The Games of Christmas ’11: Day 13

By Alec Meer on December 13th, 2011 at 3:25 pm.

Did you know that when he’s not delivering presents or selling Coca-Cola, Father Christmas actually spends his days in cocktail bars enjoying the good life, the old rapscallion? Why, he’s even been known to frequent the racetracks and beaches of Monaco in the company of young starlets. That’s his reward for picking a job where he only has to pull on the costume once a year. But not everyone has it so easy. Let’s take a peek inside door number thirteen.

It’s Batman: Arkham City!

Alec: I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I will not snark, I will not snark, I will snark.

It is far too easy to snark about Arkham City, given how wretchedly it realises its female characters and attitudes towards them, its all-over-the-place dialogue, how it shoots its own dramatic urgency in the foot by constantly screaming for attention in a thousand different ways and why there’s a man made of magic clay. But I snark from affection – I’ve often found that I’m more inclined to moan a greater length about games I like a lot than about games I think are awful. When something gets under your skin, into your head, it’s a jolt when it fails in some regard. Like a lover, you like it, you trust it and you want to spend all your time with it, so when it does something that seems out of character with your perception of it, it’s a shock. And you protest.

Arkham City swallowed me up right from the off, giving me a gaming place I wanted to be in, somewhere that treated my eyes, the more compulsive aspects of my nature and slick, lavish attempt to repackage the entire latter-day Batman ethos in a way that made something like sense. Yeah, City wasn’t as tight as Arkham, but that’s because it brought so damn much under its wing, and without being overwhelming or even tokenistic. For the majority of Batman’s villains, it thought about the conceptual challenges they presented to Brucie-boy, rather than just being more big muscly guys to hit. Often, that entailed someone other than Batman being in danger – see the Mr Zsasz, Hush and Deadshot missions- thus reasserting that he was, after all, a hero, rather than just a guy in a fetish suit beating up morons.

It wasn’t about a final fight against these guys – they could never, after all, be the equal of Batman in the brawling stakes – but about the chase. Second-guessing them, trailing them, finding them, stopping them. Superhero games are so often only about the panels where people try to knock each other unconscious, but Arkham City manages to be the other 28-odd pages of your average issue of Detective Comics too. The more openly fantastical enemies clunked a bit, because they didn’t have the same creeping horror of racing to stop the evil that men do, but when it worked it really worked.

I suspect it’s also the most thrilling and rewarding movement I’ve experienced in a game this year. The batrope, the cape glide and their various upgrades: these became second-nature so quickly, being both so much a part of the character and a thoughtful use of his environment. When I played Assassin’s Creed: Revelations shortly after Arkham City, I felt so slow and constrictive. By proving that the rules of open urban worlds can be broken without being plain silly – hello, Prototype – Arkham City lays a fearsome black guantlet in front of anyone else attempting an action game in that kind of setting. It doesn’t really deserve my snark, but if I do snark it’s because I’m so impressed by everything else it does.

Jim: Superhero games exist in a weird bracket where they have to do some of the stuff that superheroes do, within both the constraints of what videogames can do, and within the constraints of what the original fiction says the hero can do. Batman: Arkham City is that process, that working with limits to create something maximalist, and builds something fresh and thrilling on familiar foundations. (For an example of this process not working quite right, you just have to look at Relic’s Space Marine.)

As such, it seems like Arkham City is the best superhero game so far. It piles on the fiction, but never forgets to also explore (and ultimately pile on) the possible game mechanics, too. Batman is a superb target for this kind of design, because he’s /just a man/, and most of what he’s able to do depends on mechanical devices, which can be translated quite satisfactorily into the game world.

And what a world! The hub city of Arkham City is ludicrous and evocative. While not exactly doing the living world illusion that other city-based games dwell on, it provides scope for exploration, sight-seeing, and personal missions of hunting and acrobatics. It’s brilliantly conceived, an architectural mess in the way that the older East Coast caricature cities of the comics, and one that allows you, asks you even, to dwell on darkened rooftops and brood on your batmanness.

Fundamentally, Batman is all about superb design. Everything piles up to create one of those games that you feel melded into. You don’t notice how well half the stuff works, which means you do notice it again when you contrast it with other games. And that means that in some ways Batman is too slick. It’s the design of equivalent of getting into a luxury car. You immediately notice how much better the quality is than in the cars you normally ride around it but, ultimately, when things pick up pace, you don’t really notice how fast you are going. In Arkham City’s case, it’s pretty damned fast.

Adam: Da-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-BAT-MAN!

No, hang on, wrong Batman.

OK. Let’s try this. “SWEAR TO ME!”

Nope. Still not it.

How about, “It’s the car right? Chicks love the car.”

It’s definitely not that one.

In many ways, this is the Batman of the animated series, except you have the power to control him, and there’s extra violence and grit thrown in. Whether or not the latter choices are a good thing or not is up for debate but I’d certainly much rather pretend to be Batman than just watch him going about the grim business of crime-bashing.

My only real quibble with Arkham City is that it seems to embrace the silliness of its comic book origins but then, like the Bat himself, too often refuses to break into a smile. I quite enjoyed the story, preposterous as it was, particularly because Rocksteady were willing to make Gotham their own, with events reshaping the city’s geography and plenty of characters overtaken by them. But the gangs of extras shouting clumsy threats fail to be either particularly threatening, silly or interesting. I wouldn’t mind which of the three it was! As it is though, they’re essentially just punching bags. That’s a shame because the city compound itself is a fascinating place that too easily becomes little more than a backdrop for fisticuffs.

But, my, what fisticuffs they are. The freeflow combat system just feels right. Casually strolling into the midst of a large group of enemies and waiting for an unfortunate knucklehead to pluck up the courage and swing a punch still entertains me and I’ve played the game far more than is probably sensible. The first counter of every fight, which should always come before Batman launches an attack of his own, is immensely satisfying. Stringing together combos from there until every thug in the vicinity is sleeping off an excessive bout on the bat-brew. By which I mean they are unconscious having been repeatedly punched in the brain.

