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Batman: Arkham City
Score: 98%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Arcade/ Free-Roaming

Graphics & Sound:
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so I've heard. Gotham is generally known to be a dirty, gritty place - a city destined for greatness that, somehow, began decaying before ever reaching that intended grandeur. Arkham City, for the uninitiated, is a new mega-prison facility created by walling in a large section of Gotham's crime-infested downtown slums. Pretty? No, there's nothing pretty there - but the graphic detail is astounding; the graphics are really well done, from the detailed character models to the appropriately feeling environments to the cool post-processing in the Detective mode.

The environment is quite vast, with tall buildings providing a lot of skyline to investigate, along with buildings and even sewers that you'll have to make your way through in the course of progressing through the story.

The musical scoring is done well, with grand, building orchestral pieces when the action gets hot. The music has a melodramatic edge that goes well with Batman, especially the gritty version portrayed in Batman: Arkham City.

The sound effects are very realistic (especially the ringing pay phones, much to my chagrin), from the gunfire to the sound of footsteps on various terrains. I was actually able to use the sound to find things in the game, so the 3D spatial orientation of the sound effects was spot on, and helped to immerse me into the environment. Sadly, I had to pause Arkham City more than once to make sure that what I was hearing was the pay phone sound effect, rather than my home phone. After a couple of such occurrences, however, I realized that I could merely make Batman look a different direction; if the sound shifted around the room, it was an in-game phone ringing.


Gameplay:
You're Batman. The Dark Knight. The Detective. And your city, your home town, Gotham, has just been blighted with the world's biggest textbook example and poster-facility for the very concept of Not-In-My-Backyard... Arkham City - a mega-prison for super villains, nestled in historic downtown Gotham. You tried to stop it as Batman, then again as Bruce Wayne, Gotham's billionaire playboy and most eligible bachelor and how is Mr. Wayne rewarded for his sudden and uncharacteristic interest in politics? Why, he's arrested and thrown into the very same prison he was trying to abolish. So now, you're just going to have to shut down the prison from the inside-out...

So begins your story. You're now Gotham's only hope. You'll need to find out who Hugo Strange is and what his plans are with Arkham City. You'll also need to be wary of some of your nemeses who reside in Arkham City and have their own gangs of henchmen who would love nothing more than to kill you to earn some extra credit with the Joker, the Riddler, Penguin, Two-Face... and others. Let's face it; there's not many people inside of Arkham City who like you much. There's Catwoman, but that's always a bit dicey, what with your on-again/off-again relationship. And, to make matters worse, Hugo Strange is rounding up regular people he doesn't like and throwing them into the prison, as well. Let's just say that your average journalist isn't really cut out for surviving in your average prison - let alone the nightmare that is Arkham City. You'll have to save them... well, if they're to be saved...

You control Batman in a third-person view, watching the Caped Crusader as he works his way to the bottom of things. You'll start as Bruce Wayne, without any of your "wonderful toys," and handcuffed, to boot. You'll have to protect yourself and the reporter who was processed with you when you came into the prison, then escape your handcuffs (and the Penguin and his men) and make your way to a rendezvous point on the roof of a building - all before you manage to get your Batsuit. As you play, you'll get additional enhancements to your suit and your gadget collection, to the point that Alfred quips that you should look into a bigger utility belt.

There's a lot of gameplay in Arkham City, especially for completists who have a compulsion to do everything there is to be done. I have heard of someone who says they made it through the entire story mode in ten hours, but to do that, you'd have to avoid any Side Missions and not go out of your way to collect anything. I got to the end of Chapter 8 (out of 11 Chapters in the game) and collected some of the Riddler's trophies and took out some baddie collectibles, and the game still says that I've only completed 25% of the game (although 67% of the Story Mode). There's a lot of Bat-cans of whoop-ass to unleash in Arkham City, if you want to do everything, but as a result, the entire story counts as a smaller amount of the whole, so don't get discouraged if you see your progress moving along slowly even though you're working through the various chapters.

