Be Batman: Infinite Ammo Reviews ‘Batman: Arkham City’
(This review contains minor spoilers)
As I write this review, I have concluded a three-day long bender in which I conquered Arkham City and then some. Rocksteady’s bat-sequel to 2009’s Arkham Asylum has managed to take everything that was great about that game and expand on it in a way that only a few games have. Just like Uncharted 2 and Modern Warfare 2, if there was ever a games equivalent to Godfather II, this one comes pretty damn close.
When Paul Dini is writing, nine times out of ten you cannot go wrong. Set a few months after Arkham Asylum, all Blackgate Prison inmates and all Arkham Asylum patients are transferred into a remote area within northern Gotham. Cordoned off from the rest of the outside, barricaded inside mammoth walls, guard towers, and the threat of severe violence is Arkham City. The game diverges from this point into two plots; separate yet interconnected. One involves Hugo Strange, the czar of Arkham City who reveals to Batman (in one of the best opening sequences I have ever seen) that he knows Bruce Wayne and Batman are one. The other plot revolves around the sickly Joker who wants revenge on the dark knight whom he believes left him for dead at the end of Arkham Asylum.
The plot evolves steadily over the course of the game, with neat surprises sprinkled throughout, and others that are equally absurd. Hugo Strange is the only villain whose characterization may have benefitted from a bit more fine-tuning. We learn very early on of his knowledge that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same (this is a staple of Strange) but it never factors into the story at all. In fact, Strange is largely absent from the game as a whole; arguably for good reason. Strange would have been more useful as a simple ‘Mengele-esque’ mad doctor. Aside from Strange, the rest of the characterizations are on the nose and any fan of the comics, films, and/or animated series will get a kick out of the Easter eggs present in and outside of the games primary narrative. The Catwoman story spread throughout is fun and sometimes a needed break from the stressful, complex main narrative; overall however, it adds nothing. It makes me wonder if a Robin side-story would have been the better move. In fact, Robin deserved a lot more than the small cameo he had in this game; perhaps a co-op mission alongside Batman? They did it for Bane, they could have done it for Timmy.
Content outside of the main story is plentiful. At the forefront is the Riddler, he has taken hostages and Batman can only rescue them one at a time. You get the locations of each hostage after tediously seeking out and collecting Riddler trophies, destroying balloons and surveillance cameras, and solving riddles; totaling at 400. The puzzles that each hostage is stuck in are reminiscent of the Saw films, though their brevity leaves a lot to be desired. Other side missions feature Zsasz (creepy), Mad Hatter (glorified cameo), Hush (creepier), Deadshot (fine use of detective mode), and Azrael (boring).
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill—along with other animated series alumnus—reprise their roles perfectly as Batman and the Joker. The performances all-around are very memorable. Zsasz is cold and creepy. Mr. Freeze is monotone and somewhat deathly. Penguin’s cockney accent added a nice flare to the character. The only voice that made me want to club baby seals every time I heard it was that of Ra’s Al Ghul. If they couldn’t get David Warner they should have gotten someone similar and not a dude that sounds like he inhales helium as a pastime.
Gameplay and setting are another story, they border perfection. Batman – along with DLC characters, Robin and Catwoman – has a unique and distinct fighting style. The hit detection and animations have been tweaked to provide the unbridled ferociousness of Batman’s physical combat that was needed in Arkham Asylum. Coupled with the ability to quick-trigger your pool of gadgets, any player will spend hours exploring and tapping in to Batman’s full potential. New gadgets include an ice grenade, smoke pellets, a disruptor that detonates mines and disables firearms, and a rifle – I thought Batman had a mandate against these things – that shoots bursts of electricity.
Arkham City itself is exactly as I expected. There is nothing redeeming about this hell-hole. The dilapidated buildings, the gothic structures and the constant falling snow reeks of an atmosphere that is bleak, and dark. But don’t expect a vast area to free-roam like in Grand Theft Auto; Arkham City is merely an amalgam of villains and their dungeons. The score by Nick Arundel and Ron Fish was very enjoyable. As a fan, it was a treat to hear the different cues and motifs from Hans Zimmer, Shirley Walker, and Danny Elfman’s scores spread throughout the game.
I could not have asked for a better sequel, or a better Batman game. While the story had some issues, it’s more than made up for by everything else this game does right: the gameplay, voice-acting, score, setting, and extras etc.
Arkham Asylum let you play as Batman. Arkham City lets you be Batman.
Buy It Immediately.