The controls, both during combat and exploration, are so intuitive it’s easy to gloss over how good they are. It doesn’t take long to have Bruce swinging across the city like Spiderman and the streets soon become unnecessary. It’s a cinch to traverse using rooftops alone; in fact, it’s sometimes a case of gliding through the air, swooping and grappling, hardly pausing to think. That it’s so simple to navigate the city and to then transition into a street fight against an entire gang of miscreants is easy to take for granted because it all feels so natural.

This is a game about being a man who has made himself a hero. Reaching this point may have been a struggle but all the acrobatic assaults and intellectual investigations are effortless now. It’s simply what he does and therefore it has to be simple to do it. There’s a fluidity to the game and that’s an essential part of the appeal; it runs through the tightness of the controls and the flow of the missions themselves. Arkham City is a noisy place and there are sometimes too many distractions but while the game slips up occasionally in its mixed and messy tone, it rarely drops the baton in terms of the actual objectives it offers.

I think it’s fair to say that Rocksteady get Batman even if the writing does fall down at times. They know what makes him fun and what makes him interesting, whether it’s the demons of his past or the self-sacrificial stubbornness on display for much of Arkham City. I look forward to seeing what they put him through next, although part of me would like to see how they’d tackle a different hero. Arkham City was far more than refinement but next time out I’d like to be as surprised as I was by that first night in the asylum.

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102 Comments »

  1. Brun says:

    Meh. Could never really get into Arkham Asylum, although I recognized it as a good game. Arkham City just seemed to fall victim to the success of Asylum. The PR/Marketing department did EVERYTHING wrong – ridiculous overhyping (Yahoo gave this game an 11/10 LOL), five million vendor-exclusive DLCs, a shoddy PC port, delaying release for two months to boost console sales. Everything I hate about what consoles have done to the gaming industry, basically.

    Might pick this up in a Steam sale, if I ever finish Asylum.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Same; I stopped playing as well. Partly it’s that I really can’t relate to Batman as a character; he’s really not a likeable person as portrayed in the game. Or rather, he’s barely a person, and more a slab of meat wrapped in gadgets and brought to life with a sense of moral absolutism.

    • Burning Man says:

      I will skip the whole pretense of responding reasonably and simply label the two of you as grumpy faces.

    • markside says:

      I never finished the first one, but I played all the way through to the final boss fight and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Looking forward to playing the new one at some point…

    • The_B says:

      I would take issue with labelling the PC version as ‘a shoddy port’ – yes, they’ve made mistakes and there’s issues in the PC version (and that’s before the baffling decision to include GFWL), but to so readily dismiss them as being porting issues rather seems unfair when you consider what they have done, and the fact the PC version has been proven to be on a technical level the best of the bunch, as evidenced here.

      No, it’s not perfect but it is better than the majority of multiformat games and certainly actual shoddy “ports”.

    • Llewyn says:

      I didn’t finish Asylum either. Enjoyed what I played far more than expected and regretted not buying it much sooner but found the controls, while brilliant when on the offensive, didn’t work well for me at all in the evasion fights. I struggled through Bane after much cursing but gave up when I hit the two Bane-alikes in the botanical garden. Maybe I’ll find the patience to go back one day, but I have a nasty feeling I’ll just hit the same fight again further down the line.

    • Lambchops says:

      @ Llewyn

      I don’t want to put you off (because it’s a great game) but you will.

      It’s the most common style of boss fight in the game and it’s tedious reoccurrance is one of the game’s few weak points in my opinion. That said because it does appear so much you will get the knack of it soon enough, I remember stuggling with it early on but breezing past similar enemies in the latter stages.

    • Gap Gen says:

      @Burning Man: Yeah, I should finish it. I just have no compulsion to. Nothing’s drawing me back. I know someone who sells it as a Brock Samson simulator, and now *that* would be awesome.

    • Outright Villainy says:

      @ The_B: I agree. The PC port did drop the ball hugely with the whole DX 11 thing, but when I just went along with DX 9 it didn’t seem to matter. The game still looks amazing, and more importantly, plays extremely smoothly. There was a bit of stutter in the outdoor areas every hour or so, but for the most part it ran ridiculously well, and when I played Assassin’s creed brotherhood after (yes brotherhood, i’m late to the table on that one) I was just annoyed by how jerky it felt by comparison, while looking nowhere near as good.

    • oceanclub says:

      ” a shoddy PC port”

      Umm, what was shoddy about it? If it’s the DX11 thing, well, I don’t think it looked _that_ different running in DX9 vs DX11, to be honest. Admittedly, Skyrim has sucked me away so it’ll be a while ’til I ever finish it, but it ran far better than Skyrim has for me. (Hopefully the 4GB fix stops the CTDs).

      P.

    • Jumwa says:

      When Skyrim gets labelled a “shoddy port” by the masses of angry internet denizens, are you really surprised by this? Hyperbole reigns on the interwebs.

    • Brun says:

      My post clearly indicates that I myself have NOT played this game. As such, I am basing my assertion that it is a shoddy PC port solely on what I have heard from others. Most of it seems to be “that DX11 thing.” If that’s not really a big deal then I guess it’s not shoddy, just somewhat lazy.

    • Llewyn says:

      @Lambchops: Yes, that is somewhat disheartening. However! Following this discussion I thought I’d have another quick go at the two titan fellas in the gardens and, just at the point where I was about to give up for good, I realised how I’d taken the tutorial bit for the very first titan a bit too literally. When it told me I should double-tap A to evade and that I should evade the charges, I’d been foolishly jumping out of the way. After abandoning that in favour of running I managed to get past them.

      Hopefully this will be the impetus I needed to complete the thing now. Thanks.

