Thursday, October 20, 2011

Batman: Arkham City - First Thoughts After Four Hours

Shall we just take it as read that this game is awesome? Yes? Good.

Is it just like the original Batman: Arkham Asylum? Yes. The controls are exactly the same, the game play is largely unchanged and the voice-acting is still top-notch, though I do miss Arlene Sorkin as Harley Quinn.

Is it more of the same? Hardly! One need only look at the backstory to see this is unlike any Batman story in recent memory.

Bruce Wayne, showing a sudden interest in politics, becomes the leading advocate for putting an end to Arkham City. And what is Arkham City you ask? A super-prison built in the heart of Gotham City, created by walling off the worst parts of town and then pumping it filled with the worst dregs from Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison. This was all approved by Gotham City's new mayor - Former Arkham Asylum Warden Quincy Sharp - and is all the brilliant plan of one Dr. Hugo Strange - a mad doctor who is obsessed with Batman and more, knows his secret identity.

We are thrown into the action right away as Bruce Wayne is plucked from a rally against Arkham City by Strange's goons. You take control of Bruce through the opening credits, having to escape your bonds and then fight your way out of a holding area and into the city proper... while handcuffed. Eventually, you escape to the rooftops where you can radio Alfred for a care package containing your Bat-suit and all of those wonderful toys. It turns out this was all part of Batman's cunning plan to get into the prison and find out what Strange is up to. But before you get a chance to investigate it, you get word that Two Face has taken control of the abandoned courthouse and that he's got Catwoman hanging over a vat of acid. And so begins your long, dark night...

Another nice touch is that - with the first DLC pack - you can play extra levels of the game as Catwoman. I've completed two of them so far and my only complaint about them is that they are so brief, being limited to one fight against a large number of goons and one mission to gather equipment from your apartment before going off in search of another villain. The combat as Catwoman is smooth and fluid. Really, the only problem (apart from Selena's costume being zipped down the ENTIRE TIME) is how very little it seems we will actually get to play Catwoman.

Does the game have any other flaws? It is a bit overwhelming. There is SOOOO much content in this game! Even after four hours I still have only 5% of the game completed. That's including numerous side-quests I've started but proven unable to finish. Apart from the ever-present Riddler puzzles (which I have yet to figure out how to activate) , I'm currently looking for more information on the whereabouts of Deadshot, playing phone-tag across the city with psycho-killer Zsasz, helping Bane track down and destroy six containers of a dangerous drug called TITAN and trying to find the hideout of Mr. Freeze by locating the coldest point in the city. There's also AR-training games that unlock different power-ups for you - the weakest part of the game in my opinion, as I can't believe I'm being asked to put my search for a poison cure on hold so I can practice gliding through hoops.

Still, this is a small quibble and as far as I know you don't really need any of the bonuses promised by playing the Augmented Reality training games. All in all, if you're a Batman fan and a gamer, this is a must have. But you probably didn't need me to tell you that. ;)

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