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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Batman: Arkham City - Mini Review



I'm appalled to say that I haven't done a review on here in over a year, in fact I stopped when Iron Man 2 came out in 2010, and it's something I'd really like to get back into if I can find the time.

The following is a short version of what could have been 10 times the length, but I'm holding back as there's probably thousands of reviews for Arkham City online by now, all better than what I could compare with and I'm not the only one who completed it so swiftly after purchasing it... Not because it's short in any way, just because I purposefully put a lot of gaming time in to it because it's so good!

So, we're going to start out with the pros and cons:

PROS

THE GRAPHICS ARE STUNNING
THE VOICE ACTING IS GREAT
THE GAME PLAY IS NEAR PERFECT
THE STORY AND THE FINALE ARE WELL WRITTEN
THE GADGETS ARE HIGHLY EFFECTIVE (WHEN USED CORRECTLY)

CONS

THE OVERALL GAME MAY BE TOO BIG AND TOO LONG FOR SOME GAMERS
THE LEARNING CURVE FOR NEWBIES WHEN IT COMES TO FIGHTING AND GADGET USE MAY ALIENATE SOME
SOME CHARACTERS LOOK TOO FAR REMOVED FROM THEIR ORIGINAL VERSIONS (FOR TRUE FAN-BOYS THAT IS!)
THE PENGUIN HAVING A COCKNEY/AUSSIE HYBRID ACCENT!!!


So having highlighted the main points above let me elaborate slightly...

The Arkham games are basically sandbox games with set missions in set locations and with Arkham City you have that same freedom to do whatever you feel like (like learning to glide, divebomb, fight) without many time limits interfering (which is also good as the learning curve could do some players in at first, like me learning to divebomb properly!). If you haven't played these games but you've instead encountered games like Spider-Man 3 or Superman Returns then it runs along those 'travel anywhere' lines but is so superior in almost every way that it's like comparing a child's paper aeroplane to a 2011-made fighter jet. They're seriously worlds apart.




The first things you notice when starting Arkham City are the graphics and the voice acting. Both are exemplary and are so painstakingly polished and completely engaging that for once I didn't skip a single cut scene (I'm usually all about the action and not the storyline) and really enjoyed the epic city scale and look, and both Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill's forever-gripping voice work. It's a testament to Rocksteady Studios and DC Entertainment's skills that this game assaults all your senses in such a deep yet subtle way and boosts your inherent geekiness to the max the whole way through. It's all simply so addictive. I don't think you have to be a fanboy like me to agree with the above statement either.

This leads on to the storyline. I'm not going to ruin anything on here as it's truly advised that you experience the whole thing for yourself from the start to shockingly epic (non canon) end... Sufficed to say that there's the obvious underlying story (that leads on from 'Asylum') which you have to follow to its conclusion regardless, with all the side missions embellishing things to a very satisfying level of fullness. Even when you finish the main story (sit through the end credits for a little poignant surprise by the way) you get to continue playing and finish off both your Catwoman and Batman levels/side missions, so you feel like your job isn't quite done even when you thought it definitely was... I will admit to almost shedding a geeky tear during the final cut-scene because of the fact that I'm so much of a Batman fan and have such an understanding of the character and his various relationships with his rogues gallery of villains that the final few minutes hit me quite strongly, such is the awesomeness of the writing/directing. Even the various good and evil character cameos are pulled off with such an ease of skill you forget your playing a game and not watching an awesome movie.

