Community Review - Batman: Arkham City

Alright folks, time to start gushing. This is the community review for Batman: Arkham City and -- news just in -- apparently the game is a little bit spiffy. What are your thoughts so far?

I've been going through this whole 'can't start a new game until I've finished the one I'm playing' thing. This meant that my copy of Batman: Arkham City remained in its cellophane while I was blasting through the last act of Gears of War III. Thankfully I managed to finish that bad boy off late Friday night, allowing me to focus all my time on Arkham.

So far, I've put roughly a couple of hours into Batman: Arkham City, having been constantly interrupted by the usual suspects: social obligations, housework and the fact that it's now really, really sunny outside. But even in those two hours it's become increasingly apparent why the game has earned so much praise.

When a game is all atmosphere and no mechanics, or all about the environment with no core, I tend to get a little bit grumpy. Thankfully, the reason Batman: Arkham City succeeds so dramatically is its solid core, which is, of course, the combat mechanics.

Arkham City's combat mechanics are timing based. First and foremost this an intelligent point of difference that deviates from the usual 'mash it and see' combat that drives most games in the genre six feet under. Batman's combat is an elegant, continually rewarding stroke of genius that allows you to look and feel like Batman in the simplest way possible. No battle ever feels out of reach and, despite the fact that it's so simple, nothing ever feels like a win button -- you still feel as though you are being rewarded for doing something correctly. And that's fun.

Then, with the core solid and resolute, Batman: Arkham City is free to add the sort of trimmings, polish and variety that takes the game into the stratosphere. The city's design, the detective aspects of gameplay, the multiple ways in which you navigate the city -- it all works in tandem with the pacing and (of course) the combat to create a matrix of different play-styles.

So many games feel like a grind nowadays - games that centre around a single verb and beat it down until you can take no more, or intersperse it with cut-scenes. As much as I enjoyed Gears of War, I spent most of it 'shooting' and that got old after a while. In Batman: Arkham City I'm 'fighting', 'climbing', 'investigating', 'planning', even 'flying'. And every single one of those verbs is seamlessly integrated into one whole - an experience. In that sense the game feels like a modern day Zelda - an experience where everything feels polished and fun.

But then again, I've only been playing for a couple of hours. It might get a bit crap after that!

Alright, enough gushing from me - this is a Community Review after all. What did you guys think of Batman: Arkham City? Let us know in the comments below.


Comments

    (Stealing from my summary in TAY) I spent most of the weekend playing Riddler: Arkham City (plus Batman). Good fun, though I can see the arguments that Arkham Asylum was probably a tighter, more compelling experience.

    I should probably have tried to stick to the main story and I would have found it less meandering, but then I would have missed some cool titbits and offended my open-world OCD sensibilities.

    Really enjoying the freedom of getting around the city too and the fights are mostly enjoyable. Though I think that they've given us too many options in the fights, I can never remember which buttons to press to trigger the correct actions. But maybe I'm just dumb.

      LT - Quickfire Batarang
      LT + X - Quickfire Explosive Gel (do it again to trigger it)
      LT + Y - Quickfire Batclaw
      LT + B - Quickfire REC
      Double Tap RT - Quickfire Frost Grenade Thingy

      X - Attack, time combos for critical hits
      Y - Counter or drop a Smoke Pellet if you're being shot at
      Double tap A - Dodge
      B - Cape Stun, follow up with X (mash) for beat down) or double tap A for aerial attack.

      After getting a combo of 8 (or 5 with the appropriate upgrade):
      A + X - Stun all enemies in a certain radius
      A + B - Take down all enemies on the ground
      B + X, Y + X - instant take down (one of these will destroy the enemy's weapon, I forget which).

      Too many combat option? Surely you jest.

        You missed a couple (that I can remember). There's also B,B,B to do an ultra stun (or is that only against big guys?) and holding Y with a certain frequency to do blade dodges. I think I've only managed the full blade dodge + counter twice :(

          Blade dodge = Hold control stick in any direction, hold Y when they swipe and let go inbetween to counter. Just hold Y if you want to dodge without countering.

