Batman Arkham City review

Batman Arkham City review

T3 5
  • Is the Batman Arkham City hype justified? All gaming elements aside, it's simply one of the best Batman interpretations we've seen to date. That's including film, TV, even comics. Quite simply a masterpiece

    Batman Arkham City review

    Love

    • Best Batman interpretation
    • Stunning plot and characters
    • Sublime openworld gameplay

    Hate

    • Some boss battles

    Sure, our expectations sky-rocketed from the boggy marshes of licensed chopped liver and into the superhero stratosphere with Arkham Asylum in 2009, but this is only Rocksteady's third game. The notion of such a young studio competing with the top developers in the world so soon is surely unexpected.

    Batman Arkham City: Characters

    Rocksteady completely understands the finest details of Batman and his rogue gallery. With the likes of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill returning as well, plus Animated Series and DC Comics writer Paul Dini holding the pen, there's no denying that in terms of characterisation and plot, Arkham City is as authentic a Batman experience as any.

    When it comes to characters like Catwoman, Two-Face, The Joker or Batman himself, Rocksteady has adhered to classic, recognisable designs with a touch of modernisation and the benefit of incredible detail. The Batsuit changes with the light, for example, making for some truly iconic silhouettes at times.

    Batman Arkham City: Gameplay

    Rocksteady makes youu feel as cerebral, dangerous and predatorial as The Dark Knight himself with a number of incredibly effective systems. Batman's free-flowing combat is still a game of timing as you leap from one target to the next countering and smashing your way through crowds to make your attacks harder and faster. New animations take things up a notch and new gadgets - like the freeze-blast - and enemy types add a bit more variation.

    Batman Arkham City: Open world

    Some indoors levels can get a bit samey but the game explodes in the outdoors open world environments and makes the difficulty spike harder. When that happens, it's not a case of rethinking tactics, it's a case of avoiding the fight altogether.

    It makes for bursts of tension on the fly, it places massive hurdles in what should be a routine journey from point A to point B. Most importantly, it contributes to what makes Rocksteady's take on the character such an authentic and exciting one. It reaffirms the core principle of Batman - that he's not Superman.

    Batman Arkham City: Fighting

    Taking down errant goons is a pleasure with one of the most full realised fighting systems that equals Gods of War 3. In fact, the added goodies in the bat utility belt, like the smoke pellets, take but superhero satisfaction was taken to a whole new level.

    The sheer badass nature of Batman's take-downs (the vertical takedown, stealth attacks from behind, yanking people over edges with the Batclaw) will encourage you to mix things up again. But it's the more natural Predator situations outside that force you to really think like the Bat.

    Batman Arkham City: Boss fights

    We'd still point out an over-reliance on the Titan tanking boss brutes (although Mr. Freeze is a welcome exception requiring smarts) and, as we said previously, indoor sections don't make many big leaps ahead of what we saw in the game's predecessor.

    But the advances Rocksteady has made in the open world shift the focus significantly. It means that any points some may have found slightly grinding originally - be it the level design, boss battles of Predator sections - are part of a much bigger whole product that brings a new balance and mitigates any quibbles.

    Batman Arkham City: Verdict

    Rocksteady elevated the status of the superhero game with Asylum to a place that commands respect from notoriously hard to please comic book fans. With Arkham City, the studio clearly overcame any added pressure quickly and waded into the sequel with confidence. It's a belief in the character and, most importantly, a belief in itself that has seen the studio deliver one of the greatest Batman interpretations of all time. And you know what? Maybe even one of the best games ever.

    Full Batman: Arkham City review on CVG

    Batman Arkham City availability: Out now on console and for PC in mid-Nov

    Batman Arkham City price: £39.99 on consoles and £29.99 for the PC release

  • Nick Cowen dons his home made batcape and stealth ninja's his way along to RockSteady's hands on showing of it's hugely anticipated Batman Arkham City game

    Batman Arkham City review

    Love

    • Best Batman interpretation
    • Stunning plot and characters
    • Sublime openworld gameplay

    Hate

    • Some boss battles

    “Wait! The Joker can’t be dead!!”

    T3’s jaw has been nailed to the floor. Surely this is some mistake? There’s no way Rocksteady, the studio behind Batman: Arkham City, would kill the Joker, right?

    Yet there he is, slumped in a chair, flatlined with Harley Quinn sobbing her eyes out in front of us at the end of the twenty-minute demo at Warner Bros. HQ in London. The Joker is dead, and when we ask, T3 is told that Rocksteady aren’t taking any questions on what we’ve just seen. You could knock us down with a feather.

