Wot I Think: Batman Arkham City

By Adam Smith on November 25th, 2011 at 12:38 pm.

You will do this so many times but it will rarely cease to amuse.

Bruce Wayne has finally returned to my PC, ready to swoop and scuffle his way through the prison-district that is Arkham City. It’s no secret that I used to wear Batman pajamas when I was a youngster, nor that I have been known to shed manly tears when thinking of the Caped Crusader’s tragic origins in Crime Alley. These facts make me the ideal person to tell you Wot I Think of this new crimefighting caper.

It certainly feels like a long time has passed since Rocksteady’s first triumphant stab at the Bat and I have to remind myself that it’s quite an odd thing to be so excited about the release of a Batman game. When I first played Arkham Asylum, it seemed so ambitious, going all out to capture the feeling of being inside the cowl and cape. The freeflow combat system made Batman, even with his lorry-like torso, seem agile and animal-like, as well as bone-crunchingly powerful. The predator sections combined stealth with clever, if repetitive, use of the environment and the brief moments of investigation, though hardly in depth, showed that Batman was about more than savage takedowns and shadowy thug-stalking.

The garnish on the delectable bat-feast was the extensive use of the license. It’s one thing to make a game in which the player controls Batman, pugnaciously detecting his way through a mob of henchmen and villains, but Rocksteady went further than that, using the Riddler as a kind of guide to the wider world outside the asylum. Rather than stumbling across a few easter eggs dotted around for the devoted, the completionist found a willing partner in the attention-seeking Riddler, goading them to defeat him in a battle of wits. Except it wasn’t a battle of wits at all; it was a way to connect a loose subplot to the wealth of references and detail that Rocksteady scattered through the Arkham’s grounds.

These are the essential components that make Batman what he is: punching, hiding, seeking, scaring, investigating and hanging upside down to express contemplative moodiness. Arkham City does all of those things better than Arkham Asylum and, for some people, that will be enough. After all, those are the necessary tools that allow the player to be Batman and they fulfil that function superbly. Where they were previously lacking, they’ve received some attention and even the excellent combat system is more enjoyable to use. Mostly, this is by upping the scale. Investigations don’t always take place in a single room, or following a single trail, but can require Batman to effortlessly swing his way across rooftops, unlocking multi-part subplots, and perhaps even stopping on the way to save a political prisoner from intimidating meatheads.

The expansions to the combat system add complexity to the mix. Enemies can now have a variety of tricks up their sleeves, clutched in their shovel-sized hands and strapped to their bodies. Just as the first game punished Batmen who ran around stringing together simple combos, throwing in knives and stun batons that demanded a quick twirl of the cape or a vault over the head, Arkham City will let you pummel your way forward like a trim Adam West for a while, but before long that won’t be enough. As with everything else, brawls are often bigger, with even an accidental street fight sometimes seeing Batman take on upwards of ten mobsters. That should be called a murder of mobsters but sadly it isn’t. It’s probably nothing more than a mob of mobsters.

As soon as the game’s title was announced, I was filled with a degree of trepidation about the fact that it would probably be set in a more open world. Arkham Asylum allowed exploration but the player was always directed through each area. I liked that. This was a focused Batman adventure, not a flawed Batman simulator. Thankfully, Arkham City, despite including a great deal more detours, always guides the player toward the objective that advances the plot. There is freedom to explore other narrative beats, something which Asylum didn’t really cater for, but they are often to the detriment of the storyline’s urgency. Batman has the option to be as heroic as he wants, with a plethora of villains and distressed citizens clamouring for his attention, but Arkham City’s story is built on several overlapping time-sensitive threats, so to deviate from it involves suspending disbelief like a miscreant from a balcony.

The noisiness of the city is the main problem with the game. As Alec noted, where Arkham Asylum was ‘tight’, Arkham City is a little baggy. It seems almost silly to complain when a game contains too much but in this case, it’s a complaint I feel justified in making. It’s hard to take a couple of steps without hearing a cry for help or a desperate plea for attention from one of the many attention-seeking maniacs causing havoc in the streets. The Riddler is one thing, having spent what must have been a small fortune and a great deal of time decorating the place with his signature question marks, but there are also serial killers to hunt and hitmen picking off victims. Rocksteady worked wonders for the license in Arkham Asylum, but here it’s almost as if they’ve felt compelled to include everything they possibly can.

