Batman: Arkham City – Review (PS3)

Batman: Arkham Asylum blew everyone away upon it’s release in 2009. The thing that caught most people off guard was that this was a great superhero game. Of course we had Infamous, which was brilliant but there hadn’t been a decent game featuring a known comic book star for far too long.

That critical, and financial, success meant that the pressure on developers RockSteady was immense to deliver with the sequel – Arkham City.

Taking place in a city environment, as opposed to the enclosed Asylum setting of the first game, Arkham City sees Batman facing off against several well known villians. Of course The Joker is the main antagonist here, along with Hugo Strange, but you won’t be short of cameos from familiar faces.

The idea is that Strange has cordoned off a section of the city to use as a prison and keep all the inmates locked up there rather than house them within a single building.

Fortunately Batman has his grapple hook and cape to help him get around so you’re never too far away from your next mission. I struggled a little to get to grips with the mechanics for some of the air travel and on occasion it felt a little counter-intuative when compared to something like Just Cause 2.

Graphically the game looks great and the atmosphere is nicely set up with ambient noise coming in the form of rain and the chatter of henchmen, among other things.

There are a few missions of the game where you can play as Catwoman – basically a faster but slightly weaker version of Batman – but I found these to be uninspiring for the most part. Perhaps because I don’t know the character very well? Either way if you didn’t get them with your game (only new copies received the codes for download) I would say maybe give them a swerve unless you desperately want to play them.

The developers have stepped up the number of things you can do on the side – from Riddler trophies (there are now over 400 of them to find!) through to genuine side missions featuring new characters (I stumbled on a great one featuring The Mad Hatter). The amount of stuff to do can be a bit daunting but I would repeat the advice I heard from several sources – stick to the main story missions on the whole and then go back and do side stuff when you’ve finished the main missions.

I felt it took a little too long to unlock some of the better weapons/gadgets – I understand they don’t want to make the game too easy too quickly but at times early on I just couldn’t approach fight situations the way I wanted to.

For me that is a big draw of the game – being able to form a strategy and then strike in your own way. It’s a minor complaint and may not effect you if your play style suits what the game wants you to do at that time. For me it meant a fair few frustrating deaths until I nailed the fight the way the game wanted me to.

One other complaint is the fact that there is an alternative ending and I wish the developers had let you end the game that way. Why give you the choice only to then not let you live with the consequences. I’m not saying don’t give people the option to ‘rewind’ and reapproach the situation again but it would’ve been cool to have the choice to have that as your ending.

But I don’t want to dwell too long on the negatives because Arkham City is a really good game. You can tell the developers have tried to think of everything to improve upon the first game and they have delivered a bigger, more open and content packed title. The question is – after Arkham Asylum, was that what you wanted?

Rating: 8/10

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Batman Arkham Asylum – Demo Impressions (PS3)

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I’ve said it before but I’ve never been a big comic fan and while I can tell you who a lot of the recognizable characters are, it’s not a media I’m familiar with.

However basing a game on the Batman comic rather than tying it in with a film seems like a no brainer to me – you can come up with a more flexible plot and include as many characters from that universe as you want.

So I was looking forward to Batman Arkham Asylum, especially once it became clear that the developer had done a great job on the look and feel of the game.

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The first thing I noticed, after the brilliant opening cinematic, was how tight the camera was to Batman – tighter I think than even Resident Evil 4, which was firmly over Leon’s shoulder.

As someone who likes to utilise the camera to check out my surroundings this caused a few minor issues further into the demo. As I say nothing major but meant a few times I was looking at the wall instead of my opponents.

The combat felt suitably heavy, with every punch and kick landing solidly and I liked the slow mo counter moves which reminded me of the takedowns fromĀ TheĀ Bourne Conspiracy.

The only problem was repetition, essentially the same moves over again – particularily silent takedowns – but I expect you’ll unlock more moves and different move sets as you progress through the game.

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I liked the detective angle – pressing L2 takes you into a sort of x-ray mode where things of interest and enemies are highlighted.

Hopefully it’ll be one of things that’s cool to use to set up attacks on your enemies but that you don’t need all the time.

It’s a fairly short demo (around 10 minutes) and while it hasn’t blown me away as much as I hoped, Batman Arkham Asylum is definitely something I’ll pick up to playthrough – just not necessarily upon release.