Batman: Arkham City – Console Game Review
Batman: Arkham City. Console Game Review. Publisher: WB Games. Developer: Rocksteady. $59.99
Passed Inspection: A natural evolution from Arkham Asylum.
Failed Basic: With no co-operative or online aspects, this title could deter the multiplayer gamer.
Did you ever don a cape as a child and prowl the garden or the local park, searching for clues and fighting crime the old fashioned way, with your fists of fury and hi-tech gadgets? If the answer is yes, than you likely pretended to be the savior of Gotham City—Batman! Revisit those halcyon childhood days with Batman: Arkham City, the latest expansion in the Caped Crusader franchise.
Whether a fan or a critic of director Christopher Nolan’s reboot of The Dark Knight, the most recent Batman movie, one has to admit that the realignment of the character into the "real" world is a vast improvement over the tongue-in-cheek television series and film of 1966. Rocksteady, a British developer based in London, takes gamers deep in the shadowy heart of the Dark Knight mythos—and they love it.
Rocksteady first released its re-imagining of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, Batman: Arkham Asylum, in 2009, combining classic fisticuffs with stealth elements. Batman returned to his dark roots with stunning success, after a short detour into the world of Lego games. Arkham Asylum garnered an average rating of 90% in most reviews, won the 2010 BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for best game of the year, and grabbed a place in history when Guinness—as in Guinness World Records—declared it the "Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever." Batman: Arkham Asylum set a high bar for any sequel. The gaming community rightfully has some high expectations for Batman: Arkham City.
So, how does this title play compared to the previous smash hit? Remarkably similar, and that isn’t a bad thing. Arkham City keeps the same game mechanics: freeflow combat bonuses, acrobatic skills, and fists of fury. Players attempt to avoid letting an enemy land a blow, whilst keeping up a rhythm of their own attacks to increase their combat score—the higher the combo, the more points you earn in your skirmishes. Some situations require players to employ grey matter instead of brute force to reach their objectives, which mixes up the style of gameplay from time to time. As in Rocksteady’s original title, you must utilize the night to your advantage for silent take-downs and stalking in the shadows.
A new addition to the game is a gliding technique used to quickly transport Batman across an otherwise huge area. In essence, it is a combination of flying through the air (Batman’s cape acts like a glider) combined with the Bat-Claw, which is used to shoot a rope at objects on buildings, thus allowing Batman to move in a Tarzan-like fashion across the large map. With the ability to dive and pull up, you can increase your gliding speed and with improvements on your Bat-claw, the ability for near-continuous flight removes any laborious travel issues that might arise. Mix in the upgrades for dive bombing enemies and shocking those nearby and you have a whole new combat element to bring evildoers to justice.
Gliding in on some bad guys on the nearby roof.
Asylum touched on the use of gadgets during combat, and Arkham City builds on that. Some new gadgets debuting in this title let players jam machine guns from a distance and deploy smoke grenades. Players may now utilise the majority of their gadgets during skirmishes in any way they see fit. Players can employ a variety of approaches to situations, utilizing a variety of take-down opportunities. As in Asylum, players can use upgrade points for weapon upgrades, suit bonuses, or special takedowns (incorporating gadgets in freeflow combat).
One major bonus in the new title is that City offers two playable characters: Batman and Catwoman.
Yes—the feline love interest of the Dark Knight is now playable, either in a stand-alone side-game or intertwined with the main storyline. Catwoman is offered as a free DLC to original purchasers of the collector’s edition, but those who purchase the standard version, or who buy a used game, will have to pay to add this new character.
There is a side-set of missions for Catwoman that supplement the main storyline at intersections, and she has her own set of combat moves, but overall I feel Catwoman doesn’t add a huge amount of variation to the game. However, some of the many Riddler trophies scattered around the city are only accessible through the use of the Catwoman character specifically. In my opinion, this isn’t a selling point for those who have to shell out more money in order to play this character.
With Catwoman joining the ranks, who else can players expect to meet? Various trailers across the internet have featured cameos of enemies from all of Batman’s various histories, from Cobblepot (Penguin) to Two-Face, Deadshot, Solomon Grundy, Poison Ivy, etc. At times, it can feel like these enemies and their backstories were shoe-horned into the game, but all are dealt with sufficiently to weave multiple storylines into the main quest.
And this, for me, is where the game really leaves its legacy and sets itself apart from its predecessor. Littered across Arkham City (and it is a city in its own right) are various side missions, such as determining who murdered inmates (requiring some real detective work and analysis) or rescuing political prisoners. Throw in the Victor Zsasz and Riddler missions, which have players racing against time, horror-movie style, to save innocent hostages, and this really fleshes out the playing time, which is estimated to sit at an impressive 40 hours, with all side missions completed.
Finally, when the storyline comes to an end, all items have been collected, and the credits roll, what’s left? The single-player campaign has a variety of difficulty settings, and gamers can replay with all of the unlocked upgrades and gadgets they earned previously, providing yet another chance to approach situations from a different angle.
What of multiplayer? The game’s main storyline doesn’t offer any online opportunity, but the arenas and challenge sessions return. There are predator missions on maps featured in the game, in which you take down a number of enemies in a variety of ways. There are also combat sessions that set the player against varying numbers of enemies sporting different weapon types in a bid to beat the set high scores of each map, which are all logged on the worldwide leaderboards. Some unlockable playable skins (Robin, Nightwing, various new and old outfits from a variety of Batman franchises) offer additional supplementary content.
However, what many players were hoping for was a co-op multiplayer. Fans salivated at speculation there could be two players working together to clean up the streets of Arkham City. This likely would have added many months to the game’s development time, but its absence leaves fans wondering whether they will ever see this featured in any future titles from Rocksteady.
Batman waits for his moment.
Apart from that, this game is everything fans would expect and want it to be. With the magic and finesse of Asylum as a solid foundation, Batman: Arkham City has clearly evolved from the confines of Arkham prison. The city is your playground. Get out there and defend it.
Armchair General Ranking: 92%
About the Author
Alex Last is a post-graduate in student of War, Culture and Society and is an avid console gamer. Combining his interest in social history and popular gaming culture, he also manages his own blog on Console Curious.