          Never bothered with this one, much easier to just dodge over them and then attack from behind.

          And the opportunity to ultra stun comes up about three times in the game.

            I always use the weapon break / disarm almost exclusively. No weapons? Takedown. Weapons? Automatically breaks a knife / gun / thrown object, which is *awesome*.

              I don't think I've *ever* used it, which is probably part of my problem. Probably due to being swamped with all the options, so I just revert to the basic stuff that usually works. Will force myself to use it tonight.

                I tend to use those special moves constantly, especially in big groups. Not only do they look awesome and take a guy out, you're immune to attacks during the animation.

            I find the blade counter worth mastering because it can take out an armored enemy quickly without the chance of being interrupted like a beat down can, though if I can't bait them into picking up a machete I'll usually just freeze them and save them for last.
            *KIND OF SPOILER*
            Also the easiest way to take out assassins
            *END OF KIND OF SPOILER*

        Wow. You're, like, my new God, Trjn. Thanks!

        An easy way to remember this is that the quickfire combo buttons correspond to where the the gadgets are on the gadget menu. So the batclaw is up on the d-pad, so it's triangle/Y on the face buttons, the top-most one.

    I have played the ever-loving bejeezus out of Arkham City. What with me having a few days off of work and no internet at home.

    The core mechanics of the game are largely the same as Arkham Asylum (as you'd expect) but they are much more polished. Especially the combat (but I'll elaborate on that in a bit). The gliding can be a little troublesome though.

    For the better part, it works, but there will be times where you grapling boost off of a building and end up flying in the wrong direction. Then, because you're gliding, making a sharp turn can be difficult. It only really comes into play during the AR training sidequests (which can be just plain ridiculous) and some of the Riddle Trophies, so it isn't really an issue.

    The main story is good. They manage to work in pretty much every major Batman villain into the game in one way or another. If they aren't involved in the main quest, they will have a side-mission or at the very least be mentioned as a Riddle. Can't say too much here, what with the spoilers and all, but I did not expect the ending, even though I was rather happy with it.

    Combat is interesting. It's definitely much more polished than the original but it appears that not everyone realised how timing based the combo system was. My housemate is currently playing through Arkham Asylum and he is downright terrible at the combat. He would just mash on the punch button and occasionally counter, with most of his combos getting to about 6 or 7 hits.

    We did some challenge mode in Arkham City and while I could manage a 50+ hit combo without too much hassle, it took some explaining to get him to get the system just right. Now he's rather competent.

    The introduction of new moves is fun, I particularly like the one where you can take down everyone who is on the ground with some batarangs.

    The arsenal of tools in the utility belt is impressive. Most of them manage to be useful in some way or another, if not during the main story then during sidemissions (particularly the Riddler challenges).

    Probably the biggest part of the game is the Riddler challenges, which you must complete in order to finish the Riddler sidequest. Collect all his trophies, solve all his riddles and you'll be able to save the hostages he's taken. After many, many hours of grinding away at collecting those trophies, I've saved 5 of the 6 hostages.

    As for other stuff, the music is good although I had some fun last night where dramatic music triggered in an empty room.

    It's a good combination of Red Dead Redemption and Arkham Asylum. All the fun of being Batman, with the ability to distract yourself for hours by being Batman.

      Small nitpick that I forgot. The game is awfully chatty. It's basically impossible to do anything without hearing inmates talk about the latest plot events (or bitch about Arkham City), have Bats talk about where he should be going or have one of the Rogue's Gallery say hello.

      We're talking on "Hey Listen!" levels of frequency here.

      Makes it interesting in the post-game environment because everything that was being said was a spoiler about the end, so my housemate couldn't see what the game was like without risking spoilers.

        I need to go find the Joker.
        I should go find the Joker.
        I need to go find the Joker.
        I need to go find the Joker.
        I shold go find the Joker.

          LOL - I got stuck with this for 5 minutes cuz I didn't realise there were two alternate charges for your electro-gun thing and I couldn't open the frakking door!

