FutureFive NZ - Game review: Batman: Arkham City

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Game review: Batman: Arkham City

In political circles, ideas often get floated that sound innovative and inspired on first inspection, but turn out to be really terrible in execution. Like, "What if we just put all our criminals in one walled-off city away from everyone else?” "Yeah! We could just air drop food in every few days and let them share it out peacefully!” Yeah, right. 

Batman: Arkham City is the follow up to 2009’s smash hit, Batman: Arkham Asylum. There has been no small amount of curiosity about the sequel; its predecessor's popularity came as such a surprise given the terrible standard of Batman (and Superhero in general) games up to that point that many people were convinced it was a fluke. 

Following on from the events of Arkham Asylum, Warden Quincy Sharp - now Mayor Sharp– has converted the slums of Gotham into a walled-off prison city, ruled over from watchtowers and helicopters alike by heavily armed private mercenaries under the stewardship of the mysterious Dr Hugo Strange. 

First off, I have to say, if you haven't already played and completed Arkham Asylum, I strongly recommend you do so before playing Arkham City. There are three reasons for this (besides the fact it is a brilliant game itself): 

1. The storyline is a continuation from the first game and expands on the events in the previous title. 

2. Arkham City makes the barest effort to teach new players the mechanics of gameplay, perhaps assuming that players will already be familiar from playing the previous title (indeed, many of the end game bat-gadgets from Arkham Asylum are staples in the Bat-belt from the beginning of this game). 

3. Arkham City takes everything that was great about the last game and turns it up a notch, which means – to be honest – I can’t see myself ever returning to the original Asylum. 

The team at Rocksteady have clearly picked out the strengths of the last game – the fluid combat system, the great storyline and characters, the innovative gadgets and insightful detective mode – but they have undoubtedly looked at other games that work well in the open world environment while they were at it. Leaping from rooftop to rooftop flows with the same fluidity that you would expect in Assassin’s Creed, along with a couple of other new tricks – double take downs and smoke bombs, anyone?

I don’t want to spoil the storyline, as it really is a fantastic rollercoaster ride which showcases a range of Batman characters and adversaries. As is becoming more and more common these days, if you purchase the game new you receive a code to unlock unique content. This time it comes in the form of Catwoman missions, which are interwoven amongst the main Batman campaign. Catwoman is unlockable via a DLC purchase for those who buy the game second hand, and while I did not enjoy the Catwoman episodes as much as the main campaign, they certainly provide an occasionally nice change of pace and never last too long as to become annoying. 

The biggest star of Arkham City is the city itself. From the overgrown subway, to the ruined amusement park and imposing Wonder Tower, Arkham feels grimy and run down, full of seedy and desperate inhabitants who would stick a knife in you for a slice of bread or a blanket. At about five times the size of Arkham Asylum it gives ample opportunity to spread out the story elements and characters, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see additional DLC story arcs introduced for those who finish the main storyline. 

Further adding to the ambience is the return of some fantastic voice talent, including Kevin Conroy reprising his role as Batman and Mark Hamill returning as everyone’s favourite homicidal clown killer. All of the voice actors are well cast and nail their performances brilliantly, which gives a depth and immersion to the story. 

For those who finish the story there is still more to do, with the return of the Challenge rooms, an option to replay the main story with all your accumulated gear and gadgets (against harder enemies), and plenty of riddler trophies to collect and character models/artwork to unlock.

Batman : Arkham City is as close as you can get to being Batman, and it’s bloody fantastic. 

Graphics 9

Sound 9

Gameplay 9

Lasting Appeal 8

Overall 9

Played on Xbox 360.

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