Batman: Arkham City
Developer: Rocksteady
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: One
Words By:

On this occasion I've decided to write this review in the first-person as I feel as though I have written this review before.

Back in 2009 I reviewed this game’s prequel, Arkham Asylum, on Gamecell, and loved it to pieces. Feel free to dig through the archives, have a read, then come back to this review. At the time it (and arguably still) soars above the majority of generic games with licensed character images plastered over them to sell by the million. With an excellent mix of fighting crowds of goons or stealthily picking off armed guards one by one, it felt like Batman.

The Arkham City story is a little incoherent. Bruce Wayne is arrested after protesting about the centre of Gotham City being converted into a colossal ultra-high security prison, gets in a fight, picks up his Bat-Stuff dropped off by Alfred, and off he goes to find out what's going on in an open-world version of the prequel... and here we come to one of the games comparative (but minor) weaknesses. The first game had Batman stuck in the enclosed claustrophobic environment of Arkham Asylum where you felt manipulated by the Joker and his cronies who had taken over the asylum. This added mood. Giving Batman free reign to swoop around the whole of Arkham City, takes away more in mood than it gives in freedom.

Just like the original, there are three main gameplay aspects. One aspect is simply exploring the environment looking for clues and ways to progress in the game. Just like in the previous game, you can use various gadgets to access different areas of the game and bring up a special ‘Detective mode’ view that allows Batman to see in the dark and display more information about the surrounding area than is normally visible. Just like the previous game, this is such a useful feature that there's little reason not to have it left on; which in turn makes everything appear like something from Tron with high-tech overlays on a blue-washed environment and can make you abandon the need to appreciate the beautifully drawn scenery as much as you probably should. Unlike the previous game, Batman now has the opportunity to swoop around Arkham City gliding with his cape deployed like wings. There seems to be so much going on (items to pick up, snipers on roofs to avoid, plot threads to follow up...) that the game can initially be overwhelming.

Then there’s another aspect of the game, the fight sections, where Batman fights hordes of goons. Again as in the previous game, the fights are balletic where you progress by keeping up a flow of attacks and manoeuvres and not getting hit yourself, and there are a variety of different enemy types and situations to keep things interesting. A minor flaw is that there are almost too many gadgets that can be deployed during combat, but it's nice to have options.

And to the final main aspect of the game, the predatory sections where Batman is out-matched in direct confrontation with well-armed enemies but is encouraged to sneakily pick them off one at a time. This aspect of the game continues to be very well executed. As Batman it's easy to feel very powerful with a plethora of gadgets to distract and disable heavily armed enemies, but the enjoyable tension in knowing that it's easy to make a mistake and get shot to bits.

As with the previous title, outside of the main game there are “Challenge” levels that have three consecutive levels of combat and/or predatory levels with varying opponents and environments. A clever addition to this has been making the player choose at least one handicap from a set they must apply over the course of the three segments to complete the challenge, like choosing less health and more aggressive enemies in the first segment. For those who like an even greater challenge there are extra optional objectives in the levels themselves.

To summarise the main game, it's great. Rocksteady have (for the most part) succeeded in improving upon all the things that made the first game so much fun, and I highly recommend it.

As part of this review I have also unlocked the extra Catwoman content of this game. It complements the main story, by allowing you to play out small sections of the game as Catwoman, and despite being nice to flesh out some back story it feels like a re-skinned Batman with fewer tricks. This becomes evident while trying to get across Arkham City. Where Batman smoothly glides around the city, Catwoman latches on to buildings with a whip then oddly scampers up the sides of buildings. I suppose it's nice to have a change but it's a relief to get back to the Batman sections of the game and have all the marvellous toys back.

Best Bits

- The predator sections are still enormous fun.
- Fighting is still a lot of fun too.
- Clever “Challenge” levels.
Worst Bits

- A less focused story.
- Maybe too much fighting.
- Some incidental character dialogue can get repetitive.

by: Jason Rainbird

Batman: Arkham City
The Bradygames Signature Series Guide
Publisher: Bradygames
RRP: £12.99
Words By:

For the sake of full disclosure, I would like to state I've never been keen on guides. If you get stuck, the internet is a quick easy place to get enough of a hint of what to do next, or even spoil the whole game should you wish it. Why spend the cash on a glossy book?

As always with Bradygames guides the first couple of sections feel like an extended, detailed deluxe instruction manual, including general gameplay hints like how to maintain combos in fights or the effects of some of the gadgets. After playing through the game, the majority of these elements are either discovered through play or explicitly described during the game.

The next thirty pages or so are made up of glossy profiles of characters that feature in the game, so if you are still playing the game and would like to spoil surprise cameos of unexpected characters, this should be your first port of call.

The next segment is where the walkthrough begins in earnest. Arkham City is a well-crafted game that is for the most part pretty good at supplying enough cues to hint at where to go next to make progress with the main story. For those moments where the cues are a bit too subtle, like those occasionally frustrating moments where you find yourself at a location in the city as the game hints at but can't find how to get into a building, this can be handy. The walkthrough is slightly more helpful for the side missions simply as it is not always obvious how to progress.

The next section is a breakdown of all the challenge levels. For the most part, it is simply a list of all the challenge levels available to play with some hints on how to approach them.

The final and easily most useful section of the guide is the location of all the hidden trophies and how to access some of the Riddler's trickier collectable tokens. Markers on the in-game map that show the location of these tokens can be wrung out of intimidated goons during the game, but it is handy to have a comprehensive list of them all. Sadly, even here the format of the book is not conducive to study during play, as it can't lay flat and it's easy to lose your place with both hands on a controller without an awkwardly placed weight keeping the page open but flat enough to be visible.

To summarise, as well presented as the guide is, my opinion has not changed. If you're after something glossy with maps of all the hidden tokens, go for it.

click to visit Bradygames website

by: Jason Rainbird

Copyright © Gamecell 2012