Warner Bros. released one of the most anticipated games of the year on Friday and many gamers where standing in long lines to get their hands on Batman Arkham City. While the game is just as good as Arkham Asylum, it slightly misses the mark.
Hype is a very strange thing. Gamers can get sucked in it and once it grips, there is often nothing a person can do to get out from under its spell. Batman Arkham City is one such game which just completely took the hype machine by storm.
But hype can also fall flat for a title and as we’ll see a bit later, the hype got the better of us with the promise of a great title with lots of action – unfortunately it didn’t happen, leaving us confused, frustrated and unimpressed.
We can understand and appreciate why the latest Batman game had gamers excited since its announcement – the graphics are stunning and its Batman after all. But there are just a couple of things that just don’t sit well with the game.
For starters, Batman is still a third of the screen, which makes it hard for gamers to see what is going on. If they made him a bit smaller, or even zoomed out a bit, that would have been perfect. The perfect size would have been the view when he is running – slightly smaller and a bit more to the left.
It’s very frustrating to play with a character that you have grown up with, just for his size to ruin the game from the beginning. His strut is also a bit condescending, making him look arrogant – but then again, it might just be us. Actually, the problem might be the cape, as the Batman Beyond skin seems to be less obstructing.
As mentioned, the graphics are fantastic and the first time eyes are laid upon the title screen, gamers will know that they are in for something special – well, kind of. All the characters of the game are highly detailed, as are the huge environment, and it’s always refreshing to see that developers still have ambition to deliver the best looking game.
The voice acting is also top-notch, although the lip-synching can be slightly off at times. But none the less, it delivers the message and adds to the excitement. Star Wars actor Mark Hamill returned to voice The Joker, while Kevin Conroy voices Batman and Wally Wingert took care of the voice of The Riddler.
Voice acting and graphics alone won’t make for a good game, but unfortunately that’s where it ends. The controls, although similar to the first title, is just slightly off. It’s difficult to pin-point exactly what’s wrong, but it just feels weird. It might be the sensitivity or the stickiness, but it’s just wrong enough to be frustrating.
It’s actually a pity as we really wanted to like the game, but it just doesn’t do anything for us. Although there is plenty of action and many fist fights, they all seem generic and borderline boring. During the early stages, it becomes a button masher with a series of punches, counters and dodges and as Batman upgrades throughout the game, it’s completely possible to avoid any contact with thugs. But sorting out the enemies is easier if Batman has some upgrades, which will grant him the ability to string together huge combos and critical strikes – advanced button-mashing.
It’s Batman for Pete’s sake, so how many times does he need to hit a goon before he stays done?
But naturally, he also has all sorts of gadgets to get him out of sticky situations, such as the Batarang, the Batclaw, Explosive Gel, Grapnel and Remote Electrical Charge. These do come in very handy, and it would be impossible to complete to game without it.
Another cool thing about Arkham City, is that developer Rocksteady opted to make Catwoman a playable character. Although her missions only contribute about 10% of the overall story, it’s always great to see the plot from a different perspective. She has her own missions, attacks, weapons and special moves, and gamers will really enjoy playing intermittently with another icon.
The game is also 3D compatible, and in short, it works great. The graphics, characters and action really jumps out at gamers, and it adds just that something extra – but it’s also a bit of a gimmick.
While the title’s excitement and importance on the gaming calendar isn’t lost on us, it just doesn’t play like it should. Like we said, the graphics are great and the action is very forthcoming, but the controls just seem a bit off – enough to make the game just frustrating enough to be annoying.
The combat is very generic at certain parts and while really cool gadgets are also used, it becomes boring very quickly. If there is to be a third game, Rocksteady should look at changing Batman’s size and better controls for starters. Other than that, Batman fans will absolutely love this installment as it has everything they want in a game – great graphics, good storyline, more villains than you can shake a stick at and of course Catwoman.
Our rating: 8.5 out 10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor