I am Batman. Once again those words are uttered and they could never be more true. From the classic portrayal of the Joker by Jack Nicholson which holds sacred in my heart to Heath Ledger’s character that pushed the envelope to the next level of sadistic, Arkham City skyrockets to the next level from the classic rendition of what Batman: Arkham Asylum ever was. This is the greatest superhero game ever made for a video game console and threatens to be one of the best movies that should have been made for the big screen. Rocksteady Studios has crammed just about ever piece of Batman into this game and they did it right. It’s an outstanding cast of villains, heroes and everything in between. If you’re a Batman fan, waste no more time; pick this game up now.
The story in Batman: Arkham City is a brilliant concept. After the destruction of Arkham Prison, Warden Quincy Sharp gates off a huge section of Gotham City and converts it into one large insane asylum that is ruled by Dr. Hugo Strange with an iron fist. The interesting part is that Strange knows who Batman is and Batman needs to find out what is going on inside Gotham’s prison colony as this urban experiment is causing violence and chaos. I won’t divulge anymore information than that to avoid any spoilers, but you are in store for an amazing ride.
Beginning with an amazing opening, Batman is unleashed into a world where enemies are like cockroaches and there’s always a new victim around every corner. Finding a way to improve tremendously over Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady managed to jam-pack enough plots, fan favorite storylines, new moves and weapons to give any fanboy the greatest Batman experience ever, short of donning the tights. From the time you throw your first smoke pellet or pickup your first chilling phone call from Mr. Zsaz, you will not want to put the controller down. Since Hugo Strange knows your secret and will stop at nothing to destroy your mind, Arkham City unleashes so many unfriendly faces that you will have more than your hands full. There are political prisoners in distress, murders to solve, hostages to save, and super criminals to thrash. There are some major names on the roster that will make your head spin in comic genius.
Aside from the long list of expertly crafted characters, Arkham City itself is arguably the most notable gem. The city blocks you explore are some of the most extremely detailed you’ll ever have the pleasure of exploring. Despite not being particularly as a large as some other sandbox worlds out there, Arkham City never feels small. It’s packed with endless activities ensuring you’re never without something to do. There is an intoxicating atmosphere while grappling from rooftop to rooftop and you’ll want to stop to enjoy the view below, even though it’s filled with scum and hoodlums. Flurries of snow cover the skies of the freezing winter that has fallen upon the city, lighting effects are superb, and the distant green hue of Gotham city is something that won’t ever grow old.
Excitement fills you as you zip from gargoyle to gargoyle, admiring the sights with every swift flick of your batarang. If you’re not being distracted by a side mission or being puzzled by one of the Riddler’s 440 trophies, you’ll likely be staring across the cityscape in awe. Without a doubt, the game looks great from a far and up-close; the graphics are stellar. Arkham City could easily win game of the year for its setting, atmosphere, and incredible skyline. Even in the city’s underground, the level of detail continues with varied environments and unique lairs for each villain living in the city.
On top of an incredible atmosphere, Arkham City plays exceptionally well. Combat that you know and love has been expanded, offering faster combos, a larger array of moves, and the ability to use your gadgets in combat. You can quickly fire off an electric stun charge, while watching a shocked enemy electrify his own men or spray the ground with explosive gel, blasting nearby foes to oblivion. Clotheslining thugs is a personal favorite of mine and the enjoyment never diminishes. Batman also has some new and wonderful toys. New gadgets like smoke pellets now give you ample opportunity to make quick escapes, while the line launcher becomes a far more useful tool in the open environment, allowing you to make turns mid slide on a moments notice.
Despite essentially being a button masher, Arkham City’s combat system is one of the best in the business. I was constantly surprised with the amazing amount of attacks; from countering three guys at once with an awesome acrobatic flip, to sliding around the battlefield to drop foes like a bad habit. This is Batman; I love it. His movements are all fluid from counter to strike, allowing Batman to string together mega move combos and wipe the floor with multiple opponents without taking a single hit. Flying across the skyline and dropping in on baddies has never been so enjoyable and thrilling, but never-the-less, Batman is still human. If you find yourself being out matched while trying to fend off 20 thugs, simply drop a smoke pellet and grapple gun yourself to safety to find some cover and regroup. Welcome to the wonderful life of a superhero at work.
This game is easily 40 hours long if you choose to do everything and believe me, you will. However, if you choose to strictly play the story line you’re looking at approximately 10 to 15 hours to complete. But even after the game’s conclusion, there is so much more to do. Challenge mode returns with “Riddler’s Challenges” and they extend your play time tremendously. I love these challenges because I see them as a pick up and play long after you have finished the game and need that quick Batman fix. Also after beating Arkham City, the game’s new “game plus” mode allows you to replay the entire campaign with all your unlocks and upgrades but with an increased difficulty giving you a great opportunity to enjoy it all over again.
If that wasn’t enough you can enhance your experience even more with Catwoman and Robin who can be unlocked via special codes. Depending on where you purchase your game you will be rewarded with a special pass to unlock your favorite characters, which allows you to play in several unique missions. The missions are fun and they are all connected with Batman’s main story so choose wisely when selecting where to pick up your copy of the game.
I’m trying not to give in to the hype, but Arkham City also gives you the option for 3D gaming. There are two ways to experience the magic of the Dark Knight in 3D, the expensive way or the next best thing. If you are one of those people who threw down some cash for a 3D TV, then you can don your glasses and witness Wayne Enterprises as if you were actually there. But there is the second opinion which I believe is extremely well done and inexpensive. For individuals like myself that have a normal HDTV there are green and magenta glasses included. You may be familiar with these if you played Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year. This nifty package came with a 3D option and a pair of paper glasses to witness Batman in three dimensions for the first time. I have to say, this is quite a cool feature and I wish it was an option in other games. It may be a novelty but I have to admit that I love looking down over the city and witnessing the depth that the game delivers in 3D. The colors are well done, not muted like old school glasses, and the overall affect is something you’ll want to show off to your friends. Do yourself a favor and pick up some glasses online; they’re very cheap and inexpensive and yet another factor that makes Arkham City brilliant.
Batman Arkham City is one of the best games of this generation and, in my opinion, probably the best of 2011. It not only improved on its predecessor, but it took things to a whole new level. The story is amazing, the graphics, presentation and replay value are spectacular and guarantee a phenomenal gaming experience. This game is destined to be a collectors item and soon to be a classic. Arkham City has set the bar for all superohero games to come; not to mention games in general. The amount of content that rocksteady put into this game is amazing. I was amazed with Arkham Asylum and the amount of detail that was put into that game, but I am completely blown away by Arkham City. Rocksteady definitely outdid themselves with this game and it’ll be tough to step it up with a third game; if there ever is one.
iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad owners should check out our review of the Official Batman Arkham City Map App. It’s a very helpful app that shows all the locations of the Riddler’s Trophies with helpful instructions on how to acquire them.
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