Off. The. Fucking. Chain.
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.
The 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.