Back in 2009 I played one of the best games I have ever played and the fact that it was based on a comic made it all the sweeter. Of course, I am talking about Batman: Arkham Asylum. Whilst I was sitting there, I remember thinking there will never be a better game. I was wrong, Batman: Arkham City is better, in pretty much every aspect. Warner Bros and Rocksteady have teamed up to produce a gaming classic. Trust me, this is and will be a cult hit amongst comic book fans, gamers, super hero worshipers and just about everyone that plays it. How often has that been said about a game before?
The story is incentive enough to buy the game, I won’t spoil it for you but I will give you a brief synopsis. Gotham City is now run by the former Asylum warden, Quincy Sharp. Since he has a strict demeanor about him he has seen fit to place a prison in the centre of Gotham City populated by the prisoners, or Blackgate, as well as anyone in the normal society who has any criminal tendencies it seems. We have an impressive roll call of villains here including The Joker, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Dr. Hugo Strange, Deadshot, the Mad Hatter and Victor Zsasz. We join our hero in his Bruce Wayne costume leading a press conference opposing the prison, when, out of nowhere, armed guards rush the street and grab our hero. We wake up tied to a chair in the prison under the watchful eye of Dr Hugo Strange.
From here we find out that he has plans of domination that revolve around a project codenamed: Protocol 10. After you break free you have a run in with the Penguin (Yep him) and manage to call your trusted aid Alfred to have your Batsuit dropped in to you. You suit up and you begin your investigation of the city to uncover the plans behind Protocol 10. During the course of your missions you will encounter pretty much everyone including the very sexy Catwoman. You can also play as Catwoman if you buy the special DLC which I highly recommend as the story is much better with her levels in there. If possible, buy the DLC, then first install it and then play the full game. The story takes many twists and turns and it will grip you from start to finish.
The controls are similar to those in Arkham Asylum. You have your fists and your mighty gadgets to fight off the hoards of evil-doers. You have the counter system as before and again it’s mapped to the triangle button with the fighting assigned to the square button. During fighting, you can also use your various goodies which are assigned to the D pad. It’s very easy to string combos together and if you use your gadgets and vary up your attacks you will earn more XP points which are used to buy upgrades for your suit, combat, gadgets and other fun things. Batman is as acrobatic as ever and, dare I say it, possibly even more so as his leaping ability has increased and he looks like he has hit the gym more since his last outing. The combat is so smooth and fluid with the button presses respond immediacy. There are some times when a lag is evident but these are few and far between.
The enemy AI has also been stepped up as rather than just all barge in, they are now smarter and actually pick up chairs and fire extinguishers and throw them at you. You can also catch these and throw them back, which is highly funny and satisfying. There is also a great range to the enemy types as you have goons with knives, shields, chairs, metal pipes and, of course, guns. These are the hardest to kill and stealth is not only encouraged but is easily the best way to suceed without being taken out in the process.
Thankfully, you have lots of upgrades to collect. You begin the game with most of the weapons you had in the first game, but these come with new abilities: the remote control Batarang now has a boost and brake features, the grappling gun can be used while Batman is gliding to give him an extra boost to reach those special areas. One of my favorites, the Crytographic Sequencer, now tracks signals making detective work much easier. This game also features four new additions to your arsenal including a rope with balls on the end to tie up thugs, and the Remote Electrical Charge Gun, which not only charges up doors and opens them but can be used to give your enemies a nasty shock. Then we have the Ice Grenade and a Smoke Pellet which allows you to make an escape in sticky situations.
A large part of the game is about detective work and the Detective mode (L2) is back and stronger than ever, you can scan everything is this mode, look at positions of guards through walls, look for air vents, clues and the riddler’s trophies too. I cannot state how good this game truly looks, yes, it’s similar in graphical tone to Batman: Arkham Asylum, but it’s a better looking big brother version. Everything looks sharper, the facial expressions are perfect, Gotham City has never looked so good. All the lighting, fire, ice and cold textures are done to perfection. Everything feels and looks just like the comic portrays it. Batman looks dark yet heroic, The Joker looks downright maniacal, Catwoman sexy and Mr. Freezer just ice cold. The character models move smoothly and are aesthetically very pleasing. The mood that this game creates is exactly how I envisioned Gotham to be, it’s a truly good job.
The voice acting is first class, the cast reads like a who’s who of games/Hollywood. Batman is voiced by Kevin Conroy, Joker (Mark Hamill, yup he’s back), Catwoman (Grey DeLisle), Two face (Troy Baker). The conversations are very well done, you can tell the actors had a good time doing this and the lines are delivered with great intent and each word is spoken clearly and in the right tone. What I loved was listening to the conversations of the guards, they actually made me laugh, thinking I was dead. The in-game sounds are done well, with all the hits sounding like actual punches, and the sounds of various gadgets have also been very well designed.
There are also lots of extras and modes to keep you entertained for a long old time. When you finish your game you can take part in New Game+, which is a replay of the whole game but with all your gadgets, harder enemies and no counter lighting flashes above the enemies heads. There is the Riddler’s Revenge mode, in which you can play as different characters (DLC based) as well as Batman, here you fight your way through lots of challenge maps and can use online leaderboards to check your score. This feature includes the use of modifiers such an time limits or regenerating health to make the ass kicking more exciting. You can also design your own challenge maps and use your own modifiers which adds a lot of hours to the game. You can view your stats and see how well you’re doing on side missions, overall progress, upgrades and Riddler trophies. You can even view character trophies, which are 3D models of the cast to drool over. I also enjoyed the synopsis that tells you the story so far.
Overall, Rocksteady and Warner Bros. have created gaming magic here. There are few games that everyone must own, this is one. The combat is fluid, the graphics are just downright silly in their perfection, the voice acting is A-list and the music a joy. There are some glitches but these are nothing to even worry about as your will be enjoying the gameplay and graphics. The long list of trophies and side missions adds a lot to the game and I can say you will not be bored at all. The Dark Knight is here to stay.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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