        I turned off the hints and Batman rarely speaks now. It's awesome.

    Two words: FUCKING EPIC!

    I really want to talk about the ending with everyone and what could be or how they could top this, but I don't want to spoil it... Maybe I should write something up and send it to Serrels and Tracy

    I had many late nights playing this game last week, making me a bleary eyed mess the next morning, and not many games get that level of commitment out of me!

    I've finished the main story and Catwoman bits, not I have the rest of the Riddler bits to finish off plus a couple of remaining side missions.

    Absolutely love it. I was a bit overwhelmed at first being dumped in a giant city and not remembering half of the controls, but once I got used to it... I was Batman.

    aAARGGHGHHH FUCK YOU PC!!!!! I WANNA PLAY SO BAD!

    I'm so glad im not rushing through this, i read of people finishing the game within a day of getting it and it surprised me.

    Just the fact of doing a side mission where someone is shot and you have to do all this detective work to find who shot them from where, with what gun and what angle ... this will definatly tide me over till next week (Uncharted 3)

    I'm not that far into the game myself, but I have watched most of the game while my wife plays as well as helped her with some of the Riddler challenges/puzzle rooms/physical challenges/flight challenges.

    I think overall it's provising a fantastic experience but it feels a little like an interim game. I won't feel like we have a "true" batman game until we're able to play the part of the caped Crusader in Gotham City itself, rather than this rundown, walled off section of it. Fingers crossed for next-gen?

    Arkham Asylum worked really well because it had a lot of clsoed in sections that relied a lot of stealth and you really felt like you could terrify your enmies by picking them off one by one. That doesn't feel like it's the case here - certainly there are places where it's applicable (and there's nothing quite like finding ways to isolate one guy from his buddies, pick him off, and disappear while the dwindling numbers proceed to freak out. At first I was rather annoyed about the Penguin's thugs wearing heartbeat monitors because I felt like it threw stealth out the window if the other guys get an immediate warning that you're in the area, but what it does is force you to think a little differently and that's not a bad thing.

    I love flying other Arkham City from mission to mission, the missions don't feel grindy or fetch-questy and the Riddler trophies/challenges don't feel overly grindy despite there being 400 of them.

    Considering how much there is to do in this game I was a little surprised by the fact that the main story is actually kind of short and ends quite abruptly. Neither of us have started a New Game+ yet (my wife made the mistake of playing it on Easy where the option isn't available so she's doing her Normal playthrough now) but I'm kind of hoping there's some kind of alternate or "true" ending if you complete New Game+. I REALLY hope that if there IS an alternate ending that it isn't difficulty locked to Hard. I probably could handle this game on hard but I don't want to.

    The Catwoman sequences are fun to play and at first I was thinking "I'd love to play a Catwoman game if it were like this" but after you really spend a lot of time as Catwoman you realise she's more suited to a more closed in environment (e.g.: Arkham Asylum) rather than a large open city - Catwoman is fun to play as and fight as, but having to pounce up walls is not something I would want to do for extended periods.

    I haven't tried the combat challenges yet but my wife reports that they are "totally sweet".

    What can I say, its off the hook! A expansive step up from Arkham Asylum, equal parts Assasins Creed tied with the structure of The Saboteur! Whats really amazing is how all your abilities flow from one to another in one smooth motion, and when you stuff up you know it was your error, not the games! Rocksteady has really suprised me with Arkham Asylum/City - makes me remember why Batman was so cool. When it comes to The Penguin though, Tim Burton/Danny Devito scarred me for life - I cannot look at him without being revolted (maybe that was the point!)

    Without getting too spoilerific:

    1) Turn right as Catwoman.

    2) Go to the Falcone Shipping boat in the water near the cranes (between Steel Mill and GCPD). Stand on the middle-ish area of the boat. Use the Cryptographic Sequencer and solve the password. Enter boat. Enjoy.

      Catwoman doesn't have the Cryptographic Sequencer...

