Donning his cape and bat-like mask, the Dark Knight emerges, ever so silently, from Gotham City’s shadows. Atop a mid-sized building he surveys the minimalist city, reminiscent of a setting in a 1920s German Expressionist film. Blacks, whites, grays and blushed wines smother every nook and cranny while distant, distorted buildings loom eerily over the city. The streets bustle with thugs, anxiously waiting for something completely unknown.
Two years after the release of the groundbreaking Batman: Arkham Asylum, the once unknown Rocksteady Studios has gone above and beyond expectations with their latest release, Batman: Arkham City. While Arkham Asylum offered lots of interesting plot twists, character appearances and side quests, Arkham City expands even further on these ideas, all in the midst of the expansive Gotham City.
Arkham City knows just how to engage its audience. The scene listed above may only encapsulate a small portion of the game, but it offers a glimpse into the living, breathing city. It offers a perfect example of a city slowly crumbling to injustice and a man who will do whatever it takes to keep that city safe from harm. It’s something you need to see to believe.
The Gotham we explore and the Batman we play as may be virtual fiction, but that doesn’t mean the experience isn’t eerily realistic. As we begin the campaign and dawn the cape, we feel like we’re stepping into Batman’s shoes, and as we venture through the city we literally feel as though we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.
Of course once combat is involved, that sense of hyperrealism quickly dissipates and the experience once again feels more and more like a game – but still a fun one at that. Pummeling thugs to a pulp takes time and patience, requiring you to know just when to counter, evade and attack (especially in the harder difficulties). It’s sometimes repetitive, but doesn’t need to be with the never-ending supply of upgrades and weapon unlocks. After you level up, the choice is yours what you do depending on your strategy.
The hyperrealism doesn’t completely go away, however. In between combat, much of your time will be spent in Detective mode, allowing you to find clues to progress through the campaign, find hidden secrets and come up with strategic plans in order to take out unsuspecting foes. This mode has greatly improved since the last game, giving you less of an advantage and, thus, creating a more balanced and tactful game. So while combat can be repetitive and take away from the experience, the strategic aspects of combat, such as in Detective mode, is what propel us forward.
Another aspect of the game that propelled me forward personally, and without a doubt a key favourite for many of you, is the impeccable voice acting. Mark Hamill’s Joker is probably Hamill’s best role yet, replicating the maniacal charisma and insanity of the iconic villain. And, of course, you can’t deny Kevin Conroy’s Batman, whose controlled rage is second to none. These are but a few of the talented voice actors on hand, but each does an amazing job bringing each and every character to life.
While you don’t get to explore all of Gotham, you’ll definitely feel like you can – diving and swinging from building to building with utmost ease. The map is dense enough that despite map limitations, it never truly feels as though you are limited. The amount of things you can do in the city, such as tackling one of the many never-ending side quests or following the well-developed campaign, is enormous. Limitations are nothing considering the possibilities at hand.
In terms of the overall length of this game, its size is completely relative to how much you are willing to do. First, you have to consider the length of the campaign that, depending on difficulty level, could range from 10 to 20 hours worth of gameplay. Even after you’ve completed the campaign, only about 30% worth of content will be unlocked while everything else will consist of side quests. The most prominent of these is probably the Riddler side quest, which involves tackling over four hundred challenges around the city. Some trophies require reflexes while others take some logical reasoning to acquire. Though all of this is entirely optional, there’s a certain thrill in being a completionist even if it means stressing and struggling.
Even after you’ve found everything in the main campaign, there is still tons to do. Just like in the original, there are unlockable challenge rooms that test your combat and stealth skills. In addition to the challenge rooms, completing the main campaign opens up a New Game Plus mode, letting you carry over your upgrades but makes enemies significantly harder. There are also a few different character download packs available now as well if you’re looking for a little bit of variety in your gameplay. By playing as Catwoman, Robin or Nightwing, some of the most iconic characters in Gotham, you get to explore their own story missions and play styles. Arkham City gives you plenty of incentives to explore past your first playthrough.
There’s a lot going for Arkham City. While the game has a few hookups in combat, that’s not reason enough to skip the mesmerizing voice acting, graphics, story and gameplay. Rocksteady has created a game that infuses everything you loved about Arkham Asylum while improving and integrating more fulfilling content. Arkham Asylum may have been regarded as the best video game adaptation of a comic book to date, but Arkham City places itself one step closer to excellence.
Batman: Arkham City is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. You can purchase your copy of Arkham City at Future Shop through our handy product page. Definitely not a game to miss.
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