  2. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    please write more about the unjustified use of word “bitch”

    • Lars Westergren says:

      No. But the obsessive tits&ass stuff on all major female characters is pretty tiring. If you go to the “trophies” submenu or whatever it is called, you can zoom in and out at characters, but only at a fixed point. On Batman, the point you zoom on is the face. On Catwoman, you ofc zoom in on the ass/groin (and face it, her costume is so tight they might as well made her completely nude).

      Batman is crouching down though, I’ll get back to you if it zooms in on the crotches of Bane or one the muscular convicts once I have unlocked their trophies and they are standing up. In which case, all is forgiven.

    • eclipse mattaru says:

      Here’s a question: Did we get as worked up about the way The Witcher (both 1 & 2) treats women (and sex altogether, for that matter) as we got about AC’s “bitch” thing?

      I don’t remember having seen so many outraged people back then, and I for one thought the whole “We need to find the Kingslayer, your majesty!” – “We can do that. But first go plough all those wenches here. They are dying for a Witcher dick!” was slightly worse.

    • Doesn'tmeananything says:

      Good grief, you can move the camera up and down with the mouse (or with the right stick, I gather, whatever the preference) after you zoomed in.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      If the zoom point is fixed in height and the difference was due to her standing and him crouching, then I apologize to the makers of this fine game. If they deliberately thought the face was the most important feature on a man, and the uterus the most important feature of a woman, my point stands.

    • db1331 says:

      I think we all have a right to know just how long you did spend zoomed in on Catwoman’s ass/groin in researching this post.

    • Tyshalle says:

      I fail to see how we arrive at the conclusion that the developers hate women. So they make their women the idealized shape and size of all pop-culture female action heroes from the last 20 years. Last time I checked Batman is ripped like all he does is pump iron and take steroids. Do they hate men, too? Or because they don’t call him a cocksucker or something does it not count?

      They call women bitches on How I Met Your Mother, too. Does that show hate women, too? Are all forms of media that show gorgeous women who are skinny hateful towards women? My girlfriend thinks Catwoman looked sexy in Arkham City; does she hate women too? What are the parameters here?

      Or is it just that a bunch of whiners with soccer mom mentalities just have a hangup over the word ‘bitch’, and it’s infecting everything they see with an enormous bias?

    • J-snukk says:

      I admit, I wasn’t particularly outraged by brutal thugs being sexist, although maybe I just tuned out on their boring phrases after a while. However, the treatment of catwoman was kind of retarded, and to be honest, I’ve yet to see anything Batman related where it hasn’t been so (here’s hoping for the Dark Knight Rises). She was just sexual innuendo in a stupid costume with no personality, and regardless of gender this annoyed me. Maybe its hard to do a saucy character who isn’t just slutting it up with everyone? I don’t know, I don’t write these things, but it was pretty bad.

      However, I think we should remember that this is a comic book game when considering Catwoman’s. proportions. Her tits and arse are far too big for athletics (or even reality). But, then again look at Batman’s muscles. Although I would have perfered a more realistic, Nolanesque art style, Rocksteady wanted a comicy look and this, sadly involves porting over the proportions from the comics to some extent.

    • Doesn'tmeananything says:

      I think we all have a right to know just how long you did spend zoomed in on Catwoman’s ass/groin in researching this post.

      Signed.

    • Apples says:

      OK I WILL.
      It’s one thing to be insulted, and another to be insulted about something you were born with and isn’t relevant. It’s why saying someone is an idiot is fine (as far as being PC goes) and calling them retarded is not. Why saying Batman is a big bullying jerk is okay, but saying Catwoman’s a bitch (because, you see, she’s a woman, which overrides any of her other attributes) isn’t. It’s hard to pick something that is an equivalent insult that refers to Batman being a man, because there aren’t really any that aren’t considered much ruder, and used less casually, than bitch. Consider the word that is usually considered to be equivalent, “bastard” – you are not insulting the man, you are essentially insulting his mother (another woman!) by implying she’s slept around.

      Saying you can also call a man a bitch so it’s ok is utterly stupid. Great, so you can insult men by implying that they are behaving like a woman (or more accurately and bafflingly, saying the man is behaving like a woman behaving like a man, which is Not Allowed) – that’s alright then!

      and bear in mind that this is a piece of escapist media where you should be allowed to feel like a cool superhero, no matter who you are in real life. Having someone immediately refer to your character’s gender in a negative way, and by association your own irl gender, is really lame. Especially when it happens very often in media. You know that feeling you guys get when you see an advert where a man is portrayed to be a bumbling incompetent fool and his wife is an all-knowing smuggy fuck? That feeling of unfairness and “I’m not like that!” rejection? Imagine that but basically every time you sit down to watch TV or a film or play a game.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      @Tyshalle

      I don’t think the devs hate women at all, in fact I think they are quite fond of them. What I object to is women being treated like pieces of meat rather than individuals.

      @db1331, Doesn’tmeananything

      3 seconds maybe? A) I prefer real humans. B) I’m gay.

    • 1R0N_W00K13 says:

      Going back to what someone said about The Witcher 2′s portrayal of women, it’s all over the place. Whether or not you see the actual sex scenes as sexist is entirely subjective, and I think the fact that a large amount of the main cast consists of powerful and influential women tips the balance. From a macro perspective, the overall impression I personally draw from the Witcher 2 with regards to women isn’t a negative one at all, whereas the only impression Arkham City gives off is casual sexism. The two main female characters are both oversexed and have little to them otherwise, and the constant reference to women in a negative light just serves to degrade the entire game.

    • Vandelay says:

      I feel in someway I should standup for Rocksteady here. It is certainly a case of using the argument “it is no worse than every other game’s depiction of women” is probably a valid one, if not ultimately rather limp.

      The continual use of “bitch” comes across as wanting to swear, but unable to be too strong in a teen game, rather than anything malicious. It probably doesn’t help that this is one of the combat sounds, so is repeated constantly during Catwoman fights and I can’t imagine this would of kicked up a fuss if it was said once or twice in a cutscene. Context is more important than frequency and we should remember that these are bad eggs using the naughty word, rotters that also torture policemen with “die piggy” written on their chests.

