A few years ago, I reviewed the ground-breaking game, "Batman-Arkham Asylum", in which Batman fights his way through the infamous asylum for the criminally insane. Arkham had become a giant trap, set by the Joker & his other arch-enemies.
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Due to the glacially slow pace at which I play video games, I've only recently gotten around to playing the sequel, "Batman- Arkham City". After beating the campaign & all the side missions, I finally found every single Riddler trophy & hidden item on all the maps. It took me a while & I finally called it quits to move on to the next title.
Arkham City was just as excellent as the first game. The same iconic look, dark mood, & mechanics in both games made it feel like a true sequel that was just as faithful to the Batman mythos. This time, instead of being confined to the grounds inside the asylum, a whole section of old Gotham City has been cordoned off to hold criminals & gangs in a "prison city".
The leaders of the various gangs are well-known Batman villains, such as Penguin, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, and of course the Joker. All the characters, including Batman, are handled pretty much perfectly. At first I was like, "the Penguin has a British accent?!?!" ..but he's great in the game, a ruthless jerk. These games make brilliant use of the entire roster of Batman's many foes.
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This is a huge complement coming from me, because I'm a harsh critic when it comes to comic book movies or games. I drive my one brother nuts, because I'm always nitpicking plot details or stylistic choices in the superhero genre. I simply know that I could do things better! The Avengers was the one movie that I thought was as close to flawless as I've seen. Man of Steel was a pretty good one that I've seen recently, & I couldn't believe they didn't release a licensed game to coincide with the movie. We'll see what happens with the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. Ben Affleck was totally mis-cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman, but I'll wait to tear apart the decision further until after I see the trailers.
As far as a superhero game goes, the Batman: Arkham titles quite convincingly put you into the role of Batman fighting his way through the grittiest areas of Gotham. Playing as 'The World's Greatest Detective' is an immersive experience, that combines combat, stealth, & puzzle-solving that truly uses the many facets of Batman's character. You really get into the experience of the man behind the mask.
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The only major complaint I have about the game mechanics is that the melee combat always felt clunky & repetitive. The stealth aspects of the game are great, though. You're kind of forced to play silently & intelligently, since more than a couple thugs with guns can take you out quickly. Batman is just a man in body armor, after all. This recognition of Batman's vulnerability makes the game that much more convincing. The controls involved in climbing, grappling, & gliding make traveling around the many cool areas of Arkham City fun, in a way that superhero games should be.
My only other complaint, about ending, is that you don't even fight The Joker. He just dies. It's kind of anti-climatic. Also, I finished the story mode when it said the game was only "40% Complete" on the save screen. I guess there are Catwoman missions that are a large chunk of the game, but I didn't download them. This percentage threw me off & thought there was alot more of the main campaign to play. I still enjoyed playing the remaining side missions, the challenge maps, & searching all the areas to find the Riddler items.
Speaking of The Joker, the voice acting by Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker, is one of the best parts of these games- despite his lame demise at the end. He also voiced 'The Clown Prince of Crime' in the Batman cartoons. The portrayal of Batman's arch-nemesis in these games is the best anywhere.
Playing these games, I was thinking back to the old Batman game I had for the Commodore 64 computer. I remember seeing the neat graphics on the box & dying to play it.
I was already jaded with computer graphics as a kid & wasn't really impressed by the game once I tried it. Even though they were trying to deliver similar elements to the current Batman games, I thought it sucked & was a pain in the ass to play, even at the time. Looking back, I was just biding my time, until the gaming technology got to its current state.
Oh... the humanity!!!!!
The graphics on these modern games are so damn ridiculous, though, that I often find myself wandering around the open world game maps- simply exploring & finding every hidden item, just so I can see every inch of the area. I can spend as much time scrutinizing the countless details in the amazing virtual worlds as I do actually playing the game! (That's also why it takes me so long to finish a well-produced title with alot of content like this.)
Anyway, I finally had to put this great game aside & move onto my next virtual adventure- which will probably take me at least a few months, at the rate I play.
I'll be immersing myself back into The Animus & reliving the genetic memories of Ezio Auditore in "Assassin's Creed: Revelations".
Batman: Arkham City is a definite "must-play" for any comic book or superhero fan. It's as close as you can get to the experience of being 'The Caped Crusader'. Truly an awesome & epic game...
• The Monkey Buddha's official rating: 9.0