DISCLAIMER: Yes, it has been awhile since I've written anything on N4G and I vow to finish up my 2011 in Gaming series with Batman: Arkham City, Skyrim, and Gears of War 3. Yeah, I didn't play that many games from 2011. With my computer finally cleaned and upgraded, I aim to give you all new blogs and reviews at least 3 to 4 times a month. Enjoy everyone! It's good to be back!
So what happens when the only means of keeping the loonies and super-villains away from organized society is now seen as a liability and no longer a strength? What happens when the man formerly in charge of said means is now the mayor of the city? What happens when you discover that he, himself, was a loony as well? Well, you get Arkham City: a walled off section of Gotham that separates the criminals, mentally insane, and super-villains from everyone else.
Enter Batman who sees Arkham City as more of a problem than a solution. Every inmate from Blackgate Penitentiary and every patient and super-villain from Arkham Asylum are now in Arkham City. The enigmatic Hugo Strange is put in charge of this massive prison and hires the private security contractor TYGER to act as enforcers of Arkham City. Unbeknownst to Gotham's public, TYGER was assigned by Strange to capture Batman, but all efforts to do so failed.
It is at the start of the game that we get hints of how things are in Arkham City. I got Catwoman from the free DLC and the story actually begins with her taking something personal of Two-Face's to which he does not appreciate. Bruce Wayne leads a campaign to get Arkham City shut down and holds a press conference outside of the prison. TYGER raids the conference and arrests Bruce along with reporter Jack Ryder. Bruce learns that Hugo Strange knows that he is Batman and that something called Protocol Ten will be his "legacy".
The story to Batman: Arkham City is nothing short of amazing. The people at Rocksteady did Batman justice with Arkham Asylum, but truly showed how much they respect Batman with the twists and turns of Arkham City. To have yourself a good story with good characters, it's always about asking yourself questions. What can this particular guy do in this position of government? How much power does she wield? Would he consider taking the high road? Would this society accept this kind of law? Know that when you make a story, the possibilities are endless, as well as the questions that you must ask yourself.
Everything ranging from the Joker being poisoned by the Titan drug to Protocol Ten to Penguin's unique secrets to Catwoman's interest in a vault are weaved very well for this sequel. You learn how life is in Arkham City with subtle tidbits of information from the inmates, Hugo Strange, and the media. You see how fierce the gang wars are with the Joker, Two-Face, and Penguin leading their own factions against each other. You interact with characters new and old consistently through the game. You are also rewarded for participating in Riddler's schemes with character bios, stories, and recordings of most of the cast.
Arkham City is an open world and your playground. You don't feel taxed with time and you can do what you want. This is something in video games that I love: freedom. Granted I like linear stories, too, but when I get full control, then I have a blast. You can take on any gang and regular inmates, go and solve Riddler's riddles, use Detective Mode for setting up crime scenes, track down Zsasz who has been killing people, and tackle the main story. Also there are many Easter eggs in here that you should keep an eye out for!
The differences in combat between Batman and Catwoman are seen clearly when you play both. For starters, Batman is certainly tougher than Catwoman and gets more damage resistance upgrades than she does. In turn, however, Catwoman is faster and more agile than Batman and is able to get to places that Batman cannot reach.
The free flow combat is incredibly satisfying. It has been improved and feels smooth and natural. New takedown moves add more to enjoy when you see Batman face off against a bunch of thugs. Gadgets have had a complete overhaul as well. You can do new things with older gadgets (like use your Line Launcher numerous times in the air to change direction) and get new gadgets like the Remote Electrical Charge that you can use to stun enemies and temporarily charge generators.
There are also shortcut actions to use gadgets quickly without having to use the D-Pad to choose it manually and use said shortcut to add to combos. As you upgrades your gadgets, they can be added to combo counts and give you more strategies when facing large groups of enemies. It's kind of like in Kingdom Hearts where you had the shortcut menu to use magic on the fly instead of going into the menu and selecting manually.
Boss battles are always unique and different. You can't use the same strategy over and over again. No, this time each fight is different. You won't be facing ordinary gang members and Titan induced giants all the time now. When you go head to head with Two-Face, Penguin, Mister Freeze, and Ra's al Ghul you will always have to employ new tactics. This fleshes out the battles and gives you more things to try out.
REMEMBER: Do your best to get as many combo hits as you can because that number is multiplied by ten and added to your experience to level up. Leveling up gives Batman and Catwoman additional resistance to melee and gunfire damage, new takedown moves like I mentioned (which includes a flurry of bats stunning enemies for Batman and a whip trip for Catwoman), upgrades for most of your gadgets, adaptable upgrades to overcome technology enemies may have, and additional power in your hits. Also it doesn't hurt to do the side missions because bosses are plenty tough. If they catch you, you will be hurting. Plus, you're not crunched for time. So go and take a few Riddler trophies and rescue those unfortunate souls who Strange threw into Arkham City because he felt they were expendable. You get big points for them.
Graphics are great. Arkham City looks fantastic and there are no limits to the places you can go while in the prison. Exactly what people were saying after Arkham Asylum about being able to go through Gotham City in this game's format is what they got. Using the gadgets and combined with the fights against the gang's amidst the cold winter of Gotham City gives Arkham City life. The character models look great as well. Batman looks tough, Catwoman looks sexy, and the villains look amazing. Boy, I just keep praising this game don't I?
Sound quality is just as great. Okay, now I just sound like a broken record. Anyway, there are literally no sound issues in this game. At least to my knowledge. Everything just seems so well polished. You have the banter among the inmates, the looming sounds of the TYGER helicopters, the random messages to Arkham City from Hugo Strange, and I can go on! Voice acting is fantastic, especially considering we have Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill back in the fray. Now Arleen Sorkin (who voiced Harley Quinn from the animated series and Arkham Asylum) does not reprise the role here for a reason I do not know, but Tara Strong does a great job filling in the role.
Without a doubt, Batman: Arkham City is something truly great. This is an adaptation that does the source material justice to a great degree. And that is something that is rare these days. How often do we see a video game, comic, or manga adapted into film actually work out? How often do films and comics adapted to video games actually work out? Not a lot and not too often. But when we do get those gems, they turn out for the best.
Yes, I am a comic guy and an avid fan of Batman. I was extremely pleased with this game. Every element of it was amazing and I had fun. It appeals to gamers, comic readers, and anyone who even knows the smallest bit of information on Batman. Batman: Arkham City goes under my list for the best games of 2011. Stay tuned next week for The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim review.