      Perhaps the depiction of Catwoman could be seen as poorly done, but I can’t really say it is that much worse than Batman himself. They are focusing on a single aspect of her character (I assume there is more to her, I’m not a comic book reader,) and not much else comes through. Sounds like your pretty standard game writing. In fact, all characters are fairly flat or not given the time to be developed. The Joker is probably the only exception so far and that is most likely nothing we haven’t seen before.

      I think Alec called it right; the rest of the game is so good that the niggles are more apparent, when they would be minor to unnoticeable in other games. I would also say it comes down to poor writing and not anything particular unpleasant.

      I would also add, I’ve not finished the game yet, so there might be worse to come. I haven’t seen anything to particular single this game out. An example of a widespread issue maybe, but not really a reason to pick on it.

    • Outright Villainy says:

      The bitch thing doesn’t really say anything about the Dev’s attitude toward women, it’s almost certainly just really lazy writing. What is more telling though, is the character design. Catwoman has the most ridiculous costume ever, given that she’s braless and zipped down to the navel, when she engages in lots of acrobatics and hanging from the ceiling, and it’s bloody winter. Also, the level of detail in Talia’s ass vs her face is kinda ridiculous. (also Talia was just a crap character in general but that’s another matter.)

      But those are some of the very few dull notes, I enjoyed the hell out of this game. Enough to play through it twice and get 400 riddler trophies, so that’s saying something.

    • Kadayi says:

      I think too much is made of the use of ‘Bitch’ tbh. The game isn’t marketed as mature, therefore they can’t go don’t the Bulletstorm route of expletives. Bitch is one of the few words you can use and get away with a PG rating.

    • Apples says:

      OK, so why is bitch an ‘acceptable’ swearword? Why is a word that implies that one gender is bad more acceptable than one that implies an ethnicity or sexuality is bad?

    • J-snukk says:

      I think maybe you might be drawing too much from this, Apples, and if you aren’t at least the blame doesn’t seem to lie with Rocksteady who have made a great game. Not being a sexist, I wouldn’t know, but I’d assume bitch isn’t exactly top on the list of ‘words male sexists use to degrade women’. True it is a phrase that is used more on women, but context is all important and I cant ever remember using the word to make a woman feel inferior, in fact I’ve probably used it on men more. I think the word bastard fits into this category as it is used more on men, however that has no sexist connotations whatsoever. So, I’m sure there is a slight difference.

      Maybe we’re all just too determined to be outrage? Like we feel it is our social responsibility or something.

    • Apples says:

      Like I said, it’s all very well saying “But I use that word on men!”, but that means nothing because the word itself is insulting BECAUSE IT REFERS TO WOMEN. This is like saying “But I call straight people gay so it’s not offensive to homosexual people!” or “But I call my white friends nigger so it’s fine!” Nope!

      Also yeah it kinda is a very commonly used word to oppress (that word seems too forceful but oh well) women, because it can be used whenever a woman is getting too assertive or powerful. Think of how often a woman in politics or a female boss is called a bitch and whether that same behaviour would be seen as assertive leadership in a man. If someone’s upset over a woman you can go “Hey, fuck that stupid bitch!” because she’s just a woman so what does she matter? There isn’t really a male equivalent to those (probably because for most of history women haven’t actually been able to disregard what a man does or says.) But because it’s a socially acceptable word to some degree, people don’t notice – that is what people mean by “institutionalised sexism”, the fact that that kind of thing is considering normal and acceptable.

      That’s also why it isn’t cool for Catwoman to be called a bitch constantly, because she SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO BE POWERFUL. A female (or male!) player should feel powerful and assertive and in control as Catwoman, so having someone immediately use a word like that is annoying and destructive to the fantasy of being a superhero. And smacks a little bit of male designers/players not wanting the female character to feel TOO powerful/assertive in case she’s threatening. (Not saying that’s a conscious decision or even true but you can read into it that way)

      I don’t care about Rocksteady or the game very much and I don’t blame them personally for anything except being a bit lazy/stereotypical with their writing and then not realising how offensive it came across in total. But I’m not posting about that really. I’m posting about something that matters to me because I keep seeing people on here make the same wrong arguments about it. (P.S. “but it was a fun game” is not a defence of sexism and is not relevant at all in this particular discussion; neither are anecdotes about your personal usage of words)

    • J-snukk says:

      Catwoman does kind of kick the arses of everyone who calls her a bitch though, so, given the likelihood that Rocksteady dont want to oppress anyone surely renders the point kind of mute. The thugs aren’t very nice, and nor are they very imaginative, if the game was a mature rating then they’d probably call her a cunt a lot too, they’re not going to think of witty way to insult Catwoman, especially when facing imminent ass kickage. So, surely it is just thugs being things, as like I sad catwoman IS powerful in the game, disregarding her 2D character. Also, call me a sexist if you want, but I still *really* don’t think that bitch has those connotations, if I call a black person a nigger everyone knows what I mean by that, if I call a woman a bitch then maybe that particular woman has just annoyed me? I can see where you’re coming from, and I’m sorry if I’ve upset you. I simply don’t think its as bad as you think it is, and I certainly dont think most men are as bad as this discussion would have outsiders believe.

      EDIT: I like the implication that I am ‘defending sexism’, you’d make a good politician

      EDIT 2: sorry for all the spelling and grammatical errors, long day

    • Apples says:

      I’m not upset and nobody is saying that men are evil or anything ridiculous like that. The thugs are not real and it’s a game about comic book supervillains, I think there could be some imagination or creativity used in the lines, and since they’re not going for gritty realism here they could keep the thuggish behaviour within acceptable lines (which they have tried to but thought that sexist insults were within that acceptibility). Someone sat down and thought “what’s a thing I can use to insult Catwoman? Call her a bitch!” Good show. Saints Row 2 I think is a good example of how to show violent criminality but without making it genuinely offensive, and they had lots of rude jokes and name-calling.

