Batman: Arkham City (PC)

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Rating: ★★★★★ 

Batman: Arkham City has restored my faith in adventure game ports from the console to the PC. The game plays so intuitively and fluidly that I’m inclined to believe it’s actually quite a bit better suited to playing with a keyboard and mouse than it would be with a game controller. While Batman: Arkham City is a spectacularly entertaining game on its own merits, the sheer playability of the PC version puts it over the top for me.

Just a quick note, I played the Game of the Year Edition, which in addition to the base game, includes a Harley Quinn’s Revenge expansion, a Nightwing bonus pack for the challenge modes (non-campaign), and other sundries. If one were considering purchasing the game, I would suggest this is the version you would want (especially if you can pick it up for $7.50 on Steam, as I did).

I would love to do an in-depth review of this game, but with time always limited by life, I will endeavor to sum things up as briskly as possible.

Batman: Arkham City is a game that constantly reminds the player both why Batman is probably the best comic book character ever and why his rogues gallery is the best rogues gallery ever. The amount of mileage that writers have been able to get out of the Batverse over the years is astounding, possibly because Batman, himself, lends himself to so many different portrayals while still being distinctively Batman.

Batman: Arkham City - BaneThe writing is top-notch. To be sure, Batman: Arkham City does a somewhat strange narrative trick here by having us play out two mostly separate plotlines. These are interwoven, but neither is especially reliant upon the other structurally, except that, of course, you can’t complete one without completing the other. It’s a testament, I suppose, to the cleverness of the writers that it all feels connected, even if there’s no particular reason that they had to be.

A main cast of strong voice actors anchors the dark narrative, and it is worth noting that this is some of Kevin Conroy’s best work in the role of Batman. And that is a great compliment to the voice actor, because, of course, Kevin Conroy has been voicing Batman for so long that at this point, I think he may in real life actually be Batman. I’m pretty sure he is, anyway.

I would make the same  claim for Mark Hamill, once again performing the Joker. The writers provided a lot of meat for the character in Batman: Arkham City, and Hamill digs in in his customary fashion, while supplying his inimitable nuances that, for me, have always made Hamill’s a definitive portrayal.  I believe that Hamill may recently have officially retired from the part, but wow–for Hamill, especially, what a way to go out. The final confrontation between these two is a brilliant illustration of the crux of the ongoing conflict between Batman and the Joker, and one can clearly feel the deft pen of Paul Dini at the script level just knocking another one out of the park.

I also thought that Troy Baker was fantastic as Tim Drake/Robin, and was happy to have a chance to play with him more in the Harley Quinn expansion.

The gameplay is massively fun. Honestly, if this had merely been a beat-em-up, I would have almost been happy enough to play it (and in point of fact, I’ve done quite a bit of that in the challenge modes). But between the stalker encounters, platforming, and some basic puzzle solving, the overall gameplay package is very rich. It may not surprise you–particularly if you have played Batman: Arkham Asylum, but it is very solid, and as I averred at the outset, very intuitive to grasp.

The inclusion of the Catwoman sequences was a nice attempt to spice up the gameplay, though ultimately, this bit does feel a bit tacked on–nevertheless, however, nearly as fun as playing with Batman.

But nothing will ever trump playing as Batman, and ultimately, that is what this rave review resolves to: Batman: Arkham City allows the player to step into the shoes of the most bad-ass of all heroes, and so compellingly that it’s kind of a downer when it all comes to an end. The only thing for it at that point is to head to the Internet and blog about it, I suppose.

6 Replies to “Batman: Arkham City (PC)”

  1. I’m sure this game is awesome, but I never finished the first game. The first game was also awesome, but I stopped playing midway though because I got a little bored.

    1. You know, it’s funny. I did the same thing with the first game. It wasn’t boredom, really, but I just got to this point about midway where all the enemies started carrying weapons, and I kept messing up trying to complete some objective, and I couldn’t be bothered to continue.

      I never had that problem with Arkham City. I don’t think it was easier–I just think the controls are a lot better on a PC, so I never felt like I was battling with the game mechanics.

      Anyway, I loved it. I’m waiting to see Arkham Asylum go on sale on Steam so I can pick that one up and finally do a full play-through.

  2. I got sick of this game even quicker than I did the other one. Then again, it’s basically the same game, just in a slightly different environment. Technically speaking, they’re amazing games with some of best graphics I’ve ever seen, excellent voice acting, and well written stories… but I dunno. As games, they both bored the shit out of me for two reasons:

    Combat stinks. It’s just button mashing. I just tap the x button and wag the stick around until everybody is dead. That’s it. It’s well animated so it’s fun to watch, but it’s so boring.

    Detective Mode stinks. I do applaud them for making an attempt to show that Batman is also a detective, but detective mode is this antithesis of actual detecting. It literally has captions pop up that tell you exactly what to do, what item to equip, where to use them, etc. How is this being a detective? It’s not a puzzle if the game presents the solution alongside the problem. Also, since you have to use detective mode in order to make it through the game, it’s easiest to just keep it on all the time, which makes the graphics look like shit.

    So… yeah, I dunno. These games just aren’t for me. I want to make it through because it is a great Batman story, I just wish the game mechanics were more fun.Then again, everybody else loves these games so maybe I’m just missing something.

    1. I disagree with everything you just said. 😉

      I get that the combat isn’t…I dunno…Tekken, but for a beat-em-up, it’s pretty damn good. If all you’re doing is button mashing, you’re either playing the game on too easy a setting or you never got past the first few fights or never leveled your character to unlock new combat abilities. Using the counters is absolutely essential, as are the quick attack abilities, advanced moves like the beatdown, redirecting attacks, etc.

      I suppose I don’t disagree entirely about detective mode–sometimes I think they could have made me work a little harder to discover some things–but overall, I like the depth it adds to the gameplay. I didn’t really keep it on all the time either. You learn when you need it and when you don’t. A lot of the time detective mode is just about teaching you how to notice things, so once you learn that skill, it’s not essential to keep it turned on.

      I think it’s just not for you, but I do wonder if maybe you didn’t play it long enough to discover the real challenge of it. Personally, I totally get the reason the game has a 94 meta critic rating. As I said, I played this obsessively right up to the end and beyond. I almost never do that.

  3. It’s true I only played this for a few days, but what I saw wasn’t an improvement of the previous game, that I played for a few weeks. I just don’t find it fun.

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