Unreal Game Review: Arkham City

The original Arkham Asylum was better than any superhero game had any business being. Previous efforts had ranged from competent (Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Spider-Man) to traumatizing (Superman 64). We all love our classic superheroes, but no one ever went about making a game that really captured what it might feel like to be one.

But Arkham Asylum did just that. It had the very essence of being Batman, from the incredibly detailed world and art style, to the gameplay, which featured better combat and action scenes than any TV show or movie the caped crusader has starred in.

For the sequel, the creators wanted to capitalize on their smash hit and break outside the bonds of Arkham. It was a cool environment to be sure, but it still wasn’t the full Batman experience. He doesn’t normally spend his days lurking around prison, rather he’s patrolling the rooftops of Gotham, keeping its citizens safe.

And so Arkham City was born. The concept is a strange one, and I don’t fully understand it despite beating the game. An entire section of the city has been quarantined off and has been filled with every sane and insane prisoner from Blackgate and Arkham, where they’re allowed to run wild in the confines of the ruins, which apparently used to be a pretty nice part of town judging by the trashed landmarks.

The use of the bat signal as the objective indicator is brilliant.

The facility is run by Dr. Ugo Strange, and when Bruce Wayne is picked up and locked away it’s clear that it’s not only criminals being housed in Arkham City, but anyone who has pissed off the higher ups of the town.

After a brief stint as Bruce, Alfred sends the Batplane over to drop off the Batsuit. The first time you stand on a building and survey the city before you, you might actually let out an audible gasp.

On the surface, Arkham City looks huge, especially when compared to the asylum of last game. It’s not only a giant sandbox full of endless crumbling skyscrapers, but specific landmarks are self-contained levels in themselves, the way Arkham had its different sections in the last game.

As big as it is, Batman is a fast traveler, and through the use of a bat-grapple launch maneuver, he can traverse the entire distance of it in about two minutes if he’s hauling ass. There’s a giant inaccessible section of the map that’s a no fly zone, and though a few moments occur there late in the game, it might as well be marked “DLC Zone,” as I’m guessing it will be opened up later on.

“I decided eyeliner was pretty much a mask anyway.”

Speaking of DLC, as I bought a new copy, I received a code that allowed me to play as Catwoman who has a handful of missions sprinkled throughout the game where you can play as her. They have little connection to the central plot most times, but as they’re only ten or fifteen minutes long each, I wish they had actually made her a full-fledged part of the game and story, not just a gimmick to get people to buy the game new. She’s really fun to control, as she’s a more spritely version of Batman and has some pretty cool gadgets of her own, and I wish she was a more developed character playable in more than a handful of segments.

The main story revolves around Batman trying to figure out what the hell is going on in Arkham City, and what Strange’s ultimate plan is for the uber-prison, but a more pressing concern arises when he runs into the Joker. As it turns out, the Titan serum from the last game has done a number on him, and has poisoned his blood to the point of imminent death. How to solve his problem? Why, inject Batman with the same virus, and force him to find a cure for you.

The game then becomes a chase to track down this antidote. You have to fight through Penguin and his thugs to get to Mr. Freeze who then says he needs an additional component from R’as al Ghul and so forth, until you end up intersecting with a great number of Arkham’s A-list villains by the end of the game.

This time around, Batman starts with a great deal of technology, so you won’t have to hunt down or unlock the remote control batarang, batclaw or bat explosive gel as you’ll start with them all. But never fear, there are plenty of unlockables in this game, with a ton of new abilities and gadgets for Bruce, and even a few for Catwoman as well.


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