…as reviewed by a semi-adolescent Batman fan not-so-secretly in love with Bruce Wayne, and even less secretly in love with this game…
By The Kat Valentine
There are two things that define my person utterly: I am first and foremost a Batman fan, and I am second and still foremost a gamer. So one can understand why Arkham City has been the sequel I have been waiting for since my 100% completion Arkham Asylum and oh yes, I will freely boast about this. Thank you for giving me the ability to play the my-fabricated-and-not-so-subtly-implied-male-organ-is-bigger-than-yours game, Microsoft.
(From Here on Be Warned of Ye Old Spoilers)
There is absolutely no hesitation and no falter: Arkham City throws the player head first into the action without a moment’s notice. The scene begins with our heroic Bruce Wayne, discussing why Arkham City (the idea, not the game, of course—no fourth walls broken here) is a ridiculous and unfair concept at a podium. There he stands in all his expensive-suit-rich-boy-billionaire glory—until Wayne is captured and tossed into the fray. Now for the moment I know I have been waiting for, and one all Batman fans will appreciate — you get to kick major ass as Bruce Wayne. You heard me right, oh yes. Not as Batman – as Bruce Wayne. If there is a better way to fulfill a Batman fan’s dreams, I don’t know what it is.
The combat has been improved upon even further since Arkham Asylum. The addition of the special take down is something of an ultimate savior (especially for those of you as adventurous as I was—and by adventurous I mean we idiots who enjoy hard mode more; that’s a lie. We all know the people playing hard mode do it to hound for 100% completion in the game’s achievements to brag about their genital size again). The brief moments of invincibility add a much-needed break to the combat, and make the sometimes-hectic explosion of enemies easier to handle. Those mere seconds where a thug’s thigh is so satisfyingly snapped free from its joint are enough to bring you back to comfortable, breathtaking button-mashing choreographically, of course, don’t ever let me imply mindless button mashing; after all, that’s a heavy-handed accusation. It’s flawlessly streamlined, and my only pet peeve is the games’ occasional reluctance to react to pressing the counter button, leaving you susceptible to hits that, if you’re suffering hard mode (you fools), can be devastating even at only one or two shots.
A major irritation that I will complain about is the more-than-occasional confusion the game experiences when a player tries to escape a situation quickly. Assassin’s Creed (and, before that, Prince of Persia), implemented free-running system that allowed for a grab-and-race flow complete with Han-Solo-like swagger. Arkham City tries to replicate this but falls just short. I came across this most when trying Catwoman’s missions, and especially during stealth sections of these missions. I would silently take down an enemy, try to escape and wind up—nope, Selina, why won’t you jump over the railing? Ok; just jump into it repeatedly! AND GET SHOT. AND DIE. AWESOME. Moments like this can sometimes make you want to throw the controller during the ever present rub-salt-in-your-wounds taunting screen; which contains Batman’s rogue gallery chastising you just before you decide to soldier on in the game and press continue.
Otherwise, combat aside, the game is almost perfect. The story is engaging and all the side missions don’t feel like grueling exercises toward completion, but relevant dives into Gotham’s unusual and slightly bloody underbelly. This game pleasantly caters to Batman the Animated Series fans, adding in additional costumes for each playable character from the show. I don’t know about any of you, but there’s something beautifully nostalgic to the silly white discs that make up Batman’s eyes in his Animated Series costume that makes me start cheerfully humming the Elfman theme from the show. The additional enemies are breaths of fresh air to fanatics, including appearances by Calendar Man, the Mad Hatter and a certain icky pile of oozing matter often mistaken for a certain other icky matter I won’t divulge for spoiler reasons. The Riddler’s expansive side quest isn’t even that exhausting (to say it’s not exhausting at all is just lying to you) and everything feels satisfying when it’s reached an end. Achievements are fairly scarce, but it’s definitely doable. Excited moments aplenty occur—my particular penchant for Poison Ivy wasn’t fully satisfied, but I know when Catwoman came across her I almost tossed my controller and gleefully howled IVVVVVYYYY! while shamelessly spazzing out.
All in all, I am going to bravely give this game a 9 out of 10—that missing point because of the occasional combat glitches and the sometimes-choppy controls (and maybe to spite Bruce a little for his psychotic moral code which is embedded way too deep in him; especially when doing the immoral thing could have ended things way sooner here and there, but who’s holding grudges?) Arkham City was worth it all (especially the $100 if you choose to shell it out for the collector’s edition—come on, people, a giant Batman statue and a fancy display box! What’s not to love? Nerdy decorations for your home!)