Most of the time, that’s a good thing. When a seemingly innocuous side mission led to an encounter with a fairly obscure and unexpected villain, I was delighted. But during the segments in between missions, when the player can either head straight for the next plot beat or create some beats of his/her own, the situation becomes comical. With the Joker babbling demented commands and sweet nothings in Batman’s pointy ears, it becomes necessary to ignore the screams of the innocent and the cackling of their assailants because there are simply too many other things to do. It’s like having a to-do list that constantly expands; eventually, you’re going to skip going for that 30 minute jog you resolved to do every night. Except in Arkham City, the 30 minute jog is rescuing someone who is about to have their face cut off.

It’s an overrun prison going to hell, so of course it’s busy, but it can be overwhelming. It’s to the game’s enormous credit that most of the time I was happy to take on almost everything it threw at me. There’s very little that isn’t fun to accomplish, but like a kid in a candy store, it’s easy to overload on tasty but lesser things before finding the pear drops.

The grab-bag approach is evident in the boss battles as well, which are improved but remain the most disposable parts of the game. At times, it’s easy to imagine a finger scrolling down a list of villains, then alighting on someone too large or mystical to punch into submission. Drop him in the game for variety and pace. Done. That leads to a lack of cohesion, with the overtly fantastical and supernatural enemies existing inside a world that leans toward the gritty and the grim. While many have criticised Nolan’s approach, I’d argue that he does at least have a solid vision of how Batman’s world is constructed. Rocksteady seem to have lost that, sometimes aiming for a deluded ‘realism’ of violence, crime and despair, and sometimes plumping for magical mayhem.

It’s not that the two can’t co-exist, but they feel like uncomfortable bedfellows here. The writing doesn’t help. I do like this Batman, with suitable voice work from Conroy as always, but many of the villains are bland. The female characters do come off badly, primarily because not a single one is interesting. There are enough sexual references to Harley that I cringed whenever her name was mentioned. It’s as if there’s nothing much else to say about her, which is lazy writing at the very least. I actually found Catwoman worse though: when Batman is faced with almost certain death, he finds strength to go on in his ideals and legend. When Selina Kyle is faced with the same, she resorts to innuendo and flirtation. There isn’t enough nuance to the character as Rocksteady present her for it come off as anything more than trite.

Let us all be thankful for The Joker then, as well as Mark Hamill who strikes the perfect tone between menace and hilarity. I found myself sympathising with him, purely because he’s the only person in the game with a sense of humour. He seems to know that the whole situation is ridiculous and he revels in it, while everyone else fails to raise an eyebrow at even the most ludicrous developments.

The most challenging sections of the game tend to be the devious predator rooms, wherein Batman perches on high and gently encouraging inmates to suffer nervous breakdowns and, despite the claims of more thoughtful tasks worthy of the world’s greatest detective in this sequel, it’s the stealth and stalking that has received the most attention. A common way to expand a tried and tested game mechanic is to provide the player with more tools and that’s something that Arkham City does, keeping its promise of leaving Batman with a fully stocked utility belt and adding to it with a few new devices. Some of these help when faced with a room full of armed gangsters, but as with the melee combat, it’s the new equipment given to the enemies that makes the biggest difference.

While their dialogue suggests they are unimaginative and uneducated slabs of meat with nary an interesting thought in their gruesome craniums, the inmates of Arkham City seem to know a little about Batman and his modus operandi. It makes sense, since they seem incapable of fixing their thoughts on little else, except the merits of their respective bosses, the joy of inflicting cruelty and the bleak concept of starving to death in Hugo Strange’s unruly compound. Despite the fact that, as I overheard one perceptive lunk announce, they have been imprisoned in “a mass grave”, just about every inmate struggles to shake the spectre of Batman from his mind. That’s as it should be. Zipping across rooftops and picking up a conversation in the streets below, it’s always tempting to stop and drink in the ripples of fear that your shadow has cast over the world.

But they are smarter, the inmates. Not usually smart enough to cease their taunting and run away, but smart enough to understand some of Batman’s tricks. Spend too long above them, picking off prey, and they will sometimes start to destroy those precious gargoyles, or whatever arbitrary architectural anomaly is in the area. As the game progresses, most of Batman’s tricks find their counter in a new piece of equipment that the gangs start to deploy.