You'll encounter a large number of thugs looking for a bat-styled beat-down and - if you keep an eye out for them - various collectible tokens from the different villains. Beating down thugs, solving Riddler's puzzles and destroying the balloons, chattering teeth and penguin statues you'll find around Arkham City will earn you points and experience... and the experience not only levels your character up, but can be spent to upgrade your suit and gadgets. And Batman is all about the gadgets...


Difficulty:
Given Batman's access to and dependence on his slew of highly utilitarian Bat-things, you'll do well to practice using a variety of them and playing around to get an idea of what all can be done with them. While Bat-a-rangs can be used to hit targets, they can also be used to cause much needed distractions, which can be used to cover an escape, separate a group so you can pick them off or give you a chance to sneak up behind someone for a silent take-down. Not to mention the remote-controlled Bat-a-rangs, which do all of that and more. I found that when I was heavily outnumbered by enemies with firearms, I could throw remote controlled Bat-a-rangs to get a first hand view of where the various baddies were located. I've even knocked a few off of ledges (and, surprisingly, out cold) by lining up a shot and accelerating enough to knock them off their feet. All this, from across the room. Nice.

If you find that you're having a tough time of things, try to work some Side Missions for a bit or work on your collections. Taking some time to smell the roses (or beat them down, rather) can give you that extra XP that will level you up and let you bulk up your armor, making you a bit tougher in battle. Pay attention to how you take the most damage, however, because Ballistic armor and Melee armor are two different upgrades, each with multiple levels to buy. If you're like me and generally do pretty good until they start bringing guns to a Bat-a-rang fight, you may want to invest in Ballistic armor earlier on (and more frequently).

There are three different difficulty levels to choose from: Easy, Normal and Hard. Most of my gameplay was done in Normal mode, but I tested out Easy and Hard a bit for comparison. Easy is, well, easier, with more forgiving A.I. and more reaction time, while Hard is quite a bit harder. I suggest a first play through on Normal, unless you aren't familiar with this type of game (or never played Arkham Asylum) or if you're a diehard gamer who thought Arkham Asylum didn't offer enough of a challenge.


Game Mechanics:
Batman: Arkham City is an awesome game. The only thing that makes Batman: Arkham City less shocking than Arkham Asylum is the fact that Arkham Asylum already came out and set the bar for what to expect in a Batman (or, for that matter, superhero) game.

I have no complaints in the gameplay or presentation departments; Batman: Arkham City is every bit as fun and slick as Arkham Asylum had been, only with additional gadgets, more Side Missions, the addition of Catwoman* and (optionally) DLC available to play as Nightwing**. There are even different skins, to allow you to play as different versions of Batman, Catwoman* and Nightwing**, although it appears that the alternate skins can only be used in the Riddler's Revenge Challenges. There were three different skins for Catwoman, the one from the game, one from the Batman Animated Cartoon and one from Long Halloween. Additionally, by cashing in a tab from a specially marked "NOS Rewards Series" can of NOS, I got a code to unlock the Batman Beyond skin. (See link below for more information.)

All-in-all, there are hours of content, a variety of puzzles to solve and collectibles to hunt down, Catwoman* content and Riddler's Revenge Challenges to be played - including the ability to create your own Riddler's Revenge Challenges by using the provided maps and tweaking different options. Tweakers and Completists could play for quite some time. I highly suggest it for Batman fans, Tweakers and Completists. (You know who you are.)


*Note: The Catwoman playable character, skins and missions are part of the Catwoman Bundle DLC. A free code for this downloadable content is included (on a slip of paper) in the game box, but...
  • Internet Access is required to access PSN to download this content, and...
  • It is unlikely that you will have access to this content when renting the game or purchasing it used, unless you purchase it separately from PSN.
**Note: The Nightwing playable character, skins and two additional Challenge Maps are part of the Nightwing Bundle DLC. This is not included with the game; it must be purchased separately.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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