Well, it's been a long time coming but I've finally got the time and the energy to do this, a review of Batman : Arkham City, a game that many people are heralding as a potential game of the year contender...will I agree? LET'S FIND OUT.
It's been so long since I last played Arkham Asylum I went back and looked at some Youtube videos just to see how much of an improvement the graphics in this game are, and just how incredible they are without comparisons to the original. Arkham City, both artisically and visually, looks gorgeous. Whilst you're indoors things look mainly similar to the first game minus noticeable improvements in texture and quality, but it's when you step out into Arkham City itself that things get especially sexy. Soaring through the gothic-noire style streets of Arkham City as flecks of snow visibly land on your wings and melt, a battle-scarred and bruised Batman stands in an alley lit only by the moonlight, specks of water and snow again visible on his body, standing then atop a tall building, observing the distant golden lights of Gotham itself, these are just a few of the graphical treats you can expect to find whilst exploring Arkham City, sure, it's not the most realistic looking game in the world, but who gives two shits about realism when you've got a game that looks as artisically brilliant as this?
Now, I don't remember a whole lot about Arkham Asylum's soundtrack, which is probably a sign that it was a mostly forgettable but practical audio experience, now, Arkham City on the other hand is quite the treat to my ears. Easily the highlight of the soundtrack is the triumphant and memorable theme that can be heard in the above youtube video, from the moment you are greeted by the, frankly superbe title screen, paired with the above theme you'll know you've just bought a fantastic game. The soundtrack continues to impress throughout, mainly showing up during stealth sequences or key moments in the games story, it's just a shame the game doesn't take advantage of it's epic soundtrack by playing the music whilst you're soaring around Gotham, sure, it does it on occassion, and it's glorious when it does, but I want to hear that music EVERY time I start flying around Arkham City, it truly makes you feel like you're Batman, and as such, a badass. I'll just quickly mention that whilst the game features a lot of loud, triumphant music that makes you feel awesome, the score also delivers in the more somber moments of the game, rounding out what is on a whole, a truly memorable musical experience.
Epic story, memorable characters.
If there's one thing that makes Batman great minus...well Batman himself, it's the gallery of rouges he fights against on a regular basis and Arkham City, like Arkham Asylum continues the tradition of taking these well established characters and giving them a darker, grimy twist which is more suiting to the adult nature of the game. Whilst, once again, Mark Hamill provides an outstanding and haunting performance as main franchise villain, the Joker, he is this time joined by a much larger cast of brilliantly portrayed villains with the award for most mentally scarring character going to Zzasz who provides a series of deeply violent and disturbing phone calls in a role much larger and worthwhile than his brief, glorified tutorial cameo in Arkham Asylum. Speaking of Asylum, you'll find that many of the villains hinted at in the original will make a fully fledged appearance in Arkham City, alongside the Riddler who now has a face, rather than being just a voice in your head. There are numerous other surprise villain appearances in the game which I won't spoil, but I can't forget to mention the most important character of all. Batman. Kevin Conroy IS the voice of Batman and he once again provides a fantastically badass performance as everybodies favourite furfag (Cause he has a thing for bats, get it? HO HO HO!) I can't talk about the story due to spoilers but it's far superior to the original and the ending will be in your head for days after you finish.
FEEL LIKE BATMAN.
I'm sorry to rain on your parade, but YOU ARE NOT BATMAN, and you never will be, you fat piece of shit. BUT, with Arkham City you can finally live out your sick and pointless fantasy of being the caped crusader. Like in Arkham Asylum, the silky smooth combat system is immensely enjoyable, and much improved over the original with more brutally awesome moves at your disposal, along with many more ways to work gadgets into the chaos, sure, taking on 30 odd henchmen, each with guns, baseball bats, sheilds and stun guns may sound like an impossible task, but when you've taken them all out and they lay whimpering at your feet you know that NOONE CAN STOP YOU, NOONE, BECAUSE YOU. ARE. BATMAN. Batmaness doesn't stop just at combat and the welcome(?) return of stealth, now you can soar about like a Batman too, swooping through the streets of Arkham City, eyeing up potential victims of your Batfists before charging down and smashing into them in a smooth, seamless sequence that really does make you feel like you are a fucking badass, AKA Batman. Goddamn I wish I was this awesome in real life...*Sniff* WHY MUST I SUUUUCK!
So much to see, so much to do.
I don't know about you guys, but when you have a limited amount of funds and a lot of games you want to play, it's always deeply frustrating when you spend a fortune on a game only to find yourself staring at the credits by the end of the weekend, with no reason to go back into the game once you're back at the menu. Thankfully, Arkham City not only provides a decently sized main campaign, but also gives you hours upon hours of additional content and side missions to complete during and after you've served up justice on a fist platter. The length of the additional content varies from short one off (and awesome) surprise cameos to the insanely sized Riddler mission, which requires you to complete 400 individual goals which include hundreds of trophies, a ton of riddles to solve, as well as numerous combat and gliding related challenges. Despite the perhaps daunting size of that task, collecting all 400 Riddler "secrets" never feels like a chore because each and every one is either a increasingly tricky puzzle or a delightful visual easter egg, so don't worry, it may be a huge undertaking, but unlike Assassin's Creed and its ridiculously boring feather/flag hunts, it's actually fun to do. Moving on from Riddles, you've got many character driven side-missions to undertake, some are connected to the main story, others leave exciting hints towards the inevitable sequel, all of them with perhaps the exception of the contoller snappingly frustraing AR Challenges are well worth doing and give you much more bang for your hard earned bat-bucks.
