Batman: Arkham City Review — The Dark Knight Repeats
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The superhero sandbox that is Arkham City is an amazing achievement, and one of the game’s best features. The environment is immaculately detailed and colorful; Rocksteady’s designers really nail the gothic neon-noir unique to Batman’s Gotham City. Every visual, from the glowering skyline in the distance to the soft snowflakes right in front of Batman’s face, forms a part of the game’s affecting atmosphere.
The City itself is stuffed full of crumbling municipal buildings and decrepit piles, ripe for exploration. Using his Batclaw as a human slingshot and his cape as a hang glider, Batman can traverse the entire city effortlessly, and the game does a great job depicting the kind of momentum and power you associate with a superhero in his pomp.
While loose in the open world, there are plenty of things to do. Political prisoners can be rescued from savage beatings. The Batcomputer has helpfully seeded Arkham City with “Augmented Reality Training” challenges scattered around the map, which test your ability to cape-glide through glowing, virtual hoops.
Meanwhile, the game’s bloated cast of villains is also running amok. Deranged serial killer Zsasz is holding hostages, and he’ll occasionally give Batman a call on a nearby payphone. Once the call is concluded, you’ll have to race across the map to another payphone, without exceeding a certain time limit — show up late, and Zsasz knifes the hostage. It’s a good way to get good at using the game’s various travel mechanics.
Bane is kicking around, tracking down canisters of Titan, the sci-fi super-steroid at the center of the story. Super-assassin Deadshot also makes his presence felt, gunning down prisoners seemingly at random. Batman has to use Detective Mode to search for evidence and trace the trajectory of the bullet.
These tasks are all welcome distractions from the main plot, and add a certain variety to the game. Taken individually, however, they are all repetitive. Saving a political prisoner is always the same process of swooping down, punching a thug in the face, and swooping away again. Hunting Deadshot is always a matter of finding a the body, using Detective mode to find a clue, then following the bright yellow line straight to where you need to go. The Augmented Reality Training challenges are all different, but they soon require several repetitions to get right. You’ll get used to hearing a plummy British voice say “Augmented Reality Training activated,” quickly followed by “Augmented Reality Training failed,” over and over again.