Like a Batman in a Room Full of Thugs – Batman: Arkham City Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
The Bat is back and the inmates are running the – albeit a much larger –asylum once more. Batman: Arkham City released this week and once again, he’s in for a whole new world of pain. Where previously prisoners of Gotham City were sentenced to BlackGate prison or sent to Arkham Asylum, now they are confined to the island city instead. With no enforcement, each of the super powers among Batman’s enemies has staked claims on followers and territory providing a true gang land sandbox for Batman to have a field day just beating the snot out of anyone who gets in his way. Everywhere you look, there’s someone to beat up, it’s like being a kid in a candy store, there’s so much to do, it’s so hard to choose which comes first.
In a plan to find out exactly what is going on inside this new mega-prison, Batman, as his alter ego Bruce Wayne, holds a press conference declaring his outrage with the new prison and, for some reason, gets arrested by Tyger guards and escorted to the new head of Arkham Asylum, Doctor Hugo Strange. Strange reveals to Wayne that he knows his secret identity and then warns him that, should Batman interfere with his plans, he will expose to the world that Wayne is the Dark Knight. Wayne manages to escape, of course, and finds himself trapped (by design) on the island with just hours remaining before Protocol 10 – a vague, non-specific, but most definitely sinister event – goes down. No pressure. There’s nothing like a good deadline to set the pace.
For those who played the original game, you’ll find yourself thrown right back into the thick of it with new combos and wielding gadgets that are a mix of old and new. The Cryptographic Sequencer, Bat Claw, Batarang (normal and remote controlled) should all be familiar. Early on, you’ll be introduced to smoke bombs which obscure the line of fire – very useful against enemies with guns. You’ll also be introduced to freeze grenades and the remote Electric Charger, which can be used to stun enemies in combat and power up generators for a brief period of time. This is a major mechanic change as there are tons of doors to open/close and puzzles to solve.
Combat feels the same from the original: smooth and seamless with the FreeFlow combat system. Using the combination of attack, counter, jump, stun, and quick-firing of gadgets, Batman can take on throngs of enemies all at once. The ante has been upped. In addition to the original slew of henchmen to fight, be they wielding fist, chair, gun, lead pipe, or knife, you’ll also have new challenges to face, such as thugs with riot shields or in full-body armor. These last are immune to all attacks unless you stun them first and perform a “beat down”, where Batman hits a stunned enemy with a rapid succession of punches. Added all together, this creates a varied and complex combat system, especially when any of the thousands of inmates wandering the streets can join the fight to take a swing at the Bat.
Predator challenges follow the same methodology as previously experienced, but with improvements to make it more challenging. You’ll have to sneak through the rooms, flying from gargoyle to gargoyle, crawling through ducts, causing distractions, and trying to silently take down the guards without being spotted or taking too long, at which point they’ll get nervous and threaten hostages. Some enemies are now equipped with thermal scanners, which can be used to detect Batman when he’s hiding in high locations. That means you can’t just sit around in one spot waiting for the perfect opportunity. You’ll want to take out those specially equipped guards early on or keep moving to avoid them. Others include jammers which block detective vision, and enemies who lay mines to prevent sneaking up on them. All in all, a much improved challenge. Boss battles have also seen a face-lift. No longer is it tossing a Batarang followed by a dodge. Each uses different skill combinations to keep things varied, usually based on the use of a specific gadget.
Purchasers who buy new copies of the game receive a download code to get access to Catwoman missions – a series of 4 episodes which are interspersed into the normal story. Much quicker than the Dark Knight, she deals lighter, but faster blows that chain together into something that can only be described as a whirlwind of chaos among her enemies. Although the basic attacks are the same, she comes with her own set of gadgets, like Caltrops and a Bolas, and wields a whip which can be used to pull enemies to the ground during combat. Where Batman will use his grappling hook to pull himself up to high vantage points, Catwoman has no such luxury. But that’s not to say she’s without resources. Using her whip to latch on to targets and pull herself forward, she can also climb up walls and climb on grated ceilings; truly a versatile creature.
Riddler collectibles are back once more. Hidden across the city, some require a bit of detective work while others are actually trapped and require a bit of thinking or upgraded gadgets to acquire. While the majority of these trophies are meant for the Dark Knight, there are purple ones which can only be picked up by Catwoman. Each trophy unlocks something from the main menu. While the majority is concept art and 3D models, there are also challenge rooms (combat and predator) and story to be had as well. Also, remember: if you don’t get all the items the first time around, you can always go back for them in New Game+ or continue playing as any of the playable characters you’ve unlocked.
Challenge rooms will feel familiar to old hands. Combat rooms require scoring as much as possible against four waves of enemies, getting bonuses for not taking any damage, never breaking a combo, and variation in attacks and gadgets used. Predator rooms are based on speed and stealth, while also providing bonuses for doing specific types of take downs. There are 180 points possible for both Batman and Catwoman in the challenges. Completionists will definitely have their hands full for a while.
Batman: Arkham City is an incredible game, featuring a praiseworthy story and stunning graphics which show off the dark nature of Gotham and its denizens. If the game fails anywhere, it’s in the fact that we, the players, expect too much after the first game which showed us what happens when a studio who truly loves its source material produces a masterpiece. It doesn’t wow us with something brand new, but it has taken something that is great, and distilled it into something even better.
Wanderson75 gives this game 4.75/5.0
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