Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Nah-nah-naah-nah-BAAAAATTTTMAAAAAANN!

Batman - Arkham City

Over two years has passed since the last Batman game, Batman - Arkham Asylum. A title which took gamers by surprise. Probably ending up as one the best action/adventure games this generation.


A tendency in the gaming industry is that licensed games from super heroes, movies or cartoons end up being very bad, Arkham Asylum changed that impression and actually delivered a game that was not only good, but truly incredible. There are a lot of expectations for the developer Rocksteady Studios then. Can City deliver what Asylum did so brilliantly?


The story revolves around Batman’s imprisonment in Arkham City (a dilapidated and fenced in part of Gotham City, which now serves as a prison for criminals). Or more correct Bruce Wayne’s imprisonment. His dual identity is then revealed by Doctor Strange, one of the main protagonists and enemies of Batman in Arkham City. After releasing the new evil plot of the Joker and Strange, Batman must once again step up and stop them.


From the get-go you realise that the size of Arkham City far surpasses the original, apparently five times the size. So it becomes much more of a sandbox game than Asylum. What I really liked about the first game was the fact that you could explore areas at your own will from the main island, usually all these side-missions were contained in various buildings. Arkham City is no different, only much, much larger.

Some of the locations are quite creepy.

Standing on a ledge looking out over Arkham City is always breathtaking.

All your abilities from the last game are also kept and new ones are obtained by experience points and must be purchased. Experience points are earned from solving riddles, completing missions and defeating enemies. There’s also a huge set of tasks to complete to earn even more points, like jumping off a building a set amount of times, gliding for so long etc.


Rocksteady have taken care that you move very fast and use a lot of gliding to traverse the far larger outdoor area. There are also new gadgets that can be purchased to aid this even further. They have even woven in a side-story where you can play as Catwoman. These missions actually are a great diversion from Batman’s story and feel different and really fun to play. In fact one of Catwoman’s later missions, based heavily around stealth, end up as being one of my favourite ones throughout the game!

The Catwoman stages are really fun and add to the variation.

You can now climb up onto your ziplines.

The sheer variation in the gameplay and missions is superb throughout Arkham City. The characters you meet, both new and old foes and friends, are really well voice-acted and put a lot of diversity to the story. The main storyline through the game is very diverse and you’ll never tire, it can well be played without going off on side-missions and holds a perfect balance between learning new tricks and building up your experience in controlling Batman. Sometimes you are simply baffled by new areas that are revealed, or the fact that not one single thing you do in the singleplayer feels like a repeat of anything before it.


Technically Arkham City looks as beautiful as the original. All powered by the Unreal engine for delivering large, but detailed environments. The snowstorm outside adds a great effect and atmosphere. The old looking buildings look fantastic and have great architecture to them. The colour palette is a little on the grey and brown side though and it may be that I’ve seen a little too many of the PC screenshots beforehand, making me notice that the console version is not as pretty looking.


There are some downsides to the game. The sheer size of the game directly affects the quality of small details and atmosphere in my opinion. There simply are a little too many buildings, some of which you simply go into once and never return. Too many of them feel very bland and are easily forgotten. In Arkham Asylum I felt you really got familiar with the whole island and the buildings within it. Each building felt distinctly different and very familiar once you entered it. This chase after making the game “bigger and better” is also reflected in adding over 400 Riddler quests. A number which I simply saw and gave up hope on completing or seeing the entertainment value of in the long run.


The amount of side-missions which could have expanded the main storyline, both with more diverse gameplay and really cool characters complete with some great cut-scenes, is also a design choice which I question. It does however motivate for playing the game further after the credits and continue solving cases and riddles.

He won't know what hit him!

It's hot in here!

Gameplay wise, Arkham City does things very right, but the boss battles don’t feel really tough enough and there are a ridiculous amount of enemies onscreen this time. More often than it should it makes a lot of the fighting simply tedious button-bashing. The ending of the game is also a huge let-down and actually worse than Arkham Asylums disappointing ending. After meeting so many characters it could have easily added a couple of more hours of gameplay and ended the game with a far more epic end-battle.

Make no mistake from my complaints; this is a really good game. The story, the voice-acting, the gameplay and the graphics. Everything is top-notch quality. Sadly it doesn't hit those high-notes like Arkham Asylum did, remember the awesome Scarecrow scenes for example(?!), and goes too far in expanding its size in both gameplay area, riddles and enemy amounts. This size of course can be interpreted in both a negative and positive sense of course. For me, City doesn't quite do what Asylum did.


Rating

★★★★

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