lot of controls to come to grips with in Arkham City. But it’s this level of complexity that gives you a sense of full control, making it feel like you have complete access to every aspect of Batman’s prowess. Quite often you will accidentally let off an embarrassing smoke bomb or leap from a ledge at the wrong moment. But all of this just encourages you to master the controls and really explore the full potential of being The Dark Knight.

Either way, it’s pretty hard not to feel damn awesome while playing Arkham City. The game just oozes cool. Perhaps forgetting the occasional frustrating mission, such as the Trials of Ra's al Ghul that features identical female ninjas, antique robots, a painfully repetitive boss battle and lot of needless deaths. Thankfully even the fail screens of enemies taunting you when you die are deliciously arcade-esque and entertaining.

Ultimately this game is worth the wait. The graphics are immaculate and the gameplay superb. Just prowling the streets of Arkham City, taking down thugs and solving dozens of Riddler puzzles scattered around Gotham generates hours of fun. The main storyline is compelling, offering a wealth of different environments to explore and the game is packed with side-missions to keep you distracted. Whether it’s chasing ringing phone-booths from one end of the city to the other to stop a homicidal maniac or disabling toxic canisters that will bring an end to Gotham, you’ll never be short of something to do.

Even Catwoman’s playable missions, which I initially considered to be a cheap selling gimmick, add a lot of value to this game. Her titillating character plays in a completely different manner to the Caped Crusader's and the change in tempo works well.

When you’ve finished the campaign, Arkham City includes Challenge Maps and other worthy unlockables that easily amount to over 40 hours of solid gameplay. Not to mention Robin’s extra Challenge Maps and an up-coming Nightwing DLC that will ensure this game is still getting game-time all the way up to Christmas. Perhaps even next Christmas. Be in the queue when Arkham City lands this Friday 21st October.


The Score

Batman: Arkham City
"…more sauce than a Wattie’s factory."
9.7
Excellent
Rating: M   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 2 Hours

 

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Comments (19)

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KatalystaKaos NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Wednesday 19 Oct 2011 9:14 AM Posted by KatalystaKaos
I feel like a kid at xmas waiting for this to arrive...
 
 
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fifamessi NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Wednesday 19 Oct 2011 9:46 AM Posted by fifamessi
damn, the reviews for this game have been crazy good. excite
 
 
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Xenojay NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Wednesday 19 Oct 2011 10:32 AM Posted by Xenojay
Glad to see the 9's continuing throughout the gaming journalism community.

Really looking forward to eventually getting around to playing this beast.
 
 
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rebolta
On Wednesday 19 Oct 2011 11:16 AM Posted by rebolta
Aaaargh I WANT THIS NOW!!!
 
 
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Mongrel_Rob NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Wednesday 19 Oct 2011 12:22 PM Posted by Mongrel_Rob
I've only just started playing Arkham Asylum, and it's been great so far. So knowing there's a superior sequel to play afterwards is icing on the cake.
 
 
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bumpies
On Wednesday 19 Oct 2011 12:26 PM Posted by bumpies
Cant wait till exams are over so i can game all i want
 
 
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makzpowers
On Wednesday 19 Oct 2011 2:59 PM Posted by makzpowers
the only thing that sucked about batman to me was the voice of batman.... but everything else 10/10
 
 
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nimrod76 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Wednesday 19 Oct 2011 4:47 PM Posted by nimrod76
19 October 2011, 02:59 PM Reply to makzpowers
the only thing that sucked about batman to me was the voice of batman.... but everything else 10/10
oh no you didn't
 
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The Host of Chaos NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Wednesday 19 Oct 2011 6:35 PM Posted by The Host of Chaos
Just got an extra $180 I wasn't expecting, and tomorrow is pay day too so I'm definitely getting this on Friday =D
 
 
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Nokise
On Thursday 20 Oct 2011 1:17 AM Posted by Nokise
19 October 2011, 02:59 PM Reply to makzpowers
the only thing that sucked about batman to me was the voice of batman.... but everything else 10/10
Out of curiosity (and possibly in your defence)... what voice did you have in mind when you thought Batman?
 
 
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J-Deezy
On Thursday 20 Oct 2011 11:00 AM Posted by J-Deezy
the only thing that sucked about The Joker to me was the voice of The Joker.... Jokes! Mark Hamill's Joker voice is fantastic! :D
 
 
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Fadda04
On Friday 21 Oct 2011 11:31 AM Posted by Fadda04
Please put spoiler alerts when writing reviews like this. Within the first paragraph you hint at 2 things involving joker and two-face that hint at story development that goes beyond normal review parameters. I stopped reading there not wanting to have anything else spoiled. Shame that.
 
 
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SkinBintin NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Saturday 22 Oct 2011 12:00 AM Posted by SkinBintin
I was at DSE today, picking up a new TV for the bedroom, and finally replacing my dead PS3 of over a year now and the sales guy pointed this game out to me... I couldn't resist. So grabbed it for Xbox360.

Glad to get home and find great reviews all over the net for it. Can't wait to play it.

However, I never completed Arkham Asylum (rented it several times) and am thinking perhaps I should find that for cheap somewhere and play through it first?
 
 
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Ron NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Monday 24 Oct 2011 11:22 AM Posted by Ron
22 October 2011, 12:00 AM Reply to SkinBintin
I was at DSE today, picking up a new TV for the bedroom, and finally replacing my dead PS3 of over a year now and the sales guy pointed this game out to me... I couldn't resist. So grabbed it for Xbox360.

Glad to get home and find great reviews all over the net for it. Can't wait to play it.

However, I never completed Arkham Asylum (rented it several times) and am thinking perhaps I should find that for cheap somewhere and play through it first?
I'd play through the first one tbh. It'll give you a real appreciation for Arkham City.
 
 
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psgamer16
On Tuesday 25 Oct 2011 5:40 PM Posted by psgamer16
dont get me wrong this game is amazing but uncharted 3 will be better ign gave uncharted 3 10/10 whick never happens =)
 
 
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Nokise
On Tuesday 25 Oct 2011 5:57 PM Posted by Nokise
25 October 2011, 05:40 PM Reply to psgamer16
dont get me wrong this game is amazing but uncharted 3 will be better ign gave uncharted 3 10/10 whick never happens =)
Now, to be fair, they gave Jade Empire 10/10 too. Anyone picking that as Bioware's perfect game?
 
 
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nimrod76 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Tuesday 25 Oct 2011 7:34 PM Posted by nimrod76
25 October 2011, 05:40 PM Reply to psgamer16
dont get me wrong this game is amazing but uncharted 3 will be better ign gave uncharted 3 10/10 whick never happens =)
IGN's biggest fanboy gave UC3 10/10 it was bound to happen, they needed to have someone who isn't so mad about the series to do the review. That would be like asking me what score any of the UC games deserve I'd give them 10's because I'm mad for them, doesn't mean it's accurate.
 
 
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iamnumber27
On Sunday 6 Nov 2011 6:48 PM Posted by iamnumber27
One day... one day...
 
 
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marvelboy
On Monday 5 Dec 2011 11:08 AM Posted by marvelboy
Just logged onto Xbox live to use the code that came with the game to get Catwoman DLC, came up with the code had been used already (I bought it band new and sealed) emailed Warner brother with a big WTF. Read on the internet that there have been issues around this but they make you jump through hoops to get a new code
 
 
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