Product Type: Warner Bros. Xbox 360 games
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An exhilarating caped crusade!
Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360)
Member Name: DonPaolo
Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360)
Advantages: You are Batman, great variety, combat, gadgets, stealth, polished and well done
Disadvantages: Weak boss encounters
Fortunately the latter has been true of both games; Rocksteady have clearly put their heart and soul into both projects. This game's predecessor, Arkham Asylum was very well received, but the sequel builds and improves upon it in almost every conceivable way. This is a brilliant adventure game, with an atmospheric setting, diverse and thrilling combat, a great variety of gameplay and loads of engaging content...
<<< The Caped Crusade...>>>
1 - The Situation...
Arkham City is a single-player adventure game, set in the North of Gotham City, which has been cordoned off from the rest of the metropolis and used as a heavily fortified prison to house the local criminal contingent. Chaos reigns inside, with competing criminal factions locked in conflict, orchestrated by top notch baddies The Joker, The Penguin, and Harvey Dent (aka Two Face). As Bruce Wayne, you inevitably find yourself kidnapped and stranded in this cauldron of mayhem, for a reason as yet unknown...
2 - The Setting...
From the very beginning of the game, the towering metropolis of North Gotham is open for you to explore, and although it isn't the largest open-world ever in game, it is certainly one of the most richly detailed and fun to discover. The city is brilliantly realised in a dark and grimy stylised gothic way, almost exactly as you would expect.
3 - The Story...
The main story line is exciting, full of twists and turns, making great use of the whole city and striking a delicate balance between the sublime and the ridiculous. The plot is satisfyingly sinister and foreboding, but with the presence of ice grenades, toxic viruses, mutated henchmen, mind control, and even a shark, you are constantly reminded that you are in a comic book world, and anything is within the realms of possibility.
4 - The Stars...
Arkham City makes fantastic use of the array of It is a real ensemble performance, with star turns from The Joker (of course), Penguin, Harvey Dent, Edward Nigma (The Riddler), Catwoman (who you can also play several missions as), Poison Ivy, Bane and Mr Freeze among others. I'm not a hardcore comic fan, so I was able to discover loads more villainous characters who enter into the main plot and side missions, including The Mad Hatter, The Black Mask, Calendar Man, and a great many more besides.
<<< Be The Bat... >>>
I'm not an avid comic book fan, but for me, Batman has always been one of the most appealing comic book heroes. Please note that I did not say "superheroes", as Batman's main discerning characteristic is his lack of actual super powers. In the comics, he is referred to as "The World's Greatest Detective", and prospers due to a combination physical prowess, stealth, intelligence, agility and skill.
This is what makes the character so compelling, and what Rocksteady have recreated so well in this game. Whatever you're doing, wherever you are, they really make you feel like you are Batman throughout the experience...
1 - Go Go Gadgets...
Whether you're using 'Detective Vision' to pinpoint the position of enemies or analyse evidence at a crime scene, or shooting up to the heights of a skyscraper using your grapple gun, the wide range of gadgets at your disposal provide so much fun, variety and immersion into the character. The brilliantly intuitive controls mean you can hack security terminals, destroy surveillance cameras, soar across chasms on a zip-wire, disable mines, spray explosive gel and much more with a couple of simple button presses. There are so many features and gadgets to get your head around that you often have to stop and think before you accidentally do something you shouldn't, but they are introduced incrementally throughout the game to ensure you get used to them at a comfortable speed.
2 - I Get Around...
Probably my favourite aspect of Arkham City is the rudimentary process of moving around. Sure, Batman can stride confidently about the streets, or crouch and move urgently and silently through the shadows, but that's not even 1% of the thrill here. From the very first time I reached the summit of a Gotham skyscraper, leapt from the building and opened my cape, I knew I could happily spend hours gliding, soaring, swooping and diving around the city. I probably had to restrain myself from yelling "I'm Batman" on more than once occasion.
In all seriousness, there is no better way to see the sprawling metropolis of Gotham than by cape and "grapnel gun", surveying the scene, exploring the heights and depths of the city, and swooping down on unsuspecting goons on a whim is an exhilarating experience, and a real highlight of the game which has been exceptionally crafted.
3 - Pow! Biff! Thwack!
Hand-to-hand combat makes up a significant portion of the game too. The city is swarming with faceless goons to be dispatched, and you will often find yourself outnumbered, which is part of the fun. Now, this is not a 'beat-em-up' game, and you could actually criticise the controls for being too simplistic here - there is one button to attack, one to counter, one to stun your enemy with your cape, and one to jump/evade. After a couple of encounters, your options begin to look very limited and things look like they could become very stale indeed.
However, the pleasant surprise is that they don't. The beauty of the combat system is timing, rhythm, and stringing together long combos without being hit yourself. Rather than mindless button-mashing, you are rewarded for carefully timing your attacks, reacting to your enemies' strikes and executing evasive manoeuvres. As the game progresses, you gain access to many upgrades, including more powerful attacks, special combo moves, and the ability to integrate gadgets such as the Batarang and grappling hook into your combos. Similarly, your enemies may acquire certain 'tools' to aid them; baseball bats, knives, riot shields, and body armour will force you to mix up your tactics in order to survive.
