Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Arkham City

Review: Batman: Arkham City (PS3)
Become the Caped Crusader again
Written by: Philip

This will be a flash review to give my two cents on a game that everyone will undoubtedly play (if you haven’t already). And this week Best Buy stores are going to make sure of that by selling Arkham City brand spanking new for $29.99. Still too much? Buy their Gamer Magazine in the store and find a coupon for another $20 off the game. That’s right, you can own Bat’s newest adventure for only $9.99. They should arrest everyone who walks out of the store with this game for highway robbery… also for jaywalking.

Note: I never installed the Catwoman DLC. I have it, I just don’t want it. I bought a Batman game, not a feline gymnastics game, so I’m grateful that her storyline was completely optional.

Batman: Arkham City improves on its predecessor in every way that I wanted it to. Asylum felt claustrophobic with narrow halls and dark corridors, with no real place to spread your wings cape and fly. The asylum was perfect for what the franchise needed (insert, "but not what it deserved" joke here) but overall the prison was just too small for such a big story. Arkham City on the other hand gives that feeling that you are really Batman, patrolling Gotham and doing all you can to prevent everything from muggings to mass murder. The world you play in is just huge, and more detailed than any sandbox game I’ve ever played. If the next one (Arkham Province, or Arkham County, no doubt) is any bigger, they’ll need to equip you with the Batmobile to get around quicker than gliding… actually that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. 

I'll get there when I get there!
The only issue with having such a fantastic open world is that you lose all sense of urgency. No spoilers here but there is definitely a need for Bruce to pick up the pace and solve a mystery quick-like. So with that type of main story line I had a real hard time stopping every 3 minutes to stop thugs from beating up political prisoners, and I really didn’t want to solve all of the Riddler’s puzzles. It just didn’t make sense. Time was of the essence and I didn’t see a need to collect green trophies. Now this would make sense for the "new game+" that starts when you finish the main story line, but some of the side quests have to be finished in the main game or they’re gone! A silly issue that should have been fixed. The plot is fantastic (I LOVED the ending) but the pacing was a bit off because of the issues I just talked about and I feel like it ended too quickly. So, much like your old VCR using autotracking, things don’t come into focus until the very end. I suppose one benefit of this is that you can make the game as long or as short as you want it to be. Short on time? Chase the Joker. Want to keep playing? Look for side quests. Either way, individual missions were nice and quick so that you can play for 30 minutes to an hour at a time and feel like you accomplished something. Just don't put it down for too long because it's really easy to forget the controls.

Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy knock it out of the park again.
The only other gripe I had was the character models for the prisoners. I know it’s a comic book game but every single murderer, thief, and loiterer in the joint have muscles bulging out of their muscles. A little diversity would’ve been appreciated. And every character, including main ones, look like they all just came from the Botox lab because their face never changes expression. These are tiny nit-picks at best, but they were the only things I found that reminded me I was playing a video game. Other than that I was completely enveloped in the experience.

The combat is refined and I found it easier and more fun to string together long combo’s, and some of Mr. Wayne’s takedowns are just cringingly fun to watch. Rocksteady came up with some interesting ways to have boss battles against villains Batman would easily knock out in one punch. Some people will complain that there are too many villains, but I didn’t mind this at all. Most of them are optional, so you don’t even have to see them if you don’t want to. Also it just makes sense that all the villains would be in prison. And each villain is given screen time comparable to their priority in the DC universe. So most of the time will be spent pursuing the Joker and minimal time running into the Mad Hatter. It may be fan service, but it also makes the world feel more alive.

Unlike other games, these guys don't wait their turn to take a swing at you.
Arkham City is a fantastic game that probably ties for my number 1 game of 2011, and since you can get this until March 10th for just ten bucks there is no reason not to play it. It’s a great game that delves deeper into the darker universe we enjoyed from the first one and makes you feel even more like you are Batman.

9.6 Who am I kidding? You already own it or you’re about to.

Pricing Note:
I expect that this temporary price drop will have a lasting effect on Arkham City. If you can’t get to a Best Buy in the next few days you can count on a bunch of people flipping the deals they get online and it will drive down the price significantly. I’m looking at you GTZ’ers!

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1 comment:

  1. The asylum was perfect for what the franchise needed (insert, "but not what it deserved" joke here)

    ^ made my day