Review

Here we are with another title from the exceptionally epic Fall season of blockbuster video games. If you’ve missed which games to get, check out Spencer’s 6 Video Games You Must Play this Fall article.

Batman Arkham City is the sequel to Rocksteady’s critically acclaimed Batman Arkham Asylum. When Batman Arkham Asylum came out, it was heralded as the best superhero video game EVER made. In my opinion, that feat was much delayed. No developer ever made a successful engrossing DC or Marvel superhero game till then.

I’m proud to announce, like the many reviewers of metacritic, that Batman Arkham City tops Arkham Asylum as THE best superhero video game ever made. Some reviewers went even further saying that Arkham City is the best Fall 2011 game and perhaps the game of the year! That’s yet to be seen as more blockbuster titles are coming out in a hurry this November, but according to Metacritic and the Video Game community, Batman AC is the best game so far.

Prepare for some butt kicking

Story

The story continues from Arkham Asylum (if you didn’t play Arkham Asylum, there is a nice recap you can view from the Main Menu) with Arkham Asylum closing down and Hugo Strange in charge of all the inmates in a small sectioned part of Gotham City, called Arkham City. The story is incredibly engrossing, with the environment and setting of Arkham City help keep you entrapped in the game. The beginning of the game is arguably the one of the best intros of the game, with you as Bruce Wayne kidnapped by Strange himself. You fight your way as Bruce Wayne till you reach the rooftop to pick up your Bat Jet dropped Bat Suit. That’s the only Spoiler of this Story section, but the beginning created waves of nerdgasms!

If you purchased the game new from a retailer, you have to redeem the Catwoman DLC pack, and if you do, you will be treated with a different intro letting you use Catwoman. Throughout the Batman story, Catwoman episodes occur (usually when you get knocked out, which is a few times. SMH), which definitely keeps things fresh as Catwoman has different weapons, and animations. The Catwoman “episodes” are not necessary for full story completion, but its nice that Rocksteady threw her in their as a playable story character.

Catwoman fights like Trinity from the Matrix

There are plenty of treats for the Batman fan with a diverse range of super villians to face between the massive amount of Henchmen and Security/Army-type personnel. As stated in the above Negatives section, the main story definitely is anti-climatic like a Shakespearean Tragedy. Lot’s of questions are left unanswered and though you find out who’s pulling all the strings, it isn’t that jaw dropping. I was hoping it was Darkseid. Even though the main story feels short, you’re far from done with the game. The game has tons of side missions as well as riddles to solve from the Riddler.

Presentation

Arkham City is pretty vast, vast enough for Batman to glide around roof top to roof top. When Arkham City snows, the small snowflakes bounces gracefully off the Bat Suit giving it a more authentic textured feel. The enemy henchman are so varied, I still don’t know if I’ve beaten up that henchman before. The lighting effects differently set the mood of the whole game incredibly well. One gripe I had with the graphics were that finishing slow motion ending moves sometimes looked awkward. Not as smooth as it should be.

Nonetheless the combat animations are candy to your eyes. There were several moments in the game where I’d almost drop my controller and yell for someone to come look at how awesome a particular scene was. The best action/cinematic scene in the game was the Ra’s Al Ghul Boss fight below. I recommend watching the whole clip, but the part I’m talking about starts from 10:20. The flickering in and out from illusion to reality while controlling batman’s combat is truly epic. This player wasn’t that great but if you do dodge effectively, the screen goes back and forth more often than shown here.

Another notable presentation is the voice acting. The voice actors are the authoritative Batman and Joker from the Batman: The Animated Series, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill! Any gamer that grew up in the 90s will definitely agree with me. No one can do a Joker laugh quite like Mark and no one can do a Bruce Wayne voice quite like Kevin! The story is definitely a gift for fans of Batman, but it also holds up to the Batman novice.

I’ll go into the DLC skins and Robin and NightWing further in the next section, but all the skins you can download for Batman, Catwoman, Robin, and Nightwing are extremely detailed and fit perfectly with the combat!

Gameplay

The game play definitely shines in the limelight for Batman Arkham City. Improvements across the board in all aspects compared to Arkham Asylum definitely feels to be the epiphany of how it feels to be Batman. So much more variation in combat fighting, finishing moves, which also introduces Double and even Triple Counter attacks! Pulling these off are relatively easy and I know lot’s of players feel that the combat is over-simplified. I can reassure you that the combat is only simple in the beginning. As Arkham City advances you’ll have to switch up different combat evades and counters for villains with knives, guns, electric batons, and riot shields. Riot Shields, a new inclusion in the enemy arsenal from AA, is a pain to fight against in a group of henchmen with different weapons.

The notorious Detective mode that you had turned on at all times during Arkham Asylum is changed for the better. I found myself using Detective mode far less in Arkham City, because the mode limited visibilty greatly. This is a good thing, because the in game graphics look way better than Detective mode.

Detective Mode is now Perfect

After completing the story once in Normal or Hard, you unlock the Plus mode where you go back to the beginning with all your unlocked skills, skins, and gadgets. The AI is ramped up considerably and the first time I was on the streets of AC, I got my butt handed back to me. The easy counter icons don’t show anymore, so you have to be extra vigilant. So no, Batman AC is not too easy.

The varied gadget you gain throughout the story has been improved as well. Now you can easily unleash any of your gadgets in a brawl with hot keys which definitely is a huge improvement over AA. The stealth gameplay is top notch, with tougher enemies and new ways to take them down. The Mr. Freeze boss fight was basically an excellent example of all the stealth tactics you needed to know, because he won’t fall for the same tactic twice. Another notable improvement gadgetwise is the cryptograph, which was always fun to use in Arkham Asylum, but in Arkham City, it is even more fun.

The Nightwing DLC is a must have

Finished with the main story and Riddler challenges in Arkham City, you can spend a considerable amount of time in the 20+ Combat Challenge and 15+ Stealth Challenge maps, chasing leader boards for time and total points. You can use Batman, Catwoman, Robin (DLC $7), and Nightwing (DLC $7) with their DLC skins in any of the challenge maps which create variety and fresh new animations for combat! The DLC for this game is vast, with additional challenge maps, skins, and playable characters, Robin and Nightwing to add to the Batman fan.

There are a variety of Batman skins you can get from exclusive preorders, exclusive offerings, and finally in the Batman Skins Pack ($5). My personal favorite is the Frank Miller: Dark Knight Returns and the Batman Beyond Skin.

From Left to Right: Batman Beyond, Dark Knight Returns, Earth One, Classic, Animated Series, and Arkham City

Our Final Take

Arkham City isn’t just a good superhero game, it’s up there as one of the best Action and Stealth games ever. Bias’s aside, we rated Batman Arkham City a perfect 5/5 because I felt the game has done and perfected all it could with Batman in a video game. There are rumors the Rocksteady will go and do a different superhero game and this may be the last Batman game we will see in a long time. It’s definitely at the pinnacle of where Batman can go in the video game realm. Everything feels polished, everything feels like its made by Batman fans, and everything feels perfect. Never has a game done any franchise justice until Rocksteady made Arkham City for Batman. It’s that awesome.



About the Author

Mark Woo
Mark Woo
Mark has written for AX3.com Asian lifestyle blog on their Tech/Gadgets section. He has also written for Foodology.ca under his M's Food Court Corner. Mark currently owns NocturnalVancouver.com. Using his experiences in Vancouver's night club industry, NocVan is a one of a kind night life blog. Mark is passionate about video gaming, tech blogging, and the NBA.