Will Preston

Escape From Gotham City

by on Dec.09, 2011, under Review, Video Games

It won’t be a few months until the final batman film is out in the cinema, so we’ll have to do with a videogame instead. Oh cruel fate, thy name is Christopher Nolan. Rather than watch Christian Bale use all the power of his Welsh hissing to simulate the embodied voice of fear, we’ll have to become Batman ourselves. Those of you who played the previous title, Arkham Asylum, will be glad to know that Batman: Arkham City is neither a carbon copy nor a massive step away from the perfect gameplay formula. In fact, the game has improved in just about every single way possible.

Harvey Dent: The original Burnt Face Man

After the breakout in Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum, Bruce Wayne (Batman without his mask on) has stepped up into the world of politics to stand against the creation of Arkham City. Similar to the film, Escape From New York, Arkham City is a walled off and isolated area of Gotham that has been converted into a massive prison. Just like the cult film, criminals are simply dumped in and the door is locked behind them. Unfortunately, Bruce is arrested for an unknown crime during the games opening and is sent into the criminal complex. Waking up in a cell, Wayne encounters Hugo Strange, the prison’s warden. He mentions a sinister Protocol Ten before leaving to fulfil something equally nasty. Before you can say “Adam West”, Wayne escapes and finds his batsuit, ready to tackle the prison island.

From the moment you get out into the open, the game looks stunning. It is winter in Gotham and the city seems to go on into the distance like a sprawling metropolis. From the street to the highest factory chimney, there is an astonishing amount of detail. Most of the city is a ruin after being converted into a sprawling penitentiary, with derelict buildings, ruined freeways and crumbling landmarks. The size of the game is a bit of an illusion though. Once you’ve glided from one end of the island to the other, you soon learn that it wasn’t the big chunk of Gotham you first expected. But there’s still a huge area to explore. And to fight in of course.

To conquer an ass kicking, you must become one...

The best aspect from Arkham Asylum was the flowing fighting system, and nothing has been ruined. Taking on around ten thugs in an average fight is one off the most exhilarating experiences you can have with a game pad. Just like last time, you build up a combo by attacking enemies whilst leaving your lycra ass unscathed. Watching Batman bound from one guy to the next in a flurry of acrobatic attacks starts to resemble a manly game of pinball, rather than a mass punch up. New moves have been included to add variety into the beatings, including beat downs and double takedowns. A beat down involves stunning a particularly tough enemy and pummelling them with what can only be describe as an inhumanly fast string of punches. The double takedown is pretty much self explanatory: You take out two guys at ones, usually by bashing heads together.

As well as the amazing take on Gotham City, Batman’s friend and foes have had the same polish put upon them. There are some old faces returning, including a sick and dying Joker, but there are a surprisingly large amount of new faces poured in. One of the first you’ll see is an old favourite, The Penguin. Rather than being the quacking, flippered mutant that we’re so used to, this new Penguin resembles a cross between Ray Winstone and Bob Hoskins. He talks like them, as well. No mutations. No army of mind controlled birds. Just a black market dealer with a slightly pointed nose and a heart as black as…well a penguin. Two Face appears in a guise similar to Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent in the Dark Knight Film. That lidless staring eye still sends shivers down the left side of me. But one character deserves a designers award.

More effective than a cold shower

At certain point during the game, the action flips from Batman to another (sort of) ally. No, it’s not Robin, although he does make a brief appearance. Whipping from rooftop to rooftop, Catwoman is your Batman away from Batman, and this is the best looking Catwoman yet. Rather than donning stitched PVC, Miss Kyle wears a biker-esque cat suit with some cute ears and some snazzy tech goggles. The cat suit is unzipped to just about the right point, so during cut scenes I accidentally found myself at here ever so slightly exposed chest. Not out of loneliness, you understand; just admiring the fine rendering. Playing as Catwoman is just as distracting. With her own fight moves and gadgets, fighting as her takes a slightly different pace. Also, instead of the grappling hook, she swings with her whip into the side of buildings, before scaling the wall at a pace that puts Ezio Auditore to shame. One vital skill is her ability to crawl on ceilings. Not really like a cat, more like a spider, but it get’s the stealth sections done with less hassle.

The main story can be completed in an intense weekend (the kind that involves a strict itinerary for eating and sleeping), but there is still a fortune in side missions, challenges and various treasure hunts set up by The Riddler. Batman Arkham City plays more or less the same as the last game, but with an entire city space to fly and fight in, it’s the best Batman experience next to seeing The Dark Knight Rises next year. Now if they could at least put a Batmobile section in the next game.

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