Game Review: Batman – Arkham City (Xbox 360)

Batman:  Arkham City is the second installment of the Batman series; the sequel to 2009’s Batman:  Arkham Asylum.  Arkham City was developed by Rocksteady Studios, a British game developer based out of London.  Besides the two Batman releases, Rocksteady has also developed Urban Chaos:  Riot Response.  Though fairly new in-game development, Rocksteady scored major points with superhero gaming geeks and critics who rate games.  Batman:  Arkham Asylum received universal acclaim and even holds a Guinness record for Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever with an average score of 91.67 from reviews around the world.  All that critical acclaim sure set the bar high for Batman:  Arkham City.  Does it live up to it?  This was my first dive into the series and I went in head first…unfortunately, it was in the shallow end.

I was very pumped up to play this game.  It started off with a standard cinematic which introduces the story.  You are in Arkham City a year after the first game takes place.  Large sections of Gotham City (slums) have been turned into a massive prison colony named Arkham City.  Batman (and the prisoners) is able to openly roam the city completing various types of missions.  The characters and the visual aspects of the game are probably the best part.  Lovers of Arkham Asylum will quickly get immersed in the story right from the beginning.

Besides the standard campaign, you have the chance to help out people along the way…a very superhero thing to do.  You often have to battle thugs to get where you need to go.  The fighting sequences are pretty cool, but do not require much talent.  By pushing one or two buttons is rapid sequence, you bounce from thug to thug until you wear them down and knock them out.  The cinematic associated with the fight sequences are pretty sweet, but after a while it seems quite standard to end up a circle of foes and have to kick their ass.  Batman does have some cool gadgets at his disposal such as the batarang, electric charge, explosive gel, and a grappling hook.  As the game moves along you will score enough points to either enhance your current weapons or unlock new ones.

Batman can either use stealth to take down thugs or simply brute force.  Trying to knockout thugs with weapons takes more cunning and time than just plopping down in an unarmed group of bad guys.  When it comes to disarming the armed bad guys it often becomes a sequence of trial and error, therefore, requiring multiple attempts.  Though I don’t expect to finish a game or a sequence on the first try all the time, I found my level of frustration rise due to the repetitive nature of taking down armed enemies.

The controls and buttons were the biggest disappointment for me and probably the source of my lack of enthusiasm to finish the game.  The controls were not that smooth and I often found myself going somewhere I didn’t want to go.  I could be in a battle and find myself accidentally departing via grappling hook.  I would want to grapple to one place, but end up somewhere else.  The training missions within the game were quite difficult as some of them required smooth and precise gliding.  They were hard to complete due to the sensitive nature of the controls.  In many situations, a button sequence would pop up on the screen to remind me what to push in a given situation.  That was nice, but also distracting; an obvious sign that there are too many button sequences to actually remember.

The story was great, but I felt inundated with side missions.  Nothing at all was straightforward.  Any time I needed to do something it surely came with something else I had to do first.  I found myself on the side missions getting things or finding people ultimately forgetting why I was doing that in the first place.  Though I see this style of mission-flow in many games, there were so many side missions in Arkham City that I forgot what I was looking for most of the time.  This is the kind of game that must be played frequently until you finish it.  If you expect to play this game once a week you may find yourself having to thoroughly refresh your memory before you can pick up where you left off.

I have never been so disappointed by a game that received such rave reviews.   I never played the first installment of this series, but heard nothing but great things about its gameplay, storyline, and all-around creepiness.  So, I thought I would give Arkham City a try.  The coolest parts of the game were the visual aspects.  It was a very detailed game; the artwork is stellar.  The story is great too as are most superhero games.  It holds true to the Batman style, however, the controls did me in.  I can’t remember the last game I did NOT finish a game, but for those who know me I have a high percentage rate for finishing games even if I don’t particularly like them.  This one had me lost most of the time and redoing the training missions beyond my scope of patience.  Not to mention taking down armed thugs was tedious and also quite repetitive.  Obviously, I am an outlier in the world of Batman:  Arkham City because everyone seems to love it.  I think I missed the boat on this franchise because I never played the first one.  I think overs of Arkham Asylum will probably enjoy this sequel.  If you are thinking of trying out this game, I recommend renting or purchasing the first one.

