Product Type: Warner Bros. PS3 games
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Batman: Arkham City (PS3)
Member Name: CheesySpam
Batman: Arkham City (PS3)
Advantages: Excellent gameplay; gripping story; beautiful graphics; stunning voice acting and music.
Disadvantages: Stealth sections; so good I couldn't stop playing!
Batman first emerged over 72 years ago, yet he's better than ever today. Batman: Arkham Asylum, released back in 2009, was a great surprise and overtook Goldeneye 007 as the best licensed game ever. So there must have been a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the devs at London-based Rocksteady Studios to make a worthy sequel. After a long wait, it's out - but can it quite reach the high expectations? Thankfully, it does! An excellent story, improved combat and hugely impressive voice work make Batman: Arkham City strong contender for Game of the Year. If you're a console owner, this should be the next title you buy whether you are familiar with the comics and films or not.
The game doesn't tell you exactly how much time has passed since the first game, but I'd presume it's a several month gap. Bruce Wayne (the man behind Batman's mask) is displaying his concern for new prison facility Arkham City in front of a crowd of reporters, before being captured and taken away by TYGER guards. We hear Hugo Strange explaining to Bruce that Protocol 10 would begin on that night, and if Bruce would even attempt to stop him, he would reveal Batman's identity to the world. Naturally, our protagonist goes out and tries to find out what this Protocol 10 is. Along the way, we meet some old enemies from Two-Face to Penguin and, of course, Joker and also some unexpected friends including Catwoman.
The game has a very dark tone - anyone that has committed even the smallest of crimes are sent to Arkham City, or even politicians campaigning against the mega-prison. The place is crawling with rough henchmen that are either part of Joker's, Penguin's or Two-Face's gang. It's good that the storyline allows for lots of classic allies and villains. There are several returning characters from Arkham Asylum, including Victor Zsasz, Bane and Poison Ivy, as well as a cameo appearance from Killer Croc. There are also many new ones, though - Penguin, Mr Freeze and Catwoman are just a few on a long list. Don't worry if you're not a fan of the DC Universe, however, as you get a bio on each of the characters you encounter which tell you about their history, powers and even small details like facial features.
Combat was clearly one of the things that made the original so good, so that's where I'll start. At the core, it remains the same here but is improved in some ways. You use one button to punch and another to counter at the basic level. It may not sound very good, but the fluidity of your character's movements and the array of animations is great. There's more to it than that, however. When you attack and counter successfully, your multiplier builds up earning you points. Earning a number of points means a level up and this allows you to purchase upgrades, ranging from improved armour to special moves and more. One certain upgrade, for instance, allows you to snap an enemy's weapon by tapping two buttons on the controller at the same time. Another gives you the ability to stun opponents around you within a distance by hitting two other buttons. The final big feature, is being allowed to use a variety of gadgets while in combat but much more easily by using the button combination unique for each gadget. It can be difficult at first, but when mastered it could be handy.
Stealth was another gameplay mechanic that made Arkham Asylum the success it was, so Rocksteady haven't appeared to change it at all. Here's your typical stealth scenario: you're in a large room with a group of thugs with guns. Melee combat isn't an option, as Batman is pretty defenceless when it comes to gunfire. Grappling up to the nearest gargoyle or platform is the best option. For me, it was sadly a case of 'hang from platform, wait until enemy walks under and tie them up (you can hang enemies from platforms, which can be quite funny), make sure no one is looking'. This was possibly a result of the rooms being more open than in the first game, so unfortunately I sighed as I entered one of these situations.
Possibly the biggest new thing is the open-world you can explore. Initially it seems quite big, but as you get used to it you realise it's nothing compared to Just Cause 2. Despite the small size, there's a lot to do and plenty of buildings to glide over. There are over four hundred Riddler secrets to discover, including riddles, Riddler trophies, Joker teeth plus balloons and cameras to destroy. These give you points, but doing these things is a reward in itself. There's plenty of content here, then, to keep you occupied for hours and hours and you're sure to come back for more later even after completing the game 100%.
Overall, the gameplay is much improved so it's near perfection now. The combat is fluent and easy to get to grips with. The multiplier system makes it even better and in each fight, you'll be pushing even harder to get your highest score yet. A variety of animations, new moves and upgrades also make the game even more compelling. The stealth needs improving in my opinion, however. I felt there wasn't much strategy to it but this is made up for by the open world and loads of unlockables. The city may not be that big but is extremely detailed and fits in well with the dark and gripping story. In addition, there are loads of challenge maps to play, which place you in combat and stealth scenarios so there's much more than plenty to get your hands on.
===Graphics & Sound===
The graphics aren't of the quality in Uncharted 2, but are still very good. The dark city looks beautiful and extremely well detailed. The characters also look good and Batman's suit gets torn and battered as the game goes on, which is a nice touch. There is a lot of concept art to get your hands on too, which shows off drawn designs of characters and elements of the city. The sound is another strong point in the game, with a brilliant voice cast. Kevin Conroy returns as Batman, and Mark Hamill (best known as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars) also comes back as Joker. Nolan North plays Penguin (sigh) but at least he proves he can be quite versatile in his voicing, using a Cockney accent here. There are loads of other great voice actors, too. The music is top-notch - there are some epic pieces which really deserve to be heard.
Arkham City has a BBFC 15 rating for 'strong bloody violence and images of injury'. I didn't see much blood at all in the game, but it is quite violent, with brutal fights occurring frequently across the course of the game. There is also some language but there's nothing really strong. I'd say it's suitable for anyone of 12 and over,
It's really hard to point out anything wrong with Arkham City, but there are a couple of negatives. There aren't as many 'bloody hell!' moments as there were in Arkham Asylum. Nothing comes close to the Scarecrow scenes, for example. Also, I didn't enjoy the stealth sections. But other than those, there's nothing to complain about.
The story is fantastic and is much darker and complex than the first time round and from the dark beginning to shocking ending, you'll be gripped. The gameplay is excellent, with combat really impressing and some great improvements. There's a great world to explore - it may be small, but is greatly detailed and full of hidden secrets to find and collect, meaning 40+ hours of searching around. The graphics are fabulous, and there is loads of great voice acting. The music is excellent too and the atmosphere is nailed; you really feel like Batman. This game proves that Rocksteady are a developer to look out for in the future.
NOTE: The Catwoman levels available in the game require an Online Pass to play, meaning you won't be able to play them if you have no internet or a pre-owned copy of the game. If you have a pre-owned copy, you can pay £7.99 for them but in my opinion it's not really worth the money for only a few hours of gameplay. Though, you need this to complete the game 100% so its really your choice.
Thanks for reading! This review is also posted on Ciao under my name YoshiCheesePuff.
Summary: Tops its predecessor by a mile!
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