Batman: Arkham City
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
North American Release Date: October 18, 2011
European Release Date: October 21, 2011
Trophies: 1 , 1 , 18 , 42
Rocksteady’s sequel to 2009’s smash hit title Batman: Arkham Asylum is finally here – and with a shocking amount of changes. Will the caped crusader rise up again and face thousands of his sworn enemies? One thing is for sure: This is the Dark Knight’s darkest night.
In the first game the gameplay started off deceivingly simple. You could punch, dodge, jump, crawl, and hide. As the game progressed you encountered new situations that required you to raise your game and think of new ways to outsmart your enemies. You were also given a large additional number of gadgets and tools at your disposal.
It couldn’t be further from how Arkham City runs it. You’re through straight into the brutal, harsh city, and after a couple of lengthy cut-scenes and gameplay mechanics you’re free to step outside into the world, smelling its bated breath. You simply cannot begin to imagine the possibilities that arise. You will get an unbelievable amount of gadgets and equipment, unseen in Arkham Asylum. Without spoiling too much, you will need to analyze the location of a sniper – for instance. You will have to scan the area for evidence – such as the bullet entry into the window pane; the place where the bullet hit the ground, the angle of degrees, etc. You truly feel like a world class detective, and with these incredible gadgets at your disposal you have an amazing sense of power and strength. You’re Batman, remember?
They'll need to put their heads together to beat this guy...
You will encounter hundreds of situations where you need to mix up your abilities in a completely new way. In a certain boss encounter – which I’d rather not speak of – you will have a sensor scope added to your arsenal, which is essential to your survival. If you will constantly need to be on the move and out of sight – lest you come into visual contact with your nemesis. You will also need to continuously change your strategies for every time you execute your plan of attack the villain will automatically adjust the situation so that you can never use that move again. It constantly keeps you on edge and extremely wary of your enemies. Unlike in Arkham Asylum you will no longer be able to simply attack, counter, dodge, hide, rise & repeat. In fact a lot of the time you will be unable to beat this challenge or villain and will have to acquire a certain gadget or skill. This is extremely frequent in the Riddler’s case in particular. As you continuously fail to solve his death trap you will bitterly be forced to admit that the riddle is currently impossible to solve and you will have to admit temporarily defeat.
In smaller instances – for example when you’re faced with a bunch of dim-witted thugs who fool themselves into thinking they can take Batman on – you will be able to use a sheer variety of moves and combos to take your foes down. This time you will be up against thugs with knives, shields, and armour, forcing you to add addition moves to your combos. It’s extremely affective and more importantly: its unique.
Detective vision mode is back; and is now better than ever.
With nearly every encounter you’ll find that you’ll need to raise your game in some way. As you take down a room with thugs cradling machine guns and rescue the hostage, you’ll wonder what’s inevitably ahead of you. As hard as you may try, nothing will prepare you for what waits behind the next door. There’s a constant surprise at every turn. Maybe the thugs will have goggles that allow them to see in the dark. Maybe they’ll have a frequency jammer that prevents you from using detective vision mode. It’s a constant change of pace, and Arkham City finds a balance between overwhelming or underwhelming you.
So, Batman likes to stare at them does he?
There but a tiny amount of complains – however. Batman still walks around a tad stiffly and you’ll often jump instead of run more times than you’d like. Your remote controlled batarang should require some sort of license before you can use it – as it’s harder than wrestling with a wheel of a spinning car. Not that I’d know of course, but you get the general idea, ‘eh?
These tiny complaints do near to nothing to deter you from Arkham City’s brilliance. The fights will challenge you dramatically more than in the first game, the Riddler challenges are extremely sophisticated and shrouded in complexity, the variety has gone a massive under haul, and everything is hand-crafted brilliantly. Flawless.
How much content did you get out of Arkham Asylum? How many hours did it manage to captivate your imagination and attention for? One thing we can all agree on: whilst it had a fair amount of content, it wasn’t enough to quench our thirst.
It’s been two years, but now Rocksteady have given us more than we could possibly ever want.
About the story: at the start of the game you see Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) being captured and taken to Arkham City by Hugo Strange – the manager of Arkham City; a place where all the criminals are set free in the streets. There wasn’t possibly enough room in Arkham Asylum for them all, so a whole section of Gotham has been sectioned off to house these madmen. There’s one rule inside these walls and one rule only: don’t break out.
But nobody said anything about breaking in.
Soon it becomes apparent that Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) planned to get inside Arkham City from the start. Now he realizes that something extremely sinister is going on inside, and now he’s trapped with thousands of lunatics that are baying for his blood.
The general gist is that Hugo Strange has built this place with the help of several people – all of them who were instantly thrown inside the second they were finished being of any use. Now Hugo Strange is working on a strange project naming it “Protocol Ten”. Without letting too many spoilers out, in Arkham City all the major villains – The Joker, Penguin, Two Face, etc, are all struggling for dominance and will do anything to get it. Whilst they’re mutant hate of Batman does distract them in hunting him down, you’ll get a constant feeling of being stuck in a raging war – which you are.
The city is dripping with detail and atmosphere.