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About WarpRider

Just a dude writing a heavy metal blog and always on the prowl for a cool metal show. I am also a family man...first and foremost!

Posted on 2012-07-03, in Videogames and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. When I first got my hands on Arkham Asylum I was instantly in love. Everything I ever wanted in a superhero game was there, and it was Batman, my favorite superhero of all time! Everything about that game was great, graphics, pacing, narrative, combat, easter eggs for the nerd in me, etc. It was a perfect 10. Of course I was hyped for Arkham City. Like I do with most games I waited for the price drop and eventually got it and finished it up last week. And…. what a major disappointment. With all the hype and rave reviews saying it makes the previous obsolete I thought there was something wrong with my head. I’m happy I’m not the only one who had gripes with the game.

    Your pretty spot on with the combat controls, I found myself doing the same exact thing that happened to you. There was just too much to use and I eventually found myself spamming the same strategies to avoid screwing things up. And that is part of my major gripe with the game, there’s just too much and it waters the whole game down.

    Arkham Asylum had only a handful of major villains and while it was more than your average game they did a great job working them believably into the narrative. This on the other hand was overkill and the choice of main villains was shoddy at best. The reprise of the Joker was cool and he will always be welcome as the main Batman bad guy in my eyes. The Penguin, 2 Face, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Bane, Ra’s a Ghul, Harley, The Riddler, Zasz, etc, all cool, but too much. If they narrowed it down to a few and focused on them I would have enjoyed and been more driven to want to play for fun than my compulsion to finish every game I start. The thing between 2 Face and Catwoman was cool, but even with the DLC the whole arc came up short and just drab (let alone Catwoman’s stealth sequences were shit). I would have like the story to explore the Batman/Catwoman relationship more (and 4 short scenes not even equaling one hour for DLC is BS). I would have liked to see maybe a narrative that had heavy focus on Joker/Harley, Zasz (even though he’s not to prominent in the comic world he is such a great character grounded in reality that really makes Batman’s world more believable), and The Penguin. Leave it at that and save the rest for the next inevitable Batman game.

    The side missions were lame with the exception for the Zasz telephone chases and finale as well as the always welcome Riddler challenges. Too many too and it really pulled me out of the immediacy of the situation when I have to go hunt for a bullet shell or something. Batman is poisoned, oh, gotta save this pain in the ass political prisoner who keeps getting himself beat.

    I liked the stealth gameplay parts, especially the Mr. Freeze boss battle, which ultimately saved me from hating the game and bringing it to an ‘it’s okay’ level. I still have faith that the dev team can create a good third game, let’s hope it’s more focused the next time. I still highly recommend giving the first one a shot even if you didn’t like Arkham City at all, it’s vastly superior IMO.

    !!!Arkham Asylum Spoiler Alert!!!!!

    One part of the first game that blew my mind and won me over was the part where Scarecrow drugs Batman and you go into the hallucination of Scarecrows world. I was surprised by the art style that worked perfect as well as how cerebral it went with Batman’s psyche. It was also fun to play with a change up of what the rest of the game had you doing. The whole reattempt with Ra’s a Ghul was just lame even though the art style was pretty cool, but it had no weight on the game like Scarecrow’s world did.

  2. In a way I am glad I am not the only one that had issues with this game. If it was so vastly rated exceptional, then why did we have issues with it? It makes me wonder if the pro critics take into consideration how good the first one was. I tend not to weigh in much with popular videogame sites like Gamepro. Seems like the popular games get rated well all the time.

    Unlike you, I just couldn’t finish it. I went and bought two more games to keep my busy until I move back home. I love Batman too, but I would love to see an awesome superman game.

    • A lot of the reviews I read of it were all positive with some of my choice sites for honest reviews (destructiod.com, gamesradar.com) scoring it very high. I just didn’t get it. If I had to grade it on a 1-5 scale I’d go with 3. There were cool moments and positive things. When they got something right, they got it right, but like I said, overkill killed the game.

      One day there will be a cool Superman game I hope. It would be cool to have some awesome flying battle parts mixed with some cool beat-em-up sections. Even maybe a part where you need to go and do some investigative reporting.

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