Batman has to be the best type of hero. He doesn’t have special powers (unless wealth counts as a super power). It means just about any one of us can dream to be a superhero with having to be bitten by a spider or be from another planet. Controlling Batman in a game and still having fun has eluded us for many years. Batman: Arkham Asylum was one of the first to let us convincingly fill the shoes of Batman.
I expected the sequel to that game to flop as they would not change enough, and because of the open world. Batman enjoys freedom of movement though and I was very soon proven to be wrong on all fronts: Batman: Arkham City is truly a great game.
Dr. Strange is running an extended version of the Arkham Asylum and has taken control over the entire section of Gotham known as Arkham City. The worst of the worst are left here to their demise and soon Batman and Bruce Wayne are thrown in to spice things up. It is up to Batman to not only escape the uber-city prison, but also find out what is going on inside.
With so many criminal masterminds in one place, it’s inevitable that they will collude (for a while at least) to come up with a scheme to cause some trouble, and that’s exactly what they get up to. A wide variety of classic Batman villains make an appearance in the game, and most of them will be instantly recognizable, not just by their appearance, but also by their voices.
Mark Hamill reprises his role as The Joker after years of television cartoons and movies and as always, his performance is disturbingly good. You think Heath Ledger was the best Joker ever? Think again. Most importantly Kevin Conroy (the longest-running and most frequently appearing Batman in the history of Batman) again adds the raspy voice of Batman and Bruce Wayne, being able to actually make it sound like two different people.
Add to the excellent voice acting a great soundtrack and a game world pushing your PC to its limit and you will be totally immersed. Being Batman you will have all the great toys that make him so great. You get your grappling hook, allowing him to traverse the city by snapping onto ledges and swinging around, and when he needs to cover greater distances he simply flies using his cape as a wing until he reaches the next ledge. It sounds complicated but becomes natural so quickly that I often wonder why other games have such a difficult control scheme. Now add a joypad and the keyboard and mouse controls, as good as they are, seem old and clumsy in comparison!
Combat is equally intuitive. Being the Dark Knight you are more than capable of taking out large crowds with a hint of a sixth sense warning you of impending attacks. Boss battles will test not only your physical prowess but also your puzzle solving skills as some of them require more than just brute force to take down.
Batman also makes use of his ‘Detective Mode’ very often to find clues as to where he should go and what he should do. This is a sort of x-ray vision that gives Batman the edge over his foes.
Since stealth has always been a part of Batman his manoeuvrability needs to be smooth and flowing. Hanging upside down it is possible to render an enemy unconscious by grabbing him from above, or you can swoop down and take enemies out from across a room. All of this will get enemies scared, causing them to be more cautious as they patrol their areas. If the combat gets a bit too much Batman can always drop a smoke bomb and escape in the confusion. I had a little giggle as one of the bad guys asked his buddy: ”Why don’t we get smoke bombs?”
The City of Arkham is fantastic. The sprawling landscape makes it feel like you are really at the butt end of the world. It is dirty and overrun and clearly you’re just about the only one in there that’s not a real criminal.
Throughout the city different villains will have control of the area, and as a result the goons look different as well. For example, all of The Joker’s goons have a clown’s face painted on. These goons will also engage you as soon as they spot you.
Missions vary from simple assistance (helping a politician caught on a roof), to escort missions and recovery missions. Your allegiances are only valid for a current mission as your allies are only so because you have a common enemy for a while – don’t be surprised to rescue someone in one mission, only to fight them in the next. The variety of levels is also simply amazing with some areas totally frozen over, and other covered with poison ivy.
The game also allows you to play as different characters. If you bought the PC version you will automatically gain access to the Catwoman content. Even though Catwoman has a few separate missions, they are all intertwined into the main story, allowing you to see the game from a different perspective. More downloadable content with more characters are also on the way.
When reading Oliver’s review of Batman Arkham City I had a thought flash through my mind that Batman Arkham City is pretty good as Oliver is reluctant to hand out 5 stars to just about any game. So that means Oliver either fell into the ‘Hype Hole™ or the game is actually flipping good. I am glad to say that Oliver totally missed ‘the hole’ with this one!
Batman: Arkham City is an action adventure game that rings true to the source. All content is handled with care and no comic fan or gaming fan will be let down by what they find in Arkham. It allows you to play to your own strengths, as long as those are similar to Batman’s. He would never face a full frontal assault for example.
It’s one of those classic games that need to be a part of every fan’s collection. This is for fans of great games. This is for fans of great comics. This is for fans of the best entertainment this side of the next Batman movie. It may just well be the best Batman on any entertainment media ever.
Go out and be the Batman!
The Good: Arkham City; you are Batman!; great voice acting, sound, music and visuals
The Bad: Honestly, nothing I can think of!
The Ugly: The monster bad guys are truly horrifically good!