Video Game Review: Arkham City

Arkham City is gorgeous. | Photo from IGN

It’s shooter season if you haven’t noticed. Right now gamers are being inundated with First-person shooters. I like shooters and all, but with so many out at once they tend to blur together. “Out of Rage,” “Gears of War 3,” “Resistance 3″—I can’t remember which ones were more grayish-brown or brownish-gray. In the monotony of first-person games, it’s great to get a breath of fresh air with “Batman: Arkham City.”

The basic story goes like this: Within Gotham is a small city-prison. (It’s literally a city walled off to make a prison, full of skyscrapers, apartment buildings and factories.) Arkham City is now overrun by supervillains and has erupted into a gang war. The Joker is dying from injecting himself with Titan in the game’s predecessor, “Batman: Arkham Asylum.” The Joker poisons Gotham with his tainted blood forcing Batman to find a cure. All hell is let loose.

What I love (yes, love) most about “Arkham City” is the combat system. Fighting isn’t difficult; what is difficult is fighting well. A real sense of rhythm is required to do well. It amazes me how fluid the fighting is. It looks choreographed. If one were to just glance at the screen it may look as though Batman is just punching and kicking anything with a pulse, but when you look closer you’ll notice there’s a lot of nuance to the fights. Batman is almost surgeon-like with his precision. When you know what you’re doing, the fighting is pretty elegant. I actually found myself going out of my way just to get in fights.

You really feel like you’re Batman.

The feel of ” Arkham City” is reminiscent of “Blade Runner.” Streets are cold and dark, illuminated only by neon signs and the occasional helicopter spot light. Developer Rocksteady absolutely nailed the atmosphere. Dark has never been so colorful. As you sail through the Arkham City sky, over neon-colored rooftops and under patrolling helicopters, you can’t help but be drawn into that world. It’s so fleshed out and so expertly crafted that it’s easy to forget that you’re not in Arkham City.

“Arkham City” is packed to the brim with content. As you make your way through the game, players will run into side quests that you can complete or ignore. When I completed the final level of the game, I had only finished 33 percent of its entirety. I missed two-thirds of the game by not attempting side quests.

Most of the side quests involve one of the supervillains. The serial killer Zsasz forces you to find a ringing telephone somewhere in the city in a certain amount of time or else he’ll kill innocents. For Bane, you’ll be tasked with finding supplies of Titan around the city, and for The Riddler, you have to find his 400 hidden trophies—400! Some side quests actually have you take over a different character.

In “Arkham Asylum” you can also play as Robin, Catwoman and Night Wing. (Night Wing was the first Robin for the non-comic-book nerds.) Each of these characters has their own missions to complete, intertwined with Batman’s story. Each character has their own feel, and what surprised me was how much I loved playing as Catwoman. She was more fun to play as than Batman, and not just because she’s more fun to look at. Catwoman is much more agile than the hulking Batman. Fighting with Catwoman feels more like dancing than fighting.

A very dangerous, alluring dance. | Photo from IGN

Worth mentioning is the wonderful voice acting throughout the game. Catwoman, Two Face, The Penguin and Batman are all expertly voiced, but one performance towers over the rest. Mark Hamill’s rendition of The Joker is spot on. His iconic cackle can still dot my arms with goose-flesh. I dare say Mark Hamill’s Joker is my favorite version. (Sorry Heath Ledger fans.)

The largest problem that plagued “Arkham City’s” predecessor was that the boss fights all sucked. Unfortunately, that’s still pretty much true for “Arkham City.” The boss fights are aggravating because Rocksteady built this wonderful combat system which you use for the entire build-up to the climax. The problem is any time the intensity of the story peaks, the fun fighting system is pulled out from underneath you and replaced by some unoriginal, tedious boss fight. There’s nothing new or riveting about dodging a behemoth as he throws one powerful but slow attack at you after another. There are so many boss fights that ruined the flow of the game, but listing all of them would be a waste of both our times.

Who could think this fight is more exciting than the first video?

“Arkham City” is one of my favorite games of 2011. Save the boss fights, everything about the game is absolutely wonderful. The atmosphere is engrossing, the story engaging, the combat enthralling, and the acting is good too. If you’re tired of the brown-gray of redundant shooters, Batman is here to rescue you.


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