4 - Hunter or Hunted?
Of course there are many, many occasions in the game, where the enemies you face carry firearms, which is a total game-changer. One of the most important aspects of Batman is that he is vulnerable; he is tough and wears body armour, but he is human, and most definitely mortal. You must do everything you can to avoid being discovered, or coming face-to-face with a trigger happy goon, and thus the 'stealth' sections of the game are a stark contrast to the combat sections.
Entering a room or outdoor area occupied by armed enemies, your chief weapons are stealth, strategy, surprise, and fear. The pace of the game completely changes; you hang from gargoyles, crawl though ventilations shafts, and hide under grates as your survey the scene, then pounce and swoop to dispatch the enemies.
There are great gameplay features at work here, including the ability to cause rising tension and even panic among your enemies as their comrades are picked off one by one. There is also a tremendous array of attacks and strategies at your disposal, and there are always many ways to clear a room, depending on your favourite gadgets or chosen approach. This is another of the game's high points, which makes you really feel like Batman.
5 - Meet the New Boss...
The Boss encounters in Arkham City are a mixed bag, and the only real downside to the game. The Batman universe has an embarrassment of riches in terms of villains and whilst many are well integrated into the story, the final showdowns with them often leave a lot to be desired. They are sometimes rushed, often too easy, and generally patchy. Fortunately they make up a relatively small proportion of the game so as not to spoil it. They aren't great, but the saving grace is that none of these encounters are anywhere near as bad as the predecessor Arkham Asylum's appallingly bad final confrontation with The Joker.
<<< Side Shows and Extras... >>>
In addition to the main story, this game boasts a strong set of side quests. Some of these will last a few minutes, whilst others will have you trawling the entire city, or frantically racing across the rooftops. There is plenty of variety here, and the opportunity to engage with lesser known characters in the Batman universe. However what really sets the game apart is the massive selection of hidden items, secrets, unlockable features and additional story points to explore.
1 - E. Nigma...
The most expansive side quest without doubt is provided by Edward Nigma (The Riddler) who is desperate to outwit Batman. He has taken hostages who you have to save, but in order to find out their locations, you must collect hundreds of hidden trophies, solve riddles, complete challenges, and destroy objects throughout the city. This section of the game provides a great diversion, some compelling and often very challenging puzzles, and interesting riddles, and ultimately contributes to several hours of game time in itself.
2 - For the BatFans...
Throughout the game, and depending on how thorough you are, you will unlock lots of interesting story snippets and exposes on characters you meet and places you explore. These add great depth, and must be great extras for true fans of the comic books.
3 - Upgrades and Progression...
As I have mentioned, there are many combat upgrades and new gadgets which become available throughout the game. These are a great way or encouraging the player to invest more time in the game, and ensure a good sense of progression, whilst adding some real fun elements to gameplay.
<<< Graphics... >>>
The dark, moody and gothic feel of Gotham City is very well captured in this game. You feel like you are part of a living, breathing graphic novel, and the surroundings of the open city are richly detailed, full of deep shadows and shallow neon lights. Character animations are very well done, and I did not experience any kind of graphical glitches while playing; this is a very polished game.
One unfortunate drawback is to do with the detective mode. This is an invaluable gadget, akin to night vision, which brightens the surroundings, and highlights the locations of enemies, security consoles, destructible objects, etc. in vivid colour. It's a great tool, but I found it so essential to picking out enemies in the darkness and planning my attacks that I often felt I was spending too much time viewing the world in this modem and not fully appreciating the normal dark and moody setting of the city. The lesson: make sure you take time to soak up the atmospheric setting before popping those goggles on!
<<< Sound... >>>
Arkham City features a rousing and brilliantly orchestrated soundtrack. The music suits the changing moods of the game very well, will a good mix of suspenseful, tense tracks and dramatic, exciting ones too. The wide range of sound effects for the gadgets and combat are very good without being amazing, and fit well with the game.
Perhaps the best facet of sound design is the voice acting. Although the generic thugs can sometimes be a bit repetitive in their dialogue, the main stars and villains are all most all brilliantly done. Special mentions have to go to Kevin Conroy as Batman, and especially Mark Hamill (of Star Wars fame) who is superb as The Joker.
<<< Final Thoughts... >>>
Wow. Batman: Arkham Asylum is a brilliant action and adventure game. It combines stealth, gadgets and combat to outstanding effect, to create a really engrossing, fun and varied experience. The wealth of unlockables, collectibles and hidden extras mean there is loads to explore, many hours of entertainment, and lots of value for big Batman fans. Most importantly, this game does the character justice; it lets you be Batman, and fully experience the thrill of being the Dark Knight, complete with your skills, intellect, power and vulnerability.
Summary: One of the best action adventure games available on Xbox 360