Will the real Batman please stand up?
By Kamal Hwail
It has been two long, grueling years since we left the Dark Knight chasing down the dreaded Joker in the Asylum. We’ve seen the trailers and we’ve read the previews now it is time to talk about the final product. Well the wait is finally over; Batman: Arkham City is here! Rocksteady Studios is back crafting a monster of a sequel that practically better in every way possible. And no, they do not stop there. Arkham City certainly raises the bar set by its former, Arkham Asylum. It soars far beyond most open-world games setting a new standard that is not only rich but an artistic achievement in its own right. This is the ambitious treasure of the year we all have been waiting for. This is Arkham City. This is Batman.
From the moment you boot up the game you will notice the presentation is phenomenal. Even the start menu slaps a smile on my face. Everything has been redone and streamlined so it is easy to understand. The menu screens offer a pleasing and slick style. The music is that of film quality and undeniably complements Gotham’s mood. From the surface, the game play will seem familiar to anyone who has played Arkham Asylum. This is generally because it works and is incredibly satisfying. Animations have been improved for silk smooth game play. Yet Rocksteady still manages to sneak in a plethora of new game play options that feel like they have been there all along. These features add so much depth that when combined with your creativity, the sky is the limit.
Taking place nearly a year after the events of the first game, a large section of Gotham City has been sectioned off for the criminally insane. This is the highlight of the world. This section, known as Arkham City, is essentially a sand box at your disposal. This city is rich, alive, and massive. You’re given the freedom to do with it what you like. After playing the first game I thought I knew how it felt to be Batman. I was wrong. Batman is not only a crime fighter; he is Gotham’s watchful protector. Jumping from rooftops, gliding between alleyways, and soaring back into the air is Batman to the fullest. The way the setting was so meticulously crafted to resemble a crime driven city is breathtaking. Neon lights beaming through skyscrapers, rain soaked streets filled with trash, and chatty criminal guards patrolling the streets help bring this game to life. The city is also equally impressive as there are constant surprises awaiting you around each corner. The lavish amount of detail and effects are something of sheer beauty. I often found myself stopping on a high rooftop to marvel at the city trying to explore every square inch. Seeing snow land on Batman’s cape as he glides never gets old. This all comes together to create such a world that is so mind blowing that even hours on end you’ll find yourself lost in the moment begging for more.
Obviously this wouldn’t really matter if the game wasn’t entertaining and I am very glad to say that Arkham City never lets you down. As the game is constantly shifting gears, never have I felt I was repeating myself. Each mission is unique and brilliant and adds incredible significance. The game never punishes players for playing the way they like. Instead it rewards those players. Also, I am one of those people who hate side missions because they rarely seem to bear any significance. Every side mission in Arkham CIty however is very well integrated within the story and only enhances the experience. They also are not simply for fun but they reward you with special items and upgrades as incentives. Toss in 440 riddler challenges and you’ll be hooked! But Arkham City doesn’t stop there. Even the riddler challenges had a make-over. You’ll never see a riddler trophy just sitting in the open without some catch or puzzle attached to it. This is awesome as it adds an amazing reason to keep coming back for more. Oh, did I mention the fully loaded challenge maps, new game plus, and main menu unlockables? Yes, there all great.
In terms of how complaints go, not much of anything really bothered me. Sure there are some slow loading textures from time to time and my desire for a mini map were annoyances, but these are insignificant when you talk about the grand scope of this game. The only real problem I had was Rocksteady tossed in way too many villains that each one did not get enough character development they deserved. However, once I finished the game I realized what role they served. Considering the way they were cleverly blended together, that wasn’t enough to have me throwing controllers. Everything was so brilliantly crafted that nothing feels out of place.
Arkham City is a love letter to anyone who knows anything about Batman. The world is alive and serves justice to the source material. This is an experience that never drops below expectations and leaves you uninterested. Even the tiny detail no one will probably notice around the corner has been refined to perfection. This brings the open-world genre to new heights. Every detail serves a role within the entire package and it shows. Considering the daunting size of this game, that’s impressive. Even if you are not a fan of the Caped Crusader, that is not a good enough reason to skip out on one of gaming’s finest moments.
Final Verdict: 9.50 “Incredible”