Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Batman: Arkham City Review

Gameplay (6/10): Arkham City's (AC) gameplay comes in two flavors: exploration and combat. The exploration component of AC is good, for the environment of the game gives the player a good amount of area to explore, and travelling through it all is rarely frustrating thanks to tight traversing controls a la Assassin's Creed. However, despite the environment being a decent size, there isn't a great deal to do in the city other than main missions, beat-up thugs, side-missions, and completing Riddler puzzles. Now, what is given to the player is quite a lot, but the environment is not a truly open world, for very few buildings can actually be entered, and there isn't much interaction with the environment and its objects other than fighting and climbing them. Regardless, what is given to the player is a lot of fun to be had outside of the main missions, and rarely does it become frustrating.

Combat is the other factor of AC's gameplay, and it is here where AC disappoints. The free-flow combat system of the original Arkham Asylum remains in place, and while more options are given to the player through the addition of new weapons/gadgets, the battle system is still comes down to very simple tactics in order to defeat the enemies. Because the enemies attack relentlessly, there are few openings for the player to utilize the many gadgets and combos to their fullest, and, as a result, battles just come down to mashing the dodge, attack, and counter buttons with some occasional use of stun methods on enemies with guns. The battle system never truly expands for the player, rather, the game simply throws a few new types of enemies in the fray sometimes, or, more often, simply has battles that have double or triple the normal amount of enemies to fight. These high occupancy battles are AC's way of having harder battles that have the same function as boss fights would in other action/adventure games. These high occupancy battles can be very frustrating however, for even though the same old tactics are used in these battles, they last much longer than normal battles; as a result, it gives the enemies many more chances to deplete the players health, often resulting in deaths that are caused not because the difficulty is particularly high, but simply because the battle was simply very, very long. These high occupancy battles are more-often-than-not very frustrating. The end result of the battle system is that it has potential to expand with the use of gadgets, but it doesn't allow the player to utilize its potential, nor does it truly need the player to utilize said potential because of the simple enemy AI and battle situations, which are all arena battles with enemies that take turns hitting the player. It really doesn't matter how many gadgets they add to the battle system, because, at its strongest foundation, it is simply a button-mashing brawl only slightly more complex that something found in the 3D beat-em-ups found in games like X-Men Legends, only with less RPG elements. Futhermore, boss battles are nothing to praise either, for they are more-or-less executed in the same fashion as normal battles.

Furthermore, there are very few stealth sections in AC, which feels off considering Batman is known more for evoking fear and using stealth than punching people to death.

Overall, the gameplay gets the job done, but it's nothing to truly praise, especially when Assassin's Creed executed the same system prior to both Batman Arkham games, albeit a bit simpler.

Graphics (7/10): The biggest praises for AC's graphics go to the city area itself, which is brimming with detail and substance; furthermore, no parts of the city look like they were copy-and-pasted to other parts, so it really feels complex and interesting no matter where you are in the city. Also, Joker's character model is very well rendered; much better than all of the others. Other than those highlights, everything else is typical of what one would see in a game made using the Unreal Engine. The details are nice, but animation is very rigid, if even there at all. When characters have conversations, there is very little movement; only small body and arm moves, and the lips move to the words, though not in perfect sync. The game is very dark, as typical of Unreal Engine games, but there is some color to be found. The graphics also have the typical flaws of the Unreal Engine: texture pop-ins, blurry textures up close, lack of smooth animation, some ugly textures, etc. Regardless, the detail and architecture of the city is what the player sees the most in the game, and it does impress.

Music/Sound (7.5/10): AC actually has a few standout music tracks in the game, though its nothing truly memorable outside of context; furthermore, the soundtrack isn't very large considering most of the time, music isn't even playing. The voice acting is, once again, superb; thanks to getting most of the same voice actors from the animated series. Mark Hamill once again steals the show as the Joker.

Story (5/10): There is a lot of fanservice in the character interaction in this game, particularly within the game's side-quests; however, the main story of the game isn't very compelling or interesting, as it more-or-less acts as a way of moving the player from one area of the city to the next. The presence of the actual villains of the game also feel a bit scatterbrained, as if Rocksteady was mainly focused on fanservice when choosing the villains, rather than considering how they could all fit in a compelling story. The most interesting moments actually come from eavesdropping on the random thugs spread throughout the city, as their conversations help spread out the story even more than the confrontations with the main villains they're talking about.

Replay Value (7/10): An extra difficulty opens up after the inital run-through of the game, and the player is also free to explore the city right before the final boss fight in order to accomplish all of the side-quests and get the Riddler trophies. The enjoyment here depends upon how much the player enjoys side-quests, but regardless, there are a lot of them.

Satisfaction (5/10): Exploring the city is fun thanks to tight controls and cool gadgets, but other than that, AC wasn't very fun and quickly forgettable. The story was very dull, and lacked impact; and the battle system was more of a chore than fun, and was occasionally quite frustrating. There's really not much here to be engaged in, even for a big Batman fan like myself.


The score I should give it - (6/10): A lot of hardwork went into making the city of AC detailed and fun to explore; however, a poor story, dated-looking character models and animation, and a repetitive battle system hold back AC from being anything exceptional. The formula for AC works, but an evolution of the battle system and execution of missions needs to be revamped to feel more like "Batman".

The score I want to give it - (5/10): Batman: Arkham City was a decent game while it lasted. It's gameplay formula was changed very little from Arkham Asylum, but I didn't expect it to be. There were still some fun moments exploring the city and pouncing on bad guys, but overall, everything about the game is forgettable because nothing in the game really jumps out at you other than a few fantastic vocal performances.

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