Saturday, August 18, 2012

Batman: Arkham City

Back in '09 I wrote a review for Batman: Arkham Asylum, which except for a few flaws, was an excellent game.  I had been putting off Arkham City (2011) for the simple reason I couldn't justify spending sixty bucks on a new game when I knew the GOTY edition would come out in a year.

I was expecting more of the same, which wouldn't be a bad thing considering the high quality of Asylum, but while it's the same it's also better.  Primarily because Arkham City is so damn big and impressive and fucking awesome looking.  The footprint might not seem as big as Asylum's but there are so many nooks and crannies and layers to explore that the place is massive.  There's a startling level of intricacy in the design and the graphics engine keeps up nicely (though it'd probably perform better on a PC with a GTX 580).  There have been times where I've found something new, even in an area I've traveled across numerous times (which you will do quite a bit during missions and tracking down hidden items).

The story is solid so far, kind of standard Batman-y stuff, with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill returning to their voice roles.  My main thrill though are all the side missions which show a remarkable amount of creativity and variation.  Side missions are one of my favorite things about games and I like how Asylum spreads them out.  Several of them are spaced out as the main story progresses so you can't just tear through the sides and be done with them.  One was set up over a number of areas I couldn't access early in the game for one reason or another.  I like this approach since in other games it's remarkably easy to buff your character early on just by devouring sides and then moonstomping the main story (a problem I've encountered with most recent popular RPGs).  It's an intelligent piece of game design that I hope is picked up by others.

I also dig the Catwoman side story and the way  it's woven into the main.  Yeah, I know, Catwoman blah blah blah, exploitation,  blah blah blah but you know what?  She's hot and I like her attitude.  Her personality isn't Michelle Pfeiffer looney-toons, more like a punk rock sex kitten.  Her gameplay style is a nice change of pace from Batman's burly brawly and tracking down her specific hidden items definitely has stretched out game time.  She wouldn't make for a full game on her own, though it's possible with more stealth and a focus on the top level cat burglar missions.

The Riddler hidden items, puzzles, and riddles kind of make the game for me (and besides side missions have been what I've been spending most of my time doing).  Some of the puzzles are based on gear (can't be completed until you have x), some are timed (annoying at best), and some make me want to punch kittens.  There's a few which I won't be able to complete until I am having an "A game" kind of day.  One cool design thing they added is being able to track down Riddler goons which show up at random as you cross the city.  If you successfully interrogate the goon it shows the rough location of hidden items on the map.  You can also scan hidden objects to return to at a later date.  Good idea Rocksteady!  High five!  Actually, wicked awesome idea!

I'm only about halfway through the game and  have put in roughly 20+ hours and expect to put in another twenty.  Final review pending.  Now, I'm gonna go batwhomp some goons.

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