Batman: Arkham City Review

Superhero games are usually complete trash. I’m just going to outright say this because normally they’re devoid of inspiration and are just an afterthought with no real creativity or innovation. There are a few exceptions however, with Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2 and Rocksteady’s thrilling Batman: Arkham Asylum. Now, two years on from what was possibly the best superhero game ever created Rocksteady have somehow upped the ante and taken their basic formula to another level.

Everyone’s favourite sociopathic, thug bashing hero is back in Batman: Arkham City and the first thing that I noticed in it was the sheer size of Arkham City; a prison district of sorts that is a terrible idea on paper with a range of mobs and villains duking it out for superiority including The Penguin, The Joker and even Mister Freeze! The inclusion of so many villains from DC’s rich canon for Arkham City is utterly genius because it’s something that can really only exist in a game rather than a comic arc or movie. Seeing how the villains interact with each other and watching how they do, or do not, collaborate is a brilliant insight into the believable world and atmosphere that Arkham City creates.

As Batman, you’re given a multitude of tools to use at your will and sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming. “Becoming the Bat” as it were is an incredibly hard state of mind to be in. Of course with these tools you generally have to have decent puzzle design or use them as diversions and sometimes even use them for combat purposes. However, there are some limitations to the game that I personally did not like at all. Batman’s gear and equipment are amazing, but more often than not I found that they were being used during combat and not much else, limiting the potential of things you could do in the game itself. For me Batman does not just swoop in and use all of his high tech super expensive gear just to beat people up. Batman is supposed to be  elusive, never really heard or seen. Don’t get me wrong, there are stealth segments in the game, but they’re few and far between and in the end it was still a little bit too linear for an open world game. Especially with the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I’ve since really opened up to the idea of playing a game how you want it to be played, and for me Batman’s overt fisticuffs are not really my idea of fun.

The game’s combat mechanics are tight, well done and you’re able to counter attack and do much more with Batman’s gadgets. It works brilliantly and undoubtedly has the best brawler combat seen in an open world game. The attacks ‘flow’ naturally and although I have some major complaints about the game’s utilisation of potential with Batman (having him just beat people up all the time), the actual mechanics of it are great. However, it does get stale after a while and I found myself just mashing Dynasty Warriors style simply because it got boring in comparison with other things in the game.

The sound design of Batman sounds like it has come straight out of both the Christopher Nolan Batman flicks. Reminding me of Silent Hill 2 (where the sound design is impeccable), it adds an extra dimension of verisimilitude and really helps immerse yourself in the game.

Catwoman is playable in some portions of the game

Another similarity that I didn’t really want to make between Batman and a survival horror is the horrific way in which the movement of a character feels static and very wooden. It’s a problem that I had in the previous title and one I have in this as well. I’m just asking for Batman’s animations to be less wooden and not feel like he’s had a massive pole shoved down the back of his suit.

Overall Batman is a technically sound game but it has some flaws which deter me and although it may have swept other people’s reviews with 9’s and 10’s, I feel that this game is wasted on me. Undoubtedly a great game, and I can understand why people like it, but the monotonous combat and level design leaves me unsatisfied. I wanted a less linear open world with more open game design that would let me tackle situations differently, and that’s where I felt Arkham City let me down. But by all means give Batman: Arkham City a go. It’s certainly not a bad game and is probably the best insight we have into the fictitious canon of Batman.

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