Fresh off their worldwide success of Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady Studio wastes no time crafting what has become their greatest interactive achievement to date. Rocksteady has not only managed to avoid the infamous sophomore slump by once again raising the interactive superhero bar seemingly too far out of reach, they have legitimately entered into the highly potential Game of The Year spotlight with the Dark Knights latest crime fighting adventure.
With so much gameplay depth from the games robust list of features, tackling the main objective along with side-missions, a long list of upgrades, riddler trophies, a robust character bio as well as a playground map that makes Arkham Asylum seem like a vacation resort and you realize this is the ultimate Batman graphic novel come to life.
Arkham City takes you on a journey with the great detective himself, placing you in his impossible shoes as he willingly imprisons himself to stop the diabolical Hugo Strange. Not only does Strange know Batman’s true identity, he has positioned himself as the cruel warden barking out rules and orders of a new prison facility known as Arkham City. The name is quite suitable as this ‘Escape From New York’ setting houses some of the most notorious psycho-criminals you’ve ever read about from the Gotham City universe.
With so many legendary criminals who definitely make their presence felt throughout this epic journey, it would certainly be a disservice to name them all. However, you can expect to run across the Joker, Mr. Freeze, Hugo Strange of course, as well as ClayFace to name a few.
To understand Arkham City, you must imagine the most god-aweful place the size of a smaller major metropolis where the streets of this city wide prison are literally ran by the inmates themselves. Filled with major landmarks such as a rundown police station, Gotham museum, still mill factory, sewers, and underground utopias, this once beautifully detailed section of Gotham city is now a dirty, dilapidated, grimy ghetto where crime bosses have their henchmen and thugs hanging around every corner waiting to give a helpless soul a fatal beating. This place is all about the survival of the fittest and sometimes even the most well-equipped can be killed.
As you dive head first into Batman’s new reality, Rocksteady has engineered a perfectly balanced sandbox experience which marinates you in what it truly means to be Batman.
Batman soars effortlessly from rooftop to rooftop performing grappling hook maneuvers and nose-diving flight techniques building more momentum to maintain longer flight time. During aerial maneuvers wind patterns can be seen flowing from Batman’s cape. Even more G’s and wind flowing patterns fill the screen when Batman targets a thug who will soon receive a major beatdown while he cuts through the air aimed at his next victim. This and other eye-popping features at your disposal become more available as the player upgrade Batman’s many assets.
As you progress through the story, several different upgrades are added to your arsenal as you gain experience points. Upgrades come in four main categories consisting of your Batsuit, Gadgets, Combat and Predator. Each category is home to more than fifteen different abilities which eventually spawns Batman into an unstoppable crime fighting machine. As you are building your ultimate Batman the gameplay experience gradually becomes more addicting making the encounters more intoxicating.
Arkham City is filled with different environments where Batman can calculate his next move heading into a group of thugs who may be armed with baseball bats or assault rifles. Sometimes you will even have to watch your back soaring passed nearby building as snipers are waiting for just a glance of your presence to sets them off shooting. Nevertheless, being Batman always has it’s advantages, so don’t forget to take those unsuspecting rides on near by helicopter flying around Arkham City. While the story and all of its exciting twists and turns run along the same course of events for everyone, how you go about it offers hours of different set-pieces as side missions keep the experience fresh and well complimented.
In many ways, the side missions feel just as important and rewarding as the main story objectives. This is mainly due the level of attention given to the side missions. More than just offering a great crime fighting campaign, Rocksteady placing you an intelligently laid out story world rooted in the essence of Batman from various psychological scenarios as Batman confronts his legendary criminal rivals. You can be in the mist of completing part of the main objective and at the same time run into an object or character(s) from a side-mission, get that completed all while running along the main story. Again, this happens throughout. Yet, players can still move completely off the beating path of the campaign in order to tackle the side-missions as well, it’s all up to the player.
Hours can be spent just traversing throughout Arkham City beating up bad guys and while that might sound a bit mundane, it is nothing of the sort. Batman Arkham City oozes with style. Almost as if the game knows you’re about to go on a Batman warpath, the games musical score kicks in almost feeding the addiction to properly represent Batman’s aura as you plan your next attack. It’s truly something you would experience out of a Christopher Nolan Batman movie.
Arkham City is well represented in the visual department as well. The place is not pretty and the graphical direction of the canvas makes for a convincing representation. While Batman Arkham City might not win best graphics found in a game for 2011, it’s obvious this is not the approach Rocksteady was shooting for. Sure there can be found textures which could use more work if you’re using a fine toothed comb to survey every nook and cranny. However, this is not a Saturday morning cartoon Batman series by no stretch.
While Rocksteady’s Batman is about justice and peace, this is one incredibly BAD dude in a world where anything remotely good is completely non-existent and the visuals almost represent that too well. Upon placing on the batsuit in all of it’s crime fighting glory, Bruce Wayne is introduced to a graphically impressive, sqeaky clean outfit. Yet, by the time the credits are rolling, the appearance of your favorite Dark Knight is of someone who has been through a war. Torn up cape, dirty, bullet holes, tairs, scrapes and bloody wounds now represent the great detective who still has unfinished business and it all looks so cool.
Just as before with Batman Arkham Asylum, the voice acting in Batman Arkham City is at the top of the food chain. With a mixture of more voiced criminals this time around, Mark Hamill still manages to steal the show as The Joker. It’s just brilliant how true to life The Joker becomes when Mr. Hamill is in the driver seat. Again, the complete cast of voice acting is at the top of their game for the Batman: Arkham City experience.
I can’t emphasize enough how incredible it feels to go about the business of Batman is his latest adventure. Whether on the PS3 or Xbox 360, superhero games don’t get any better than this. After a wild ride like this and I was ready to kick off my shoes and chill out at Wayne manor and have Alfred screen all my calls. With over 20 hours of gameplay with the added flavor of playing as Catwoman which is a great addition and the greatest super-hero interactive experience awaits. Buy this game now!