Okay, I missed another day of Blogtober yesterday but frankly I do not care. As mentioned in my previous post I was waiting for the release of Batman Arkham City, and yesterday all I did was play it. From about 10:30 in the morning till god knows when at night (something like 1am maybe? there was a break when I had to take my parents out and also got a Chinese take away for dinner).
Now for a quick, major spoiler avoiding (because we all know how I feel about that :P) review!
I feel that I can review the game as I am very close to completing it now. I completed the main story campaign yesterday and all the side quests bar the Riddler quests today. Do not let the fact I completed it in a day put you off, remember I played this game solidly and I was not really focusing on the side quests until after I finished the game. The reason I played the story in one day was to avoid spoilers, I knew if i had the internet on, or my phone on, someone would contact me or I would see something on the internet that would ruin the game for me.
The story was fantastic, and a great follow on to Arkham Asylum. I recommend playing that one first as there are nods to parts of Arkham Asylum during the game. The entire scenario is extremely well devised and leaves you wanting to follow straight on with the quest, with many little twists cropping up through out the game.
I also read recently that the game was convoluted with villains, and did not flesh them out properly. I don’t actually think it was that bad. Yes there are a lot of villains but you are in a city completely inhabited by inmates of an asylum and a prison, so there are bound to be loads of villains. It reminds me of the story arcs in Batman’s past such as Knightfall, No Mans Land and Hush in which many of Batman’s villains either band together or are put in a situation that would involve all of them coming into contact with Batman. Also as a huge fan of Batman anyway, I know the back stories of all the major villains in Batman’s rouges gallery, and I think even those out there who are not comic readers should at least be aware of The Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman at least. I am glad that they got more obscure villains involved though, and they gave a grittier feel to some villains who I used to think were bloody terrible.
I even actually liked the Penguin in this game, and usually I hate the character. I did find it strange that they gave him a cockney accent though, and even stranger that they used Nolan North, an American voice actor, to do it. Still, Nolan North did a great job and I can’t wait to play as his greatest character, Nathan Drake, when Uncharted 3 finally comes out.
The freeflow combat is greatly improved, although I found it hard as I have recently been playing Asylum on the PC so the controller layout was a bit strange at first. You can now counter attack multiple enemies in one go, giving way to some fantastic moves and many bone breaking combos.
The controls out of combat are also very well done, still feeling similar to the controls of Arkham Asylum in most respects the addition of gliding actually feels like a natural extension of the old controls. It does not take very long at all to learn how to glide, but in regards to the Augmented Reality challenges it can be tricky to master, for example one challenge sees you gliding, dive-bombing to gain momentum, then levelling out inches above the floor and trying to travel straight through a long tunnel without hitting the sides, roof or floor.
Batman’s Gadgets also make a great return, although I was a bit shocked he no longer has the triple batarang throw. One of my favourite new Gadgets though is the “Disruptor” which can disable the guns of two enemies if they in Batman’s line of sight. The guns remain disabled, allowing you to directly assault anyone whose weapon remains active, and when the remaining two enemies come to check on their falling friends, they discover the gun no longer works and leave themselves open to a swift beat down.
The side quests have been greatly improved upon. You still collect Riddler trophies but that is only a small percentage of the bigger picture. There are several other, non Riddler related side missions involving assassins, psychopaths and augmented reality training missions. I can’t go into to much detail, as although they are mostly separate from the main story, they are great little stories within themselves and in some cases could be hinting at potential plots for a 3rd game, if one is ever produced.
The Riddler himself has now become somewhat similar to Jigsaw from the Saw movies, as after collecting a certain amount of Riddler trophies you will need to solve clues to lead you to a victim, strung up in some strange trap. I have only completed the first two Riddler traps, which have been interesting so far and I can’t wait until I get access to the next one.
The DLC is also well worth it. The Catwoman DLC adds a nice parallel story to Batman’s, giving 3 or 4 short sections during single player where you control Catwoman doing her part in Arkham City. Rocksteady have done a great job in making her unique to Batman too. Her fighting style, although using the same basic principles as Batman (counter, jump, attack and gadgets), is much faster and more acrobatic. Her style of locomotion is also different, as Catwoman does not have a cape she obviously cannot glide as Batman does. Instead she can use her trademark whip to snap on to the sides of buildings, gargoyles or other objects, and will then swing towards them. If she lands on the side of a wall she will dig in with her claws, and green indicators will show when to press either the A button or Right Trigger, and she will pounce up the wall. You will gain a bit of extra XP if you correctly time your pounces, but getting them wrong wont make her fall off or cause any problems.
I also have the Robin DLC. Unfortunately you cannot free roam Arkham City with Robin, but you can use him in all of the challenge maps and again, he is completely fleshed out and feels like he has his own style.
Instead of fist fighting Robin uses his staff as this is the 3rd Robin, Tim Drake, not the original Robin, Dick Grayson. Dick Grayson will appear as Nightwing in a soon to be released DLC pack. The basic combat attacks and counters animations are already greatly changed by the incorporation of the staff, including a fantastic 4 man take down where Robin digs the staff into the ground and runs around it like Neo did in the Matrix Revolutions. The staff also has a built in bullet shield, which can be used by going into aim mode with the gadget selected and holding down the Right Trigger. This makes Robin the first character to be able to directly face someone with a gun, and be able to take the shots. The shield only covers him for enemies standing in front of him so it is useless in a big crowd, but you can use it to shove over enemies too.
Robin also has my favourite gadget in the game, the “Snap Flash”. The Snap Flash is basically a tiny limpet mine that detonates like a stun grenade, knocking down anyone near to it. What I love about it is that instead of being used to stick to walls and floors to trap enemies, it is actually used as a close combat weapon. During a fight you can use a quick combo and Robin will grab an enemy, lean him forward and attack the mine to his back. Then at any point during the fight you can detonate the Snap Flash by pressing the Left Bumper, and it will knock down anyone in close proximity to the thug. It is fantastic for thinning out a large mob of attackers when things get hectic, especially as the groups attacking you in this game are often twice the size of the groups from Arkham Asylum.
The voice overs are again brilliant, and I am so glad that Kevin Conroy , Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin reprised their roles as Batman, The Joker and Harley Quinn respectively. They provided the voices for the entirety of the Batman Animated Series and the related Bruce Timm DC Animated Universe shows, and they are in my mind the definitive voices of the characters. The score is also absolutely fantastic. It is on par, if not slightly better than, Hans Zimmer’s score for the recent Batman films.
Final Verdict :
This game deserves the praise it has been receiving from all of the reviewers. The story is fantastic, the extra content is well designed and not just tacked on nonsense, the controls are brilliant and the atmosphere is immense.
Even if you don’t read the comics and just like the movies, I definitely think you should give the game a go. It may well change your mind.