30 Reviews in 30 Days, Day 11 – Batman: Arkham City

One of the reasons I have been excited to do this 30 Reviews in 30 Days was I wanted to revisit some reviews for games I loved but other members of the EDG Crew actually reviewed. It just so happened this gave me a chance to review the PC version of Alan Wake and compare it with the 360 version. With Batman: Arkham City, I am not reviewing any kind of new port, through I did play it on PS3 while I believe Jordan played it on 360.

While I was a fan of Batman: Arkham Asylum, I was not as sold on the game as many people were. Part of the reason for this was the lackluster ending of that game, which I talked about in my Good Grief article. I had not even planned on buying Arkham City on release week, but Kmart had a great deal on it, so I decided to do just that. I am glad I did, as I named it Game of the Year for 2011.

Improving Upon the Formula

Many villians missing from the first game make their appearance here.

My very first experience with Arkham City actually was not that positive. I had activated the Online Pass and downloaded the Catwoman missions, but since I did not do that within the game itself, it did not start me there. That was probably a good thing, as starting as Bruce Wayne having to escape captivity in Arkham City hooked me immediately. By the time I had managed to get out, contact Alfred and have a Batsuit sent to me, I had bought into the game full-bore and was ready to play.

The story of Arkham City is at once both immense and very fitting of a Batman tale. Seeing a city given over to all of the worst criminals in Gotham, and playing as Batman who is refusing to give up on the innocents still in that city, really makes you appreciate just how much Rocksteady understands of the character and the universe. Everything about this game just screams Batman to me, from using the grapplers to traverse the city to using that mixture of stealth and group based combat to deal with enemies.

Arkham Asylum had introduced many of the Batman villains into the universe. Arkham Citytakes that to another level,

Mark Hamill masterfully reprises his role as the voice of Joker.

bringing in both fan favorites missing from the first game to more obscure characters the casual reader may not even recognize. Freeze, Penguin, Two Face, Clayface…. They all make an appearance, and each one is given his proper due as a true enemy of the Dark Knight.

Then there’s Joker. Mark Hamill announced that Arkham City was going to be his last time voicing the iconic arch-rival of the Bat, and his performance in this game is absolutely top-notch. The way he harasses Batman throughout the game, both in person and via voicemail messages he leaves him, the insanely twisted yet maniacally brilliant traps and schemes, the mock humor that hides the pure essence of evil that fills him…. Joker is presented at his absolute finest, and without giving anything away, this game has the epic ending you wanted Asylum to have.

Now I Feel Like Batman

Arkham Asylum was praised for doing more than any game before it to make you feel like an iconic hero. Arkham City takes that beyond the next level, allowing you to truly feel like you are stepping into Bruce Wayne’s persona. One of the reasons for this is you do not start out minus most of your equipment like you did in the previous game. Most of the gear you had by the end of Asylum is already unlocked and useable, and this is a good thing as you are facing odds that make your battles in that game look tame. You will need all of this equipment as well as the various upgrades you can get throughout the game to face off against a smarter, more numerous set of adversaries ready to make their name by being the one who killed Batman.

The battle against Solomon Grundy was one of my favorites.

Did I mention the enemies are smarter this time around? The AI has been improved dramatically. Gangs will work to flank you. Thugs will go on heightened alert when they see a comrade lying unconscious by a vent grate, and they will actually look for you in the vents. Others have heat vision goggles that allow them to see you when you are perching on the gargoyles and other high points. Fortunately, Batman has improved as well. You can unlock combos and special moves that truly help give you the edge whether facing one tough enemy or 20, and you can even upgrade the suit to keep you hidden from those with the heat goggles as long as you remain still. The balance between increased difficulty and improved upgrades is just about perfect, giving you all sorts of creative ways to deal with your foes. One of my favorites was the firearm jammer which helped me get the jump on many an unsuspsecting thug.

Another improvement over the original is the boss battles. While none of them will quite live up to the Scarecorw battles of the first game, all of them are great. From taking out the devices giving power to Solomon Grundy to laying traps for Mr. Freeze, each boss battle is unique and fitting to the enemy you are facing. This is a major upgrade from the first game, and it shows Rocksteady was listening to the fans.

Not Perfect, But Still Among the Best

Batman: Arkham City is by no means perfect. Parts of the game tend to bog down a bit, some of the missions feel a little canned and the Catwoman segments felt just tacked on to give them something to unlock via an online code. It is hands down the best super hero game ever made, however,  and the end will leave you absolutely speechless. For improving upon what was already a good game in ways most of the players could only have dreamed, Batman: Arkahm City gets a 10 out of 10.

 

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