Doesn't suffer from the lack of Scarecrow.
One of the biggest concerns about Arkham City was whether or not it'd be able to recreate the jaw dropping awesomness of some of the originals set piece moments, with pretty much all of those involving Rocksteady's rather badass looking interpretation of the Scarecrow. And, this is hardly a spoiler but no there aren't any Scarecrow sequences in Arkham City, does that mean the game lacks any "HOLY SHIT" moments? Not at all, if anything it features even more. Both in the main campaign, in side missions and just on the ruined streets , Arkham City will have your jaw hitting the ground on many an occasion for wonderfully spoileriffic reasons. A few of these stand out moments are well hidden and not part of the main game or any side mission, so when playing make sure to keep your eyes peeled for any...mysterious figures or locations...just saying.
Too much to see? TOO MUCH TO DO!!
It seems an odd and stupid complaint to make, I previously made the point to say it was refreshing to see so much content in a game, thus giving you value for money, how can I then say that there is too much to do? Well, I am so deal with it. Whilst it's great that the game provides you with a wealth of content to explore, you'll find yourself quickly confused and distracted from the main story as it's nearly impossible to travel from point A to point B without being alerted to a side mission, or spotting a puzzle of some kind. It makes the game last longer, sure, but the majority of it is thrown at you from the get go, leaving a clusterfuck of symbols and patterns on your map, which somewhat ruins the urgency of certain moments in the game because you find yourself participating in a mission completely seperate from the story. I would say that it might be best to wait until you've finished the main game to start exploring the extras, but where's the fun in that? All I'm saying is that it would of been better for the game to slowly trickle out side missions over the course of the game rather than hurling them all at you at the same time.
Catwoman is a pointless addition, and a pointless subtraction.
I gotta say, reading other peoples reviews and opinions, I think I'm alone when I say that, whilst fun to a certain extent, playing as Catwoman feels like a pointless, last minute addition to the game. The few, short missions you play as the busty feline are woven into the main campaign rather than being a seperate, optional experience, you only get to choose between playing as Batman and Catwoman once you've completed the campaign and, whilst having seperate objectives to Batman, Catwoman's side missions are sparse and based entirely around collecting items, with no real reward for doing so beyond some acheivments and a increase in percentage completion on the main menu. In addition to all this, Catwoman goes as far as to spoil the rather fantastic opening sequence of the game by randomly sticking the first, rediculously short mission of 3 (or 4 I can't remember) at the start without any real fanfare, before then going into playing as Batman when the game actually begins properly. When you take into consideration that beyond the novelty of kissing your enemies during a fight, Catwoman is a inferior version of Batman with weaker armour and lower health, it all feels rather pointless, at least when the game forces you to play through these missions to progress the main story. Which leads me to another problem with the Catwoman missions, why did Warner Bros see fit to remove this content from the game and give new copies a download code in order to play as her? Again, it wouldn't be so bad if it were just a side mission (It'd still be bad though), to actually remove parts of the main campaign because you didn't buy new is downright dastardly.
No Reward for 100% Riddler Completion.
So, the main aim of getting the Riddler Secrets is to progress through the Riddler side mission, but you don't need all 440 Secrets in order to beat the Riddler, so why bother collecting the rest? Do you get an acheivment? Some kind of bonus content? Anything at all? Nope, not a sausage. Okay, so you do unlock the bulk of the bonus content (I.e, Concept Art, Challenge Maps, Interview Tapes and Character Trophies) by collecting Trophies and solving riddles, but the fact that you don't get so much as a fanfare or Batman poping some confetti going through the game and collecting every little trophy and secret is very dissapointing. Sure, some people would argue that the satisfaction of completion is its own reward, but those people are smarmy bastards and need to shut up, I WANT RECOGNITION DAMMIT.
Whilst I strongly reccommend playing through the first game before purchasing the sequel, I cannot express how much fun this game is to play, and how epic the story and all the side missions are for both hardcore Batfans and the lesser ones like myself. Whether your soaring through the skies, beating the living shit out of some thugs , perching atop a gargoyle in wait for your next stealthy takeout or even solving some of the Riddlers feindishly tricky puzzles and riddles, Arkham City makes you feel like you are Batman, and that is not an easy thing to pull off.
Far exceeding the already superbe Arkham Asylum and providing players with a memorable, thrilling experience that will make anybody who enjoys Batman at his bleakest and best or enjoys a well desgined, visually appealing third person adventure/fighting game jump up and down for joy that they forked out the dough for this one. If you were worried Arkham City wouldn't live up to the hype, fear not, it does, and then some. It's a real contender for Game of the Year and easily the best licensed property game I've ever played. Grab your Bat Credit Cards, turn on the Batcomputer and buy yourself this game, you won't regret it.
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