        My bad - supposed to be two different points. Completely separate. So, 'Turn right as Catwoman'. Also, while playing as Batman, 'Go to the Falcone Shipping boat in the water near the cranes (between Steel Mill and GCPD). Stand on the middle-ish area of the boat. Use the Cryptographic Sequencer and solve the password. Enter boat. Enjoy.'

          I understand the second one... But I don't get the Catwoman one. Any specific location? Turn the camera to the right? Need more details

            If you're far enough into the story (third Catwoman mission), you'll know what I mean.

              Now I get the Catwoman one.

              Methinks I'll have to replay that section and see what happens when you do that.

              For those wanting a bit more detail without spoilers, towards the end of the third Catwoman mission you are given the choice: Turn left and do X or turn right and do Y.

              I turned left.

                After finishing the game, I immediately rewound and turned right. ROT13 sort-of spoilers for those curious: vg'f n aba-fgnaqneq tnzr-bire jvgu gur benpyr fraqvat bhg n qvfgerff pnyy, naq gur tnzr erjvaqf, pbzcyrgr jvgu gncr fgngvp, fb lbh pna znxr gur 'evtug' pubvpr.

                Will try the Falcone thing.

                  I got a good laugh out of turning right, turning left was good too.

    Ending kind of sucks, to be honest. The pacing is pretty dodgy and isn't nearly as refined or focussed as Arkham Asylum.

    I wish there was an option for New Game + to turn *on* the counter icons. Dreading doing a new game + run through because of that.

      Eh, it wasn't that difficult in Arkham Asylum's Hard mode.

      I'll be doing a Let's Play of New Game Plus some time down the road, so I think the lack of a counter indicator is going to make some people rather happy :p

        I know New Game+ gives you all your items from the beginning. Does it also remove any sidequests that you have already completed? If so, I think I am actually looking forward to playing that way. Fewer distractions from the main story should make it feel more focused.

          can you access new game plus straight away, or must you have completed the game once?

            Are you... are you being serious?

              I-.... What?

              HNNNG

              HHHHNNNNUUUUGH

              Brain.... Aneurism... Making me.... Die.... Painful-*flatlines*

            You must finish on normal or harder to unlock it. This mode finally lets you use your DLC suits!

              Actually, you can use DLC suits after you finish the main storyline, while running round finishing sidequests and finding Riddler trophies.

      If you've mastered the timing of combat with the icons, you'll probably surprise yourself with how much you really don't need them. For regular attacks, intuition pretty much takes over, just watch for enemies running towards you as they generally have to close a big gap before attacking. For enemies with cattle-prods, knives or shields, get used to stunning and dodging a lot, give you plenty of time to think. Good luck!

    boring and aimless

      We don't care about your love life.

    Has anyone worked out the weird signal on the cryptographic sequencer that is someone just repeating different numbers seemingly at random?

      Write down the numbers, then associate them with their position in the alphabet ;)

        that would have been my guess, and i still barely started the game

        Could have sworn I heard a number in the 60's there...

        OK will do.

    Here is my in depth review....

    The game is AWESOME up until the point you break out of prison... whis is right at the start... Cant comment on the rest of the game as I spent my entire weekend starting and finishing Arkham Assylum so I could keep up with the storyline.

    Forgot about this before, but they also improved the boss battles a fair bit.

    In Arkham Asylum, the boss battle with SPOILER is just dealing with a few thugs. The boss battle with SPOILER is just dodging around using batarangs until you can use explosive gel on their shields. The bit with SPOILER isn't much of a boss battle but a "walk around slowly collecting stuff" and the final boss battle was... well, shit.

    Whereas in Arkham City, there's a lot of diversity in them. When fighting against SPOILER you have to use a fair few tricks in predator mode (although it would have been nice to know that silent takedowns work beforehand, I ran out of gadgets with one hit to go and couldn't work out how to do the last bit of damage). The other fights were all somewhat interesting, and were more than just the usual "beat dudes up until they stop moving" fiasco.

