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Batman: Arkham City Review

Night.
 Helicopters patrol the air overhead, their searchlights tracing a
meandering path, no particular prey in mind, but keeping an eye out for
any potential problems.  Someone in an empty alley screams for help
while being held against a wall.  He’s done nothing wrong, just worked
at the wrong place at the wrong time.  No one comes.  The only other
people around laugh and continue on by, shaking their heads.  The
knife-wielding thug calmly explains, “I told you to find food and bring
it to me.  This is your own fault.”  He slowly begins to press the knife
against the whimpering man’s throat.  Unbeknownst to both parties, a
dark shape has dropped to the ground from the roof overhead, black wings
slowing his fall.  The silent hero purposefully approaches from behind
this gorilla of a man, quickly wraps one arm around the assailant’s
neck, clamps the other hand over his mouth and nose, and holds him still
until he passes out.  The political prisoner scuttles away and
breathlessly calls a “thank you” behind him, but the Batman has already
fired his grapnel gun into the air and launched himself away.  Arkham
City is vast and there’s a lot of work to be done if it’s to be shut
down.


Moments like this are what give Batman: Arkham City
the feeling of a legitimate environment where other characters and
people are going about their own business.  You’ll be gliding along and
one of several moments will draw your attention: a lone gunshot in the
night, a body missing its face on the street, a mysterious figure
watching you from the rooftops, or a man calling out for help as he’s
mercilessly beaten. All of these things and more, will happen as you
traverse the world of Arkham City.


Set 18 months after the events of 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum,
Rocksteady’s sequel has come back full force and expanded the game in
every imaginable way, including more than 400 Riddler challenges, more super
villians, more combat moves, more gadgets, more playable characters, and
several sidequests.


The
story focuses on the eponymous Arkham City, a section of Gotham that
has been cordoned off by walls and barbed wire to house the worst of the
populace following the destruction of Blackgate Prison and Arkham
Asylum.  This is all thanks to recently elected Mayor Quincy Sharp,
previously the warden of Arkham Asylum, and he’s placed Dr. Hugo Strange
in charge.  As Batman, you’re going to put a stop to it all.  The story
itself takes some interesting turns and definitely surprised me more
than once.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but it takes some bold
liberties with its take on the Batman universe, particularly the
spectacular ending, and I’m excited to see where Rocksteady goes
from here.


The way in which you go about stopping the mad professor is largely the same as it was in Batman: Arkham Asylum,
but expanded to a great degree.  The brawling, combo-driven combat is
the same, rhythmic and fluid while also being quite brutal and
satisfying.  As you upgrade your gadgets and obtain new ones, you’ll
be able to add a good deal of variation to your combos.  You can zap a
thug with electricity, making him swing and smack another with his bat,
freeze one in place with an ice bomb, then shoot yet another with your
grapnel gun, pull him close, and smash him into the ground for a
knockout.  You are frequently pitted against large groups, giving you
plenty of folk to experiment on and build crazy combos.


Of
course, it wouldn’t be Batman if everything was hand-to-hand.  There
are also numerous instances to strike terror into a crowd by picking
them off one-by-one.  The enemy AI seems to have grown more robust, as
well.  They will start checking gargoyles, floor grates, and over ledges
as their terror grows.  In addition, they’ve got some of their own
gadgets now, utilizing thermal goggles to check for you in the darkness
and radar jamming backpacks, making your Detective Vision far less
useful.


Assuming
you’re buying a new copy, you’re also given the opportunity to play as
Catwoman.  She ostensibly plays like Batman Light.  The combat is the
same, except instead of Batman’s gadgets she has a handful of her own,
as well as limited upgrades to be bought from the same pool of
experience that Batman uses.  Her missions are interwoven in the main
story, with you taking control of Ms. Kyle at key points, and her agenda
mainly consists of getting her stolen loot back from Two-Face.  After
completing the main storyline, at several points in the world you can
switch back and forth so that you can collect the Catwoman-specific
Riddler trophies and challenges.  It’s an interesting little addition
that’s weirdly a DLC code that comes with new copies or used copies from
Gamestop (which is its own can of worms).  But obviously what you’re
here for is Batman.


The
only complaint I have is the Riddler challenges, really.  It feels like
a lot of hoops to jump through and kind of seems half-assed.  A lot of
them are just stuck in the world so that they could tout the gross
number of them.  That’s not to say all of them are easy; several are actually
pretty tricky to get and require some puzzling and skill.  It just seems
inflated for the sake of inflation.  But, that’s an extremely minor
gripe and this is a truly great game that surpasses the “for a comic book
licensed game” qualifier.

Rating
10

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