The story lasts twice as long as the first one, and is better in nearly every way. Even better: you’ll come across a staggering amount of side missions and challenges to complete. The Riddler has over 400 challenges and riddles for you to solve, and these don’t involve merely finding little green trophies in air vents; these involve wrapping your brain around extremely complex and deadly traps and snares. Even snagging a single riddler trophy will prove be a challenge, as you’ll need to solve difficult puzzles to get to them. In other instances you’ll be drawn into an area which seems not to difficult, but then the door will seal behind you, and some hidden trap will send you to eternal slumber as the last thing you hear is the Riddler’s hysterical laugh.
The Riddler has also set up image based riddles for you to conjure up the solution for. You’ll be given a cryptic clue and then left with your own intellect to find the answer. Sometimes the solution will be a pun on words or a poster; or it may be a question mark that you’ll need to align from an extremely specific point of view.
The sweetest treat on the table, though, are the hostages that you need to save from The Riddler’s clutches. The Riddler has decided to take on the role of Jigsaw, and the challenge of rescuing these hostages is rewarding, unique and tricky.
With so many riddles for you to solve, you may be wondering if like in the first game you’ll need to use detective vision mode for nearly the entire time. You’ll be happy to know that you won’t this time around. Sure, you’ll need to occasionally turn it on from time to time, but there’s much less of a reason to do so; as for the most part the challenge is in solving the riddle, not always finding it. The team of Rocksteady humbly listened to this complaint and fixed it in the best way they could, whilst giving us even more to sink our teeth into.
Somebody has taken the Saw movies too realisticly...
There’s a lot more than merely riddles to keep you occupied in Arkham City apart from the main story – however. You’ll track a sniper using his bullets; you’ll find a lead to a sadistic killer; a madman from the first game with a telephone, a lonely soul with a calendar and date fetish, and more that I don’t want to spoil for you. There are random street fights, objects to be found, and a massive amount of content on a staggering scale. On top of that you have more than 50 challenge rooms to test your skills in. Rocksteady has already released DLC for the game, and there will be more to come in the future. Thanks to this lavish amount of content the original game appears to be a demo when you compare and contrast the two. There’s something new to be found at every single street of the morbid city, and discovering everything will provide you with more satisfaction than you’d think possible.
Arkham Asylum set a fantastic benchmark in pacing. That benchmark has been raised in of the most richly and brilliantly crafted environments seen in a game, and as you move from one objective to the next you’ll truly feel like Batman. This the job for a pure superhero, and in this tremendously atmospheric adventure you’ll be able to say “I am truly Batman” and believe it. The limits between fantasy and reality have been extended.
There is a slight down-side to all this; however. Arkham City technically isn’t open world, even though it may seem to be at first, but what it lacks in scale it makes up in style. Flying through the city, scouring the streets for side missions and situations of interest is enough reason to play Arkham City alone. Rocksteady gave us a fair amount of content in the first game, but their astounding sequel will do much more than merely satisfy our hunger; it’ll keep on giving until there’s no trace of any want ever again, and at the level of how spectacular Arkham City is that could not possibly happen.
Arkham City is deeply rich with colour along with artistic and technical excellence. When comparing to the original game, the textures look crispers, the facial expressions and character models more believable and lifelike, and the lighting/colour is some of the best I’ve ever seen. The city is meticulously crafted, as if every building, every sign, and every psychopathic slogan is placed perfectly and is exactly where it belongs. This deliciously tangible achievement has been polished with obvious loving care and attention to detail.
Come on, you have to almost feel sorry for these guys...
The audio also fares well; the soundtrack is brilliant and constantly changes throughout the campaign and situation. Gone are the off putting sounds of the prisoners screeching and replaced with clever, witty dialogue. The ominous paging throughout the game constantly reminds you of the sadistic nature of your enemies, as well as bringing a smile to your face. Kevin ConRoy and Mark Hameii return yet again for their roles as Batman and the Joker, and just as you expected, their performance is top-notch and as good as it could possibly be. The performances of the Penguin, Harley Quinn, Two-Face and more many more are flawless and suit each character brilliantly. Even minor characters such as the thugs and prisoners of Arkham City are still providing top-notch voice acting and witty, believable dialogue.
Rocksteady thought they were going too soft on us with Arkham Asylum’s trophies; so they’ve knocked the difficultly level up dramatically. Hundreds of challenge medals, near to half a thousand riddles, multiple playthroughs and completion of all side missions will take a lot of time, effort and skill. It’s excessively harder than Arkham Asylum was, so be warned for a challenge. The trophies aren’t impossible though; and it’s one of those platinums that you’ll enjoy going for with all your heart.
Within a few short hours as you realize the sheer size and scale of the game you’ll come to realize that this just isn’t one of the greatest superhero games of all time – it’s one of the best games of all time. It’s hard to imagine a superhero game being any better. This is already a candidate for GOTY and is a title that simply cannot be missed. If you do miss out on this then the joke’s on you.
Takes Arkham Asylum’s already impressive gameplay and dramatically expands on it.
A staggering amount of content and flawless campaign rise will keep you busy for ages whilst giving you quality of the highest degree.
A fantastic looking game that's built on a great original. And with Mark Hameii doing the voice over there's nothing left to say, is there?