It can make some of the later rooms a real challenge, particularly playing on hard, which I’d recommend for anyone who has completed Arkham Asylum. Admittedly, there’s a little disappointment in clobbering crowds of crooks and then crumpling to the ground, your Batmanliness undone, after one too many slaps to the chops. Batman shouldn’t fail quite as pathetically as I so often did and reloading feels like cheating. He wouldn’t reload. He’d just drag himself back to his feet and carry on fighting. But the higher difficulty is worth it because none of this should feel easy. Remember how Batman looked progressively worse for wear as the night progressed in Arkham Asylum? By the midpoint of Arkham City he looks like he’s had a fight with a threshing machine. This is most definitely one of the more demanding excursions in his long and arduous crimefighting career.

In many ways, it seems that Rocksteady were just finding their feet with Arkham Asylum, then dipping their newly-discovered toes into Batman’s mythology and telling a self-contained story. With Arkham City they are making Batman their own, with a story that rewrites the landscape of Gotham and is incredibly bold in its treatment of the extensive cast. I’m glad they have the confidence and permission to do that, because it helps to make this much more than a retread. But it also means that rather being the pure refined stuff that was at the heart of their previous success, Arkham City is an ongoing project. There will surely be another game in the series, but it’s hard to tell quite what it will be.

The most exciting thing about Arkham City, beyond the sheer joy of actually playing, is that it’s not just more of the same. It’s more of everything else as well, which can be detrimental. But despite perhaps sounding overly critical of some aspects, I wouldn’t hesitate to say it’s one of the best games I’ve played this year. There is an enormous amount to do and now that I’m finished, I feel free to do it, no longer constrained by the fate of Gotham I can solve all those side stories. And even though I have a redwood-like backlog, I think that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

It’s a shame we had to wait longer for the game to come out on PC, a feeling that’s exacerbated by the issues with dx11. It means this version isn’t yet as definitive as it should be, although it is, even without those extra bells and whistles, an extremely beautiful game. I find myself entranced by the snowflakes that dot across Batman’s cape. I should be a bit more miffed about the extra time afforded by the delay not being used to ensure there were no launch problems. I’d like to know the real reasons behind it all and I hope the issues are sorted sooner rather than later, but coming off the back of completing the game for a second time, I find it hard to be annoyed about much at all. Disappointed in certain aspects, sure, but overall, absolutely delighted.

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81 Comments »

  1. bleeters says:

    Right, but is the drm less asinine this time around?

    • GeoGonzo says:

      AFAIK, it has securerom with a limited number of installations if you get it from Steam AND GFWL if you get it elsewere.

    • bleeters says:

      Well, sod that then. It could be the single greatest development of human kind, ushering in an age of peace and prosperity for all, and I still wouldn’t buy it if it came bundled with Securom and/or limited activations.

    • Suits says:

      Doesn’t say limited activations, but SecuROM still there (and GFWL)

    • Premium User Badge

      The Sombrero Kid says:

      5 Machine install limit, 10 times per machine, as if you’d install it multiple times on the same machine???? (Given a format will count as a new machine)

    • Aemony says:

      “5 Machine install limit, 10 times per machine, as if you’d install it multiple times on the same machine???? (Given a format will count as a new machine)”

      It’s that friggin “10 times per machine” that is ridiculous. 5 machine install limit I can survive with, but only 10 times per machine? Say WHAT? So if my OS suddenly goes bust for whatever reason and I need to reformat it, I’ve lost one of those? And if I forget to deactivate (however that’s done) the installation of the game before I reformat the computer (for whatever reason) another is lost?

      It’s friggin hilarious, and stupid.

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      If you install it eleven times you must be a pirate.

    • NathanH says:

      Has anyone ever installed the same game 11 times on one computer? Can’t say I’ve ever come close.

    • Premium User Badge

      The Sombrero Kid says:

      the 10 times per machine is actually 10 times per os installation reformating uses 2 of your 5 not 2 of your 10, it doesn’t matter anyway, limits like this are evil regardless of how generous, i can’t limit how they spend the money, if i could i wouldn’t let them license securom & gfwl.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I get the impression that the publishers think that if you install it just once on a PC there’s a good chance you are a pirate.

    • DrGonzo says:

      But you can give em a ring and sort it out. It really seems like a non issue to me. I don’t think I’ve ever installed a game 10 times or across 5 machines, certainly not a singleplayer game.

      RHUBARB RHUBARB RHUBARB.

    • bleeters says:

      You’ll have to forgive me, but calling up a publisher and begging for them to unlock more install limits on something I paid for isn’t something I’m going to do. It’s a hassle I shouldn’t have to deal with.

      If, in the long run, that’s what it comes down to? I won’t have bought it in the first place. Some of my older (by ‘older’, I mean by at least five years) games have been installed far more than ten times by now, at least. I’m not putting my faith in the belief that either a) that contact number will still work in a few years, or b) that they’ll patch out the limit when/if it no longer isn’t.

