Batman: Arkham City Game Review
Here again Rocksteady has delivered a technical masterclass in atmosphere, thanks to some lovely use of ambient noise and one of the best-written, best-mixed, most cinematic and most appropriate scores we’ve ever heard on a videogame.
This score works subtly but effectively to add a sense of foreboding and, where appropriate, urgency to the action, as well as being able to feel as genuinely epic as the game’s size and challenge. The only pity is that it doesn’t crop up much at all once you’ve finished the main story and are just exploring the city to finish side missions and find more collectables.
As noted earlier, the game’s voice acting is also consistently excellent and really enhances the game – even down to the strikingly extensive and often amusing amount of banter spouted by the various ne’er do wells who patrol Arkham City’s streets and rooftops. We strongly recommend that you take the time to listen to the taped interviews you gradually ‘earn’ as the game goes on.
In-game effects aren’t quite as impactful as they might have been, if we were really being picky. Especially during combat (though the final takedown ‘whump’ is very satisfying). But effects are precise, and if you’re using a surround sound system they give a superb sense of the geography of the environment, including, crucially, the relative whereabouts of nearby foes.
It’s worth saying if you’re an audiophile that the DTS and Linear 5.1 PCM soundtrack options available on the PS3 do sound slightly richer and more immersive than the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the Xbox 360. But Batman: Arkham City delivers a truly outstanding surround sound experience on both consoles.
No online play is possible with Arkham City. We had moments where we thought it might have been fun to incorporate some sort of co-op play with Catwoman, even if only in dedicated ‘Challenge’ rooms. And we also had moments where we found ourselves thinking how great it might be if Batman’s stunning array of combat skills could be incorporated into head to head ‘Virtua Fighter’ face offs with other real players.
In the end, though, we decided that really neither option would probably work on a practical level. And perhaps most important of all, the fact that Batman: Arkham City is single-player-only feels entirely appropriate to the classic ‘loner’ nature of Batman’s character.
The only times when your PS3 or Xbox’s online capabilities have a role to play in Arkham City are in comparing your challenge room scores with others around the world – and, of course, in downloading the inevitable extra content that’s already starting to appear.
The Last Word
While there may be a few people who feel that Arkham City lacks a little of the claustrophic atmosphere and focus of the original Arkham Asylum game, the reality is that Rocksteady has pulled off another Batman gaming miracle by managing to hold firmly on to the essence of the Batman universe while delivering a much more multi-facetted story set across a vastly more open-world setting with far, far more things to do.
Add to this some of the most beautiful 2D and 3D graphics to grace the current console generations, wonderfully acted and scripted characters and a masterful soundtrack, and you’ve got a game that manages to expand on the brilliance of Rocksteady’s first Batman game in every way.
Online elements: N/A
This one’s easy. At one point you’ll find yourself having to climb Arkham City’s tallest building. And as you get towards the top of this tower, the views down over the entire city are sensational.
The first time you try the game in 3D is a great ‘wow’ moment too, while in gameplay terms we loved the whole Penguin-dominated sequence in the Natural History Museum.
If you’re struggling to master combat in Arkham City – and the chances are you will unless you’re a veteran of fighting games – then make sure you visit your ‘toolbag’ and activate the on-screen prompts for any new moves you unlock. These prompts aren’t left on by default, but manually setting up the prompts to pop up at the right moment during a big scrap is very useful when it comes to learning how to get the most from your growing abilities.