Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Batman: Arkham City (2011)

Genre: Action / Adventure | Players: 1 | Developer: Rocksteady Studios

Holy handbags! Playing as Batman! Best thing ever! Right? Right? Wrong. I can’t be the only person that disliked this game, can I?

The ‘City’ of the title is a large sealed off section of Gotham, in which regular villains and the more aggressive criminally insane are allowed to roam free. It’s John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A in all but name.

Controlling the Dark Knight is simple. You run, glide and grapple hook from rooftop to rooftop with ease, similar to Assassin’s Creed, but that’s where the fun ends. The environment is a gloomy, depressing sprawl of buildings and streets with none of the art deco beauty of The Animated Series (TAS).

Batman has an ability called Detective Vision that lets him see the world in a unique way. It throws a kind of dark hue over everything while simultaneously highlighting points of interest such as hiding spots, collectibles and hidden doorways. It also gives him x-ray vision!? I'm not kidding. He can see through walls, for fucks sake.

Combat is well implemented; when you punch or kick it feels weighty and solid. I avoided fights as much as possible, not because they were hard but because they were so tedious. Bursting into a room like a badass to then be confronted by a dozen bad guys made my heart sink every time. Attack, dodge, attack, dodge, etc, for five minutes until they’re all dead... and then a second wave comes in. Yawn.

You can shake up combat with gadgets and combos but the core experience remains weak and soul-destroying, and there’s so much of it... so, so much.

You’ll earn XP in fights and by completing side missions. The side missions are often multi-part, and in contrast to the story missions are well-paced. I spent most of my time on those, only returning to story missions out of necessity.

Get enough XP and you can level Batsy up. Upgrades are either gadget based or combat based. I like to hold my upgrades until I know which will be best suited to a difficult part of the game, but you can’t do that here. It’ll harass you with a prompt until you pick one, and until you do pick it’ll remove access to your map.

If you’re a fan of TAS you’ll be pleased to hear that both Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their respective roles. In my opinion, Conroy is the best Batman ever and Hamill is without a doubt the best Joker. It’s because of those two voice actors that I continued playing. I'm glad I did because the ending is superb. In all honesty, my excitement level for 99% of the game averaged about 1½ out of 5, but the ending raised it to a resounding 5 out of 5.

Buyer’s Guide:
Available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, Wii U, Cloud (OnLive).

2½ bat boots to the face out of 5

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