Feels Like deja vu! 2 years ago, Rocksteady released Arkham Asylum. It was a fantastic game and one of the first ones who which made you feel like you were the dark knight. It was a massive surprise hit and fought hard for my game of the year, something it lost to uncharted 2. Now, Arkham City has been released to wow us again and Uncharted 3 is out at the end of the week so we have a round 2 between the games for GOTY. First off the block is Arkham city.
The first game allowed us to basically BE Batman. AA gave you his abilities, his tools and pit you against some of his well known enemies in a sort of metroid-vania style game. For the sequel, they took Batman and gave him a bigger playground. Instead of locking you on a small isolated island, Rocksteady have now given you a portion of Gotham city which has been cordoned off and made into a prison. The change makes itself known very much immediately by making it more of an open world game rather than a strictly linear one. The game starts off with Bruce Wayne being kidnapped and thrown in to Arkham City. After that, you avoid some thugs, climb onto the nearest building (ACE chemicals, if you’re curious) and then you become the batman and away you go. You soar across buildings and drop in unexpectedly to take out thugs. Enter buildings and it’s very much like the original game. It’s very much a matter of “bigger and Badder” for the sequel, but it feels quite different.
The game also comes with a code to unlock Catwoman if you buy it new. (or you can pay for it on the online store if you went 2nd hand) Rocksteady got some stick for basically making her into an online pass but I’ve never been a fan of the 2nd hand market, unless the game is quite old and out of print so the whiners can go and whine for not being able to save a few pennies and not giving anything to the developers. Catwoman herself comes with 4 additional missions which fit into the plot of the game. They are not essential (far from it) but she does make for a good change of pace as she plays very differently from the B-man.
So, how is it?
- Be the Batman – Like Arkham asylum, the game absolutely nails being the bat. you need to stalk your enemies and take them out quickly and silently as you won’t survive long against guns.
- Mr Freeze – That was one of the best boss fights I have played in some time. The fight basically requires you to take down mr Freeze and beating down freeze to lower his healh. The trick is that you can’t use the same takedown twice so you need to work hard to get Freeze into different situations to take him down. It’s an excellent way to showcase the various methods at your disposal.
- The Characters – aside from a few missteps (which I will get into later), Rocksteady clearly show an understanding and love for most of the characters who made an appearance in the game.
- Side missions – Some of the side missions are actually rather interesting and provide ample distraction from the main plot.
- Most of the Cast – Kevin Conroy has always been one of my favourite batmen and I think there would be riots if Mark Hamill didn’t do the Joker. A lot of the other cast worked really well but there were a few duds…
- Lots of backtracking – As one can expect from an open world game, there’s a lot of travelling to and from spots over and over again to reach your objective. The Szzazz side mission was particularly bad.
- Too many characters – The cast of the game was really massive so, rather unsurprisingly, many were relegated to mere cameo roles. Two-Face was disposed of within the first hour and many of the side missions were even worse. There was one where you had to find and scan several murder scenes. Clues seem to indicate that the murders were done by Bruce Wayne (A clear indication of Hush) and then you find him and then… That’s it. He shows up and walks off. That really is it. Quite a few characters got a similar treatment.
- Harley Quinn – I’ve loved Harley since she was introduced back in the animated series but I was not a fan of her depiction in Arkham Asylum. I think they pushed her too far into the sexpot design and they went even further with this one. She just doesn’t come off as the Harley I recognise in either game. But Arkham Asylum did have Arleen Sorkin as her voice, just like in the animated series but they got Tara Strong for this one. That wouldn’t be too bad but ultimately, Tara Just tried to be Arleen… A shame. I would have preferred it if Tara tried to make the role her own instead of trying to copy the original.
- The other voices – Another voice I had some problems adjusting to was Catwoman. It wasn’t bad per se, and rocksteady got her mannerisms and designs down to a T but the voice always felt a little off to me.
- Jumping the Shark – Rocksteady and Paul Dini really need to work on this. Mostly rocksteady though. In arkham Asylum, the game pretty much divebombs when you fight Killer Croc. In Arkham City, it’s when Protocol 10 takes effect. It’s a mystery through much of the game and helps push you along as you try to find more info about it and then when it becomes clear, it’s like “that’s it?” The game enjoyment level also takes a sharp dive as you enter the endgame. Not as bad as asylum though. But there was even a tacked on epilogue and anticlimatic final boss after the climax… And incidentally, I worked out what was going on behind the scenes when Protocol 10 took effect. It’s pretty easy if you know some of the batman mythos (or have watched batman begins Spoiler warning!)
Looking up, there does seem like a lot of complaints but the game itself is really good, for the most part. Most of the complaints are rather personal and somewhat superficial but nothing stopped me from enjoying the game a lot. At least, until protocol 10. Either way, it’s still one of the best games I’ve played this year but it wasn’t a sucker punch hit like the first game. Now, sonic Generations and Uncharted 3 are out this week. Lets see how they fare!!