Batman: Arkham City – Rocksteady (PS3)

Batman: Arkham City

Whose rich parents do we have to gun down in cold blood to get us some playboy vigilantes?

To put it less offensively, why haven’t any real life billionaires become superheroes?  Maybe the Occupy movement wouldn’t be so pissed off at the megarich if some of them would just chuck on some tights and assault crime lords every once in a while.

Until Rinehart gets to the gym or Branson decides to tear himself away from the cameras and leggy blondes, we have Batman.

There’s something about Batman that makes Men Of A Certain Age go all swoony and irritate their Significant Others by randomly declaring themselves to, in fact, be Batman.  Batman: Arkham City only increases these phenomena.

The predecessor to Arkham City, Arkham Asylum, is an awesome game – also the first one that I reviewed for this site, so in some ways I have a deeper connection to Batman than anyone else.  This lends extra authority to my opinions on this game and is why I am Right.

Basically, Arkham City is how you do a sequel.

Some people have pooh-poohed Arkham City simply because it feels the same as the previous game.  This is another demonstration of the truth of the cliche that familiarity breeds contempt.  Sequels are all about refining an existing formula, ditching the bad stuff and tweaking the good.  While it has lost the element of surprise that was part of the awesomeness of Asylum, Rocksteady has improved on Asylum’s core mechanics.  Let me count the ways Arkham City is better.

Boss fights.   Arkham City’s boss fights are more exciting and require more thought to get through them.  The fight with Mr Freeze is a standout — he won’t fall for the same trick twice so you have to mix it up.

Goon variety.  Did the limited variety of goon types drive you mad in Asylum?  There are heaps more in Arkham City, and they require different attack combinations to beat them.  Goon types are introduced in a staggered manner as you progress through the main story, so you don’t get overwhelmed early, but you don’t get bored later.  Don’t believe anyone who says that the combat is samey and you can get through simply by mashing your basic attack and waiting to counterattack.  It’s simply not true and you will hit a brick wall about halfway through once you meet the blokes with cattle prods, shields and knives.

More sophisticated combat.  A key to the improved combat is that gadgets become necessary rather than optional extras.  Gadgets are given hotkeys so you can use them seamlessly as your fight, rather than having to lose flow while you rifle through the utility belt.  You can drop some explodey-goo on the ground, use the batclaw to yank someone’s weapon out of their hand or pull them toward you for a quick introduction to a forearm, or you can whip out a batarang.  Late in the game you will get swamped by goons and you will be marvelling (or should that be DCing) at the fluidity and variety as you make Batman takes them all out.

The combat starts simple and further layers are added as you progress.  By the end you have to pull out almost every trick Batman has in his utility belt.  I love games that provide properly graded combat like this -— where all the mechanics are useful and I get to master the whole moveset rather than just finding a few killer moves and spamming them for the rest of the game. It makes me feel smart for analysing my opponents and working out when to use the different moves.

Better stealth. Stealth has been made more robust too.  Stealth plateaued off in Asylum, but here is stays interesting for longer.  Later goons are smarter and have their own gadgets to stop Batman simply perching on a gargoyle until someone walks underneath him.  Now Batman has to keep moving around to stay hidden, use the environment more and switch up his takedown methods.

More puzzles. If you were an obsessive collector who felt that there weren’t enough Riddler puzzles in the game, boy have you been rewarded as it seems there are thousands of the suckas now.

Moving to a larger open world would have sucked if getting around was a chore.  Thankfully, it’s not — you can glide, hook shot and dive bomb around the place. Using the to glide boost with the cape was similar to the grapple’n’chute fun of Just Cause 2.  I’m grateful that Rocksteady resisted the urge to chuck in the Batmobile for getting around. Arkham City itself is an eerily interesting space. Each sector of the city has been taken over by a different Batvillain, and there is a distinctive vibe to these quarters as a result.

Catwoman

Because I’m a PS3 head, I got to play some extra story as Catwoman.  Her story intersects with Batman’s and she has her own combat moveset and gadgets.  It was a nice taste of a different character, but it made me wonder why she didn’t have her own full game, either as a separate playable character, or as a spinoff game.

Overall, Rocksteady has surpassed the excellence of its first Batman outing.  The plot has a few too many twists to be believable, but hey, we’re in comic book territory here, and the ending still packs a punch.  This is a game that does open world superbly.  For its duration you will find it hard to stop playing as you enjoy the feeling of being the Batman.  And that’s what it’s all about.

Category Rating
Game mechanics: 10
Atmosphere: 10
Addictiveness: 9
Overall:

10

– Felix

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