Batman Arkham City: Review

23 Oct

The guest writer for the week is Pirzan Turel

Short of donning black tights and stalking criminals in the dead of night, no other experience has even come close to replicating the superhero simulation quite as seamlessly as Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham City has. Playing the game didn’t just make me feel like I was controlling Batman, it made me feel like I was Batman; gliding down from rooftops and going toe to toe with numerous enemies like a battle hardened badass.

Right from the intro sequence it was evident that Rocksteady has really made the most of the Unreal Engine. The animations are visually pleasing and technically sound (aside from a few minor texture and graphical glitches). Character rendering looks sharp and well defined, shadows are deftly projected and the lighting is vibrant. The Gotham City skyline looks like a page straight out of a Batman comic book; its dark and dank look sets the perfect atmosphere and mood for the entirety of the game. Gotham feels alive with its own shadowy vibe and there is something disturbingly seductive about it; a violent metropolitan haven in all its sinister glory.

In terms of movement getting around Gotham is a breeze with the bat cape gliding system and grapnel gun working in synchronisation. Zipping onto building ledges and rooftops is as satisfying as running off them to glide into the distance. It’s also incredibly easy to dive bomb back to the ground and attack a hapless group of thugs – be it to watch Batman knock a few skulls together or for experience sake.

The core game play has remained essentially unchanged (as they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it) and veterans of the Arkham series will feel right at home, as will new comers to the game – the introductory sequence did a good job of breaking me into the controls.

The attack and counter attack combo system of Arkham Asylum makes its triumphant return but developer Rocksteady has polished and refined it to add a greater level of depth and variation. The system involves one button to attack and one to counter, which are utilised rhythmically to achieve a flowing combo chain. Batman now has the added advantage of being able to use every gadget in his arsenal during brawls for devastating new combos. Fights often look like well choreographed movie battle sequences, where Batman jumps from one foe to the next dispatching them in varying manner.
Batman’s stealth based ‘Predator’ system is one of the games highlights and it’s back with a bit more refinement. It’s always fun to formulate and execute a plan from the shadows using the tactical upper hand that is yours as Batman. It’s also sadistic fun to chase the last thug around the room and give him the fright of his life. A few new moves have been added to the existing repertoire, like smoke pellets and wooden wall takedowns to name a few, which feel like expansions of the options that were available in the prequel.

Combat aside a primary concern was with the story line, with all the characters – friends and foes included – could Rocksteady truly flesh out a cohesive story without making it feel too helter-skelter? Comic fans and story centric gamers alike can rest easy, as the story is not only well written but also one of the games major strengths. Suffice it to say that the story isn’t just pretence to carry the game along; the story stands well enough on its own and certainly has its moments.

The voice actors that made the original game so quirky are reprising their roles; Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy stand out as they do a terrific job of voicing The Joker and Batman respectively. The soundtrack is not particularly note worthy but it sets the tone well and builds to a crescendo during the action sequences and set pieces, of which there are plenty.

Beyond the technical and gameplay aspects, developer Rocksteady has added a plethora of replay bonuses and extras that lend the game artistic and individualistic flair. Gone are the bog standard ‘game over’ screens, death is now followed by an entertaining one liner featuring one of the main villains. I sometimes killed off my character just to view one of the various animations.
Even the loading screens feature text based story line recaps and bulleted current mission objectives instead of a solitary loading bar.
First hand owners of the game also get a single use ‘Play as Catwoman’ code with the game at no added cost; the code unlocks Catwoman’s independent story missions that run parallel to the main story line. These missions change up the pace owing to Catwoman’s unique movement and combat style, which is more inclined to sneakiness and acrobatic prowess as opposed to Batman’s strong-arm tactics.

Challenge maps are also back and they are a great distraction from the campaign. There’s also a character render gallery which looks pretty sweet.
After completing the game it can be beaten again in the New Game Plus mode, where all gadgets and upgrades are available from the get go but the AI is far more testing.

Even on its hardest setting Arkham City is never frustrating or overly punishing due to well placed checkpoints and even pacing of difficulty. That’s not to say the game isn’t challenging; at various points in the game you’ll find yourself forced to strategically plan your next move as going in guns (batarangs) blazing may not be an option.

Owing to the fact that Rocksteady have captured the feel and authenticity of the Batman universe it would be a real treat to see the rest of Gotham, as envisioned by the developer, in a possible sequel. Not only has Rocksteady made a stellar game with outstanding gameplay and stunning graphics, they have also added enough extras to more than justify the price of the game. The attention to detail that has gone into the making of this game is astounding. It’s not just about the one thing that the game does right, it’s about the sum of its parts that come together to form a definitive package.
Fans of Arkham Asylum need no persuasion to play the sequel; Arkham City is of the same calibre as its predecessor and far exceeds the original in many ways.
Arkham City is not just a great third person action game; it is among the best games available in the market right now.

(5 Stars)

Pirzan Turel studies in BITS-Dubai and next week he will be doing what no other Turel has done before – attending Metallica in Abu Dhabi. He knows more girls than you know people but denies it.


6 Responses to “Batman Arkham City: Review”

  1. Tushar Chhajed October 23, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    We are even working on putting up a VIDEO REVIEW of this game.. Something which blows your mind people.. STAY TUNED! 🙂

  2. aniruddha phanse October 23, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    BTW… The Turel who is so highly spoken of is NOT going for metallica…for unknown personal reasons

  3. Lewis Peet October 23, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    Great review, I havent had a chance to play it yet but your review has me hyped

    • Tushar Chhajed October 23, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

      As mentioned earlier!! Check back in some days, we might have an awesome VIDEO review too! 🙂

  4. Nicholas October 25, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    Pirzan gud review … i especially liked hw ppl knw u so well already ! 😉
    heheh but well done Kiddo ! 😀

  5. Ashish Vedi (@ash25691) October 25, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Hey Pirzan, amazing review and very well written. You ought to write more often. You seem to be very good at writing. This article has made me super interested in this version of Batman along with the prequel. And yes, I agree with you, this actually is one of the best games in the market. It currently tops UK charts and it deserves to be there at the top 🙂

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