      I don’t think I’m getting through here. Why is it okay to refer to the woman’s gender, even if she has offended you? Why is it that you feel fine doing that but not fine using racial or sexual insults? I know you don’t seem to think it is offensive on the same level but, apart from the fact that “everyone does it”, why not? I am not saying you are consciously meaning to use her gender to put her down, I’m saying that’s what that word means and what it was ‘invented’ for, even if you do not want to use it that way. If you don’t want to specifically bring her gender into it, use an insult that doesn’t refer to it, it’s that simple. There must be something beneath “well I just don’t think it’s that offensive”, there must be an actual reason for that (and no I don’t mean the reason is you’re a big fat sexist!)

    • NathanH says:

      Interesting debate. It’s certainly true that calling a woman a bitch is more socially acceptable in most circles than other common discriminatory insults. I suspect the “everyone does it” element is quite important; in particular, I hear women say it quite a lot, so it loses some of the “one group dominating another group” sting. It also means something a bit more too: I can say it and it wouldn’t be supposed that I have anything against women in general, whereas if I make a racist insult it is more likely to be inferred that I have something against that race. Why that is is an interesting question, I have a few ideas but nothing concrete enough to propose.

      Another interesting question that is slightly a tangent and probably wasn’t considered in this particular instance, is that, if you’re creating some fiction like this, and you think your audience expects a certain behaviour from some of your characters, what determines the behaviour you choose to give them: how you think the characters would behave, how your audience thinks they would behave, or how you think the characters ought to be shown to behave? For instance, perhaps I am displaying some subconscious prejudice, but I’d probably expect this sort of behaviour from the mooks in this game. If the designers think that most of their audience is like me, how justified are they to play to that?

    • J-snukk says:

      Knowing 80s onwards Batman vaguely well, the behaviour of the general goons was pretty much up to my expectations too, and I think thats why they use the term bitch, because thats how people generally expect Batman mooks to behave.

      I understand your reasoning regarding finding the term degrading based on gender, but to go back to the bastard example again, although for a different reason, the meaning of words changes – when you call someone a bastard, you aren’t belittling their birth- and depends ENTIRELY on context. Obviously in the game the thugs are either unimaginative or sexist or both, however, I really don’t think all men OR women use bitch or percieve the use of bitch in the way that you do. Regardless of the words original intention.

      It’s not that I’m attempting undermine your obviously very strong feelings on this, simply that I think most of the problem exists solely within your own mind. That sounds really bad, and I don’t mean it offensively. I simply mean to say that perhaps because you expect and to certain extent believe the word *should* be offensive, you may take undue offense when none was meant and surely thats the crux of the matter, not the words someone uses but the meaning that those words convey in their own context and time in the development of language.

    • Lambchops says:

      @ J-snukk

      Phew, saved me from a diatribe about “context is king” in which, as I’m rather tired just now, I would probably have conveyed my intentions rather badly (which would have been brilliantly ironic but a pain to back peddle from!).

      To further push the context point though I will refer directly to something Apples posted:

      If someone’s upset over a woman you can go “Hey, fuck that stupid bitch!” because she’s just a woman so what does she matter?

      This is meaningless without context. If it’s in a context where the woman has done nothing wrong and the guys upset for selfish reasons (say she turned down his advances or whatever) then yes it’s derogatory and it’s sexist. If it’s in a context where she’s left a devoted husband for a rich older man and rubbed it in by taking some of his possessions of deep sentimental value (like I said tired, so not the best example but you get the gist) then “fuck that stupid bitch” would probably be among the least of my insults and isn’t insulting her based on being a woman it’s insulting her based on her actions.

      Context is king. Always.

    • Nogo says:

      This conversation is getting old. If you haven’t read this, please do, then you are allowed to comment further (I am arbiter of all!): http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/hulk-vs-arkham-city-round-2-bitches-be-trippin/

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      You don’t call a woman an asshole, you call them a bitch. When you call a man a bitch, it means something completely different. To me this is just the effeminate version of asshole.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      That was some really good articles Nogo, thanks.

      And for closure, I started the game again yesterday and went to the catwoman trophy and zoomed in. It was on her face this time, so it seems the camera was just left in the height of Batman’s face last time.

    • Tyshalle says:

      When I was in like, 5th grade, I heard the word ‘nigger’ for the first time. I didn’t understand what the word meant, but I understood the context as to how it was used, which was as an insult. Being a rather ordinary ten year old at the time, finding a new swear word to hurl about was about as awesome as finding buried treasure (when I first learned what flipping people off was, I went door to door with it). So I would start throwing that word about, calling my younger sisters niggers when they annoyed me, shouting the word at my friends when we were playing whatever the 1993 version of Cops & Robbers was, and basically using it whenever I was just dicking about.

      My point is, I doubt anyone would look back at that and suggest that I was a little racist as a kid. I bring this up not because I think the developers of Arkham City are ignorant as to what the word bitch means, but because if you are deciding what someone else’s intentions are based on your own game of semantics over the use of a single word, then you are someone who does not deserve to be listened to. The word bitch, much like the word gay, and very much unlike the word nigger, does not have a singular common meaning among all people. You can call someone a bitch without at all thinking about their gender, much like you can call someone gay, or a situation gay, or whatever, and not be thinking about sexual orientation. Does that mean that we shouldn’t do our best to cut out all uses of the word bitch or gay in negative contexts? Uh, actually yes. Yes it does. Words are powerless. They only have as much power as you choose to give them, and frankly you are a whiner if you choose to give them any inherent power at all. The *only* thing that words do is help us communicate our ideas and intentions, and as such, context is everything.

      Throwing around the word bitch at Catwoman might be juvenile. It might even be lazy, low-brow writing. But this nonsense about it being demeaning to women is a pile of dog crap.

