Saturday, January 13, 2018

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City takes place half a year after the events of the first game. A whole city district has been repurposed into a massive prison. Bruce Wayne opposes the idea, and during a press conference he voices his opinion in, Hugo Strange's thugs capture and throw him in the said facility.

Luckily Bruce is able to gear up and Batman gets on his way to stop Dr. Strange and his plot which the whole Arkham City seems to be. Many villains return from the first game and in addition to Strange, there are a few other new faces to the series.

A strong support character

You also get two new playable characters: Robin replaces Batman in Harley Quinn's Revenge DLC mission, and Catwoman is switched to every so often during the main game's story. She originally came included with new copies of the game or alternative required the purchase of a VIP pass -- a way for a publisher to make at least some money from the sells of used copies.

Catwoman felt so integral part of the story, that playing without her would definitely make the game a lesser experience. You can even get a faux ending at the end of her involvement if you try to leave Arkham City instead of going to help Batman. After beating the game, you can switch between her and Batman to pick up their respective collectibles you're still missing.

I would have liked to play as her even more. Catwoman is one the reasons I liked this game better than the first and the lack of her is also the main reason I think I'll pass on Arkham Origins. Apparently she is playable in Arkham Knight, though.

Freeflow combat fully realized

While Catwoman is a bit slower at traversing the City than Batman (due to not having a cloak to glide with), combat with her is more entertaining. She is quicker and her attacks feel snappier. The only real issue compared to Batman are enemies with fully automatic guns. More than one of them in an encounter and even on Normal difficulty you end up dying really fast thanks to Catwoman's low health. Stealthy approach is a must in those cases.

In my opinion they should have kept assault rifles in lower numbers in this game. Even as Batman with his higher armor and many gadgets, I often ended up using smoke bomb to get away to restart the fight. Combat gets too hectic to handle with guns in the mix of the already many types of foes the game has.

The combat is without a doubt better compared to the first game. They added multiple crowd finishers and new gadgets. It's easier to jump from enemy to enemy without accidentally breaking combo by attacking empty air. I suppose playing with a controller helped in that too. I'm not sure if the animation system was as dynamic in the first game already, but in City, Batman uses possible walls and railings behind his target's back to his aid. It all flows so smoothly.

A few good puzzles

Arkham City's map is bigger than Asylum's. Instead of three open-air areas, there's one large area that connects all the locations and dungeons together. Riddler of course had to fill them all up with collectibles. The take-a-picture-of-some-meaningful-thing and look-a-question-mark-from-the-right-spot challenges I still didn't like but the new trophy puzzles I found to be high quality content. The only problem with them is that a player can try to solve one way for too long without realizing Batman doesn't have the necessary gadget yet.

This time Riddler didn't leave maps for his challenges. Instead you can interrogate mule thugs for the locations of the collectibles. If the mule happens to be in a pack, you have to dispatch everyone else first. I thought the mules were another good idea they implemented, although I'd say one interrogation should reveal more locations than they do as you end up doing it quite a few times.

Batman also sets up some augmented reality tracks for practicing gliding. There are not many of them (thankfully) but couple of them were so tricky that I started getting flashbacks of Just Cause 3's wingsuit challenges. But I did finally beat them, naturally.

I don't have much of an opinion about Arkham City's writing. I think it was largely the same as Asylum's. There is bit of an dissonance going on with Batman getting poisoned yet you not being in any actual hurry to get it cured since it will wait until the next story mission.

The ending was surprisingly heavy, though. Credits started rolling without a song (just some ambient) and then a voice mail from Joker of him singing Only You (And You Alone) kicked in. That was when I finally became convinced Mark Hamill is actually a pretty good voice actor.

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