      At any rate, I’ll do what I do for other games with similar drm and just not play it. I’m sure I’ll cope, somehow.

    • Roshin says:

      Just owning a PC makes it 95% certain you’re a filthy pirate.

    • kickme22 says:

      @NathanH Yes, I have that buggy piece of crap Command and Conquer the First Decade (facepalm) the games themselves were awesome, but it took over ten reinstalls AND community patches to get the games to work.

  2. tungstenHead says:

    Origin has this for 50% off right now in their Black Friday sale.

    • Kdansky says:

      Origin? Does that mean I get to use both Origin and GFWL in one game? I’m sure the masochists will have wet dreams…

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      RaveTurned says:

      Doesn’t look like it’s on sale in the UK, from the website at least. What region are you in?

    • tungstenHead says:

      I guess it might be NA only.

  3. Cooper says:

    Quick question. Is there a ‘free play’ option at the end. i.e: After you complete the main plaotline, can you go one Batman-ing about Arkham City completeing the riddler & side quests. (Or do the side-quests disappear afterwards?)

    • GeoGonzo says:

      Yes, there is. I’m pretty sure you can’t lock yourself out of any mission or riddler trophey.

      You -can- miss one or two easter eggs, though.

    • Adam Smith says:

      As GeoGonzo says, almost everything is still available to do, certainly all the meaty stuff.

      Given the quantity of Riddler stuff alone, it would take ages to do it all even without the story going on in the background. Plus, challenge maps are unlocked incredibly frequently.

  4. MeestaNob says:

    DX11 glitches aside, which I do hope they get to the bottom of, it’s a great game and a great series.

    I cant wait to see what they do next. Gotham?

  5. TheLordMoosey says:

    Did anyone ever hear back from Steam about them vanishing pre-orders of Arkham City out of people’s libraries?

    I got mine back the day after, but three e-mails to support later and I’m still no closer to finding out what the hell happened in the first place.

    • Suits says:

      The Joker happened

    • Premium User Badge

      Aquarion says:

      It vanished from the store for a little while, and when it came back it had a different ID – and an “UK only” name on the game ID in the purchase history. I think they split the game into multiple SKUs and didn’t move all the prepurchases over.

  6. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    sounds about right although the triple drm solution & install limits is a fucking disgrace

    • Amun says:

      I would have already bought this if it didn’t come with GFWL. I’m too old and too set in my ways to deal with something else standing in the way of me being able to install, play, and tweak my game.

  7. CaspianRoach says:

    >There will surely be another game in the series, but it’s hard to tell quite what it will be.
    Why, it’s easy. Batman: Arkham State followed by Batman: Arkham Country, Batman: Arkham Planet and Batman: Arkham Universe.

    • Already Gone says:

      “We can’t stop here. This is bat country!”

      (Also, the registration system for this thing is hopelessly glitched. It kept asking me who the star of the Half-Life series was, and it wouldn’t accept “crate” or “crowbar” or “Counter-Strike”…)

  8. DaftPunk says:

    The game is way to overrated,looking it getting all those 9.5/10 scores makes me laugh at what industry have become at these days.

    • zeekthegeek says:

      The amount of wrong that you are is hilarious. In a season loaded with AAA game releases, this is easily the best. 10 isn’t high enough.

    • Tuco says:

      @DaftPunk: Except you’re completely wrong, and your uneducated opinion is laughable.

    • Jonith says:

      In my opinion (which you don’t care about), I believe no game deserves a 10 (even Half Life 2, which is in my eyes the greatest game in the past 10 years at least) as that implys that the game is perfect and has no faults at all, which all do no matter how small a fault.

      That is why I read RPS, because I can get what somebody thinks of the game and choose if I should get it on each of its own merits, instead of reading a random number picked from out of thin air.

  9. NightKid says:

    Are combos easier to maintain this time around? I remember my time in AA where I spent hours trying to max out x number of combos for y number of goons with 9x variations on Hard, just to max exp gain.

    Also, anybody know an excellent OCD specialist?

    • Adam Smith says:

      I reckon they are – the sheer quantity of goons and the ability to counter several at the same time helps to maintain flow.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I’ve played the first hour or so on Hard. Must say I don’t recommend it. The fighting isn’t challenging at all, it’s just really boring as you are pretty much locked into only countering. At that point it may as well be Guitar Hero on the easiest one button mode. I recommend playing on Medium and just role playing Batman.

