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Batman: Arkham City

Arkham City review: A Knight to remember

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Indoor level structure too remains familiar with players either flailing through a room of thugs or using gadgets and a dab of brain juice every now and then to work their way from one objective to the next. You might be tempted to flash the repetition card ever so briefly here but, as with Asylum, the gameplay is so satisfying and the story so compelling, that we became too engrossed to notice.

OUT INTO THE KNIGHT
But it's Arkham City itself that provides the giant leap forward in Arkham Asylum. The effects of introducing an open world to the Arkham universe manifest themselves in a number of incredibly significant ways.

Try to remember the biggest gauntlet of goons you were faced with in Batman: Arkham Asylum. It was probably the corridor of Joker jumpsuits acting as a welcoming committee to the clown's make-shift fun house, or the penultimate boss battle pitting you against two Titan monsters and a horde of henchmen.

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Now try to remember just how overwhelming it felt to face that many foes, how the intensity spiked, how it took just about every trick you'd learnt in the Asylum to survive the slog to the finish.

In Batman: Arkham City, Rocksteady doesn't wait until the final act to hit you with impossible odds. In Arkham City, you can be faced with the biggest fight of your life, only fractions into the campaign, simply for landing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In Arkham Asylum you'd find yourself having to play a cautious game and rethink tactics as soon as an assault rifle entered the equation. In Arkham City you might turn a corner to see two dozen enemies in one place all packing major heat.

When that happens, it's not a case of rethinking tactics, it's a case of avoiding the fight altogether. It makes for bursts of tension on the fly, it places massive hurdles in what should be a routine journey from point A to point B. Most importantly, it contributes to what makes Rocksteady's take on the character such an authentic and exciting one. It reaffirms the core principle of Batman - that he's not Superman.

Having gangs of Arkham inmates littered about the city in varying numbers and threat levels also means that the Predator sections that were a highlight in the first game make it outside where they're no longer quite so black and white.

Go into one of the buildings in Arkham City and you'll more than likely come across a familiar Predator set-up at some point - gargoyles, air vents and all. When it comes to the mean streets though, it's up to you to judge when you need to take a Predator approach.

As you'd expect, a lot of Batman's top rogues have a sizeable security team outside their base of operations so, more often than not, you'll arrive at the stronghold and quickly realise that knocking on the door isn't going to be an option.

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What you have then is essentially a Predator map of colossal size. We arrived at Sionis Industries to take out The Joker, for example, only to find that he had about ten men covering the entrance on the ground and four or five more watching from above with sniper rifles.

We slammed on the brakes, took a knee on a near-by rooftop and assessed the situation before employing Predator techniques in an environment that allowed for more improvisation than anything in Arkham Asylum.

DEATH FROM ABOVE
Instead of gargoyles we were striking from rooftops, billboards, cranes and lampposts. Instead of navigating a room forty feet across, we were navigating an area covering a hundred metres or more in all directions. Swooping down from sixty story buildings and taking out our man before grappling up to another high point to escape.

Indoors, we found ourselves relying on the incredibly effective glide-kick too often. The sheer badass nature of Batman's other take-downs (the vertical takedown, stealth attacks from behind, yanking people over edges with the Batclaw) will encourage you to mix things up again. But it's the more natural Predator situations outside that force you to really think like the Bat.

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