Barrel chest, voice made of gravel, excels in orgies of physical contact and a truckload of crazy boyfriends…you know you want it. Batman is back in Batman: Arkham City, and he’s dragged his most famous rogues with him, and even a cat lady, uh, woman.
If you are a fan of any facet of this franchise, you want this game. Gotham is beautifully broken and has given over a corner of itself to its criminals, dubbed Arkham City. Surprisingly, this arrangement doesn’t work. Hugo Strange knows who Batman is and has Bruce Wayne thrown into the criminal ghetto. Every crook has carved a corner and wants more, and a larger villain has plans of his own. You must unravel this mess, mostly with your fists.
The characterization is right on, characters are well-voiced, well-modeled and convincingly conniving. They can’t trust each other, and each thinks he is smarter than the rest (and you). It’s pretty delicious. The story gets a little too video game-y for me at times, when each time you take a step closer, the problem moves a little bit to the left. This decision confused me, because I think it would be enough for Batman to neutralize each bad guy to quell the brewing riot. Instead, the game requires you to search for this thing that just got moved over there or some special ingredient. Or some bad shit goes down somewhere else, and your conscience demands you take care of it. This frustrates me, but I may be the only one. (Am I the only one?)
Gotham is dysfunctional and dystopian, but majestic. Its greatness and beauty have decayed, but its promise and its history are still visible. The city is a major character in the game, and the art design team has kicked some ass with the architecture. It’s creepy and compelling. It’s a pleasure to explore, and the few buildings you get to enter are disgusting, but in a good way. There are moments where I was horrified at what I saw, not because of the gore, but because of the cruelty and suffering casually displayed.
Kicking ass comes pretty easy. Both Batman and Catwoman move fluidly, dancing from one villain to the next. The system is simple, basically two buttons and the joystick, but timing is key and strategy is helpful. Various gadgets are available for your use, and I had a bit of trouble with these, because combat is fast-paced, and they come at you from all sides. However, even with that, I didn’t get to a place of utter frustration. There is much to do in the city, even after the main quest, and you can replay on a harder difficulty when you finish, so there is plenty of time to experiment, and various skill levels are welcome in the game.
Plus, Catwoman is damn cool. That bitch can kick ass! She has her own fight set and method of movement through the city and feels nothing like Batman. She is a cool addition to the game and well fleshed out. (And I do mean well fleshed. Just take a look at that booty.)
If you enjoyed Batman: Arkham Asylum, you’re going to like Arkham City. If you like guys, you’re definitely going to like getting your hands on some of the sexy thugs. If you like leather, whips and heels, you’ll be in heaven. There is a lot to like in Arkham City, none of it is overly innovative, but it is fun, and one of the best games I’ve played in a while.
Love Batman, love him!
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Frag Dean is a podcaster on Silly Frags, available on iTunes, Sticher and sillyfrags.com.