Batman: Arkham City Review

punchOkay, so earlier this year I decided to revisit Batman: Arkham Asylum, where I investigated the doubt I felt after playing the game, and decided that I really did not find the game to be all that great.  I gave it a 7.5 and all that, but not GOTY material in my book, just a surprisingly good liscense game.  I did recall enjoying its sequel, Arkham City a bit more, but even after plowing through it I distinctly remember feeling a sense of emptiness, and I figured out why… at least partially.  I mean, I’ve yet to reach max reviewed level, but I’ve at least gained ten since I started, right?

Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, OnLive, Mac OSX
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

A few months after the incident involving giant plants tearing up one of the world’s worst prisons, Arkham City centers around just that, a small section of a city being isolated and housed with criminals.  Criminals who have no chance of ever escaping and are likely to die based on how it is a terrible place, but it gives an excuse for having, I don’t know, three square miles instead of one.  However, the decision to make the world bigger is dones simultaneously with the decision to add in two timers to a game that is open world, has side quests, and over four hundred collectables.

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That’s not me saying that the story that is presented is bad, a bit cluttered based on the cast size perhaps, but I’d hardly say that is not understandable given the number of characters the game has at its disposal.  That said, when trying to plow through it as quickly as I could, certain elements do seem a bit unnecessary, such as the decision to fight an immortal giant who is only mentioned by some ancillary dialog before his confrontation.  That, and I suppose the compilation of Batman history the game possesses, but there is also little reason for the player to go out of their way given the borderline obsessive quantity of information stored within the game.2014-10-08_00016

I could also quickly say it is an action adventure game, mentioning how compendiums interrupt the flow, and ease into the proper gameplay of Arkham City.  Quite a lot of it is brought over from its predecessor, naturally, the combat, grappling, and environmental exploration are all back, with a few minor quirks each.  The combat seems very similar when taking a glance at it, , keeping the same basic formula of strike, counter, leap, and keep the combo counter going while fighting a large number of goons.  Yet I couldn’t help but feel as if a number of subtle changes that I quite frankly was never able to pinpoint beyond the enemy numbers being large in quite a few instances, and there being many more instances where I felt as if the game was not being as generous as it appears to be with the indicators to counter.  Quite simply, when trying to manage a large crowd of foes, it is very easy to be attacked by two enemies at the same time, and Batman’s ability to counter more than one foe at a time is very unclear.2014-10-08_00010

Sometimes I was able to do a double counter, but most of the time, my counter was just interrupted by an attack the game decided was not worth initiating such a useful ability.  Although, I suppose it could be viewed at my fault for not making very sure to keep the enemies spread out in order to prevent this.  Or I would be willing to say that if the environments for combat did not so often feel like shoeboxes that almost always shot that plan down as it never looked like the right idea until after the encounter went poorly and I reset in order to feel better about my own performance… Because I’m stupid like that.2014-10-07_00003

There are also a series of gadgets that may be incorporated into combat, but they felt very tacky in their usage, and flat out are unnecessary based on how the player can always take down enemies without frost grenades or explosive foam, and with far more comfortable control at that.  I will not go so far as to say they are useless, as I am certain there are challenge modes that make the most of them, but for the main campaign, I genuinely forgot I had the ability to latch onto an enemy with the Batclaw, because it never seemed necessary.  Although, some boss battles prove otherwise, though I would be hesitant to say that the actual playing of these battles is a mixed experience to say the least.  While the stealth that occasionally rears its head is certainly enjoyable, but only when in isolated rooms, as soaring through the skies only to be shot at is just an inconvenience.2014-10-07_00005

That said, I downright love, adore, and find delight in the manner of gliding across the city, grappling to buildings, and then launching off of them only to continue soaring through the skies.  It is a very nice balance between the ability to grapple throughout the world, while also embedding the player with the joy of flight, but it does also make walking around feel far more… dull.  The base walking speed, and the lack of control with the running speed very much got on my nerves.  There are games where I take delight in moving about a character though the environment, and Arkham City seems to be going against that desire, as navigating small areas for collectibles feel like a chore, and so does backtracking into areas you’ve already visited, much like it did in Arkham Asylum.2014-10-08_00021

On the subject of collectibles, I would just like to say that while I do enjoy games where you do collect things, the worst way to handle it is to make them be experience tokens that can be a mix of boring, repetitive, confusing, and downright obnoxious to obtain.  It got to the point where I gave up on my collectible hunt part way through, as I felt as if I was simply wasting my time by going to the many “?” on my map.  Though, I felt the same about a few of the side quests, which reward the player with little beyond a potentially interesting subplot that often feels flaccid in its conclusion.2014-10-09_00010

Still, going through the city about twenty times over seeing as how this is my second playthrough, I am still rather impressed with Arkham City from a graphical standpoint, as the level of detail is borderline absurd in certain areas.  From the easter eggs hidden about, the details on main character models, and even the general look of the environments, all look very appealing to me.  However, the decision to go with a certain graphical style that aims for realism above all else has seldom set well with me, as it tends to age the most poorly.  Yes, I do appreciate the damages that are gradually applied to Batman’s suit, but I am not that big of a fan when it comes to things like the enemy skin texture.  Even when it comes to the actual environments, they are so often filled with grey that turning on detective mode did not make me feel as if I was missing out on much after I got a good look at the environment.  Although, playing as Batman from the Animated Series or Batman Beyond certainly did add in some nice contrast, but that hardly supports the almost gritty look the game desires for reasons beyond me.2014-10-06_00017

I’d be lying if I said that I was anything from unable to understand the fervour about these two titles, not to be patiently awaiting the third title, or claim that the Arkham series is not at least 50% good games.  I walked away from Arkham City a bit tired of it and unwilling to see it to its complete conclusion, but when taking it apart and putting it back together and looking at the bigger picture, it is a completely competent game that does what it sets out to do and does it well.  It’s not the sort of game I plan on revisiting ever again, but not one I walked away bitter towards it either, as I cannot deny that it is a good game.

Solid (7.5/10)
The title is certainly good, yet there are one too many nagging hiccups or missteps for the faults to not be easily pushed aside.  While enjoyable, it may be lacking in many areas, or just not be that spectacular.

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