Batman: Arkham City (2011)


A Ruby the Size of a Tangerine

Okay, I’ll do the actual first review of something good, and it’ll be a video game.  That game, of course, is Duke Nukem Forever.  …Just kidding.  BATMAN!!  Not to spoil my review and give away what I thought about it, I bought this game in collector’s edition and I’ve beaten it twice and it’s amazing.  You’ll find out what I think about it later.  First, the summary.  Batman: Arkham City is an open-world, action-adventure game brought to us by the fine people at Rocksteady Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.  Also, I got the game with the Catwoman DLC so that may have changed my story a bit.

Some bald a-hole named Hugo Strange (Corey Burton) has convinced Gotham to release the prisoners of Arkham Asylum into a walled off section of the city and let them have free reign.  They call this place Arkham City.  Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) is not keen on the idea for some reason and campaigns to get it shut down.  The closest thing to a reason I can remember is that his parents were killed behind the theater there.  Anyways, at a rally, Wayne is captured by Strange’s Tyger Security guards.  Turns out Bruce Wayne is Batman, and Strange knows it.  Wayne is released into Arkham City and is quickly recaptured by the Penguin (Nolan North of Nathan Drake fame).  The Penguin is harboring a grudge against Wayne which is probably only made worse by the fact that he ass-kicks his way out of his custody.  Calling in a drop from his butler Alfred (Martin Jarvis), Wayne gets all suited up and Batman’d out.  Time to punch some faces!  First order of business: Two-Face (Troy Baker) has captured Catwoman (Grey DeLisle) and you have to rescue her.  Once you have, a smiley face laser appears on her head and a shot rings out.  Don’t worry, you saved her.  But who would have aimed a gun with a smiley face on it?  I’m sure we’re all surprised to find out it was the Joker (Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill).  Batman goes to investigate but finds only the Joker’s sidekick/girl-toy Harley Quinn (Tara Strong).  She confesses that, after the events of the first game, Joker is dying from Titan poisoning.  This doesn’t concern Batman at all … except that Harley Quinn knocks out Batman and they inject him with some of the Joker’s poisoned blood.  Now Batman must try to cure himself while trying to figure out what Hugo Strange’s Protocol 10 and how he can stop it.

This game is amaz-zaz-zing.  Let’s go through this piece by piece and describe why.  First, the graphics: amazing.  It is almost flawless in it’s presentation.  Batman looks great.  They take a midpoint between the comic book Batman and the realistic armor look of the Christian Bale Batman by having him look like the comic book equivalent with his costume looking like it could have armor on it, he has gauntlets that he can put things into for analysis, and he has pieces that come down over his eyes when he goes into Detective Mode.  His costume also gets beat up over the course of the game as he’s been through some mess and hasn’t had time to change.  Arkham City is dark and foreboding as it should be, and also keeps the damage done to it along the course of the game.  When the church tower is blown up by the Joker, it stays a smoldering mess from that point on.  All of the other characters are captured well and most are made into darker versions of their characters.  Catwoman is made into all appropriate kinds of hot.  Harley Quinn’s outfit is different from her classic one, but still very hot.  Mr. Freeze’s outfit hasn’t changed much, but may have gotten cooler (pun intended).  Penguin looks different from Danny Devito, but is Penguin appropriate, adding one bottle to the eye like a disturbing version of a monocle.  Two-Face, Riddler, Zsasz, Bane, Robin, Poison Ivy, Calendar Man, Ra’s and Talia al Ghul, Mad Hatter, Deadshot, Killer Croc, Hush, Black Mask, Clayface, and other classic Batman characters are all here and captured masterfully.  The only issue graphically is that I noticed they took the easy way out in a few shots.  When Two-Face is drawn up, he’s already tied up inexplicably, and on occasion Riddler’s mouth doesn’t move when he’s talking.  But these are minor problems and barely worth noticing.

