Batman: Arkham City Lockdown Review
This game was reviewed on the iPhone.
Released just this past October, Batman: Arkham City for the PS3/360 threw gamers into the shoes of Batman like never before. The huge, open city allowed us to explore the secrets behind the maddening thoughts of The Riddler, Penguin, The Joker, and other notorious foes of Bruce Wayne, kept us busy and was full of non-stop action. Now with the technology in the iPad and iPhone, we can take the thrilling world of Arkham City with us in Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, however it is more of a little brother to the console/PC versions than a direct port. But does it hold up to the title many call ”Game of the Year,“ or is it just another superhero game we can pass on?
Once the game starts, you are immediately thrown into a fight. Standing on the rooftop, with the acclaimed and familiar Arkham City soundtrack pumping, you are face-to-face with one of The Joker’s thugs. This is the Tutorial. The controls with any game on a touch screen are a hit-or-miss, but with Lockdown, I am happy to say it’s smooth, fluid, and very responsive. You use the touch screen to dodge and weave attacks from your enemies, countering by quickly pressing on the prompts as they appear in order to snap their arm back or body slam them for a nice nap. Paying attention to the thugs’ movements can teach you when and how they will attack, which helps when you want to deflect an advance. Deflecting is a very important part to surviving; doing it right will put your baddy in a daze, allowing you to dish out some quick combos.
Attacking is as simple as swiping left or right, and up for an uppercut. You can use combos for increased damage, but there are only a few combo options and you may grow tired of them quickly with how often you fight in this game. Occasionally, the bad guys go into a Rage Mode, where their hands and faces glow red and their attacks become unblockable. In order to avoid taking damage at this point, you will need to dodge by tapping left or right on the screen. Fail to do so and you’ll see your health bar take a rather big hit. If you avoid their raging attacks, they will go into a daze for a few seconds, allowing you to counter with your own assault.
The fights are spread out over a map of Arkham City in four parts: the sewers, rooftops, alleyway, and steel mill. Each sector has a different enemy type but a similar combat style, aside from later areas, including gunfire. Additionally, these areas have four elements: three groups of thugs followed by the end bosses, who also have some thugs before you reach them. These crazed end bosses include Two-Face, Solomon Grundy, Deathstroke, and of course, Batman’s best friend, The Joker. Despite the addition of iOS-exclusive character Deathstroke, you are left wanting more in the bosses you battle, as four is just too few. Batman’s universe is huge and so full of memorable faces they could have included, so I was disappointed in only seeing four of them.
By including a boss at the end of each section, it mixes up the pacing of the combat. You will be trying to defeat your arch rivals with exclusive gadgets (like using the Batarang against Two-Face) or using your quick reflexes to outwit Grundy as you navigate the sewage system. With such varied combat, it’s unfortunate that we only use the iPhone/iPad’s gyroscope in one battle to maneuver the Batarang, as it controls similar to the PS3’s sixaxis in both Batman titles.
Your quick swiping and crime fighting doesn’t go unnoticed, as every fight offers experience points (XP), and once you complete an area or mission, you earn WayneTech points. The experience points are used to help level up Batman, and are collected from meeting goals in each mission aside from just finishing off a fight. If you use your gadgets enough, avoid taking damage, and counter attacks, you can quickly earn more XP and level up. Leveling up or defeating a boss earns you even more WayneTech points, and these points are vital to the game as you can spend them on upgrading your suit, which can help inflict more damage, take less damage from attacks, and parry/dodge faster.
There are a few gadgets you can use for your combat needs, but there is a severe lack in comparison to the game’s big brother, Arkham City, on the consoles. There is only a smoke grenade and (a personal favorite) the swarm of bats you can use to throw your enemies’ attention off in order to punch and combo your way to defeating them. Neither of these cause any damage, but you can upgrade them to last longer and bring your enemies’ defense down for an extended period of time so you can make more attacks.
Lockdown, which uses Unreal Engine 3, looks gorgeous everywhere. NetherRealm Studios, the guys behind the insanely popular Mortal Kombat series, created a truly beautiful mobile Batman game. The setting is dark and grimy, much like the comics and atmosphere we all associate with Bruce Wayne. The game runs smoothly when there isn’t much action going on the screen, which is hardly the case as it goes from one fight to another. As soon as the combat gets fierce and even a single achievement pops up, the game may come to a complete halt. However, all-in-all Lockdown is very polished graphically with character models and some of the best-looking characters I have seen on the iOS.
The sound is the biggest issue I have with this game; there was not enough attention given to audio and as a result the game loses some of its atmosphere. With only the main theme as background music, it really takes away from the dark, almost nightmarish, world that Batman lives in. Batman: Arkham City was so full of ambiance that it’s rather surprising to see such a strong element go missing in this version. The combat has standard punching and kicking sound effects, and while the voice acting can be stale in many parts, it does have Mark Hamill at the helm for The Joker – which is always a welcome addition. Everyone else in the game, such as the thugs and other bosses, all speak with a rather generic tough-guy tone with repeated dialogue, and when they do speak, their lips don’t move, which may be due to restraints of the iOS device.
Secondly, the storyline is completely borrowed from the console version and felt extremely rushed. From the opening, Vicky Vale, Gotham City’s famous news reporter, is alerting everyone in Arkham City about what is happening behind the walls. After this introduction, you are thrown in to start the game – and that’s about it. There is no middle cinematic or story-telling, and once you complete the game, it just tells you that you may play the game again, but with harder enemies. I understand that with any mobile version of an existing game you should come to expect short-cuts, but there is just a complete lack of story here altogether. Hopefully, we will see expansions on the storyline.
One thing I wish more game developers would do is include extras. Lockdown does not disappoint here as it has a complete menu of additional goodies. There are biographies of all four bosses and two rivals that were not present – Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Hopefully, this is a hint that they will be part of something bigger down the road for this game. Sixteen wallpapers are included and can be downloaded right away, and while these are nothing different from what you can already find online, it’s great to see them available for easy downloads. When Batman: Arkham City came out, DC Comics released a comic series written by Paul Dini, and included in this game are issues one, six, and seven. It’s weird that two through five aren’t part of the included series, but I can only imagine this is a way to lure you into buying them. Lastly, you can earn achievements from the Game Center, which is always fun, but to earn each one you must purchase the three optional Batsuits. Batman: Arkham City Lockdown also supports AirPlay, so you can play this gorgeous game on your HDTV – as long as you have the Apple TV attachment, of course.
A popular trend to mobile gaming is in-app purchases and Lockdown brought many options. If you don’t want the Arkham City standard Batsuit, you can purchase the Batman Beyond, The Dark Knight, or Animated Series suits for 99 cents. Doing so not only offers a different visual style and flavor but stats as well. Batman Beyond’s skin is more agile but has less health compared to Frank Miller’s popular Dark Knight suit design. If you were a kid growing up in the early 90s, like myself, the Batman: Animated suit will definitely bring back memories. You can also purchase additional WayneTech points, which will allow you to upgrade at a much faster rate than grinding it up level by level. Offering points from 99 cents to $14.99 can help you get to The Joker faster and hit level 30 for an extra achievement in no time.
For those looking for a terrific action title to add to their iOS device, I strongly recommend Batman: Arkham City Lockdown. While it has some issues in the sound department and lacks a deep combat system, it won’t take away from wanting to fight crime. Replaying the game again with more challenging foes is still fun despite already knowing how short it is. This game lets you be Batman, and what’s not to love about that?
Batman: Arkham City Lockdown scores a 4/5
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