I guess it was a no-brainer around the Another Let Down office that I would get to review Batman: Arkham City. With the twins riveted to Skyrim and ToR, and me being the resident expert on all things Dark Knight, it really was the only logical option. I’ve had a pre-order on the game since August and I’ve been playing through Arkham Asylum anxiously waiting for the day when I could pick up the game at Best Buy with my “exclusive” Robin DLC and start bashing heads in a new, more open format. Lesson learned: never get your hopes up. Rocksteady, the company behind the magic, delayed the PC release by a month and it still wasn’t perfect in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE THIS GAME. But for a month of delay, it really should have been better.
The plot picks up a few months after the events on Arkham Island left off (in fact you can see the Island from a certain point in the city) with Bruce Wayne protesting Mayor Quincy Sharp’s new solution to crime in Gotham City. I picked up the companion comics at Jetpack Comics, hoping they might tithe me over during the delayed release but they really had little relevance to the plot other than giving the reader a leg-up as to the overall layout of the city. The turf war between Joker and Penguin that heavily drove the plot of the first half of the game was explained a bit farther in the comic but in all honesty, they’re fighting. Who really cares what about? Penguin has guns, Joker doesn’t. Joker’s insane, he gets guns from Penguin by exploiting Harley Quinn. Nothing out of the ordinary for him. At the risk of spoilers, the plot is fairly linear and predictable if you’ve read any of Paul Dini’s other work. There were a couple things that were surprising but overall, pretty straightforward. The dialogue, though, was impeccable and kept me feeling the appropriate emotions from start to finish.
The gameplay is pretty much the same as that of Arkham Asylum. In many cases, I could find cause to gripe about this but Rocksteady made it seem like that in the first place so we were geared up for and expecting more of the same. Some of the gadgets are new although some were eliminated (I miss my triple-batclaw). My favourite of the newcomers being the ECG (Electric Charge Gun). Useful both in combat and as well as interfering/interfacing with broadband electrical circuitry. This time around, the game was much more explicit in its detail of how to use various devices in combat. I find myself using the explosive gel, the ECG, and the Fries-Tech as well as my traditional Batarang spam this time around and I’m itching to get back to the Asylum to try out some of the quick-launch combos to see if I can finally get some higher scores in challenge mode.
Speaking of Challenge mode, the ability to use different characters this time around is part of what initially got me so excited about a sequel. As I purchased the Robin DLC right off the bat (no pun intended), he was the first character I tried out once I’d unlocked the challenge mode. In the words of Bender B. Rodriguez, “FUN ON A BUN!” Robin feels faster, and more comfortable to my gameplay style than the larger, more cumbersome Batman. I can’t wait to give Nightwing a shot! Catwoman is even faster than Robin and therefore, on a good day, I can usually garner a higher combo with her but her equipment is not as varied so my overall scores are often lower. I will say, though, that Catwoman is an INCREDIBLY fun addition to the cast and I’d love to see some more DLC with an extended story mode for her!
Here I’m starting to sound like Dick Grayson though. Too much optimism. Time to dive into Damien Wayne for a minute and point out some flaws. The first one was that the campaign was too damned short. I was finished with it within a weekend. Not a big deal as I’ve still got hours of playtime left with side missions and Riddler quests. Second, the Catwoman segments were a)too few and b)too short. I would have liked to see SIGNIFICANTLY more from her. Without giving the plot away, one in particular seemed like a waste of time (both mine and the voice talent). Third, and most importantly, the environment was poorly programmed. My computer never lags. Ever. Every time I wander around the open universe of the city, I hit SERIOUS lag to the point where my game is almost unplayable. I discovered, through trial and error, that the game loads the ENTIRE CITY whenever you are in it which puts severe strain on the machine. I’d have to defer to the twins on this one, but I feel like there’s got to be some way to fix this.
Regardless of my nitpicks, I am loving every minute of Arkham City and it’s decidedly the best Batman game I’ve ever played. The voice-acting is great, the plot was fun and I’ll probably play it again (not something I say often), and there is plenty of room for DLC (who wants to make me a Begins/TDK/TDKR DLC?). I love the new characters they added and once again Paul Dini proves his worth as a writer. Would I like to see another sequel? No, probably not. With Mark Hamill’s departure as Joker, I think it might be a good time to let it rest for a while. But who knows. I’ve been surprised before. On a scale from 1 to The Dark Knight, I give it a “buy this game now.”