Batman: Arkham City is one of the best games the Crave Gaming channel has seen in years. That’s not a joke. Erik and Joey have come together to build a rundown of what makes this experience so special.
As an entry in gaming and Batman’s catalogue, Arkham City is a must-have. We’re out to prove you all why that’s the case. Before we get there, let’s just say this: believe the hype. This game is absolutely incredible.
So, here’s why you need Batman: Arkham City.
When you get Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in a room together, magic is bound to happen. This duo has been enthralling us with their renditions of Batman and Joker, respectively, since 1992’s Batman: The Animated Series. So when Rocksteady was able to lock Conroy and Hamill down for 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum, people took notice. Thankfully, they didn’t disappoint in the slightest.
It also pleases me (and the rest of the gaming world) that Rocksteady was able to convince them to reprise their roles for the Arkham Asylum follow-up, Arkham City. And just like last time, Conroy and Hamill knock their performances out of the park. There really is no other way to look at it. These two voice actors are a large reason why the story of Arkham City hits so many high notes.
But Conroy and Hamill aren’t the only ones who swung for the fences with their roles in Arkham City. Just about every voice actor involved did a bang-up job with their respective characters. Whether it’s Corey Burton as Hugo Strange, Grey Delisle as Catwoman, or any of the other voice actors playing surprise appearance roles, they all sell their characters flawlessly. Batman: Arkham City easily has some of the best voice acting we’re heard in a game.
Environment and Level Design
The game is big. It’s not Liberty City big, but it’s big. As Batman or Catwoman, you’ll spend a fair amount of time traversing between points. But the environment is constructed in such a way that the time spent is actually rewarding. Hopping on perches, glaring out over the city, you’ll find new ways to occupy your “free time” in this sectioned off area of Gotham almost immediately.
Arkham City may feel much larger than Arkham Asylum did a few years back, but that doesn’t mean Rocksteady didn’t manage to make the space tight at all the right moments. Rather than giving players an immense, hard-to-cover environment that left a lot of backtracking and revisitation, Rocksteady smartly connected locales in ways that played more towards convenience than making sense.
Wait, yes, that was a compliment. Think about this: you’ll spend an hour getting to one main villain’s hideout. The nature of an open world game suggests that, then, you must spend a considerable amount of time getting out of said villain’s hideout in order to return to the surface. However, you’ll often find that the exit of said hideout leaves directly from the final confrontation and spills into the city streets. It’s odd, but it works.
Moreover, you’ll revisit several spaces a few times throughout the game. It’s weird, but your route will be so twisted at times that Arkham City will seem more small than big, but it’s executed in a way that excites rather than infuriates.
Refinement is the name of the game for Rocksteady’s combat system in Batman: Arkham City. The original Arkham Asylum brought with it an amazing fluid combat system that succeeded in making you feel like the Caped Crusader.
For Arkham City, Rocksteady has made a few upgrades and tweaks to deliver an even better version of the already stellar system they had in place. For instance, you can now counter multiple enemies simultaneously. You can also quick fire a number of your gadgets in the middle of combat which helps a ton when juggling large crowds. Pretty much everything about the combat system has been improved in this sequel, making it one of the most rewarding hand-to-hand combat systems found in contemporary gaming.
Every nook and cranny feels like it holds some sort of secret, nod, character or sidequest within. Guess what, they normally do. There’s so much packed into the space of Arkham City that exploration absolutely must be performed in order to take full advantage of everything the game has to offer.
And you’ll want to explore. Flight, especially once you unlock Batman’s full suite of movement possibilities, is fun. By the time you near the game’s conclusion, you’ll be able to glide from one end of Arkham City to the other in no time at all. That makes diving down to street level and having a quick look see all the more tempting while hunting down a villain.
That’s the thing about this game’s exploration: it’s distracting. You’ll constantly be pulled away from your main quest as one object or another catches your eye off in the distance. They are almost always rewarding, so come in ready to want to do everything you can.
Rocksteady pulled from the vast well of Batman lore to come up with a large number of sidequests for you to tackle in Arkham City. Without veering too much into spoiler territory, we’ll just say that nearly every sidequest in this game will be a squeal-inducing moment for Bat-fans. Whether it’s a distressed citizen up on the rooftops of Arkham City, an uneasy alliance with the man who broke Batman’s back, or a trip down the rabbit hole, everything about Arkham City’s sidequests pull from the extensive history of the character. Rocksteady definitely did their homework when coming up with things for players to do outside the game’s main narrative.
