Sunday, 6 November 2011

I'M BATMAN

Welcome to Arkham City, a new super-sized prison that has taken the place of Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Penitentiary as the home of the criminal element of Gotham. Arkham City is built in a portion of Gotham's old slums, and is run by Hugo Strange. Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to the 2009 release - Batman: Arkham Asylum and is made by Rocksteady Studios.


Arkham City itself:
The world of Arkham City, at first glance, seemed to be a dauntingly big place. However, after Batman swooped around the map a few times on various missions (swooping is acceptable if you're Batman), I realised that the map, whilst in no means small, was not as large as I had first thought it was...and then I looked again and realised it was actually even bigger. The Arkham City map really has several layers to it, creating an amazing world with plenty of depth. From one perspective the map basically consists of rooftops of buildings of various heights, and this is the world you see as you use Batman's glide ability to get speedily from one madman's lair to the next. The building's themselves have well designed and extensive interiors, and the streets outside, which you may choose to use as a more leisurely form of travel, are teeming with henchmen, side-missions and visual Easter Eggs. All in all, the game is worth the playtime just to snoop around and see all the sights.

Gameplay:
You're main playable character is, of course, the caped crusader Batman. He comes with a utility belt full of upgradable gadgets, which can be used in combat, during his various missions, whilst generally exploring and  guiding him around obsessively collecting Riddler trophies. The combat is free flowing, and once you have your button combos down, the Bat can take on an entire gang of henchmen. Of course, until you have those button combos down you may occasionally find yourself making Batman punch thin air. Batman's primary form of travel is to use his grappling gun to rapidly launch himself upwards, and then his cape to glide. It's quick, effective and it looks really cool. He also has detective mode, an alternate vision mode that allows you to see clues and enemies more clearly and makes visible things like bullet trajectories in certain missions.
Downloadable content also makes Catwoman available to you, she comes with her own bag of tricks such as caltrops, and her own set of Riddler trophies. In battle she plays much the same as Batman, albeit she looks a little more speedy doing it. Catwoman moves around the city by means of scaling walls with her talons and using her whip to pull herself up to higher points, and after a good few days of Batman's gliding I must admit this seemed a little ungainly. However, she can also cling to horizontal gratings, which allows her lengthy surveillance opportunities in areas that Batman would otherwise have a quick view of as he swooped by.
There is also apparently a DLC pack that allows you to play as Nightwing, otherwise known as Dick Grayson, but this character is for challenge rooms, and not the general map.

The Bad Guys:
Arkham City sports many of the villains we know and love (or hate), such as the Penguin, Dr.Freeze, Bane, the Joker and the Riddler. The three main antagonists however are Hugo Strange and R'as al Ghul (which actually IS pronounced 'raysh',not the 'raaz' from the latest movies, I checked) for Batman, and Two-Face for Catwoman, although you do see an awful lot of the Joker throughout the game. For the most part I was pleasantly surprised with the character models, I particularly enjoyed the irony of the fact that the Riddler looked like a guy I used to work with, who incidentally owns a Riddler jacket. There were one or two whom I preferred in their classic comic looks, Harley Quinn for instance, I like better in the outfit you see on her voice-box statues, but as a whole the characters of the game were well made and the voice acting was superb. I actually spent some time simply eavesdropping on henchmen, who not only provide some small audio clues on their villain employer, but sometimes give you little snippets of hilarious gossip, like a rumour that Harley used to be a man. As in any game, the henchmen conversations do have some repetition, but are worth a listen.


Missions:
The main storyline has Batman running around Arkham City on various missions as he keeps an eye on the developing situations within the giant prison, and gets himself involved in the various vendettas and agendas of the villains therein. There are also side-missions that, whilst not technically essential to the main story or game completion, are well made and coherent, adding to the story and enjoyment of the game. The missions have a healthy amount of combat (of course), but also require some forethought and stealth in places, and of course some good old-fashioned detective work...using incredibly high-tech gadgets.One of my favourite pastimes in the game is in fact part of a side-mission, I enjoy hunting down and obtaining Riddler trophies and puzzles, of which there are 436.The puzzles in particular are enjoyable, armed with a riddle as a clue you have to find specific visuals, which are usually references of characters from the comic books (the story is in fact based on the comics and not the movies).

All in all, Batman: Arkham City proved to be a brilliant game,well worth a buy and the playtime.

Main Game - 9/10
Catwoman DLC - 7/10

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