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.