One thing that has stood out since the first game is the near-perfect game play that the Arkham titles provide. Not only do you really, honestly feel like you're Batman here, but everything that surrounds you from the general atmosphere to your plethora of abilities and armoury really bring this all home perfectly. The first game balanced the gamers' growing skills very well, with the various gadgets and weapons you were given throughout the increasingly elaborate levels and situations, and City is no different. Not only are the Bat-gadgets plentiful but they also enhance your stealth and battle tactics to an massively satisfying level. During the later stages I found myself forgetting that I was getting into huge fisticuff battles and wasn't using the numerous tools I had at my disposal. Once I realised this fact I literally felt like I became the goddamned Batman... Here's an example: Fights starts, 10 guys in an alleyway. First thing it to either neutralise the gun wielders from afar with the handy gun neutraliser (only two people at a time before needing a fairly lengthy recharge time) and then chuck a smoke pellet into the mix allowing a stealthy start to the battle, any gunmen left over can then be temporarily taken down with a swift Batclaw shot and a clothes line, then (whilst keeping the standard guys at bay with a few punches and counters) you can get your self in a position to freeze some of them with the ice-cluster-bomb which secures multiple badguys to the spot, and then use 'quick-Batarang' to disable a few more. You can even quick-lay some explosive gel on the ground which will take down multiple guys in one blast or electrocute the odd one or two guys with the 'REC' (Remote Electrical Charge', highly enjoyable when shooting bigger guys with baseball bats etc as they swing uncontrollably and hurt their buddies)... The tactical battle options are endless once you're used to everything you have in your arsenal and all of this isn't even including the fact that you can use your x-ray cowl vision at all times for tactical superiority in seeing everything of relevance around you, silently take bad guys down one at a time in a lot of situations, or bring speeding pain and broken bones from the sky with other special (and totally awesome) takedown moves. It's such a massively varied game with a hell of a lot of choices. Maybe too many...




And then there's Catwoman... Super sexual and enjoyably different to play as than Batman, she's a welcome addition to the whole game. Nothing much more to say... "Boobies". OK there's that too. And I haven't played as Robin yet either!

The downsides to the game are so minor and fickle that it's not even worth mentioning them... But I'm going to anyway. All the reviews so far have mentioned the overwhelming size (in every sense of the term) of Arkham City as a game. From the main mission, through the massive side missions, to the collectables, right down to the multiple options of "where do I go now", which almost stopped me from continuing my play time in some situations (don't tell anyone I looked the answers up online and had the guide to hand if I needed it, which was only twice for me). Most people complain of games being too short, not too long, and I'm sure that the developers would want to kick complainers butts if they were told "your game's too long". It's not really something to complain about when you think about it!

Then we have the learning curve. It's fine, I'm not personally complaining, but I did find certain mass battles a little overwhelming at first (even though I've completed the first game and I'm a veteran gamer) and the fluid fighting style may confuse the young or uninitiated... The divebomb technique took a bit of getting used to too, and rapid gadget switching became a matter of mass-memorising multiple buttons for those situations where speed is paramount to you survival. OK, so again not really a complaint, just something to get used to, as with most games.




Finally the characters (some not featured in the first game) looked and sounded slightly odd. I'll only mention Penguin here as others may be spoilers, but I hated, and I do mean HATED, Penguin's voice and look. The bottom-of-a-beer-bottle-monocle and his overall look, combined with the hybrid Cockney/Aussie twang was bloody awful, and with other characters it was simply a re-imagining for the purposes of the fairly realistic "Arkham" universe. Alfred also annoyed me, he was cockey and sarcastic and you wanted to tell him shut up before you came back and put his scrawny old arse in its place! And lastly Batman was an angry git this time  round, angrier and more aggressive than I've ever seen the character portrayed before. Bit weird considering the game's ending... On the flip side other characters were spectacular, and better that you'd expect in so many ways. So again this is all fickleness for something that quite literally doesn't have any major flaws. No bugs (that I found) and no issues of any kind other than these little ones above. It's like buying a red ball and saying "it's too red"... It's a moot point in the grand scheme of things and is totally down to personal preference rather than being a generic fault or problem.




To finish I'll simply say that Arkham City was a joy to play through and had numerous moments of sheer greatness, right down to the finale. It kept me gripped throughout and that's rare these days! I really hope a third game is in the works and judging by events in this release I'm pretty sure that's a given! Bravo indeed.

My score is a deserved and quite obvious: 10/10  


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