Arkham Asylum was a game that I felt gained a lot of ground after it’s release. It’s hard to know what to expect from licensed games, as I discussed in my last post. However, it was an astounding title that breathed new life into Batman, really allowing the player to assume the role of the caped crusader.
Arkham City takes that formula and splashes it across an entire section of Gotham City. Quincy Sharp has taken up the role of Gotham’s mayor, and with his strings pulled by Hugo Strange, has sectioned off a portion of the city to house the psychopaths and inmates that once roamed Arkham Asylum. Bruce Wayne is a firm opponent and delves into the political world to try to get it shut down. This draws the wrong sort of attention and gets him tossed into Arkham City. Here, Strange hints at Protocol Ten, which can only mean bad news. It’s up to you to figure out what it is and put a stop to it. Oh yeah, and Joker wants you dead, too.
Right off the bat (no pun intended) we have two large antagonists, which creates a lot of stressful decision making for the Bat. Not the player his- or herself as he or she has no say in the matter – it’s not that kind of game. However, it still manages to push the conflict that is so perennial to Batman’s character, and the whole point of the game is not to just be another action/adventure game, but to really embody Batman.
Continuing this theme, Arkham Asylum played big on the predator theme – putting Batman in dark corners to catch unsuspecting criminals when they were all alone. Unfortunately, I felt like some of the attention was lost from this with Arkham City. There are many more moments when you’re simply in the fray with lots of guys bearing down on you. Don’t get me wrong, this is great – the combat is in these games is flawless in a way never really seen before in games. But I think there was a lot of fun in picking off guards one by one, and there simply doesn’t seem to be as much of it.
Traversing the city is very easy with some newly-implemented gliding features that work rather well, but can be difficult to really master. This mastering is only needed for several Augmented Reality challenges, and won’t hinder your experience of the game.
Graphically this game is all there. It looks gritty, but at the same time fantastic. Batman has always been gritty and always will be (when done properly), so kudos on that. The score rivals any movie score today. It’s wonderfully reminiscent of the Christopher Nolan films and their soundtracks by Hans Zimmer, a master of today’s composition world. The score is actually by Nick Arundel and Ron Fish. Fish was a drummer for Dick Dale in the ’60s and lent a hand in the score for God of War, which makes sense when you hear it as it’s equally impressive.
The writing for this game is superb. All of the characters are just as one would remember them from childhood cartoons or comic books. I’m especially fond of Riddler – fancying himself to be quite intelligent, he keeps on the cutting edge of technology, broadcasting to you via scrambled radio frequencies (granting his voice an electronic tenor sometimes frayed by static) and unique monitors.
A lot of this credit has to go to voice acting as well, however. Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy are legendary as the Joker and Batman, and their talents are the icing on the cake for the work done by the writers. It’s worth noting that Hamill has confirmed this to be his last role as the Joker ever. Pour one out for Luke. At the same time it’s a shame that Arleen Sorkin doesn’t return as Harley Quinn, but no one will complain about Tara Strong, who’s voice-over work is unfamiliar to no one (Timmy Turner on Nickelodeon’s Fairly Odd Parents). Grey DeLisle is not new to the Batman universe (nor Tara Strong, working alongside her with Fairly Odd Parents), but is new to the role of Selina Kyle (Catwoman). She does very well bringing life to the seductress. Nolan North, while not historically Penguin, is nonetheless pedigree to be flaunted.
After that segway – the writing once more. I’ll reveal nothing, but I’ve never felt so emotionally queasy at the end of a game. The world of Batman is really upended in some ways, which draws powerful emotions for anyone really committed to the hero. Each person is bound to take it a bit differently, but I would be willing to bet that it wasn’t easy for DC to sign off on it. Aside from this, I appreciate the moves being made recently to shed light on many of Batman’s lesser-known enemies.
So yeah, the main plot is great, but there is a ton of other stuff to do here. With Arkham City, the game has gone open-world in some ways with a slew of side missions regarding many of the criminals who hadn’t yet made an appearance in the game. For anyone interested in the Batman universe, this is a huge draw as it manages to introduce characters from years of comics into a single game – a theme carried over from the logs of Arkham Asylum.
Finally, the Catwoman DLC is really a must have. While it’s not vital to the story (as her role will play out the same), it’s a lot of fun. Her combat isn’t quite the same, as it seems her range is a bit limited, but she’s fun to play, offering a nice contrast to Batman if not all of the skills. Many Riddler trophies are also available only to her.
With Robin and Nightwing DLC to come, it’s hard to say that this isn’t one of the few games on the market actually worth it’s value as a new game. It does not disappoint and will be one of the highlights of the holiday season.
Also, watch this. Relevant. Thanks to Logan Decker.
Bottom Line: 9.5/10