    • Simon Hawthorne says:

      I’d like to second DrGonzo’s point, but for a different reason. Playing the game on Hard might be alright (although it does make you feel less like an awesome hero and more like you’re constantly on the defensive), but I couldn’t take the bosses on Hard.

      AC is slightly better than AA in its bosses; there’s less repetition (see the Joker boss at the end of AA) but that doesn’t mean there’s no or even acceptable repetition. I’m specifically thinking of a boss you encounter in a place that’s a-bit-like-a-beach-but-without-the-sea. I think I had to perform the same two or three tasks three times in a row which was just a bit much. It was frustrating on Medium and for that reason I wouldn’t attempt it on Hard.

    • Tuco says:

      I absolutely disagree with the above statements.
      Just finished the game on Hard and I found it perfect. It was often challenging but never unfair or frustrating.

  10. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    After playing through Arkham City, I’m left with the general feeling it’s ‘just as good’ as Asylum.

    Would I say it’s clearly a better game? No. It does certain things better, but it also trips up a bit more than AA, which flowed a lot better. Both are very good though.

    • johnpeat says:

      I sat on that fence for a while but I felt I had to decide and so I went over to the “I prefer Arkham Asylum” side.

      AA was tight and flawless – this is a sprawling and baggy collection of ‘todos’ – an endless laundry list of grind.

      I also think they’ve spoiled the combat – the camera and locations tend to be wider/larger and the combat feels a bit easier and a bit less ‘skill required’ too.

      I also think the Challenge Maps are poorer than AAs

      So it’s “more of the same but not QUITE as good” IMO – ideal if you’ve rinsed AA to death but not essential by any means.

    • Advanced Assault Hippo says:

      I suppose if I was *forced* to decide which was better I would probably go for Asylum too, because what it did it did brilliantly. Whereas what City attempts it falls a bit short at.

      But it has its own strengths and greater ambition – so in the end I feel they almost cancel each other out in terms of overall quality.

      Sort of similar to Batman Begins vs TDK actually…

  11. ramirezfm says:

    I am still pondering whether I should buy the PC or PS3 version. Better graphics for PC ( not sure whether my GTX260 can handle this though ), but no GFWL or SecuROM on PS3. How does the PC version compare to the console one?

  12. CassuS Beli says:

    Game Is sitting here but Its going to have to wait until my annual visit back up north for Christmas where I will play It on my laptop.
    Nothing can take my attention away from Skyrim.

  13. airtekh says:

    Just a heads up for people like myself on slow connections, this game is about 17GB in size.

    I set it downloading at midnight last night and it won’t be done until this evening. (hopefully!)

  14. LockjawNightvision says:

    “While many have criticised Nolan’s approach, I’d argue that he does at least have a solid vision of how Batman’s world is constructed.”

    Really? I thought those movies were pretty much universally beloved. Anything remotely popular will inevitably have a backlash, but are you really willing to legitimize a small group of contrarians by phrasing the sentence to imply the prevalence of their opinion is significant? Show me one evenhanded, intelligent piece of criticism read by more than a 1000 people that isn’t just shrilly complaining about Christian Bale’s Batman voice and I’ll concede.

    • Adam Smith says:

      No need to concede – the ‘many’ I speak of probably just sound very loud and enjoy shouting directly into my ears because I like Nolan’s films so much. Probably the wrong choice of word.

      That said, I think it’s possible to love something while being critical. I don’t mean the word ‘criticised’ to mean anything like ‘hated’.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I thoroughly enjoyed Nolans films. I just loathe his Batmanl. His moral dilemmas about killing make no sense. It’s frustrating and at times almost ruins The Dark Knight for me.

      So great films apart from Batman in my opinion. He does the villains brilliantly though.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      I took a double take when reading that too. It certainly is a minority that really complain about the Nolan Batman films, although they do have a habit of taking up space in angry Internet forums.

      Looking forward to playing this, although I might stick with Serious Sam 3 and hope the DX11 issues are resolved quickly.

    • Novack says:

      Indeed, the worst part of Nolan’s Batman, is Batman. I like the Bale’s work, its just that the character seems so drawn in front of this situations, that it tends to show a moron Batman, in front of a brilliant enemy, specially the Dark Night.

      Or, maybe Im just older and the good guy / bad guy schema doesnt fit so well as when younger… so Batman stance results sometimes flawled for me, when the exposition of Joker shows more lucidity.

