Batman: Arkham City PS3 Review

November 4, 2011 by Simon Wigham  
Filed under Features, Playstation 3, Reviews

Publisher – Warner Bros. Interactive – Developer – Rocksteady Studios – Genre – Action – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 15+ – Other console/handheld formats – Xbox 360

With Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady captured the very essence of Batman, making you feel both strong and vulnerable at the same time, allowing fans to become the Dark Knight in a way that no other game had before it. Its sequel, Arkham City takes this further with a larger scale world.

The opening events sees Bruce Wayne getting captured by Hugo Strange and incarcerated in Arkham City, a city built to keep all the dangerous criminals well away from Gotham city. Obviously as Bruce and Batman are one and the same, he manages to escape and soon gets kitted up and becomes Batman to bring his own brand of justice to the city, as well as attempting to find out just what the mysterious Protocol 10 is.

The City in the title perhaps might suggest a large open environment, though the gameplay area is small enough to fit in the corner of most open worlds and is perhaps a test run, before developer Rocksteady takes the series into the full Gotham City. Arkham City may be small, but with the freedom it offers it undoubtedly still fits the definition of open world.

Arkham City is a well crafted location that is positively dripping with detail. It’s atmospheric and as gloomy and gritty as any good Batman setting should be. The fact that It’s always snowing complements its bleak mood perfectly, and you’ll hear inmates chatting about current events, as well as announcements from Hugo Strange – an intriguing enemy, that unfortunately never proves to be as memorable as the Joker.

The setting has also allowed Rocksteady to bring together some of Batman’s most memorable enemies, such as the Penguin, Two Face, The Riddler and Mr Freeze, though unfortunately some feel shoehorned in and don’t nearly have enough of a presence, which is sure to come as a disappointment to Batman fans.

The city has a lot to do too: there’s side missions, not as many as a lot of similarly structured games, though a few of them are sizable in nature and they’re quite varied too. One for instance has you using the detective mode to find clues of the whereabouts of an assassin, whilst another has you rushing to phones and then tracing the location of the dangerous caller.

The largest side mission of them all concerns the Riddler, who has over 400 secrets hidden all over the city, consisting of riddles to solve, challenges to conquer and Riddler trophies to seek out. Finding them all will require you to make use of all of your gadgets. Finding so many secrets will reveal the location of one of his hostages, which are puzzles in themselves.

The larger play area has resulted in a more mobile Batman; he now has a grapple boost move, which allows you to rapidly soar through the sky, and a dive bomb move which can be used in combat situations, as well as to pick up speed whilst gliding.

All the gadgets are back, though some are tweaked: whilst controlling the remote controlled Batarang, for instance, you’re able to brake and boost, whilst the Line Launcher can be used to turn corners. Unsurprisingly there are some new toys to play with, these include the smoke pellet that can be a godsend to mask your escape, the freeze grenades which allows you to freeze water or enemies, and the remote electrical charge can stun enemies or power up generators.

The combat is the same freeflowing combat that was used in Arkham Asylum. It’s visually spectacular and there’s an attack, stun and counter, all situated on their own face button. This time around you’re able to counter the attacks of multiple enemies at the same time, whilst it’s simpler to incorporate gadgets into your combos, allowing for simplistic, but flexible fighting and also deceptively rewarding.

You can get away with simple button bashing, but getting more from the combat system will require precise timing and will reward you more sizable XP bonuses. The challenge never comes from having to memorize long combo strings, but instead from avoiding, countering enemy attacks and never missing with your own to keep your combo unbroken – seeing your combo count steadily rising is one of the greatest pleasures in gaming. There’s a greater variety of enemies this time around, requiring different tactics to take down: some are armoured, others have shields, whilst others brandish knives.

When you come across enemies armed with guns, you must take a more stealthy approach, hiding in shadows and patiently waiting for the right moment to pick each of them off. It’s a bit more complex this time around, and whilst hiding on gargoyles is still one of the most useful tactics, if enemies however realise what you’re up to, they’ll start to destroy them.

The bosses are an improvement over the previous game, but still are largely unmemorable encounters. There is one that stands out from the rest, requiring you to take a stealthy approach to take him down, though each time you damage him he will adapt to your tactics, requiring you to use a new strategy to hurt him again, it’s just a shame they all aren’t as inventive as this.

Another disappointment is the detective mode. Whilst the fact that Rocksteady once again haven’t ignored – as so many other games over the years have done – the proficient detective skills of Batman, which is praiseworthy, it’s still a bit too lightweight to be truly satisfying and doesn’t really manage to match the other things that Rocksteady have got so right in making you feel as if you’re Batman.

More positively, Catwoman is playable and, whilst she functions similarly to Batman, her animations however are distinctive and she’s slightly less powerful, but has a cat like guile. Her method of navigating the city is different to Batman, using a combination of leaping up buildings, and she even has her own riddler trophies to seek out.

Doing everything in the game will take you a long time, and even when you complete the game, there’s a new game plus feature, that allows you to possess all of your gadgets from the start, but will also offer more of a challenge, removing the icons that warn you of impending enemy attacks and throwing tougher enemies at you earlier on.

Granting even more value to the package is the return of the popular challenge rooms. They’re once again a combination of combat and stealth based challenges, though this time around there are also campaigns, which are split into gauntlets of challenges, with modifiers, both positive and negative, of which you’re able to choose for each map, and every one of them must be used before the campaign end.

Batman: Arkham City once again proves that Rocksteady really understands the appeal of Batman and his universe, and whilst it isn’t without problems, they’re largely minor, leaving it as another excellent Batman game, that is a more substantial improvement than would be thought possible after its tremendously executed predecessor.

9/10

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