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Cian Hassett
24 Oct, 2011

Batman: Arkham City Review

360 Review | Batgasm.
Did your read our review of ICO & Shadow of the Colossus HD? Of course you did, because you love us. However, we might have leaped to an unfair conclusion on the final note. Perfection is unobtainable. The perfect video game does not exist because it cannot exist. There’s a straight-forward reason behind it – to be perfect, the object must appeal to everyone. But within video games, there are too many different genres to make one single product the ultimate and the absolute. The best we can hope for is an experience that comes close to perfection. Batman: Arkham City is one of those experiences. This is unquestionably the greatest licenced video game in existence, and it’s arguably the greatest sandbox game ever made.

We’re about to argue that case, because Arkham City is something that everyone should play through at least once. You’ll struggle to find anyone who truly hates Batman, a superhero with no special powers. His brooding presence comes courtesy of Bruce Wayne and his fortunate wealth, but when you take away the gadgets and the suit, Batman ceases to be a hero. He’s little more than a strong man. What makes him so fascinating and deeply complicated is his story. His ethics and self-made laws serve only to keep him in order, otherwise his life would take an even darker turn from humanity into… who knows what. The fact that we can all relate to this ‘superhero’ is what makes Arkham City so accessible, because technically, anyone with the proper mindset could assume the role of Gotham’s saviour.

Feeling lucky, punk?

Feeling lucky, punk?
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Bruce doesn’t kill because he doesn’t need to, plenty of goons are scattered all over Gotham that will gladly compensate for his kind soul. Deep down, behind the mysterious veil, brutal aggression and a troubled history, Bruce Wayne is a gentleman. That’s probably why so much goes so terribly wrong. During Arkham City’s main story, Batman will be forced to question his own stance on morality. Important choices will have to be made and you’re going to have to risk everything to save not only the entire population of Gotham, but you’ll also have to save yourself. Following a brilliant introduction to proceedings, Wayne dons the famous suit and your journey around the derelict streets of Gotham will begin. Arkham City is based in a locked section of Gotham that houses many of the characters you met in Arkham Asylum, but similar to the Batman’s previous tale, his old friend The Joker is the main villain.

As it turns out, The Joker is dying and through an unfortunate series of events, Batman has no option but to help his arch nemesis. This is but one of numerous separate story threads (the other major plot revolves around Hugo Strange and a certain countdown), but it’s going to drag you down into dampest underground pit and shoot you up to the highest tower overlooking Gotham. While the city revolts and chaos naturally ensues, Gotham starts to crumble under snowflakes. The Joker, who remains hidden away for much of the story, finds all of this hilarious as Batman unravels the plot. Twists along the road will be met, right up until the finale, and you’ll undoubtedly feel Batman’s pain in several sections. The brilliance of the story can be found in its characters, and Arkham City features some of the best voice acting you’ll hear in any medium. Mark Hamill is outstanding as The Joker and gives the late Heath Ledger a good run for his money. But there’s so much more; you’ll cross paths with Mr. Freeze, Ra’s al Ghul, Penguin and Two-Face to name a few. They’re all voiced impeccably and the cast is among the most memorable in video game history. And what about the soundtrack? Like everything else in Arkham City, it’s divine.

This is what happens when you rat on the Bat.

This is what happens when you rat on the Bat.
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Arkham Asylum, for all that it did wonderfully well in terms of atmosphere, has been completely outclassed and blown away by this sequel. It’s a genuinely astonishing piece of work. The restrictions from before have dissipated and Batman is free to wander as he deems fit. He traverses the buildings of Gotham with a trusty grapple and his iconic cape. The movement is reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed in places and Batman is extremely agile, switching from swinging to gliding to sprinting in fluid animations. Once you become familiar with the controls, playing through Arkham City feels totally natural and wholly enjoyable. The design of the city and inner locations feeds so well into the combat too, and that’s when you begin to understand just how amazing the game really is. It combines so many aspects from so many other games into one extraordinary package, and it does all of it seamlessly.

The gameplay of Arkham City is some of the most varied around. Within the space of an hour, you could be gazing at Gotham’s architecture, stealthily moving into a restricted area, solving puzzles, wiping out waves of enemies and generally, you’ll just be getting distracted by the sheer number of things to do in Arkham City. Combat and stealth go hand in hand, but it’s considerably more tactical than you might have first thought. You’re going to have to use vantage points to carefully plan quick and decisive moves, and hope that guards will begin to lose track of their patterns so that you can take them out. Batman isn’t invincible, so if you try and challenge a room of eight armed guards with your fists, then you’re going to fail miserably. There’s a fantastic balance of stealth and fast combat, and you can mix both of these elements with Batman’s impressive arsenal. Arkham Asylum’s tools are all here, but now you’ll have some new stuff to play with. More advanced Batarangs, a nifty little device that screws around with electrical currents, magnets, and firearms, along with fancy items that end up in your hands after encountering Mr. Freeze. Variety has never been done so well in a sandbox game, and there’s a good chance that you’ll be discovering even more effective techniques after the story has concluded.