    • Christian O. says:

      It might just be because I visit a lot of comic book sites, but I’ve seen a fair amount of valid critiques of Nolan’s Batman films from the bizarre water dissipator to the weird moral loophole of “don’t have to save you”, the confused ending monolog in Dark Knight and the various strengths and weaknesses of the more realistic city of Dark Knight contra the more visually interesting, but less believable city in Begins.

    • Jad says:

      I can levy a complaint against The Dark Knight: its not a deal-breaker, and it’s not something that will bother everyone, but I really disliked what Nolan did to Gotham. What in previous movies and in many of the comics had been this semi-fantastical place of byzantine structure and soaring gothic grandeur was replaced with what was so clearly simply the city of Chicago. A nice, somewhat mundane place, but not a city that is particularly riven by massive seams of unrest and fear and barely suppressed murderous rage that TDK very half-heartedly tried to fill it with.

      With TDK’s bland Gotham I just couldn’t fully buy into a substantial part of the premise, which is that when a terrorist hits an American city there is great danger that all its citizenry will go totally bonkers unless Batman or a spotless public figure (Harvey Dent) is around. Especially since when terrorists did attack New York ten years ago, New Yorkers famously became very friendly and strong and supportive towards each other, even though the major public faces calming them down were the very flawed Rudy Guiliani and George Bush, a mayor that most New Yorkers disliked and a president most New Yorkers did not vote for. I mean, crime actually plummeted in NY in the week or so after 9/11, despite there being far fewer police on the streets, because criminals literally stopped committing crimes for a while. And I don’t think Chicago is all that much more likely to snap than New York. Gotham would, but Gotham wasn’t in The Dark Knight.

      Again, I’m sure that this didn’t bother a lot of people, and maybe my suspension-of-disbelief-ometer was broken while watching that film, but it did bother me. It didn’t ruin the movie, but I personally can’t give it the “incredibly great” label that many apply to it.

    • iucounu says:

      There are two main criticisms I’d make of the Nolan films. The first is that he still can’t quite crack the problem of Batman looking a bit silly on film. This, for me, is one of the best illustrations of why comics and films are fundamentally different media – whenever they have to have Batman move in the real world, instead of framing him perfectly in a still, stylised illustration, a film-maker risks breaking suspension of disbelief. Nolan tries to amp up the Predator aspects of the character, showing us relatively little, but I’d argue the action sequences end up choppy and muddy – too many close-ups, too many fast cuts. (The action scenes in Inception also suffer a bit from this, IMHO.)

      The second is that the scripts aren’t as intelligent as the direction or performances. The plot of Batman Begins is pure crap. The League of Shadows has no coherent plan or motive, their method is absurdly complex and unbelieveable, and the whole last third of the film crashes and burns. It’s a sudden injection of panto into what was a relatively naturalistic approach. I’d also argue that slums of Gotham veer worryingly close to Tim Burton Bullshit in their art design – it looks like no city that ever was or will be.

      Dark Knight is a lot better – it’s even more naturalistic, making Gotham look like a real city instead of a Batman theme park, and the Joker is pitched just perfectly to fit in to that. You can believe in the nihilism and the psychopathy just enough not to start feeling you’re watching a cartoon. Where it falls down, though, is again the last bit of the film, where Nolan deploys a really insulting Deus Ex Machina and then tries to make a big moral message out of it. Panopticon surveillance, yea or nay? Oooh, topical and convenient!

    • Fumarole says:

      I’d argue the action sequences end up choppy and muddy – too many close-ups, too many fast cuts.

      I feel the exact same way. The action scenes in Batman Begins are too jarring for me to enjoy.

  15. Blackcompany says:

    Games like this make me wonder whether devs are in the beginning phases of overdoing the whole “sandbox” thing in much the same way they have pounded the FPS into the ground. I am not hating on Batman; this is probably a very good game. Rather I am concerned with the sense of urgency the main story tries to convey while the side missions, collectibles etc continually try and pull you away from a tim-sensitive story.
    .
    I saw this in Fallout 3 and Oblivion. I also see it, though to a lesser degree, in Skyrim. Everyone needs your help, right now. But you also need to find your father, stop a war or defeat an invasion pronto, lest your world come crashing down around you. Thematically these contrary themes in the same game make no sense. In terms of game play, however, they add to the experience.
    .
    I think this conflict – or more appropriately, its resolution – is central to open-world/sandbox game development. Going forward I hope to see devs come up with solutions to the conundrum of creating urgency with the main plot while simultaneously offering plenty of side missions and other content. So far the best solution I have seen comes from – surprise – Bethesda. The way in which they allow you to either complete the main quest and keep playing, or ignore the main quest completely until some key even triggers it, seems to work pretty well without breaking your immersion in their world.
    .
    Eager to see where devs go from here in regards to this central conflict of open world games. Especially since it seems certain that open world or sandbox games (which are close to open world in nature, at least) seem to be the new trend in game development. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.