    To understand our reaction, we have to take you back to the beginning of the demo, which kicked things off in the neon-encrusted hellhole of Arkham City. Anyone with any interest in this game will be familiar with the story details that Rocksteady have drip-fed so far.

    Batman Arkham City: Gotham

    For the rest of you, here’s the scenario; large tracts of Gotham City have been walled up and turned into a super-prison for Batman’s worst foes. Arkham City, as it’s being called, is run by a shady character called Hugo Strange who has allowed the criminals free-run of the prison, provided they don’t try to escape – attempting to do so, means death. Batman, fearing that Strange has nefarious motives, has gone over the wall of Arkham City to check things out.

    The demo we saw picks up the story just after Batman has managed to escape a trap set for him by the Joker. After leaping to safety from an exploding bell tower, Batman pinpoints the Joker’s whereabouts in a steel mill nearby. As we use his rapel-gun to take a higher vantage point, we hear Harley Quinn announce to the flunkies around the building that they’d better keep “Mr Batman” out of the mill. Fat chance.

    Batman Arkham City: Combat

    During our time in control of the caped crusader, we notice how similar a lot of the mechanics are to those of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Rocksteady’s new Batman title is still a sublime cocktail of brutal combat, stealth action and puzzle solving. Players need to think twice before barging into a room full of foes; in a lot of instances, the head-on approach will get them killed, so they may need to tackle each scenario with a combination of stealth, timed attacks and, when required, a good old fashioned punch in the face. There are still plenty of vents and air ducts for Batman to creep around in and tapping LB still brings up ‘Detective Vision’, a kind of X-ray viewer that shows the points of interest in the environment, the number of enemies in it, and – crucially – what they’re armed with.

    Batman Arkham City: Bat gadgets

    However, Rocksteady has crammed a ton of new features into the Dark Knight’s new adventure, aside from the new story. First of all, unlike nearly every single superhero video game sequel in existence, players don’t need to unlock any of Batman’s gadgets from the first game. All of his wonderful toys are present and correct and his arsenal only gets bigger as things progress. In the demo we were shown Batman’s new gadgets include remote-controlled batarangs and the Remote Electrical Charge or REC for short. The REC is a gun Batman can quick-fire at opponents to give them a brief electrical shock, or use on generators and magnetic outlets for puzzle solving.

    Batman Arkham City: Cat woman

    Batman’s brawling has been tweaked somewhat. Players still use the two-button combo of attack and counter, and they can still flow gracefully between foes, pounding the living daylights out of them. However, as they chain combos together, Batman starts showcasing new moves and attacks, and his finishers are even more eye-wateringly brutal than before. As we mentioned in our earlier Batman Arkham City preview, players will also be able to control Catwoman, and as such, T3 were allowed a hands-on with Batman’s feline love interest. She handles quite differently from the Dark Knight; her attacks are lighter, her movement quicker and instead of using a cape to blind her opponents (as Batman does) she uses a whip.

    On top of all this, Batman’s gliding ability as received a bit of a boost. Players can rapel up to high points on the map, and then make Batman overshoot his target, giving him greater time in the air. They can also increase the length of his glide, by plummeting earthwards and then use the momentum to send him soaring over longer distances.

    Batman Arkham City: Plot

    Of course, all of these new gadgets, attacks and abilities wouldn’t be much cop if that weren’t at the service of a decent plot, and from what little we’ve seen, Arkham City looks very promising. The backdrop of Strange’s urban prison is a madhouse run wild where all of Batman’s villains are fighting each other for turf – aside from the Joker, Harley Quinn and Two-Face, who have already been unveiled, we were told that the Riddler and Mr Freeze are set to make an appearance. As we used Batman to rescue a doctor from the Joker’s clutches in the steel mill, Strange ominously intoned over the radio that his men should initiate ‘Protocol Ten’. Rocksteady wouldn’t be drawn on what that is, but it sounds pretty bad.

    Batman Arkham City: Joker

    And then, of course, there’s the Joker, slumped in a chair, dead. At plot reveals go, it’s pretty courageous. At the same time, it’s utterly devious, because taken out of context, we can’t take it at face value. The clown prince of crime has hoodwinked Batman too many times before in the past for us to accept his untimely demise.

    Let’s face it, there’s no way the Joker could be dead, right? Right?

    Batman Arkham City availability: October 18

    Batman Arkham City price: £34.99 on PS3 and Xbox 360 and £29.99 on PC

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