The gameplay is super satisfying as well.  The fighting is fairly simple, but ultimately satisfying.  X punches, Y counters, double tap A to jump over someone, B stuns, and you can use your gadgets in combat.  It’s pretty easy to get the hang of and gives you the opportunity to feel like you’re the bat.  Combat amps up as enemies gain weapons and numbers over Batman, but if you get the hang of the combat system, their numbers and weapons will mean nothing to you.  YOU ARE THE BAT!  Arkham City steps it up over Arkham Asylum by giving you an open world to explore, and traversing it is also very satisfying.  Granted, I would’ve liked to be able to get around in a Batmobile, but a grappling system is also good.  You shoot your grappling hook over to places and can glide with your cape.  With an upgrade, your grappling hook will shoot you out over your grapple point and send you immediately into a glide, and that’s the only way to fly.  Catwoman, however, could’ve used a little work.  She has similar controls with different animations that feel like they could’ve been refined a little more.  It might not have been so bad if you didn’t play as Batman first; his controls being so smooth most of the time.  But, switching to Catwoman, you can no longer destroy the enemy weapon that was giving you such a hard time (usually the shield or the stun baton) as you may have gotten used to with Batman.  Her travel system is a big step down as well.  Instead of getting pulled straight over to a point you hit it with your whip and swing down to a point on the wall well below that point and usually exposed to guards that will then shoot at you.  If you have not been spotted, you will have to hit timed-button-presses to make your way up to the point you set.  This is not good when you’re trying to stealthily make your way around the room to clear it of bad guys.  She did, however, have the ability to cling to the ceiling, which Batman does not, and use that to solve puzzles or take out enemies and disappear from sight.  Stealth is a big part of the game since head-on assault can sometimes be suicide, and it’s usually well done.  The Mr. Freeze battle forces you to see how many opportunities you have to take someone out as he blocks you from repeating the same take down you just used.  Batman can hang people from vantage points, pull them over ledges, pop up from out of floor grates, charge through wall grates, blow up a wall on you, use the environment, or just flat out sneak up behind and choke out.  This is usually satisfying.  Catwoman loses many of these opportunities and replaces them with ceiling crawling.  They will also change what they do depending on what’s around them.  If your character is near a wall, he or she may bounce off it to punch them or grab their head and slam it into the wall.  If you interrogate the enemies near a handrail, you will dangle them over it by their leg.

Batman also has more gadgets than James Bond.  You have electrically charged taser gun that can open certain doors and knock over armored enemies.  You have freeze grenades that can freeze an enemy in place to either take down or use as bait or make walkways on water.  You’ve got classic batarang, boomerang batarang, and remote controlled batarang that can hit switches or knock people over edges.  Your line launcher can traverse areas you can’t jump into or be used to kick an enemy over a ledge.  Explosives that can knock out an enemy or simply open a wall, but only if it’s drawn in the shape of the bat symbol apparently.  Maybe even some more gadgets that I forgot.  He has a plethora of tools that can mostly be used in puzzle solving or in combat.  And the best part about them is that, even though there are a lot of them, they are easy to access when you need them and most are easily used in combat with the correct combination of buttons.  My personal favorite was the bat grapple.  Usually used to traverse the environment or to pull an enemy over a ledge, I liked to use it in combat (by holding the Left Trigger and pressing Y) to disarm an enemy with a gun and clothesline the mamma jamma while he stumbled towards me.  Very satisfying, especially if it went into slo-mo because he was the last enemy in the area.  They also brought back Detective Mode, which could be switched to in order to track enemies to set up takedowns and other uses.  Catwoman’s vision, however, was not that helpful.  You could see enemies, but it made no discernible distinction between armed enemies and unarmed, or armored enemies and unarmored.  So that was barely helpful.

Another big part of the game (at least if you’re achievement hunting) is the challenges.  There are 3 types of challenges: combat, predator, and campaign.  Combat challenges put you in a room with increasing amounts and difficulties of enemies and you try to reach a high score for medals by trying not to get hit and keeping your combat multiplier up.  Predator is the stealth approach where you have to try to do the 3 special takedowns for medals.  Campaign is 3 back-to-back missions of the other 2 types mixed with modifiers that can be turned on at different times.  I really only did these with any degree of seriousness because I wanted the achievements.  They could get tedious pretty quickly, especially as they got more difficult, but I found in the second playthrough afterwards I had gotten very good at Batmanning and it was a breeze.

There are a lot of collectables in this game, which is something that can be taken either as a positive or a negative.  I actually enjoyed it for the most part.  There were 400 collectables; which are Riddler trophies, riddles, and special things you need to do in combat or travel.  The good thing about this is that there was actually a reason to do them, besides just the achievements.  The most obvious one is that, if you collect enough of them, you can save a hostage of the Riddler.  You can also unlock artwork and recordings of Hugo Strange interviewing the various villains of Gotham, which I found entertaining.  You can also have them shown on your map if you find the covert Riddler operatives and interrogate them.  Lots of people may not have the patience for these collectables though.

The voice work was all around fantastic.  Mark Hamill does the best Joker voice.  Really creepy and appropriate for the character.  Everyone else fit their characters perfectly with no complaints.  I also think Harley Quinn’s voice makes her extra cute.  Too bad she’s crazy…

I’ve gone on too long.  QUICK WRAP UP!  This game is great.  Go buy now.  Give game “Dark Knight” out of “Batman Begins”.

Hey, peeps.  Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh?  And tell your friends!  Let’s make me famous!

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