Batman: Arkham City Review for Xbox 360

Batman: Arkham City Review for Xbox 360

Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Bat?

For a long time, comic book games have been nothing more than the butt of a long-running joke. And it’s hard to say this hasn’t been a self inflicted truth; too often, these games are handled poorly and with the ideology of turning a quick buck. At least until one game proved—not only to gamers, but to the entire world—that comic book video games are not only a valuable market, but a market with a sea of untapped potential. The game I am referring to, of course, is Batman: Arkham Asylum. It wasn’t like this game came out of nowhere. In fact, fans of Batman (and comic books in general) kept a watchful eye on it as the pieces fell into place, like Paul Dini writing the storyline, Kevin Conroy voicing Batman, and Mark Hamill lending his maniacal pipes as the Joker once more. Everything was turning into this fantasy that was destined to fail. And then the title hit shelves.

What happened at that moment was something no one truly expected. Arkham Asylum was not only a great game, not only one that was well put together in nearly every way, but a game that was being considered for several Game of the Year nominations. What?

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot

Immediately following the astounding performance of Arkham Asylum, fans began to wonder if the impending sequel would be able to follow this success, or if this would be just a one-time fluke. With each new piece of concept art or villain reveal, many began to speculate that the expectations were just too high. After all, we have seen several games fall victim to the hype machine before, and Batman was riding the bullet train off the rails. Could Rocksteady possibly take what everyone loved about Arkham Asylum (the feel of being Batman) and give them a broader scope without completely derailing the thing?

In fact, this “broader scope” is actually where Arkham City delivers tenfold upon expectations. While in Arkham Asylum, players got a really good sense of Batman “trapped.” Now, Arkham City isn’t so much about Batman being trapped in the city, but about the inmates being trapped inside Arkham City with Batman. And we couldn’t be happier about it. After all, with the new animations for the combat system, how could you not get into the groove of bashing in the lawless skulls of the inmates of Arkham City?

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot

This carries over to Catwoman as well. While you have to have the authentication pass code in order to play as Catwoman and see how her story intertwines with the main arc, it’s definitely rewarding for those that do so. While many will say that Catwoman plays just like Batman—and in some regard, they would be right—it’s the animation and the flow of the combat that makes playing as Catwoman so much fun. Just like Batman, she has several upgrades that can be unlocked as you earn experience points.

The great thing about the new upgrade screen is the ease of use. In Arkham Asylum, it was incredibly difficult to navigate, but the brand new interface makes you feel like you are checking an optical survey to advance Batman in everything from his combat skills and armor upgrades to his new gadgets. In this interface menu, you will also be able to check your map, which also conveys Batman looking at a personal screen attached to the Bat-Computer. It’s this attention to detail that helps Arkham City live up to its enormous expectations.

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot

With an “island” that rivals the opening location of most Grand Theft Auto games, there was plenty of opportunity to skimp out on the details. Thankfully, Rocksteady didn’t miss any opportunities here. Just like the way the fourth GTA installment felt as if its city was alive, as if things were happening with you there or not, Arkham City convinces players it’s a real environment. With Batman picking up pieces of conversations—as well as broadcast transmissions—while he travels from rooftop to rooftop, players are truly cemented into the world of Batman and the prison he’s infiltrated. Arkham City grabs you by the hand and says “You are Batman!” And then it throws you off a building.

Unlike the last two Spider-Man games, with their lack of true web-swinging, Arkham City allows the players to feel that they are actually traveling the way that Batman really would: through the rooftops, gliding from peaks, and grappling the side of a building at the last minute. There was not a single moment in which I felt I was not Batman in this game.

Since we’re already on the subject of traveling through the city, I do have to bring up my personal annoyance with Catwoman. While it is acceptable for Batman to use his grappling hooks at great lengths, Catwoman’s whip is much shorter; she should not be reach the same things with her whip that Batman can with his grappling hooks. I know this might seem completely petty, but it’s one detail that pulled me out of the world that Rocksteady has so painstakingly created for this game. In fact, not even Catwoman’s thief vision distracted me this much. With Catwoman’s inclusion in the gameplay, however, Rocksteady captures another element that is usually missing from Batman games: the Batman of the comics doesn’t usually work alone. But all of this does make me wonder how things will play out once Robin and Nightwing are added into the mission-based gameplay.

Batman: Arkham City Screenshot

A simple list of the voice actors is enough to convince anyone with even the slightest bit of pop culture knowledge that Arkham City is a treat for the ears: Kevin Conroy returns as Batman, Mark Hamill returns as the Joker, and Tara Strong replaces Arleen Sorkin as Harley. But while all of these performances are stellar and unmatched, I have to give credit to some of the new additions to the cast. Corey Burton voices Hugo Strange, Troy Baker doubles as Two-Face, Stana Katic as Talia al Ghul, and probably the most surprising of them all is Nolan North as the Penguin. (I dare anyone to truthfully say they knew it was him without being told.) Mix all of this great voice talent in with the fantastic score, which combines elements from every incarnation of Batman from the 60s television show to the more recent Christopher Nolan universe, and you have an almost surreal amalgamation of the best of Batman audio to set the tone and pacing for Arkham City.

Admittedly, when I first heard of Arkham City I wanted to sit back and be that cynical comic book guy who refuses to believe in it. I wanted to watch it hit the shelves and then crash and burn. It wasn’t because I wished ill of the sequel, it was just that comic book fans have been burned way too many times. But I’m so thankful to be wrong. Batman: Arkham City takes the formula we loved in Arkham Asylum and advances it to a level I would have not thought possible in this medium. In Arkham Asylum, I felt as if I was playing a Batman tale; in Arkham City, every takedown I preform makes me want to scream “I am Batman!” Come on, you can scream it too. You owe it to yourself.

Simply put, Arkham City rivals some of the best graphics of this generation. 4.3 Control
Nothing out of the way complex, and very much in line with the original. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
evin Conroy once again proves he is the only voice of Batman. 4.5 Play Value
There’s so much to do here. Arkham City makes you actually feel like Batman, and you will be glad for it. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Batman: Arkham City delivers a genuinely authentic Batman experience with advanced, compelling gameplay on every level: high-impact street brawls, nail-biting stealth, multifaceted forensic investigation, epic supervillain encounters, and unexpected glimpses into Batman’s tortured psychology.
  • Batman faces highly coordinated, simultaneous attacks from every direction as Arkham’s gangs bring heavy weapons and all-new A.I. to the fight, but Batman steps it up with twice the number of combat animations and double the range of attacks, counters, and takedowns.
  • Players encounter numerous characters from the Batman universe, including Catwoman, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, Penguin, Hugo Strange, Victor Zsasz, Calendar Man, The Joker, The Riddler, and other iconic characters.
  • Catwoman is a fully playable character in Batman: Arkham City with her own storyline in the main game seamlessly interwoven with Batman’s story arc. Her navigation skills, combat moves, and gadgetry have been specifically designed and animated to deliver a fully featured and unique experience.
  • Batman has access to new gadgets such as the Cryptographic Sequencer V2 and Smoke Pellets, as well as new functionality for existing gadgets that expand the range of Batman’s abilities without adding extra weight to his Utility Belt.

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