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.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.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.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.
Now we all know the big list of sequels that outdid the original film. Terminator 2. Aliens. You know the rest. It’s a hard thing to do, and when it happens, said film is given the accolade of superior sequel. Obviously. But who has ever heard of the next step happening? I’m talking about the superior second sequel; the third step in a trilogy that outdoes the other films. The only time we think about the third part of a film trilogy is when we’re giving an example of a shambling wreck that shat all over the image of the previous two films. Godfather Part III seems to be everyone’s favourite trilogy punching bag (in my opinion, it’s a good film in its own right, but that’s just me!).Christopher Nolan already proved in 2008 that a comic book movie can be an academy award winning epic. He could have also proved that a comic book movie sequel can outdo its former, but that was already proven by Bryan Singer with X-Men 2. Now he looks to take the caped crusader into flight a third, and possibly final, time with The Dark knight Rises. When I first heard about the announcement of the film, my first thought, and no doubt everyone else’s, was which villain would be suited for the gritty and real-ish turn the series had taken. If they got the Penguin, things would descend into camp bird puns. If they got Mr Freeze…well…we’ve already been there. There’s no point in The Riddler as Heath Ledger’s stellar Joker combined the anarchic humour with Edward Nigma’s love for elaborate puzzles o’ death.
So who’s left that could possibly fit into this new venture without camping everything up towards (shudder) Batman and Robin territory? Watch the trailer below and guess the villain.
So it’s Bane! Yes, that’s right: Nolan’s doing a brave move and not only moving the series into a more sci-fi area, but bringing a villain that was already used in Batman and Robin. I must admit, it looks like it could work, but in the early stages of planning this movie, he must have been awash with confused looks. It’s almost as bad as trying to work Robin into the new style of Batman. I never saw the point of Robin in the first place. I’m sorry, I just didn’t. OK?! If the caped crusader fight’s alone and focuses on keeping a secret identity, not only would bringing another person into the inner circle be a risk to his normal life, but he would also have another life at risk should he ever get captured. And Robin always got captured. He was like Princess Peach with a cape.There has also been confirmation that Catwoman is the other villain. Now this is a sensible choice, it’s just all a question on what they do. Will she be the wealthy animal activist Selina Kyle, or the mild mannered secretary who plunged several stories before being licked back to consciousness by a random swarm of cats? Not that I have any problem with that, I would just prefer the former. Either way, you cannot go wrong with her. She’s essentially batman, but with tits and a whip. She doesn’t have a strict code of conduct that Mr Wayne wears like a medal, which makes her an interesting element to add to complicate the narrative. Will she be a villain, or just a morally ambiguous bit of totty on the side? The Dark Knight Rises is set for release next year. Best of luck, Nolan!
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen anything else but the Christian Bale Batman. A superhero in a supposedly gritty and realistic setting was now becoming the norm with little hint of good old fashioned ridiculous fantasy ever returning. After waiting five years since the last Batman game (a movie tie in of Batman Begins) we have now finally got a game that is closer to the comic then the mainstream franchise has been in ages. No more deep and brooding Joker. No more vaguely Welsh sounding Batman grumble. It’s back to Bob Kane’s original crime fighter, with a few nerdy extras along the way.
On the surface of the game, it has some very impressive visuals. As you would expect from a game set in Gotham City, everything looks dark and evil. Even a waste-paper basket could be accused of being a serial rapist and be forced to stand trial whilst the jury spend time looking over and over again at CCTV footage of a waste-paper basket following a woman into an alley. Dark stuff! Batman has hints of the recent incarnation with his outfit and gadgets looking slightly futuristic, but The Joker is back to being his cheeky murder-y self. Being a Batman nerd, the part that excited me the most was the inclusion of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill taking up their roles again and Batman and The Joker, as well as various other voice actors voicing the roles they had played in the early Nineties cartoon. Conroy is probably the best Batman voice you will hear for a long time.
The set up of the game is rather simple. One night, Batman catches the Joker and carts him off in his fancy car that is closer to resembling spaceship every day. He takes The Joker to be incarcerated in Arkham Asylum, Gotham City’s madhouse (and location of most of Batman’s enemies on a quiet day), but The Joker escapes, releasing some of the patients and begins his ironic campaign of taking over the madhouse. As Batman, you have to…you know the rest.
Back to the impressive visuals. This game has clearly taken a good while to get perfect. Everything skips nicely on the photo-realistic/comic book line perfectly. The character design for the villains is surprising as well. In the cartoons, Joker’s sidekick Harley Quinn was a ditzy blonde with an odd sense of humour. Now they’ve added a tonne of sex appeal thanks to an Ann Summers nurse outfit. The darkest nurses outfit you’ll see for a while. Also, Killer Croc makes an appearance after having not been mentioned anywhere in civilised society. This time, he resembles a house with arms. The thought of taking on Croc filled my pants with fear.
As super-villains usually do in the Batman universe, they depend on a large amount of henchmen to do their dirty work, and this game has an army. Just about the right time to show off the new fighting system they’ve been working on. To fight in this game, you could get away with doing it with one hand. You press one button for hitting, and as long as you’re pushing the stick in the right direction, Batman will continue to attack with a move he thinks will suit the situation. It’s like the GPS system of fighting games. The fights are occasionally broken up with counters (you have to press a different button for that, mind) and stunning knife wielding criminals (another button is needed for this guy). There’s a combo system involved where if you beat a certain amount of bastards without getting hit you gain access to better moves. As long as you keep the combo mind. This gives the fights a great adrenaline rush.
There are stealth sections in the form of staying away from guys with guns. These bits genuinely require patience and the feeling of clearing eight armed men whilst lurking in the shadows like a hooded peado really feel like an achievement. As you can expect from Batman, there’ an array of gadgets to use from his hook to his explosive gel and the Bat-trouser press. Unfortunately, the Bat-Mobile only gets a glimpse so no unfair car chases in this game.
The only bad thing about this game is it’s a single player game standing up against a legion of multiplayer focused games. But what a single player game. It has some great length to it with a load of scenario modes to keep your skills going until you decide to man up and play the game on hard. This is probably the most fun you’ll have with Batman until the next movie.
Whilst never making it as the best movie villain, Mr Freeze was always an interesting one to follow in the Batman cartoon series and the comics. Now there is already major ice cold hints that point out that the sub zero menace will be featuring in the next Batman game; Arkham City.
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