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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Kick Ass – Review (Film)

Kick Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a teenager who wonders why no-one wants to be a superhero anymore and decides to try to be one himself.

Based on Mark Millar’s comic this is a dark and violent, yet humorous, look at the superhero genre.

After a freak incident Dave is left with no sense of pain and he uses this to help craft the persona of Kick Ass. A hero who is cleaning up his neighbourhood.

Alongside the action part of the story plays Dave’s ‘romance’ of Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca), who thinks he’s gay and treats him as a friend. This leads to some fairly obvious but pretty funny scenes as Dave uses the situation to his advantage.

In the mix are also Red Mist (the genius Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a superhero wannabe who teams up with Kick Ass, and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz) – a father/daughter combo who are the vigilante real deal.

There was some controversy over Hit Girl as she is a violent, sweary character despite being a child. I can see where the complaints are coming from but the character is supposed to have been trained by her father to be like that and whilst I agree they may have overstepped the mark in some respects the film does not attempt to hide any of this.

If you watch the trailer you know what you’re in for and should be prepared for lots of swearing and lots of violence.

For me this was Nicolas Cage’s best role in years, as he nailed the Big Daddy character and lent him a broken quality that made you feel for him.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse, as ever, is brilliant as Red Mist and he delivers some of the stand out moments in the film. The Mistmobile is certainly a sight to behold 😆

The story is standard comic book fare but the characters have believable qualities and the casting is spot on.

Overall then a film that, for me, lives up to the hype for a change. If you aren’t easily offended and don’t mind violence and bad language (even from an 11-year-old) then sit back and enjoy – Kick Ass is one hell of a ride.

Rating: 9/10

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