Early thoughts of Batman: Arkham City

There’s a new Batman game out. This isn’t it—I’m one game behind in the series.

Also, early game spoilers.

Arkham City‘s opening is good, but not as good as in the previous game (Arkham Asylum). I don’t really understand why Bruce was arrested, but seeing a sealed-off Arkham City brought to mind Escape from New York; the angry, raucous crowd of prisoners watching Bruce enter made me think of Tango & Cash. It’s not a bad thing to be reminded of those films.

This game looks fantastic. I was wandering around looking for Mr Freeze when I answered a phone. It was Zsasz (“Oh hai, Zsasz!”). I’d accidentally started a new mission and now had to rush across Gotham’s rooftops, away from my goal. I was miffed, but, as I made my way back, I realised how visually impressive the city is. I love the dingy look, the broken elevated roads, the way the brightness of Joker’s balloons and Riddler’s signs contrast with the dark architecture. I love that the water looks stormy and the way the chopper’s spotlight falls.

I took down some armed thugs. As I knocked out the fourth, the fifth and final one just gave up. He dropped his weapon and put his hands up, waiting for me to capture him. That’s a nice touch, one fitting with the fear of Batman shown throughout the game. The game’s henchmen generally fall into two camps: those scared of Batman, and the hyper-aggressive waiting to attack him. Although many in the second group fall into the first when you start picking them off individually.

3b. The henchmen’s surrender has reasons, of course: I’ve to interrogate him. But what if the game was programmed so thugs randomly gave up? Batman gains nothing from it. What would he do? Lecture them?

Imagine playing a Call of Duty game. You’re in a shootout (as you always are). You pick off a dozen bad guys. The last one pops up with his hands in the air.  You can still kill him, of course, or let him live and continue on. But all around him lie the weapons of his fallen comrades. If you turn your back, he might pick up a dropped machine-gun and fire, bullets ripping through your spine. You’re dying in agony. Press X to plead for euthanasia…

I love that characters in the Batman universe refer to ‘Joker’ and not ‘the Joker’, suggesting an intimacy. And also that Batman is occasionally referred to ‘the Batman’, showing the awe/fear he evokes.

The humour between Bruce and Alfred is too dry. Alfie has no emotional response when Bruce reveals he’s dying. Even a stiff British upper lip only stretches so far (#destroyedmetaphor).

I do not like Penguin’s cockney accent. Sorry, Nolan North

Shamefully, I struggled to find Mr Freeze, one of the campaign’s early missions. Double-shamefully, I had to google for an answer. I’d clocked how to partially open the shutter but now how to get underneath it. Turned out, I had to slide. I can slide? Either my memory is terrible or I wasn’t told this earlier in the game.

The whole tutorial thing is a bit weird. Arkham quickly introduces you to combat’s mainstays: the strike and counter buttons. Because of that I expected the game to explain Batman’s other abilities—explosive gel and so forth. After a while of tutorial-free playing, I hit the d-pad to see that these gadgets were already waiting for me. From a menu screen I discovered that I could switch tutorials on and off. Which is a good idea on its own, but it’s odd that the game was happy to teach me a few moves, but not give an indication of the others.

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