      And the outfit stuff doesn’t get you anywhere, either. The women are over-sexed in the game the same way Batman’s rippling muscles are. There might be a male-bias going on, but that’s called knowing your target audience, and at any rate, it’s not demeaning toward women to have the women be unrealistically sexy. And if you don’t find them to be sexy, that’s called personal taste. Your taste in women might gravitate more toward fat chicks, and that’s okay; but don’t assume that because the women in this game are more traditionally skinny that there’s something wrong with the game.

  3. StingingVelvet says:

    I bought this shortly after it came out but have ignored it completely due to Skyrim. I did try it briefly actually, so I am lying I guess, and my early impression was that it was kind of cluttered and not as polished at Arkham Aslyum. I could be wrong though.

    Anyway, it had a horrible release date.

    • Ian says:

      This, only that I haven’t even dabbled briefly.

    • Tuco says:

      Quite the opposite to me. Once this game came out, Skyrim was thrown in a corner. It can go fuck itself.

      And I loved every minute of this game.
      Hands down my game of the year, which in a year like this is actually something.

  4. Ian says:

    TIGHT.

  5. Inglourious Badger says:

    Oooh, 3 of you wrote about this one! That must mean it coulda been a contender!

    Still haven’t got round to playing this what with SO MANY GOOD GAMES this year. Hopefully 2012′ll be quiet and I can catch up, because Arkham Asylum was wonderful. In the mean time I’ll pretend I’m boycotting on account of the casual use of not ok in this or the last century language.

  6. Lars Westergren says:

    I LOVE the gothic design of the city. It is crammed to the brim with beautiful details, puzzles and secrets. Actually one of my favourite games of the year. And apart from the reliably awful GFWL, I think this is a pretty good port. But then, I haven’t a DX11 compatible card so I haven’t had any troubles with that.

    It plays best with a controller rather than mouse and keyboard in my experience. But this is not an indication of a shoddy port. It just means that for this type of game – 3rd person brawler and 3rd person flying where you need 360 degrees and different levels of force, a controller is the superior input method. And yes, every time I say this I know I will rile up lots of people on a PC site. I’m not trolling. Not saying a controller is best for every game, far from it. But for THIS TYPE of game. Ok?

    But again. Game of the year contender for me.

    • Brun says:

      In my experience most third-person games work better with a controller. Things like Assassin’s Creed, GTA, and Just Cause 2 just felt more intuitive with two sticks and some buttons than with a mouse and keyboard.

      An exception would be something like Dead Space, which seemed to be friendly enough to play with a mouse.

    • The Tupper says:

      Whenever anybody mentions gamepads and PCs I always comment to the effect that PCs have been using pads since before the xbox was but a glitch in Bill Gates’ pants.

    • alundra says:

      the game no one is playing because there’s a lot better stuff to play is goty contender to you??

      at least the passion is commendable.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      >the game no one is playing because there’s a lot better stuff to play

      “Better” is subjective. I just stated my preference. I love Skyrim, but I’m having at least as much fun with Batman. “No one” is patently false.

    • Lambchops says:

      Yeah, I didn’t even bother trying keyboad and mouse for this, it’s clearly more suited to controller along with the vast majority of 3rd person games (with straight up action shooters like Max Payne being notable exceptions).

    • Tuco says:

      @alundra: there isn’t better stuff; there are just clueless gamers playing worst stuff (like Skyrim, the gaming carnival of broken mechanics) thinking that they are actually better.
      But they are deluding themselves.

    • Outright Villainy says:

      @ Tuco
      @alundra:

      Yay, stating opinions as objective fact is great, amirite guys?

    • alundra says:

      @Lars

      “No one” is patently false”

      Yeah, you are playing it afterall, but I don’t think you are really playing it, you are so mesmerized that are both trying to paint it as the game of the year, which you know is patently false, and also trying to exalt it’s social (or lack there of) qualities, in a videogame, as I said, the passion is commendable.

      Food for thought, which game will be still being played and modded in as long as a year or two?? You got your game of the year there.

      @Tuco
      I guess you are right, and I take it you are not being victim of your speech when talking of this game, I mean, it was also broken upon release, in fact, name one big hit in this season that was not broken.

      Now, you had a bad time with skyrim, and/or had game breaking problems, many other people didn’t, I didn’t, 100s of hours and not a single problem, happens to be that you are not the center of the universe, so, stop deluding yourself.

    • Nogo says:

      “you are not the center of the universe, so, stop deluding yourself.”

      Should probably take your own advice.

      And this is absolutely the last site on the internet to go about arguing which game is GOTY! RPS doesn’t give scores or ranks because they realize games are a matter of opinion. I mean really, you’re trying to tell this guy that he didn’t enjoy a game as much as he thought he did. That’s just unnecessary and makes you look like a self-important ass.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      >trying to paint it as the game of the year, which you know is patently false

      I said it was “GOTY contender”, that it was so “for me” and that it was subjective. Oh what the hell, I’m done talking to you.

  7. thekeats1999 says:

    The funny thing about the story is that I thought the comic series handled the same concept better with Cataclysm. After a major earthquake gotham has been quaranteened from the rest of society (there was also a plague going on at the time) so the various crime bosses take over certain parts of Gotham while the bat gang try to sort the whole thing out. It had a lot better justification for there being civilians to protect (never could understand the political disidents in the game), a better reason for the crims to be there than Hugo Strange having watched Escape from New York.

    I love the game, but i would have liked a better story than it gave, especially when you look at something like Grant Morrisons Arkham Asylum, Alan Moores the killing joke or The long Halloween. This game isn’t just being compared to other games but other comics, films and animated series.

  8. The Tupper says:

    Does anybody know if my PC, given that it runs Skyrim well with everything except shadows set to ‘Ultra’, is capable of doing the Bat justice? It’s a hefty chunk o’ money to spend if the game doesn’t work properly.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Probably. Sounds similar to my machine, and AC looks absolutely gorgeous. But if the Youtube clips are telling the truth, it may look even better with a high end PhysX card.