Smack, kapow, crunch, etc.

Smack, kapow, crunch, etc.
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The now familiar free-flow combat from Arkham Asylum makes a grand return, and it can either be technically complex or in contrast, pretty accessible. You see, it’s all about timing. A quick press of a button will activate a chain of punches, while another is used for counter attacks. Eventually, more difficult enemies will be introduced; some wielding knives, others wearing heavy armour or even holding shields. They all have to be taken down in different ways by combining aerial manoeuvres with tough fisticuffs. Arkham City also allows you to easily use gadgets during the combat, and this means you can lay some explosives and leap away to deal with another crowd, before stunning the area you just left. On the surface, Arkham City’s combat appears to be plain and simple, but it really isn’t. Between the cinematic combos and brute force of Batman’s abilities, you’ll find a rewarding brawler full of clever tricks and bone crunching moves.

Batman’s aggressiveness is somewhat evened out by Catwoman’s place in the story. She’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing and seductive female characters to grace modern video games, and Arkham City benefits because of her. Her role in the story is short and sweet and rarely intrusive, although she has to make a big decision towards the end of the game. Her importance from the comic book world has been translated nicely, and just to prove that Arkham City is one of the best designed games of the generation, you’ll soon realise that revisiting areas as the beautiful sphinx is a worthwhile investment. She can access areas that would have been previously unreachable, and her ability to crawl along grated ceilings adds yet another dimension to the gameplay. She’s a sneaky fox, and when you’re not busy staring at her ‘tight’ outfit, then you’ll be able to appreciate a pleasant distraction from Batman’s monotone voice and gigantic shoulders (Note: The Catwoman content is not contained on the disc, but accessed via a download code provided in new copies of the game).

Nom, nom, nom...

Nom, nom, nom...
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Both characters look the part, and your progress can be seen through the visual damage on each suit. Arkham City is a gorgeous game despite the fairly adult subject matter (trust us, it deals with mature themes that are bloody disturbing) and dreary surroundings. It’s called Gotham for a reason, and the gothic architecture can be seen throughout. Nerds will feel some serious action in their special regions when they walk past recognisable buildings. The concept art has played a massive part in the visual side of Arkham City, and it mirrors the comic books superbly. The game area itself isn’t terribly large but that was never the intention anyway. Arkham City doesn’t share the same scope as Grand Theft Auto IV, although that works in its favour. The area is designed so well that you’ll quickly adjust to your surroundings and soon enough you’ll be gliding and diving and swooping through narrow streets, kicking villains in the face while doing so.

But what makes Arkham City so damn incredible are the references that stretch beyond the main story arch. Batman disposes of the core problems within ten hours, and during that time you’ll be presented with some incredible sequences of gameplay (including a couple of bizarre moments where Batman enters a hypnotic, psychedelic state) but then you’ll be free to roam and tackle the remainder of the game. And there’s a lot of tackling ahead of you even without any multiplayer modes. Side missions and extra challenge maps account for a hefty portion of Arkham City’s content, and those missions really elevate the experience into another tier of brilliance. The neurotic Victor Zsasz will have you leaping across rooftops to reach a ringing telephone in order to stop him killing his next victim. The Mad Hatter makes a cameo that forces Batman into the weirdest of situations. Deadshot is also in the neighbourhood and his bloodthirsty self goes on a killing spree, which leaves Batman with all of the forensic work to track him down. There’s more, but they’re a few examples of a branching story that leaves open numerous possibilities for another sequel. And we’re praying there’s going to be one.

Next objective? Find a man called George Clooney.

Next objective? Find a man called George Clooney.
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Batman might be the main character in this game, but the city is the main star here. An outrageous amount of material has be crammed into Arkham City, and the story adds up to less than one third of the overall game. You’ve probably noticed something that we haven’t mentioned yet – The Riddler. He’s back and he’s going to drive you crazy all over again. Arkham City has over four-hundred challenges that come courtesy of the psychopath in green. These range from simple clue solving, to more obscure and abstract puzzle solving. Shiny green trophies can be seen all over the place, but you’ll frequently have to track backwards when you unlock new equipment and tools. It’s never frustrating because you can tag trophies whenever you want and return to find them later, and if we’re going to be entirely truthful, the collectibles in Arkham City are among the most flawlessly designed and wonderfully integrated in any video game to date. It’s a whole separate story to the main game where you have to rescue hostages in larger puzzle rooms, and offers up a surprising amount of satisfaction.