      With the boss battle you're talking about, there's about 20 different ways to hurt him! When I was down to the last couple of hits, a batcomputer update came through and outlined all the options that I had. Dunno if it always happen, maybe I was being particularly crappy (though I thought I was doing OK)

        I think it throws out that hint if you're taking too long or fail too many times.

        I managed to hit that boss four times in quick succession at the start (as in as soon as he got up, I knocked him down again) and then ran around like a headless chook because I didn't know that basically anything but a head on attack worked.

        Although I should point out that the Batcomputer thing says that line launcher works and I tried that, although it might only work from behind.

          I completed the battle on my first attempt, and while I was taking my time sneaking around, I only had a couple of failed attempts at hurting him - so it must have been the time thing that prompted the update. Which is a nicely unobstrusive way to keep the game humming along, I must say!

    Does anyone know if there is an endless combat challenge (like Insane Night in Arkham Asylum)?
    I've only unlocked one combat challenge so far, so maybe it gets unlocked later?

      There are 6 of each type of challenge (combat and predator) and then an expert version of each as well as 12 campaigns which each contain three combat and/or predator challenges.

      If there's an endless combat challenge, I haven't found it and I appear to have unlocked all of it.

        Hopefully it'll be some DLC in the future then, was one of my favourite parts of Arkham Asylum.

          DLC Challenge Room, Iceberg VIP Lounge, just keep fighting until you die basically. I got it with my Collector's Edition.

    YES, I CAN FINALLY PARTICIPATE IN A COMMUNITY REVIEW HOORAY!!

    it's fantastic, i at first approached it wrong, as i got it just after i had been playing a lot of MVC3, so i was a bit button mashy, so i found it hard to get combo's going, however i realised that it is more about timing, and slowed down, and now i'm getting +20X combo's easily.

    the story is great, and every villain is really interesting. i loved seeing some of my favorite Batman villains and Friends appear, and am still surprised with many of the references in it.

    the funny thing is, i've barely completed the game, so i can't wait to get back on it and play it some more.

    and even when the story is finished, i can still do side-missions, and then there are the extremely fun riddler challenge maps, which i can pass as Batman, Catwoman or Robin, giving me a TON to do!

    so, long story short, it's probably my second most favourite game of the year, portal 2 is just a teensy bit above it! :P

    I remember being a huge fan of Arkham Asylum, and this was certainly on my radar, but something just feels a little bit more awesome about Arkham City. I know, a full, free-roaming, Gotham City would be amazing, but this still feels pretty darn perfect to me. People have complained about the length of the story, but... isn't that what the Riddler trophies and side missions are for? I've jumped on for 3 hour sessions of AC and not even touched the main story. Reminds me of the last to Assassin's Creeds, really... utter sandbox nirvana... as the Goddamned Batman, no less :)

    It's pretty rad; they removed the metroidvania structure for an open-world structure, but this appears to have just given them room to let loose with Batman having another very bad night. They've expanded on Arkham Asylum in excellent ways, and better integrated the predator gameplay so it doesn't just take place in specially built rooms. It's all super-smooth and super-clever, and even the stuff that could feel tedious, like the Riddler collectibles, have been rebuilt to have their own little gameplay hooks.

    Its best quality, though, is that it's impossible to predict what's going to come up next. The game could very easily feel samey, especially with how long it is and how much freedom it gives you straight away, but they deal with that by continually swerving, taking the aspects people loved about Scarecrow in the first one and spreading them out across the whole game. Did I just take out twenty guys? Have I suddenly visited an 1800s Bioshock? Am I in a post-apocalyptic wasteland? Did I just punch a shark?

    YES.

    My lord is it misogynistic, though; then again, that's hardly unusual for games.

    But anyway, despite it being utterly expected in a couple of unfortunate areas, it tries something new every thirty minutes and nails pretty much everything it tries. This is probably the best depiction of Batman that will ever be made; no-one's going to come close to capturing the juxtaposition of predator, detective and urban legend that Batman is; it's unlikely that a medium that's more self-conscious than games will be able to be as goofy and as gritty as Batman is. I can understand why Rocksteady wants to move on - they've said what they came to say.

