|Review: Batman: Arkham City|
Friday, 04 November 2011 10:45
Batman: Arkham City is the follow up to the 2009 game of the year nominee Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Developers Rocksteady have improved the game in every single facet of combat and gameplay, and strung it together with an incredibly strong narrative.
The game picks up not too long after the events of Arkham Asylum. A section of Gotham City is closed off and used as a prison. Hugo Strange is made the new warden and in a pre-emptive strike, has Bruce Wayne thrown into prison. You have to then quickly change into your Bat-Suit and spend time flying around Gotham City trying to uncover Strange's nefarious plot.
From the outset you have many of his utility belt tools and abilities from the first game: the grappling hook to carry you around the city; explosive gel to take down enemies and destroy weak walls; and his trusty batarangs to knock out multiple opponents. In addition, there are number of new gadgets like smoke pellets and freeze grenades that add challenging dynamics to the combat.
If you've played the previous game, you'll also be familiar with the combat mechanics: Batman is generally surrounded by a huge group of baddies who come at him one or two at a time. Fighting again is a matter of timing your punches and counter attacks and appropriately using your take down moves. Even though you can now counter multiple baddies simultaneously, the core of 'brawler' gameplay that made the first game so successful, remains intact.
Some of the biggest differences come in the open world sandbox feel. You're now able to traverse entire sections of Gotham City, floating from rooftop to rooftop, plunging down to attack unsuspecting inmates and then fly off into the black of night again. Although, when faced with a group of armed enemies, stealth is your best bet. Once again, Batman is able to use his abilities to take down one enemy at a time. There's a multitude of take down moves that can be performed from above and below that make for tense gameplay.
During the campaign you can also play as Catwoman (which is only accessible as DLC). She has the same abilities as Batman but is a lot more agile – she can fence-climb and suspend herself upside down, which changes the combat dynamics slightly. Even though her missions are intertwined with the main story, and because her character is designed to be optional downloadable content, it never comes across as being anything more than another side mission.
There are a number of side quests that you can complete while in the open world environment – from rescuing prisoners, finding barrels of toxin, to finding riddler trophies. The predator and combat maps also make a return. You replay sections of the maps with either waves of enemies coming at you or needed to perform specific types of takedown. You can also play Riddler campaigns which are a combination of these maps with modifiers, like low health or time limits. All of these are designed to hone your combat skills and take down abilities.
Arkham City is a great game. The voice acting is brilliant, the core combat gameplay is wrapped in a free expansive environment and even though there is a multitude of bosses, the storyline is tight and deeply engaging. These improvements don’t just make it better than the original, it makes it one of the best games of the year.
Pros: Strong story; great gameplay and combat; great replay value; brilliant voice acting.
Cons: Too many bosses; Catwoman story too thin; Mark Hamill’s last performance as the Joker.
Achievement difficulty: 6/10 (much more collectables than the first game)
Contact: BT Games - www.btgames.co.za
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