Batman: Arkham City Review - October 30th 2011

Batman: Arkham Asylum managed to defy all preconceptions by making a mockery of the movie to videogame stereotype. No-one really saw it coming. The goodwill that developer Rocksteady have managed to cultivate following its launch back in 2009 has fed right through to the release of Arkham City. Taking the caped crusader out of prison hallways and letting him loose upon the naughty inhabitants of a makeshift criminal dystopia seemed like the logical next step. With a smorgasbord of villains and more gadgets than ever before, The Dark Knight has returned in his most accomplished adventure to date.


The combat has remained largely the same, with an attack, counter system that offers a variety of moves and animations that change dynamically based on your position and chosen target. There's a flow to the fisticuffs that is both unique and satisfying. Coupled with the streamlined upgrade screen (appropriately supported by WayneTech) which allows you to unlock extra combos, the addition of double takedowns, and context sensitive knockouts, it's pretty slick stuff. If you kick up the difficulty a notch or two, your average brawl with a group of thugs becomes an exercise in focus and variation. It's to Rocksteady's credit that the controls encourage you to switch up your tactics and make use of everything at your disposal.

Mark Hamill is fantastic.

There's enough options here to cater for all manner of play styles. Sneaking around and picking off targets one by one is a viable option for the most part, but you can just swoop in and get right into the thick of it, if stealth isn't your cup of tea. Infact, a sense of freedom is probably the most profound element that Rocksteady have introduced to Arkham City. It's entirely possible for you to blast through every single main mission without straying from the path, but that will only leave you with a 30% complete game save. Side quests round out the remainder of the single player content, but these aren't lazy fetch quests and they're certainly not redundant.

Some of the most interesting tasks you'll be given are found within these diversions. On top of that, the appearance of so many recognisable characters will encourage anyone with even a basic knowledge of the mythology to keep on playing, if only to learn their involvement in the overall narrative arc. Mr. Freeze is a particular highlight, and after defeating him in the main game, you're given the chance to become unlikely allies and soon after you're tasked with rescuing his wife from a heavily guarded fortress. It's these kind of objectives that have a "just one more go" effect on your psyche, and when you factor in the scope of the game and the sheer thrill that comes from exploring its many nooks and crannies, this is hardly a bad thing!

However, you will often be unable to find your way around due to the slightly repetitive art style and lack of decent way pointing. A compass points you in the right direction, but entrances to certain buildings can be tricky to locate. Most areas are very densely packed, and while the detail is impressive, it's easy to lose your way. This feels like an unnecessary barrier to your enjoyment, and can be extremely frustrating if you're left with no choice but to mill around and hope you stumble upon a solution.

Double takedowns are awesome.

But there's a lot to love here, and the developers reverence for the source material must be applauded. The returning voice cast have never been better, and despite Batman's gruff one liners, your encounters with the scum of Gotham are both memorable and surprising. Mark Hamill is a force to be reckoned with as the Joker, and his performance evokes sympathy for the character, interspersed with flashes of complete lunacy.

The only real letdown is Catwoman. Her episodic missions are short and pretty dull, and definitely not worth buying as DLC (if you decide to pick up a used copy of the game). Her custom movement is nice, and her move set is appropriately unique, but her story (if you can call it that) is all over far too quickly. But Batman is the star here, and his latest adventure delivers on so many levels. Arkham City is a truly great game, a superb successor to the title that took everyone by surprise, and well worth the price of admission.


Jon Titmuss

 

Gameplay:

Combat is better than ever, but finding your way around can sometimes be tricky.

Audio:

The voice cast is mostly brilliant, but the soundtrack is uninspired.

Graphics:

Although not the best it could be, it still looks great. Character models are amazing.

Longevity:

It might be single player only, but there is a lot of content on the disk.

     

Final Score:



Rocksteady have done it again. Despite some minor problems, Batman: Arkham City is a lot of fun.

 

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Warner Bros.
Rocksteady
Out Now
PC PS3 360