thegamergeek's Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360) review

Arkham City Does Not Disappoint

When Batman: Arkham Asylum was released in late August 2009, it flipped all expectations for the game on their heads with its revolutionary combat system. The animation combined with the simplicity of just pressing a single button to counter an enemy attack with a brutal punch or kick was purely stunning. It doesn’t hurt either that the game delivered a fine story voiced perfectly by Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (Joker). Mark and Kevin both reprise their famous roles in the much anticipated sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City.

The combat from Arkham Asylum returns with mostly minor changes; such as the ability to counter two enemies simultaneously and being able to counter thrown objects. These additions are welcome but don’t make all too much of a change on the combat itself. Which isn’t anything to complain about as the combat is still something you won’t see in any other game. The only issue is by the end of the game is it begins to wear on you and you start to notice small flaws such as it takes way too many hits for an enemy to go down and the targeting can be frustrating whenever it wants to be. Apart from those small nit-picky issues, the combat is still technically impressive and gameplay wise, fun as hell.

The star of the show in this adventure as Batman is not the flashy combat however it is the twisty, surprising story. You would go into Batman figuring you would already know the ending: Batman punches guys, they get locked up in prison, then roll credits. And you couldn’t be more wrong. The best thing about the story is how right when you think it’s going to dive into predictable territory; it surprises you with a new twist or an intriguing story element. Most of your story is spent with Joker but while you’re attempting to work with Joker to find a cure to his ailments he received from using Titan on himself in the first game, Hugo Strange’s mysterious Protocol 10 is looming over your head. The entire final two hours of Batman: Arkham City is filled with explosions, twists, and explanations to everything you’ve been in the dark about throughout the game. Once you hit the final hours, your attention will not be lost until the credits are over.

The biggest change found within Arkham City is the fact that it is now an open world game. Unlike most open world games, you don’t get around town with a horse or a car; you get around with your handy grappling hook and gliding ability. This leads to one of the more disappointing things in the game and that’s the difficulties you run into when trying to navigate the city. If you’re attempting to simply glide to a mission marker, there’s no problem. But when you’re in a hurry, the gliding becomes awkward and out of place. It seems nearly impossible to pin point a certain area and land there. At times the gliding can be acceptable at the most but at other times it’s more of a nuisance than it is a pleasure.

Batman: Arkham City is the game to finally help me realize that Unreal Engine 3 is dated. While exploring the world of Arkham City you’ll notice one drab gray texture after another. The environment in and of itself is just plain ugly, only when you see Joker or Riddler related situations does the game show off certain graphical positives such as beautiful green colors. The grayness of it all fits the atmosphere but that doesn’t change that it’s still unappealing to the eyes.

Speaking of the Riddler, he’s back. And back with tons of side content, over four hundred side items to mess with, actually. Though it’s not just Riddler this time, he brought friends. There are a ton of characters in the DC universe (including some that aren’t) that make appearances. Some are in short one off side missions while most develop into their own separate little story. Going through these missions adds a certain layer of depth that you don’t get in most video games that don’t have an already established universe. You really feel as if everybody has their own problems inside Arkham City and it isn’t just all Batman’s problem.

A ton of hassle has been stirred up about the fact that you can’t play as Catwoman unless you purchase the game. The truth is, you’re not missing much. Catwoman is a glorified Batman in a skimpy costume that shows off her breasts. One of the biggest differences about her is the fact that she uses a whip instead of a cape to stun enemies and the fact she can climb on ceilings that have holes in them. Like a cat does, naturally. She does have separate missions to go through but none of which are particularly interesting and your time would be best spent doing the side missions littered around Arkham.

Like I mentioned earlier, Hamill and Conroy return for their roles as Joker and Batman. Unsurprisingly, their work remains magnificent. But it’s not just their work this time around that is impressive, it’s every other character’s work that really helps nail down the excellence of Batman’s entire voice cast. Every character, no matter how important they are (except the generic thug) to the main story arch is voiced near perfectly and the personalities of the characters are reflected strongly just by the tone and pitch of their voice. Not many people thought a voice cast could get much better than Batman: Arkham Asylum’s, Arkham City proves that assumption wrong.

While there are slight issues to be found within Batman: Arkham City, one thing is still very clear, Rocksteady knows how to make a damn good game. Everything that was great from the first game is back and just as good, if not improved in some cases. The issue arising now is that Rocksteady won’t be able to get away with another game like this without suffering from some diminishing returns. So what exactly will they do with another Batman or will they move on to something else entirely? For now, don’t worry about that and just buy Batman: Arkham City.

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