The sequel to the latest modern Batman title has finally arrived, but will Arkham City be able to entertain more successfully than its predecessor?
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That Batman And His Adventures: Batman: Arkham City takes place, once again, in Gotham city this time revolving around half of the city being turned into a massive holding cell for prisoners from Arkham Asylum and Black Gate Prison.As is usually the case, Batman is at odds with his nemesis the Joker, who is looking to cause havoc around the city and of course, put an end to Batman along the way. As well as that, a mysterious figure called Hugo Strange has a plan to install himself as the ruler of Arkham City and erect a monument to Batman's failure to stop him. Oddly enough, Batman's interactions with Hugo Strange do not really pick up until later in the game but I found the narrative of the Batman vs. Joker storyline to be pretty intriguing throughout. It takes a little while to get going, but you will soon find yourself wondering where the story will go next, and the occasional surprise twist adds to the suspense as well.
Hulk SMASH: As far as the gameplay goes, Arkham City mostly follows in the footsteps of its predecessor Arkham Asylum. The game will throw a ton of enemies at you, but they are often easily dispatched of.The combat system is practically a mirror of Arkham Asylum, and I can safely say that if you want to see what the combat will be like, play either the original Arkham Asylum or pop in an Assassin's Creed title. When pressing the attack button, your character (primarily Batman) will jump from enemy to enemy throwing relentless punches and kicks. Added into the mix are "counters", which present themselves right before an enemy is about to attack. When you counter one of your foes, you will not only dodge the attack but oftentimes you will be able to rocket off combinations as well. When you first get into the combat system, it is quite immersive and some of the slow-motion finishing attacks are cool as well. But it does not take long to quickly grow tired of the same old thing, as you move from swarm to swarm mowing through them with relative ease. Particularly on the lower difficulties, in most cases you do not even need to counter your enemies' attacks. Just mash the attack button over and over and you will often succeed. Now, the combat does look extremely flashy and it is just fun to watch the combat system in action with slow motion finishes, slick counter attacks and upgradeable finishing moves and evasive maneuvers at your disposal. But using the combat system is another story entirely. The combat basically revolves around two buttons to control it (the attack button and the counter button), and it does not take long to perfect the timing of counter attacks. You really don't even need to use the evasive maneuvers or, as a matter of fact, counter attacks much of the time. Often you will be able to clear out rooms with nothing but the attack button, but the fact is I often found myself using counters and evading my enemies simply because it looked cooler and it felt like it gave a little more depth to the combat system. Unfortunately it just feels like, over time, the combat in the game grows increasingly more repetitive. As I mentioned, it looks like something special from a spectator's point of view but when you are actually forced to use that combat system throughout the game it can become a bit of a bore. One good thing is that Batman: Arkham City does last a long time though. The campaign can last upwards of 20 hours, which is exceeding long by today's standards with that number being variable depending on how quickly you solve puzzles. And that is not even counting the amount of time that could be spent just running around the rooftops of the city or completing the side missions littered around the city.
Now Where Can I Grapple To? As for the storyline, while pretty interesting, it does tend to move you from one place to another in a relatively linear fashion and if the combat didn't get you bored after the first hour, I think the problem-solving and backtracking will.Now, I am not opposed to puzzles in a game but I truthfully feel that Arkham City takes the whole thing to another level at times with some exceedingly boring "puzzles". Some of the obstacles in your path are easy to handle, but occasionally there are situations where you will find yourself backtracking through the entire level of search of one little door or a window to jump out of. Oftentimes, you will be forced to use a special vision that gives you a better look at objectives and what you should be looking for (it is practically identical to the clue-finding system of Arkham Asylum, sans having to look for footprints or scent trails). Unfortunately, a little too often your special clue-finder vision will not display much in the way of your next objective and you will once again be forced to run around the level looking for anything that you can interact with. The core of the game revolves using a grappling hook to move from different vantage points around the level or, if moving from one area to another, the grappling hook will allow you to move across the rooftops in the game. The city in which you roam seems vast and while you can explore the city a little bit, there is really not too much to do aside from the numerous side missions. I do have to say though, that I found the side missions to be surprisingly enjoyable and some of them even have a relevance to the main storyline. Overall the game looks as though it is a playground and while it is not quite as expansive and fun-filled as it may appear; the side missions do add some variety between following the main storyline objectives.
One Good Looking Bat: A very strong point in the game is the visuals though. The character models are all very sharp and while some of the non-enemy NPCs move around like robots, everyone looks nicely detailed. Not only that, I liked the fact that when shot or damaged, Batman's suit displays those effects (small bullet holes in his suit, etc.)The same is said about the environments, as they are meticulously detailed in countless ways and there are no issues with "pop-ins" or anything of that kind. The game runs very smoothly throughout and even supports 3-D!.
Rent vs. Buy: Rent vs. Buy & Impressions: I'm sorry, but despite what many other reviews out there are suggesting, I believe Batman: Arkham City is a game that only a certain kind of gamer would really enjoy.This title can supply some fun for an hour or so, but the more you play the more you will realize how eerily similar it is to Arkham Asylum and you will also notice how the combat system, which is really the biggest issue in the game rapidly become repetitive. I did not hate the game, but I found the combat to be pretty boring for the most part. If you must try it out, I wouldn't completely advise against a test drive of the title but I would avoid buying the game unless you were absolutely certain that you could take many hours of the same thing. I feel that the game did get a little better after the first couple hours, but the occasionally maddening problem solving and combat that does not really change or evolve at all really disappointed me. For all its strengths, (a fairly solid storyline, great graphics, sharp controls, numerous amusing side missions), Arkham City cannot escape the flaws that keep it from reaching its full potential. As was the case for the first title, I had high expectations for the game but they were not met. It was like deja vu, playing the latest Batman title and discovering its underwhelming combat system, original but overall frustrating problem-solving areas and simply walking away from the game feeling unsatisfied. As for the replay value, I believe the many side missions vastly increase the amount of time you would otherwise put into Arkham City, and the fact is the side missions can take up a surprising amount of your attention.
If you must try it out, I wouldn't completely advise against a test drive of the copy but I would avoid buying the game unless you were absolutely certain that you could take many hours of the same thing. For all its strengths, (a fairly solid storyline, great graphics, sharp controls, numerous amusing side missions), Arkham City cannot escape the flaws that keep it from reaching its full potential.
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