    • The Tupper says:

      Thanks. Will see if Mrs The Tupper feels like treating me for xmas.

    • Outright Villainy says:

      Yeah, it runs fantastically well for me (Radeon 6870). Dx 11 isn’t really working out still, but I run DX 9 on all the highest settings and the FXAA to high and it still comes out with a solid 60fps.

    • Shooop says:

      Very likely yes.

      Skyrim has a massive draw distance which is why it’s so taxing on Ultra.

      Don’t bother with Direct X 11, still suffers frame dropping and doesn’t even have much noticeable difference.

  9. Burning Man says:

    I preferred Asylum. The whole pressure-cooker, screw-with-your-head, intensely atmospheric nature of the game was fantastic. The different pieces fit a lot better in City, it’s true. Navigation, combat, even environmental detail have received massive upgrades. But I’d rather have a compelling main storyline as opposed to an open world with side missions. The fantastical dream sequences, while fun for flying, were nowhere near a replacement for Scarecrow’s dreams. The only other fantastical sequence was the Mad Hatter one, and that was rather fun/screwy, if only for the hat :).

    • Lambchops says:

      I’ll reserve judgement till I’ve finished but at about half way through i’d say i’d agree, despite the improvements made in City, Asylum is the better game. More TIGHT shall we say.

    • Battlehenkie says:

      Asylum is infinitely better. The only thing City does is to add a forced sandbox system to it. In theory it could’ve been great, but it just took the mechanical strengths from Asylum and fit it in a popular-sandbox-setting-because-thats-just-whats-popular-and-gets-high-ratings. I don’t really think an Asylum sequel required this. As a result, the setting is fantastic, the visuals are brilliant, but there’s no soul, no vibe, no atmosphere. The story is just a script. It just doesn’t work. At all.

      I was absolutely addicted to finishing Asylum despite it’s repetitive nature, I’m bored at 10% completion in City and have no desire to go back. I can’t really blame City though, Asylum was so solid with its mechanics that it genuinely gave rise to the question “How will a sequel improve on this?”. I can’t say it’s a bad game at all, but by god is it disappointing.

    • Advanced Assault Hippo says:

      I agree. Really enjoyed City, but Asylum was a better gaming experience I feel.

      Nip and tuck though which is best.

    • Outright Villainy says:

      Well, Arkham has better pacing, but plotwise? Not so much. The whole Titan thing was pretty predictable all the way through, and the final boss went completely against what made the joker a great character, so there was some serious ball dropping on that one. City got fantastical in parts, but I found the plot much more engaging, and the joker’s master plan is much more in character this time around. (especially they payoff at the end)

    • Nogo says:

      Asylum is definitely a better game for it’s consistent tone and overall focus, but City gives you more bang for your buck. I still pop in for a quick jaunt around the rooftops, snagging some leftover trophies and perching on a gargoyle while whispering to myself “I am the bat” before careening into some poor schlubs skull at terminal bat-velocity. Can’t really say the same for Asylum.

  10. Lambchops says:

    “The first counter of every fight, which should always come before Batman launches an attack of his own, is immensely satisfying.”

    What you mean instead of dive bombing from the rooftops at breakneck speed and detonating a shock wave sending all the enemies sprawling and immediately earning a massive combo? Suit yourself!

    —-

    I agree with the comments that while it’s great to have lots of things to do it is somewhat busy and detracts from the main story. I agree that some of the dialogue is clnky. I agree that the comments from the asorted thugs are just irritating (needed some humorous Max Payne style conversations between thugs or something of that ilk).

    More importantly i’m in definite agreement that it’s a great game with a gloriously brilliant combat system and a fantastically realised world to swoop around in and be Batman. I’m still in the midst of it at the moment and i’m thoroughy enjoying it.

    • Adam Smith says:

      I am undone! I was only considering fights that I approached on foot.

      Dive bombing crooks is to be encouraged.

    • oceanclub says:

      Please put me out of my misery and tell me how to do the shockwave. I upgraded to it, and haven’t remapped any buttons, so it _should_ be middle mouse button, according to the on-screen help. But once I perform a divebomb, if I then hit MMB, i just do a cape stun. Baffled, I is.

      P.

    • airtekh says:

      You need a certain amount of momentum built up in order to pull off the shockwave. Dive from a fairly high position and don’t let go of the dive until you’ve hit the ground. Don’t press middle mouse too early or it may not work. There should be an on screen prompt which will tell you the right time to press the button. If it’s not there, you can enable the prompt from the Waynetech screen by selecting the shockwave move and pressing Right Control.

      Get the ‘dive grab’ (can’t remember the proper name) move as soon as you can though, as it’s MUCH more powerful than the shockwave. It’s possible to take out an entire group of enemies without throwing a punch!

    • Kadayi says:

      You need to get it the meter into the Red I believe.

    • Shooop says:

      oceanclub, do your divebomb as usual and hold it all the way to the end. You should get a button prompt to “activate shockwave”.

  11. LennyLeonardo says:

    Yeah, the writing is a bit silly, but sometimes that’s what you want from a game about a Bat Man. Not the sexist stuff, though. Otherwise, this is an utter joy, and I literally can’t believe they got it so right, particularly the control system.

    Blah blah I love Batman. Really looking forward to seeing where they take the franchise next. My money is on Batman: Miskatonic University.

  12. The_B says:

    I loved both Arkham Asylum and City – and for the record, I was one of those weirdos who put Skyrim on hold to play this – but I thought they were great in different ways. I think Asylum was completely about being the Batman, while City was far more about being the Batman in Batman’s world.

    • Lambchops says:

      Don’t worry, I’m one of those weirdos who didn’t buy Skyrim and has no intention of ever buyiing it.

