Sunday, December 4, 2011

Batman: Arkham City review

Finally getting around to writing a little review for Batman: Arkham City on Xbox 360 (it's December 19th).  I don't think I'm spoiling anything here, but you probably are reading this if you already played the game anyway, or are at least in the process of playing.

First off, the game deserves all the praise it has gotten so far.  And yes, it's even better than Batman: Arkham Asylum.  The map is expansive, and something like 3 times larger than that in Asylum which gives you plenty of places to explore, and plenty of gameplay.  I was only 58% complete when I "beat" the main game.

A few key differences that improve the game are updates to the fighting system, new Bat gadgets, the addition of side missions, and new gameplay modes.  The fighting system was made easier in my opinion, but that could be due to me beating Asylum just prior to playing City.  Batman does have more combos in his arsenal this time, with several of them only being available with an 8x multiplier or when enemies are in specific situations.  Free-Flow Focus is amazing, as you can literally glide across the screen from enemy to enemy.  If you time it right, your multiplier increases by 2x instead of 1x, which really adds up quickly.  I ended up getting a 100x multiplier at one point, easily getting the achievement for a 50x combo.

When you press the D-pad to access Batman's gadgets, you'll see a full arsenal at your disposal.  All 8 directions of the D-pad are utilized, and even 4 more locations beyond up, down, left, and right.  Some of the gadgets are similar, as there are several batarangs and ice grenades, but all serve a purpose in the game.  You start out with a lot of the gadgets from Asylum, but again have to progress through the game to attain the others.  Mastering the multitude of quick fire gadgets is not too difficult, but key for becoming adept at combat.  One of my favorite was definitely the long range detonator, as you could deactivate an enemy's weapon without their knowledge.

The only real side missions in Arkham Asylum were collecting all the Riddler trophies, but nothing to stray from the main storyline.  Arkham City, however, contains 12 side missions (if I remember correctly) that all are separate from the main storyline.  Several of these were fun to complete, and a few were challenging at times.  Most of them revolved around enemies that didn't share the spotlight with the big guys: Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and Two-Face (which bring me to another point later).  Characters like Bane, and Zsasz make returns in the side missions, and new characters like Deadshot and the Mad Hatter debut.  These added missions give you something to do after you beat the main game, and are a good distraction during it.  And, of course, the Riddler returns with his trophies, and even his own side mission.  There are more trophies to obtain, with a page of them being combat based.  There aren't too many really easy trophies, and most require some sort of puzzle to get.  A couple of them are pretty difficult, and required multiple tries.  I even had to look up how to get 2 or 3 of them online.  One feature I loved was the ability to "tag" trophies using Batman's scanner.  This would leave a "?" on the map where the trophy was, allowing you to come back to it later.  Once accesing the map, you could even set a custom route to the trophy which made finding them much simpler.  Even beating certain Riddler informant enemies would place a "?" on the map for trophies that weren't yet tagged.

Obtaining all the Riddler trophies can't be done without the addition of one of the new gameplay modes: Catwoman's own storyline.  She has 40 trophies of her own to collect, which Batman can't touch.  Unfortunately she can't tag Batman's Riddler trophies, but can collect them if her skills allow her to.  Catwoman's story revolves first around Poison Ivy (who isn't in Batman's story) and then around collecting her loot from Two-Face (which is fitting since Two-Face is in both stories).  Something I found kind of neat but some people found annoying was the integration of Catwoman's story with Batman's.  At key points in Batman's stories the screen fades to black and then next thing you know you're playing as Catwoman.  Once you progress through her story, you'll come back as the Dark Knight.  I won't spoil anything, but late in the game one of these crossover points is quite important to the main storyline.  Aside from Catwoman's story (which you can replay), there are even more combat and predator challenges, this time called Riddler's Challenges.  I haven't played too much of these yet, but they provide much more gameplay than in Asylum.  New Game + is a new mode in City, allowing you to replay the game with all your gadgets.  The catch?  The enemies are tougher and there is no counter icon.  To beat this, you have to use all your Bat gadgets to perfection, and have a handle on the combat system.  There are plenty of challenge maps to complete as I said before, and these can be played as Batman, Catwoman, Robin, and Nightwing (which provides additional gameplay).  For those achievement whores out there, some of these characters are required for a perfection 1,000 Gamerscore.  This is not an easy game to 100%, and will take some time.  After beating the main game and the side missions, I'm somewhere around 80% complete.

As I mentioned before, several characters make return appearances.  The Joker is the star again, but he plays a more behind the scenes role this time, which sets up a great twist/ending at the conclusion of the game.  Despite hints at the end of Asylum, Killer Croc and Scarecrow do not return  in City (Bane returns in a diminshed role) but are referenced.  Penguin, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, and Hugo Strange take their place in the sequel.  I was glad to see some characters return, but also glad to see the addition of so many more.  It was a great balance, and I never felt like there were too many enemies in the game.  I will say Batman's interactions with his enemies provided some great storylines and really developed his character.  As the old saying goes, keep your friends close but your enemies closer.  Speaking of friends, Alfred and Oracle return, and even Robin make a cameo appearance.

I think that just about wraps up my review of Batman: Arkham City.  It's a great experience for any gamer, especially a fellow fan of the Dark Knight.  Even at full price, the game is worth it.  You absolutely get what you pay for, as the game will keep you playing for hours on end trying to inch closer to that elusive 100%.  Sure, you can beat the main game and call it a day, but what's the fun in that?  10/10

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