Rocksteady showed glimpses of talent when Batman: Arkham Asylum came out, but after playing Batman: Arkham City, it’s clear that they have ascended to the heavens. Arkham City (henceforth AC) is a massive leap over its predecessor. It’s up there with the Uncharted 2 and Mass Effect 2 when you look at the sheer amount of improvements in the game. When playing AC, there was only one thing going through my mind- “I wish all superhero games were like this.” But they aren’t, and that’s what makes AC so special.
Arkham Asylum was one of the surprise hits of 2009, but was overshadowed by Uncharted 2. Fast forward to 2011, we are met with the same scenario, but it’s AC that is in the dominating position this time. Yes, this game is that good.
For starters, Rocksteady has given you more room to maneuver, as it’s a semi-open world this time around, compared to the linear focused areas of Arkham Asylum. While this has resulted in less detail density indoors, you get to truly experience what being Batman really is like- the entire city is yours to explore. I’m glad Rocksteady went with the latter because gliding through the skies of Gotham City is a surreal feeling.
The story takes place after the events of Arkham Asylum, and The Joker is back. This time, the main villain is Hugo Strange, who threatens to destroy Gotham City. There are a lot of twists and turns here in the game, as you will witness while playing. What makes it so exciting is that, AC contains a massive list of characters from the Batman saga. You must be wondering, “Does that mean I can kick their asses using Catwoman?” Oh yes, you definitely can.
For someone who loves the Batman so much, this game is a dream to play. No one else could have done justice to the game except Rocksteady. You really don’t have to do the main missions or the 12 lengthy side-missions that are available to you in the game. At one point in the game, I was so engrossed in doing the side-missions that I sort of became detached with the main story. After all, who wouldn’t want to explore Gotham City and clear the streets filled with criminals? I spent a lot of time just gliding over the city and beating up puny thugs using the addictive combat system that was present in the first game as well.
You can chain combos, and cause widespread carnage. The freeflow system is back and is better than ever. There are a lot of new things here though, as Batman’s arsenal of weapons and skill has been expanded a lot in this game. You get a lot more toys to play with and it’s glorious. And yes, the detective mode makes a return as well. I know it’s a love or hate affair with most of the people who played the first game, but it’s less intrusive here, which is commendable.
The Joker plays a huge role here, as he should and again, the voice actor for Joker, Mark Hamill delivers a phenomenal performance. It is certain that the game has high production values considering the musical score employed. I love the OST in the game- starting from the main menu to the intro to each and every set-peice, it’s wonderfully composed. Along with the voice acting, the random chatter of the thugs you hear when you’re exploring the city adds a new level of immersion to the game. I like the little touches like these where everyone is slightly perturbed at the fact that they’re being watched by someone. When Batman does show his face, not everyone fights with him. You can see some of the thugs surrendering if you manage to kick a lot of asses.
There are a lot of Riddler trophies scattered across the city, just like in the first game, and a massive amount of them totaling to 400. It’s not easy to get them all, so you need to gain access to a lot of gadgets and areas before you manage to do that. It’s fun, although not something that I was too fond of collecting. But hey, if you want to beat the Riddler at his own game, be my guest. The side-quests can be time consuming as well, and combined with the main story, you have like 20-30 hours of gameplay at your disposal, which is fantastic. The challenge modes make a return again, and I was a big fan of that in the first game, so seeing it again in AC brought a smile to my face. Chaining combos without getting hit is one of the best things you could do in the game, and it never gets boring.
I was a little worried that expanding the city may result in less graphical detail. While for indoors this is slightly true, the city as a whole looks spectacular. The lighting along with the background scenery really gives the illusion of being in a large, wonderfully realized world. Unreal Engine 3 continues to impress, even as it grows older. The PC version should sport Nvidia Physx and other enhancements, but if you’re planning to get this on the consoles, you shouldn’t think twice. The PS3 version had near flawless framerate and I didn’t encounter any technical problems while playing the game. Considering the fact that Unreal Engine 3 can cause hiccups on the PS3, this is a fine achievement by Rocksteady. The cutscenes look really good as well, as demonstrated by the spectacular intro when you boot up the game.
There is a new game plus mode that is unlocked after you beat the main story, which is a fine addition to the game. You can carry over your gadgets here, but the enemies are much stronger this time. It shouldn’t be an issue once you have mastered the combat, but being stealthy pays off too. If you’re playing AC for the first time, you may be slightly confused as to where to go because the city feels so overwhelming. Should you do the main-missions or the side-missions? Play as Catwoman or as the Batman? But everything settles down after a while, and once it does, you control Gotham City, and no one can stop you. So upgrade your gadgets; become better at the game and protect Gotham City, as this is how Rocksteady intended it to be.
Batman: Arkham City is a fantastic game and after playing so many games this year, I can frankly say that this is one of the best games to have been released this gen. A lot of content combined with high production values is how a superhero game should be made. Every game studio that works on a superhero game can learn from Rocksteady, because right now, they’re the ones to beat. So what are you waiting for? Go buy this game immediately. Gotham City needs you.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
High production values. Great graphics. Fantastic OST. Wonderfully realized city. Combat mechanics are fine tuned, and it feels great to execute devastating moves. Lots of replay value. You are the goddamn Batman.
Slightly less detail in the interior environments. Boss fights can be beaten blindfolded.