Product Type: Warner Bros. PS3 games
Newest Review: ... up Arkham and there is a main plot as well as plenty of side missions. Without ruining too much of the story, the joker is poisoned wi... more
The Dark Knight Returns... to the PS3
Batman: Arkham City (PS3)
Member Name: Dentolux
Batman: Arkham City (PS3)
Advantages: Excellent voice acting, lots of collectibiles to locate, thrilling story and side quests
Disadvantages: The main story isn't much longer than the original, the gliding missions can be frustrating
Prison overcrowding is a problem everywhere and Gotham City has opted to address the issue in a rather novel way. Instead of constructing more buildings to house outlaws the mayor has sanctioned an idea proposed by the crazed psychiatrist Hugo Strange. A rundown area of Gotham (dubbed Arkham City) has been cordoned off with the intentions of throwing anyone breaking the law there to fend for themselves. If this sounds rather inhumane to you I would suggest keeping the opinion to yourself. Billionaire Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) and a number of politicians opposed to the plan have been chucked into Arkham City to silence their protests. Ah you just have to love that Gotham City corruption.
The story is top notch as you would expect given that it was by penned by Paul Dini who worked on the first game. His credits also include writing scripts for quality animated superhero shows such as Batman, Superman, Justice League and erm Krypto the Superdog. Batman's ultimate aim is to take down Hugo Strange, the mastermind behind Arkham City, but along the way he gets sidetracked by his infamous rogue gallery of villains who have taken control of sections of the city and are bickering amongst themselves over who the top dog should be. Before the dust has settled you can expect to encounter the likes of Penguin, Two Face and Joker (who is looking worse for wear after overdosing on titan formula in the last game.)
Graphically Arkham City is beautiful matching the bar set by the first game. Adapting the stunning visuals of the comic book page to a video game is not an easy task, but the makers managed to pull it off. Forget the campy Batman from the sixties TV show, what we have here is a more realistic dark interpretation of the character which feels like the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan live action movies. Although the character models are similar to those of the first game it all feels more grand thanks to the setting. You are no longer confided to a building so as you swing/glide along the rooftops you get to appreciate the city's landscape of gothic architecture and dilapidated buildings.
Sound wise the thing that stands out is the quality and quantity of voice work that features in the game. I was surprised by how much dialogue they managed to squeeze on the DVD. You can spend ages eavesdropping on lowly thugs discussing matters such as Joker's health, what they would like to do Catwoman and how they could easily beat up Batman (which makes kicking their arses moments later all the more satisfying.) Kevin Conroy who has been voicing Batman since the animated series continues to do a brilliant job portraying the character. Ditto Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) who plays the Joker. It's rumoured that this will be the last time he dons the mantel of Batman's archenemy which is sad as he does a perfect job delivering the funny yet sinister lines the green haired goon is famous for.
The supporting cast also do a bang up job, although I am wary of mentioning too many names as it may give away spoilers. Half the fun of the game is seeing which villains get included in the game and what their role is in the story. The Penguin who I mentioned earlier is played by the accomplished voice actor Nolan North (who seems to be everywhere these days.) This time round Joker's girlfriend Harley Quinn is voiced by Tara Strong instead of Arleen Sorkin. I would have to say that Strong did a fine job as I didn't notice someone else was playing the character until the ending credits rolled.
Like in the first game, in order to succeed, you will need to use both brains and brawn. Your puzzle solving skills will be tested as you work out how to get past obstacles using Batman's wide assortment of gadgets. These cerebral challenges are interspaced with combat were Batman gets to show off his martial arts prowess. Hordes of enemies can be downed by pummelling the square button to punch coupled with the triangle button to execute flashy counter attacks. If you string together a series of blows you'll also be able to pull off a devastating combo which knocks out most foes in one hit. Bashing a couple of buttons may sound shallow, but thankfully they introduce new kinds of enemy from time to time to keep on your toes. To efficiently beat the more serious threats you'll have to use items from Batman's utility belt, learn to dodge at the right moment and stun adversaries with your snazzy cape.
At times the original Arkham Asylum felt like Metal Gear Solid as stealth play was required to get past certain sections. In this sequel sneaking about doesn't feel as important. Although there were a few parts were I would have to swoop down, subdue a guard silently and then get away, on the easier difficulties at least the game is far more forgiving when it comes to evading detection. This is great for players who are not known for their patience, although I am sure it will disappoint the hardcore crowd. Stealth is given less importance this time round as you have more tools to combat the armed enemies who were so deadly in the first game. Thanks to improved body armour, smoke pellets and gizmos that jam rifles it's often more effective to take on gunners head on... providing that there are only a couple of them in the area.
Despite heavy promotion on the open world aspect of the game, I must say that Arkham City itself isn't that big. The area doesn't compare to something like Grand Theft Auto or Infamous which may be a let down to those of you keen on exploration, but I personally didn't mind. I find travelling from one objective to another a little boring so being able to get from side of the game world to another in a couple of minutes is fine with me. Thanks to a handy map, that allows you to set waypoints, getting lost shouldn't be a problem. For the most part the story missions are set inside buildings, much like the first game, with the outside areas hosting optional side quests and hidden collectibles that you are encouraged to find in order to unlock goodies such as artwork.
Batman Arkham City gets full marks from me as it delivered everything I wanted from a sequel. It's basically Arkham Asylum with heaps more content. If you were disappointed by the lack of Batman villains in the first game don't worry as this second instalment features tons of familiar (and obscure) faces from the Batman universe. I would argue that this is a must own title even if you are not a huge fan of superheroes. You get a clever story combined with enjoyable combat, responsive controls and challenges that test your grey matter. Even if you are not familiar with the source material the game is accessible as the in game menu has detailed biographies of the main characters you meet during the adventure.
I have few complaints although I wish the main story had been longer. Prior to its release Rocksteady Studios were boasting that the main game would be much longer than the original which blatantly isn't true. You can get through it within eight to ten hours, but even so I reckon the game is worth a purchase. After completing the game you can go back and tackle the side quests you may have missed (or if you are insane enough try to find the hundreds of Riddler Trophies scattered about the city.) Buying the game (as opposed to renting or getting a second hand copy) also rewards you with a code for downloadable levels were you play as Catwoman. The DLC stages are rather short, but a nice change of pace as Catwoman is more nimble that Batman. Although she lacks his array of gadgets she has some nifty moves such as being able to climb on walls and the ceiling.
So there you have. Stop reading, whip out your bat credit card and buy a copy ASAP. In the words of Arnie's Mr Freeze, this game is "cool."
Summary: Superb sequel. This game is the catwoman's meow.