    • johnpeat says:

      The thing here is that AA was a really well paced linear game with some exploration permitted – and AC is a sandbox with a few threads running through it.

      If AA had felt restrictive and prescriptive then AC would be a refreshing change and probably an improvement – but AA never felt like that and so you can only conclude that they chose to go ‘sandbox’ because it’s the way to go.

      I’d FAR rather have had another AA with the same level of narrative focus and the same level of exploration and other stuff “as side dishes” myself – because AA was so good at it.

      It’s not like Red Faction where Guerrila’s open world was such an improvement because AA was far better than RF2 in the first place…

    • Fumarole says:

      I’d say that Fallout did an excellent job of setting a time limit for your first quest that made sense, yet left plenty of time to play the game at your own pace and still complete the sidequests. Unfortunately many people felt that the very existence of a time limit forced them into pursuing the main quest to the exclusion of most everything else, at least in their first playthrough.

      The result is that developers want to please both types of people, and you end up with poorly designed plots like Oblivion‘s gates waiting patiently around for you to close them after you buy your fifth house and pick some herbs in the forest.

    • Tuco says:

      It really sounds to me like many of you guys are just complaining for the sake of it.
      And I’m sorry but “It’s confusing, I feel like there’s too much to do” is simply a laughable argument.
      Maybe yo ushould just contain you anxiety attack and understand that there’s more than enough time to do pretty much everything, if you want to.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Jackablade says:

    Arkham City is an odd one. It has all of the elements of a great game and indeed everything that its predecessor had going for it with improvements and additions and yet it never quite clicked with me. I mean I played it from beginning to end and put a good few hours into the post game. It’s certainly far from a bad game, on the contrary, it’s a very, very good game, I could just never felt entirely… engaged I guess is the word for it. I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly why this was the case.

    Did anyone else who tried the console version have a similar experience?

    • johnpeat says:

      Yup – I put to down to 3 things

      1 – AC is constantly making you work, everyone in the city wants a piece of you and your relationship with them is unclear (you’re working for criminals for the most part – instead of punching them senseless).

      2 – in AA you were the predator, the hunter from the shadows – wheras here you’re more a panto Batman, you need to use smoke pellets to escape from stuff – you’ll be shot at and killed without warning – it’s a different tone entirely…

      3 – the combat just isn’t as good. The combat in AA was amazing – it blended all the combat moves beautifully and had a decent skill system to allow you to improve your scores and skills – wheras AC seems to have let that all get a bit flabby and overcomplicated.

      AA was a cake with beatifully mixed ingredients – this is still a cake but someone added too many ingredients and the mixing isn’t quite right and as much as you like bacon – it doesn’t work with cake…

    • Tuco says:

      The combat is much, much, *much* better in AC than it was in AA.
      More diversified, less repetitive, and it feels as smooth as it was in the past.

      Your points are bogus.

  17. myaltisa says:

    Well worth the pound I paid for it this morning with the onlive £1intro offer!! I’ve preferred playing it with my 360 controller. Think I can feel the pull of the dark side……

    • wodin says:

      Was just about to go for the £1 offer. Until I read in the small print that you must be a member and at some point it may be a subscription system.

      I’s rather wait for a sale and own the game and not be tied to a subscription fee system just to be able to play any games I’ve paid for.

    • johnpeat says:

      Anyone who worries that a game AAA which costs £1 may be taken from them by a change to OnLives system at some point in the future is a prize pillock.

      £1 – you get that much value in about 1 hour of play (IMO – YMMV) – hell it’s £5 to rent this for 5 nights from BB – if they don’t change their system before next Weds you’re 500% to the good!?

  18. woodsey says:

    “While many have criticised Nolan’s approach”

    They should be Bat-slapped senseless.

    Really looking forward to playing it, but I have no idea when that will be – still cracking on with Skyrim, and then there’s SWTOR, and AssCreedRevvers, and Saints Row: The Third, and perhaps Payday and Red Orchestra 2 at some point, and Uncharted 3 (forgive me).

    So… I’m sure it’ll fit in somewhere.