Batman: Arkham City has expanded on its already great predecessor by delivering one of the greatest gaming experiences in recent memory. It’s unlikely that the video game sandbox will get much better anytime soon, yes… it’s that good. Fans of the Dark Knight will adore the subtle details, the memorable characters, and the overall impression that this game has been made by the most committed team of Batman lovers in the world. It’s easily the best adaptation of a comic book in our industry, if not the entertainment industry as a whole. Arkham City is among the best games of 2011 so far, and the chances of playing anything better are so slim that you may as well go out and buy a copy immediately. Every minute spent on your computer is a minute wasted. What you should be doing is pretending to be Batman, saving the world, and exploring one of the most beautifully crafted games of the generation. So, what are you waiting for? To the Batmobile!
The Score
Believe the hype. Arkham City is one of the most important games made for this generation and it's also a masterclass in design, execution and treatment. 9.9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Batman: Arkham City Content

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Batman: Arkham City PhysX PC trailer
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Batman: Arkham City launch trailer
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34 Comments
2 years ago
thought they made batman seem really boring at the time
2 years ago
how long has it been since you've watched em? If it's been a while I'd definitely recommend re-watching em. They're pretty much the standard that all subsequent DC animated movies are measured by.
2 years ago
I dont watch DC animated movies, ive tried but they just seem silly and childish for the most part when compared to some of the great graphic novels, the most recent batman films with christian bale, and of course rocksteady's games.
2 years ago
I just realised the implications of this review are not that PALGN's coveted 10/10 was awarded, but that Cian argued this might be the greatest sandbox game ever made.

This means that smelly GTA4 is no longer his favourite sandbox game.

ALLAH BE PRAISED
2 years ago
Banefire wrote
I dont watch DC animated movies, ive tried but they just seem silly and childish for the most part when compared to some of the great graphic novels, the most recent batman films with christian bale, and of course rocksteady's games.
Really? More silly and childish then bales batman voice?

What ones have you actually watched?
2 years ago
Benza wrote
you hated, Mask of the Phantasm, Return of the Joker and Brave and the Bold?

Dude... what?!
I second it..... what the hell is wrong with him ? icon_eek.gif icon_razz.gif

/joking icon_biggrin.gif

I havn't seen Year One yet (almost purchased it at JB Hifi on Monday), i've stayed away from the brave and the bold series (did play the video game though). The only animated movie i didn't quite enjoy was mystery of the batwoman.
2 years ago
Batwoman was pretty sub par yeah.

How much are you into the Silver Age comics Xtreme? Brave and the Bold is basically just an amazing love letter to everything silver age. It also put fun back into Batman which he'd been lacking for a long time.
2 years ago
Benza wrote
Banefire wrote
I dont watch DC animated movies, ive tried but they just seem silly and childish for the most part when compared to some of the great graphic novels, the most recent batman films with christian bale, and of course rocksteady's games.
Really? More silly and childish then bales batman voice?
I'M BATMAN. I MEAN... JOHN CONNOR... I MEAN... WAIT... I USE THE SAME VOICE FOR DIFFERENT CHARACTERS SO I'M CONFUSED...
2 years ago
I held off on commenting on this review as I wanted to finish the game for myself. Now that I have I think that this game has been severely overhyped and overated and this review is typical of many that I am reading. There is no way that this is a perfect 10, yes it is a good game but there are a number of huge issues that must be overlooked to give it a perfect score.

I could perhaps accept the score if this review was not so poorly written. The opening paragraph is completely irrelevant, we have another two spent on re-telling the plot. In amongst the remainder we have some rather juvenile references to how 'hot' catwoman is and a few grand statements like 'greatest sandbox game of all time'thrown around with little evidence used in support.

If you are going to award a game a perfect 10 then you should have a review that argues a compelling case as to why it is so, not one that sounds as if it was written for a high school english paper.

I seriously wonder how many reviewers will regret falling for the hype on this one when they look back at the end of the year.
2 years ago
Lemmiwinks wrote
I held off on commenting on this review as I wanted to finish the game for myself. Now that I have I think that this game has been severely overhyped and overated and this review is typical of many that I am reading. There is no way that this is a perfect 10, yes it is a good game but there are a number of huge issues that must be overlooked to give it a perfect score.
I agree with the overhyped and overrated sentiment. Loved the hell out of Arkham Asylum and quickly played through the story mode multiple times. The linear style suited the game better. I was totally unprepared and unexpecting of the awesomeness that was Arkham Asylum, so maybe that weighed heavily as to why I loved it so much.

I was underwhelmed with Arkham City, there were a few great moments in there but mainly I had to keep urging myself to play it. Finding your way to the next mission was really annoying at times and having finished the story mode, I have little to no interest in going back and doing it again.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Publisher:
  Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Year Made:
  2011

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