19 September 2012

Batham Arkham City: GOTY edition (PC game review)

Over the last couple of month's I haven't really done a lot of PC gaming, one hour here and one hour there but nothing substantial since "Skyrim".

However, last year Batman Arkham City was released, and as I thought the Batman Arkham Asylum game released a couple of years ago was an amazing game that pretty much blew my mind with how good it was (and became my favorite game of that year) I wanted to get my hands on the sequel. But as they were releasing the game with a lot of "pre-order downloadable content" spread out over a variety of retailers which meant that you never got everything - I was a bit put off. Luckily, as I had hoped, they released a "Game of the Year" edition with all the downloadable content and the mini expansion "Harley Quinn's revenge" this month. And I bought it as soon as it became available.

This game is crazy good! In this day and age with shitty movies and games, quality entertainment is scarce. Quality games released the last year or so I can count on the fingers of my left hand (Skyrim Batman Arkham City, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and The Witcher 2). Batman Arkham City: Game of the Year edition is one of those rare cases where the name actually lives up to the hype of that “GOTY” label. This game is every bit as good as the first one, if you loved the previous game then you can just stop reading and run off to buy the sequel if you don't already own it.

For those of you unfamiliar with these games, they are story driven 3rd person "beat 'em up" games with a LOT of stealth elements added to it. It is recommended that you play the Arkham Asylum game first as the story of Arkham City is a direct continuation of the events that occurred in the first game.

The first Batman game surprised me in several areas, the fighting with thugs was fluid and truly awesome. You could feel every punch and kick, every broken bone, being delivered when fighting occured. Likewise the clever use of stealth, multiple approaches, numerous gadgets that you could use to move around on the map and to take out enemies was incredibly good. Not to mention the superb graphics, great story and voice actors from Batman the Animated series (with an outstanding performance by Mark Hamill as the Joker).

Batman Arkham City expands upon the first game and takes it to the next level. While the first game mainly took place indoors with a limited amount of outside areas, the sequel is almost reversed. The action now takes place in Arkham City, some kind of pseudo "Manhattan island" located in Gotham City. This island has been turned into a mega-prison where all kinds of lunatics and notorious criminals have been dumped off. Imagine "Escape from New York" set in the Batman universe.

I won't give away any story elements, but I can say that there are a lot of great story elements and twists along the way, probably making it one of the best written games to date. And you can really tell that the developers have a great love for the source material and are fans of "The Animated series".

There is a story that makes up the "main quest" but you also have several side missions that are voluntary (but highly recommended), and when you have completed the game you can still carry on your game finishing side missions and the hundreds of challanges and riddles that the "Riddler" has littered Arkham City with. Many of these riddles required that you have the correct gear - so you won't be able to complete them all until you finish the main quest.

I hated the "mini games" in Assassins Creed because they felt out of place, but the riddles in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City kind of blend in better because of the characters and the world itself.

Swinging and swooping around between buildings and rooftops (or climbing and jumping around as Catwoman) is great fun and very dynamic. This is not a game where you walk along the streets (which are filled with the scum of the earth) but rather stealthily move around across the rooftops and pick off your prey one by one (especially if they are armed with guns).

Both games also have a "challenge mode" which is a standalone game feature where you take on various challenges in order to unlock achievements. These are a great way of improving your gaming skills but also to test your skills to the maximum (high scores are uploaded on the internet automatically).

You mainly play as Batman in Arkham City, there are a few short moments when you control Catwoman as well. After you finish the game you can control both and are able to swap between them in certain map locations in order to finish all the challenges and roam the city for fun.

The challenge maps allow you to play as various incarnations of Robin as well and the fighting styles of all characters are veried and offer a different approach - and they really feel different. Batman slugging it out while Catwoman have nimble acrobatics and uses her whip and claws.

The game of the year edition also features the mini expansion "Harley Quinn's revenge" where the nutty Harley Quinn plays the main villain in a very short (2-3 hours) standalone story that takes place after the events in Arkham City. This mini expansion alternates between you controlling Batman and Robin. The story in this mini expansion is actually quite good, the only shortcoming is really the very short length. I would probably not buy it as a DLC but as it was included in the Game of the Year edition I don't mind the short length.

I must also comment on the music, which is really damn good in both games and the Harley Quinn expansion. Fits the game perfectly and almost sounds close to the soundtrack of the recent Batman movies.

There is not much to complain about, almost nothing in fact. The only thing that annoys the hell out of me is the fact that both games are locked to "Games for Windows Live" bullshit. This means that you have to create Microsoft accounts and crap to play them. It took me 30 minutes to activate by game due to some trouble with my old GFWL account having been carried over to their new system of Microsoft Live ID.  It really should be enough to activate your damn game through the CD-key provided with the game.

All in all, this game is one of those few "Must buy" titles. But I highly recommend that you also get Arkham Asylum and play through it first before taking on the sequel.



  1. I loved both these games but i felt the plot was better for the first one and much longer, i finished the main story for arkham city in about 8 hours. it was over before I even got into it. But It was definitely enjoyable and im on my 3rd play through already. Did for batman games what Batman Begins did for the batman movies and took batman seriously.

  2. I think both games were about as long, or at least they felt like that. It's been a year since I played Arkham Asylum. I finished the story in 2 intense sittings, and then played for another 3 days to finish all the Riddler Challanges. Now I have like 120+ extra challenges to play through in the "Riddlers revenge" challange mode outside of the main game, just took a peek at that mode last night and it seem to be a bit different in this new game.

    What makes me a bit sad is the news that they won't make a pure sequel to Arkham City but rather they will make a 3rd game set in the "silver age of comic books" which means a lot of stupid and silly ass superheroes that I couldn't care less about...


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