  19. BooleanBob says:

    Unless you read ‘ripples’ as ‘nipples’, that is.

  20. kanzy says:

    Anyone has any opinions on whether this plays better with kb+mouse or a X360 controller?

  21. Howl says:

    @RaveTurned

    Origin is saying it’s £25 but doesn’t mention any sale. Still, that’s £10 cheaper than Steam.

    Unfortunately I’m trying to download from Steam, who’s servers are so overloaded that it’s barely sending me anything at all. It should be coming down at over 4MB/s on BT Infinity.

  22. Paul B says:

    Or ‘fear’ as ‘farts’

  23. Zenicetus says:

    Without getting into spoilers…. does this one have the same annoying mini-game boss fights like the Scarecrow and Croc fights, that take you out of the normal control scheme and turn it into a platform jumping game? I enjoyed everything about AA except those sections, and they were enough to make me shelve the game for long intervals, before finishing it.

    I’ll take a look at it either way (after taking a break from Skyrim), since I got a free copy with a recent video card upgrade. I’m just curious about that. Did people actually enjoy those sections in the previous game?

  24. Asskicker says:

    So when you buy it of steam, does it use both Steam and GFWL? Or just steam?

  25. Urthman says:

    There’s very little that isn’t fun to accomplish, but like a kid in a candy store, it’s easy to overload on tasty but lesser things before finding the pear drops.

    This sounds like the sort of caveat that would only apply to someone who felt the need to push through the game quickly for a review. Anyone else could just set the game aside when they’ve had enough awesome for one day and come back to it a little later.

  26. Adam Smith says:

    or ‘shadow’ as ‘blancmange-like voluminous buttocks’

  27. Urthman says:

    To be fair, the 10-things-to-do-at-once is true to the comics. Especially back when you had multiple Batman titles supposedly happening concurrently with each other, if you really thought about everything the Batman had supposedly done in the past couple months (not to mention crossovers with the JLA and other heroes), Arkham City would seem focused and uneventful.

  28. pbl64k says:

    Can’t say I care Wot U Think about it. I expected to know Wot I Think about it later today, but – and I’m sorry to bother you enlightened Brits yet again with our sad boring third world bullshit – the game is unavailable for download on Steam to all *pre-order* customers from EU countries like Serbia and Latvia. Due to being in a “wrong region” all of a sudden. Apparently, some EU countries are more EU than the others, and fuck all that “free trade regs” crap.

    Now, I’m writing this to say that if this isn’t piracy promotion by the publishers, then I don’t know WHAT THE FUCK IS. Yeah, c’mon, I’m waiting for the usual “entitlement” love in the comment you self-righteous brain-dead corporate anal slave morons. I coughed up fifty euro for the damn thing a month back. So yeah, I’m fucking entitled to it.

    Sorry, had to get that outta my system.

  29. DigitalSignalX says:

    Speaking of nipples and buttocks, not a single word on the cat woman bits?

  30. StingingVelvet says:

    For those complaining about DRM, the game only has SecuROM for native DRM. GFWL does not have a mandatory activation like it sometimes does, it is completely optional. Create an offline profile and enjoy. If you buy it on Steam it of course adds Steam DRM, but that is your choice. On Origin it does not have any DRM other than SecuROM.

  31. Shadram says:

    But, as a resident of New Zealand, is it worth the US$100 they’re charging for it on Steam? Or do I continue to stare at that number in bewildered disbelief? Even if it is worth it, I’m not paying that much when it’s half the price everywhere else in the world. If you’ll excuse the crudity: go f*** yourselves, Warner.

  32. cheesetruncheon says:

    I didn’t like AC as much as AA, it’s mostly the fact that with AA a lot of the villains, and references to them were hidden and subtle, in AC the villains all loudly announce themselves and expect you to punch them into submission, there’s also the emphasis on the Joker, from the trailers and the opening cut scene I expected joker to make a cameo while you hunt down strange, which would have been interesting, unfortunately they keep dragging the Joker back and make Strange simply a mild annoyance.

    I understand the popularity of the Joker and the effectiveness he has as Batman’s Arch-enemy but I honestly think, at this point in time, there are more interesting stories to be told with other Batman villains.

  33. Premium User Badge

    cairbre says:

    I want to play this game but it’s going to have to wait there are simply too many games coming out at the moment and I don’t have the time. I played the first one on the 360 and really enjoyed it but never finished it want to try this one on pc.

    Is everyone using a /60 pad to play this or mouse and keyboard?