Oh, and even if you’re not a humongous Batman fan, you’ll still find the sidequests of Arkham City enjoyable. That’s because they aren’t simple, monotonous “Go save this guy!” types of quests. Rocksteady and writer Paul Dini were smart enough to give narrative context to each side-mission, making them feel substantial and worth tackling. They also extend the life of Arkham City ten fold. It’s possible to complete the campaign of Arkham City with only roughly 40% of the actual game finished. That leaves roughly 60% of Arkham City still left to tackle. That’s one hell of an awesome time sink.
In a lot of ways, Batman: Arkham City feels like a piece of closure to Batman: The Animated Series (more on that below). The major players of that voice cast are back and the narrative definitely ends a few major threads left dangling. You’ll wrap up Arkham City with your jaw slamming into the ground for sure, but in a good way. Rocksteady has done a fantastic job crafting a narrative that provides a poignant exclamation mark on the relationship between Batman and the Joker, carving out a unique niche for the studio amongst all those who have tackled Batman across all mediums before them.
Much like with Batman: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City challenges Batman with a rogues gauntlet, not unlike in comics such as “The Long Halloween” and “Hush.” On your way to finding out who is pulling the strings of Hugo Strange, you’ll stumble across nearly every major villain in Batman’s rogues gallery. We pretty much knew this was coming thanks to all the pre-launch trailers and villain reveals we were subjected to, but don’t worry, Rocksteady still had a few major surprises up their sleeve. Let’s just say that you’ll be constantly surprised with the twists and turns Arkham City takes. It’s a roller coaster ride from start to finish, and that’s nothing but a good thing.
There is a TON to do in this game. Beyond the story that takes around 10 hours to complete, there’s a lot to collect, revisit, figure out and solve. There are Riddler trophies (100s), puzzles, sidequests and challenge rooms worth hopping into after you beat the game the first time around.
That is, of course, if you aren’t distracted into doing them well before the credits roll. There’s so much stuff to do here that you may actually feel overwhelmed at times. Just relax, take one thing at a time and treat this package as a completionist’s wet dream.
Because it is.
While Catwoman may not have been made integral to the story in Arkham City, she’s certainly one of the finest points of the game. Her content has been made free for first time buyers, so make sure you snag the game new and install her portion straight away. Everything she does is woven into Batman’s main story, and it provides perspective on a lot of the plot’s happenings.
As a character, Catwoman works. She spins off into cat puns at times, and the enemies she faces are extremely heavy on calling her a “bitch” (like, constantly), but her overall delivery in the story is so strong that both of these points can be easily ignored.
Moreover, she plays a little differently than Batman. She feels a lot quicker, though that may not actually translate to any type of combative advantage, and her movements seem more fluid and graceful. In travel, she’s definitely a bit slower. You don’t have a cape to use for gliding, so you have to rely on your whip and a timing-based hopping mechanic to get from point A to point B. The result is almost a movement mini-game that works well to keep travel interesting.
As a Piece of Batman Lore [SPOILER HEAVY]
Stop reading this right now if you don’t want this game ruined for you…..
In Batman: Arkham City, shit happens. A lot of shit. Rocksteady and Paul Dini (the story writer and one of Batman’s finest architects) took a lot of liberties with the characters in DC’s property. We absolutely love them for what they did in creating this tale.
First of all, they had no problem with killing off some of the most famous villains in Batman’s rogues gallery. The Joker, Hugo Strange and Ra’s al Ghul all die in this game. How hard they die is always a question mark when it comes to comic lore, but Rocksteady actually kills them in ways that feel permanent to their universe.
And it works. Each death leaves a massive, lasting impression on both the character and the player. Batman physically carries Joker out of his final battle, dead, to Commissioner Gordon. The thing is, he looks completely messed up in the moment. This is Gotham’s savior, carrying the corpse of the one man he’s been paired with for he’s entire caped career. It’s remarkable as he sets the body turn, ignores Gordon’s questioning, turns around and heads right back into the hell that is Arkham City.
It’s god damn awesome.
CraveOnline received 1 copy of Batman: Arkham City on release day for the PS3 from Warner Bros., which Erik took. Joey bought his own copy, also on launch day. Before starting our review, we completed the entire campaign, making up roughly 40% of the total package. We also dabbled in a lot of sidequests, Riddler Challenges, etc. before laying pen to paper.