    Loving the game. Only problem I've had is getting around as Catwoman. Oh, and a quick retry button for the AR missions would be nice. But I guess no game is perfect.

    I'm gonna say this straight out, this game doesn't deserve the praise it gets.

    I won't go into to detail due to spoilers but it's a 4/10. AA was way better.

      Scores are no replacement for arguments. ROT13 it if you want to avoid spoilers.

      If you're unwilling to elaborate, why would anyone take what you're saying seriously, particularly when you're basically saying that everyone else is wrong just because you say so?

    Would be playing it if it was out on PC, but staggered releases make me sad :(

    a) I dithered on this for a while but on Friday I raced out to pick it up and it's been enormous fun.
    b) I'm about 9% through the main story and so far very good.
    c) I love the opening - at first I restarted just to check that I selected the correct option from the menu! Then the actual opening with Bruce Wayne was brilliant - y'know that article where you were asking about the best game openings ever - put this one at the top of the list!
    d) The controls are perfect and unlike the first game I haven't spent huge stretches trying to figure out how to get to an objective so the game is much better designed (if that's even possible)
    e) I love the chatter between the thugs - reminds me a lot of Splinter Cell Conviction - another game where you get to toy with criminals in the shadows.

    I finished my first playthrough on friday night, and even though it was 3 am I immediately started my newgame+. This game is such a near-perfect experience that I found myself thinking "It'd be sweet if they included subtle nods to this specific character" and then 9 times out of 10 I end up finding exactly what I was hoping for. Not going to name specifics to avoid spoilers, but it's so evident in playing this game that it was made by Batman fans to be enjoyed by Batman fans. It makes me wanna hug the developers until it gets awkward because I'm not letting go.

    I'm trying to think of nitpicks just so anyone who trying to decide whether to buy it or not will have a good idea of what *isn't* perfect about the game... (and most of these are extremely minor and mostly debateable)

    - most of Catwoman's segments are unrelated to the 'main plot' storyline and there isn't very much interaction between herself and Batman (not really a problem, just personally would have liked more time spent with the two of them dealing with one another)

    - There is a prominent tower in-game that you quite obviously will find yourself atop of towards the end of the storyline, but weirdly it's a seperate 'zone' of the game. This means there's no way to jump off and glide down to street level... it's not a huge deal, but as open as the rest of the game is it felt a bit odd and dissapointing.

    - Robin shows up in the main storyline for probably less than 2 minutes. Total. (Count this as a positive or a negative, depending on your opinion of Robin in general ;-P)

    - There are SO MANY characters at play in this game that no one villian or ally gets all that much focus or development to themselves. (except maybe the Joker, but even with him I thought there were some things that could have been a bit more fleshed out) Obviously, these characters are decades old and very familiar to so many of us so it's not such a big deal that some B and C grade villians get very short mini-missions and then you never hear from them again... but in a perfect world it would have been cool to give the 'big players' more exploration into their character. Two-Face in particular...

    - This is mostly my fault, but I found myself leaning hard on Detective Mode just as much as I had in Arkham Asylum on my first playthrough... which sucks because the game is absolutely stunning, but I kept looking at everything through a flat blue filter with orange highlights :-P

    and the absolute last thing I can think of that could be considered a negative aspect of this game:

    - Catwoman has no gadgets. She has a whip, some bolas, and some caltrops. That's all. So frustratingly, when I'm playing as Catwoman and I see a special red 'Catwoman Riddler Trophy' more often than not I still can't collect it because I need to come by as Batman so I can use his gadgets to get rid of the obstacles that prevent Catwoman from getting HER OWN Riddler Trophies :-P... Just seems kind of backwards to me.

    Despite the "gripes" I'm in love with this game. I'm a huge Batman fan, and this game is like digital orgasms. Highly recommend it.

    If you don't like the game, then please, give it to someone else who can/will truly appreciate it. Then go home and rethink your life.

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