    • jezcentral says:

      Same here. Whilst I still want to play Skyrim, I decided against getting it now, so I would have the time to play BAC, BF3, and SR3. A fair swap, I feel.

    • Outright Villainy says:

      @ jezcentral: We’re the real winners, who wait for Skyrim, because by god it’s still in need of a patch or 6. I’ll probably get it in mid january, hopefully it’s in better shape by then.

    • Kadayi says:

      Well I’ve been having a break from Skyrim with this (just finished the main Storyline) and SR3 (which is my GoTY). Enjoying the hell out of this, though I’m beginning to dislike the rapidity with which the locations respawn thugs now, as it’s really messing with my Riddler Trophy hunting.

  13. Maldomel says:

    I’m persuaded that while Batman refuses to kill anyone, he enjoys putting thugs in deep coma.

    • Advanced Assault Hippo says:

      Yes, the force in which he bone-crunchingly punches and kicks people would result in deaths, comas or severe longterm injury.

      It’s all well and good being told he ‘doesn’t do killing’, but the game does everything to show you otherwise in a visual sense.

    • Nogo says:

      Always liked that you could throw a batarang at strung up enemies, from the silent takedowns, wherein they land on their head from several stories up.

      Maybe Batman doesn’t kill them, but he certainly has no reservations about causing severe brain damage.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Yeah, that’s exactly what he means when he says “I only have ONE rule.”

    • JackShandy says:

      The thing to remember about batman is, he’s totally insane.

  14. Drake Sigar says:

    Read an article recently criticising the game for basically playing itself, but what the writer doesn’t seem to understand is gamers want to be Batman, not just play Batman. Every movement is carefully calculated to be as rad bitchin’ awesome as possible (people still say rad, right?) because that’s what the game claims he does. It’s so embarrassing when a game establishes a character as a demi-god via cutscenes, then you spend the actual fight flailing about because you’re not skilled enough to win or more importantly, make em look good.

    Also, I finished the main story, doing a bunch of sidequests along the way, and still only ended up with 40% completion. It seems like well over half the game is collecting trophies.

    • Lambchops says:

      That reply was gnarly, dude!

    • Tuco says:

      This is one of those very few games today that don’t play themselves.
      Especially when it comes to combat.

      We are not talking about Assassin’s Creed here.

    • Nogo says:

      Was that Dan’s article on cracked?

      Because he definitely didn’t get it. Might as well complain that guitar hero plays the notes for you. Makes about as much sense.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Nogo – Yes, that’s the one.

    • Shooop says:

      Dan wrote about the wrong game. You could stumble through Arkham City just mashing X or left click, but you won’t have a very good time doing it. It makes you want to be really good at it by making the basic mechanics so simple but awesome looking. Then it throws guys with riot armor and shields at you.

      Brockway did a much better article about the game, specifically why it taught him how unqualified he’d be to be Batman.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      >You could stumble through Arkham City just mashing X

      I challenge someone to survive even the first battle outside the courthouse on Hard difficulty using that strategy.

      Not to mention later enemies using guns, or other weapons that requires special attacks in order for them not to auto-hit you.

  15. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Re: The last picture.

    BAT HUG!

  16. wodin says:

    I found I was rushed all the way through. It constantly due to the story felt like i had to do the next main quest NOW! Thus I’ve hardly done any side quest and suddenly find myself 85% of the way through the main styory…WOW thats was quick. I was halfway throught rying to break into somehwere when i phone rang… I answered it only to then be suddenly thrown into a side quest which wanted me to go all the way over to the other side of the City and be timed…i didn’t want to, but I tried and failed it anyway, I hate timed missions with a vengence. Anyway I never answered a phone after that. Took me alot longer to get halfway through Asylum. Oh one thing I never bothered with where those silly riddler open the trap puzzle thingies…maybe if I had messed around no end trying to work then out it would have taken me longer but blimey I had no incentive as it just doesn’t appeal. I’d rather they had used the effort in making the main story a little longer.

    I actually prefered the game experience over Skyrim, it’s just a shame it appears that most of the game is collecting riddler trophies rather than side quests and main quests.

  17. Just Endless says:

    “Arkham City manages to be the other 28-odd pages of your average issue of Detective Comics too.”

    I think you may be seriously overestimating the quality of your average comic book.

  18. airtekh says:

    Since its PC release I’ve put 80 hours into it, it’s my game of the year without a shadow of a doubt.

    It’s exquisitely designed, the controls are perfect and the setting is superbly realised.

    I can’t wait for Rocksteady’s next game.

  19. Vinraith says:

    I enjoyed the hell out of AA aside from the boss fights, but ultimately got so irritated with those that I abandoned the game. I assumed AC was just as full of them, being as you kind of can’t have a superhero game without them, so I passed on it. It bums me out, though.

    • Nogo says:

      I had the same problem with Asylum. I played on hard and stupidly never upgraded my armor because I thought I was cool, then I got locked into a fight with one of those clown babies and a bunch of thugs with no way to go back, and dang, the controls really aren’t as tight as you’d think. I had that fight almost memorized, but weird control niggles (namely trying to transition to the takedown animation without getting hit on the titan) made it impossible.

      That said, they really took the boss feedback to heart and made them infinitely less tedious and notably less numerous in City. If that’s your only reservation then reserve no more!

    • Vinraith says:

      Less numerous? Less tedious? That IS news. You’ll forgive me for asking for additional confirmation on that, but news that good is hard to believe!

    • Shooop says:

      There’s only four traditional boss fights and none of them are won by the “wait until they charge and dodge” method.

      There’s also unlimited thugs walking around the streets so if you need upgrades you can always get points by beating on them.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Shoop

      Thank you! I doubt you’ll see this, it being so long since I’d checked the thread, but you just sold a copy of Arkham City for what it’s worth.

  20. Dhatz says:

    I have patch 1 and the crappy error they claim to have fixed is there,cant even load a save. (win 7 32bit). WUT THEM FUCKS!!!!!