Batman: Arkham City PS3 Review

Author: Heath Flor
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/s/batman_arkham_city/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Over a year has passed since Arkham Asylum was destroyed (no thanks to you) during Rocksteady's first Batman game, Batman: Arkham Asylum. The former warden Quincy Sharp has taken over Gotham as mayor. It seems all of the hard work you did on the island has been credited to Sharp, and he's used his clout to not only become the mayor but also to create a new institution to hold the criminals of Gotham: Arkham City.

In Batman: Arkham City, the new prison is nothing more than a cordoned portion of the Gotham slums, watched over by the head doctor Hugo Strange and an elite para-military group known as the Tyger security force. There is no such thing as a "Super Villain," and all prisoners of Gotham are now free-range criminals. Wouldn't be long before Lindsay Lohan would be cuddling up with the Penguin, if she lived in Gotham.

The idea of such a prison is actually intriguing, at least on the surface. Super criminals and jaywalking psychopaths playing catch together seems only natural right?  Before long, the place would surely develop into a lawless utopia! 

Unfortunately, in Arkham City, playing catch consists of catching lead from a machine gun or getting beaten senseless by Tyger personnel. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time, my friend. It's a dog-eat-dog world, and Hugo Strange has absolutely no tolerance any criminal element no matter how major (or minor) the crime. His only concern is to keep them away from Gotham proper. Or so we think.

Welcome to the Jungle

A major rule when you're in the superhero gig, is you can never reveal your secret identity. Unfortunately for Bats, his has been compromised. Hugo Strange know his secret identity is Bruce Wayne, but on the bright side, he seems keen on keeping this secret to himself, though he's also intent on making Wayne's life a living hell. Dr. Strange imprisons Bruce Wayne on some trumped up charges, and the fun begins as the criminals look to end the life of the billionaire playboy.

Once Bruce figures out a way to suit up, he decides to investigate Hugo Strange, and Arkham City opens up to an array of high ledges, dark shadows, and grimy back alleys for you to explore. After a minor tutorial (and the introduction of Catwoman), you're free to scour the city in search of trouble -- something you won't have to look too far to find.

In Arkham City there's a much stronger focus on gliding, as well as a combination of grappling between buildings. The gliding is relatively simple to adjust to and feels rather natural. Using it to hunt your prey like a hawk is a very satisfying tool.  You'll also find flight training missions scattered throughout the city to assist you, but by the time I got around to doing them I was already cruising the city with no fear.

In a world full of ginormous sandbox video games, Arkham City is relatively small. Don't let that discourage you one tiny bit. The city's size helps to keep the main story a tightrope of action and suspense. It also allows for ease of navigation, keeping long traveling times to a minimum without having to rely on a "fast travel" option.

The Plot Thickens

The story in Batman: Arkham City is always changing around you. One minute you think you're going after The Joker, and suddenly, you're both in need of each other's help, leading to an uneasy alliance. You will even find surprise characters who come out of nowhere, which will launch you on another story arc altogether. Sometimes you work with them, sometimes you beat them to a pulp, and sometimes it's a little a bit of both. All of these elements play into Batman as a character. His relationship with his enemies has always been a fine line between distaste and respect. Arkham City captures the feeling expertly.

Of course, you're going to see quite a bit of Batman's rogue gallery littered through out the city. After all, he put most of them in Arkham to begin with. Even though we may have seen most of them in Arkham Asylum, they don't feel stale. Besides the fantastic script, a lot of the credit has to go to the voice actors who help bring these characters to life.  Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) has returned to voice the Joker, and I have to say I am truly amazed every time I hear him. His time as the Joker has produced one of the most believable villains of all time, and he really knows how to put the "psycho" in "psychopath."  Hamill has said this will be the last time he performs as Joker, so enjoy it while you can.

Speaking of Batman, Kevin Conroy also returns to his role as the Dark Knight, which fans of the many animated series should be glad to hear. His voice is perfect for the role, and Batman gives off a sense of calm gruffness. The "rough around the edges" attitude has Batman coming off as a dick sometimes to even his closest allies, and yet it matches the mood generated by the ominous city.

Missions and Riddles

The Riddler is back with a vengeance to challenge your wits by delivering a staggering number of challenges. With hundreds of them scattered throughout the city, it's a wonder I was able to get anything else done in the game at all. Even though they could be distracting at times (Oh look, there's a Riddler trophy now!), I enjoyed every moment of hunting them down and puzzling my way through them, and if you liked these distractions in Arkham Asylum, you'll probably love them in Arkham City. To top it off, some of the challenges are only obtainable with Catwoman, adding another element to the already extensive side missions.  Unfortunately, this does mean that some content is exclusive to Catwoman, who is unlocked with the VIP pass.

You'll find plenty of other side missions to enjoy besides the Riddler's as well. Pick up a ringing payphone (Remember those?), and suddenly you find yourself caught up in a game of "Cat and Mouse" with the infamous serial cutter Zsasz. Investigate a dead body, and you'll be on the trail of an unidentified cold-blooded killer only known as "The Identity Thief." Better yet, look to the rooftops above and you may just find a mysterious figure investigating you.

Rewards from completing side missions and riddles vary from new tech gadgets to unlockable art, challenge maps, and stories about the city or characters. There's even unlockable 3D character models which are highly drool-worthy, especially Catwoman -- MEOW! Don't feel left out, ladies, as there's plenty of male 3D models for you to swoon over as well. Who could resist the Penguin, Solomon Grundy, and even Alfred?  I kid, I kid; enjoy some Robin.

The best part of Batman: Arkham City is that it doesn't feel like a sequel but still very familiar and comfortable. Like riding a bike, strapping on Batman's armor again feels completely natural. The free-flow fighting takes center stage, and makes you feel like a badass whipping around a group of thugs and kicking the bejesus out of them with no hesitation.  Batman does have a few new moves and gadgets to play with this time around. You start off with some of the gadgets you had in Arkham Asylum and slowly build back up your arsenal. I won't give away too much of the unlocks, but I can assure you there are plenty of combos and gadgets to give you a superior edge in battle.

Graphics and Sound

While I wouldn't label myself a graphics expert by any means, I didn't find any issues with Batman: Arkham City. The only thing I can say without any speculation is the graphics were absolutely gorgeous, and I never had any type of glitch to report. I'm certain there's already a bajillion videos posted to YouTube showing you how one version is better than the other, anyway.

Tyger helicopters swarm the skies (which you can grapple onto, by the way), and over the sounds of the chopper blades you can hear the wind ruffling your cape as you glide over the thugs. The sounds of the city are incredibly realistic, as well, and while the background music does come in from time-to-time, it tends to melt into the background perfectly to add to the mood without detracting from the events unfolding around you.

Final Thoughts

Batman: Arkham City is by far the absolute best game I have played this year. The dark environments, outstanding voice acting, excellent soundtrack, and stunning graphics really pull together to define Batman with a depth which so far only Rocksteady has been able to perfect. Long-time fans will certainly appreciate more of Paul Dini's writing too.  The game is just extremely addictive and difficult to put down.

Rocksteady has beaten the odds by making a fantastic licensed superhero (sorta) video game. We've had so many duds over the years, and we've only recently begun to see comic heroes get treated with the respect they deserve. The only question now is this: are they ready to tackle Superman?  Because I'd really like to see that happen.

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