Sunday, October 23, 2011

Batman Arkham City Review

Batman Arkham City starts off with a KAPOW! and ends with a BLAMO! This game, or more like "masterpiece" excels in every category imaginable, and improves upon its predecessor exponentially. The first game in the series, Batman Arkham Asylum, provided a superhero experience unrivaled by any other developer. Batman Arkham City, though not entirely perfect, shows just how good games with familiar characters, yet new and innovative stories, can be. With an all-star cast of voice actors, a phenomenal story, awe-inspiring graphics, and an extremely fun gameplay experience, Batman Arkham City proves to be a strong contender for game of the year in a crowded year of strong contenders.

Overall, Batman Arkham City succeeds because it is building on the foundations of one of the best games of 2009. The first game was lacking mainly in one area, the sense of truly being Batman. Sure, you had his gadgets, and fought his enemies, but the confines of the small scale Arkham Asylum left something to be desired. With Batman Arkham City, however, you're given free reign over part of the city of Gotham, leading to something much more on the scale of Batman's territory. The story proves to be the absolute strongest point in Batman Arkham City. It follows very soon after Arkham Asylum, mere months after the conclusive end. A section of the city, aptly named "Arkham City" has been cordoned off to house all of the maniacal criminals that were originally incarcerated to Arkham Asylum. They're given free reign over the city, and Hugo Strange is the man in charge. It may sound crazy, but to the city of Gotham, crime has been reduced, and most people are happy, aside from the man himself - Bruce Wayne. Unfortunately for Batman and Bruce, something happens on the inside of Arkham City, which leads to an investigation by Batman, and provides the setting for the story. Throughout the game, Batman will make unlikely allies, and also learn when not to trust certain enemies. Many of the characters from the first game make appearances in this game as well, but most of the major boss battles involve entirely new characters and new challenges. The story proves to be one of the best ever written for a licensed character, and even compares to the likes of Red Dead Redemption and other extremely well written titles. Many twists and unexpected things occur, so be ready for a great game from start to finish.

The core gameplay mechanics stay the same as Batman Arkham Asylum, with the major change being the bigger sense of scale. Most story missions still take place in a certain location, but when you don't feel like playing through the story, there are a multitude of other things to entertain yourself with from Riddler challenges to full-fledged side missions. Many of these side missions, and there are a multitude of them, lead to interacting and fighting popular enemies that otherwise you'd never even confront. So, even though the main part of the game is only around 8 hours, the side missions and challenge maps provide a great number of hours to further gameplay and extend the value of the game. Many of the gadgets that Batman acquired in the first game are ready from the start in this game, plus a few pretty awesome new tools are unlocked throughout the course of the story and even through side missions. Combat is improved as well, but at some times gets a bit frustrating still. The control scheme works well, especially for the number of gadgets Batman has at his disposal, but it's not entirely perfect. Getting from point A to point B also got a lot better, rather than running or using the Line Launcher in situations that didn't really call for it like the first game. In this title, you have a very vertical city in which to "fly" around.

Unfortunately, detective mode still plays an overly large role in the game, which takes away from the amazing graphics and beautiful cityscape that the game includes. Although its not the first game in these terms, since it adds a bit more actual "detective" to the detective mode, making you scan more clues. Also, at times, the gameplay gets irritating when Batman won't grapple to a certain location, or attempts to punch the wrong enemy. These minor setback don't really affect the quality of the overall gameplay though, so it's nothing to worry about. The small nuances of the gameplay though are what make it good, including the conversations that enemies have, the awe-inspiring moments throughout the story, and the experience of being a superhero. Overall, Batman Arkham City is a marvelous experience for gaming fans of all sorts, even those that are more fans or Marvel than DC.... 

Story – 10
Rocksteady produces another story that rivals those of the most recent GOTY winners and provides a varied experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire game. Even the side-missions provide mini-stories that complete the experience.
Gameplay – 9
Like any game, there are some kinks, but this one ironed most of those out. It still is bothersome that the challenge rooms are a bit too difficult to get the full rating, leading to some pretty impossible trophies, but the challenges are still fun.
Graphics – 8 
Textures seem to take forever to load sometimes. Environments are beautiful, but character animations are lacking at times.
Sound – 10
An impressive voice acting cast returns for this game, including the likes of Mark Hamill as The Joker, and Nolan North, familiar as Nathan Drake, as the Penguin. Also, the musical score is very well done.
Replayability - 9.5
There are many side-quests that can be completed after the main story is over, and New Game Plus allows you to play the game again on an amped difficulty level with all of your previous save's gadgets unlocked. Also, the challenge maps provide an extra task if you've completed everything in the city.

Overall Rating – 9.5


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