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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Video Games

Latest Batman installment best yet

It took only two days after its release for “Batman: Arkham City” to be argued and crowned by gamers, game publishers and video game websites as the best game of 2011, and it should be.

The game, which is a sequel to “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” was developed by Rocksteady Studios and delivers one of the best DC Comics games ever made, bar none.

From the moment the disk loads, players are immediately immersed in a world where chaos is an understatement. After protesting against the idea of Mayor Sharp allowing Arkham City to be turned into an enormous prison for criminals and political leaders who opposed the agenda, Bruce Wayne finds himself captured and thrown into the city, as ordered by Hugo Strange who oversees the operation of the entire city.

After finding out that Strange is in the know about the Dark Knight’s dirty little secret, Wayne has a pretty simple plan to carry out: Find Strange, defeat Strange, and save Gotham.

He’ll have to find his way through the mean streets filled with foes on every corner and go through handful of his archenemies, new and old.

Visually, “Arkham City” is a strikingly beautiful game from top to bottom. The gothic and dark visuals compliment the closed off, criminal infested wasteland that players will be thrown into.

The buildings, alleyways, subway stations, underground sewers and dozens of other locations in the city are all brilliantly constructed and mesh well with the entire theme of the game’s setting.

Rocksteady nails the added details when it comes to the wear-and-tear of the Dark Knights suit when he has to get rough with the bad guys. Several villains take a giant overhaul in terms of the way they are designed, but they are still recognizable and don’t stray far away from what Batman fans are used to seeing.

“Arkham City” is an open-world game in comparison to its predecessor, “Arkham Asylum”, so players will be able to reach and glide through all aspects of the entire city rather than being stuck in one place throughout the whole game.

With the exception of Lucious Fox and Scarecrow, every character that has ever been in the Batman comics or movies is in Arkham City’s Campaign mode.

From the allies to the antagonists, hard-core Batman fans and casual players alike will rejoice when many of the main characters, such as The Joker, Penguin, Alfred, Robin, and Harley Quinn, take center stage and make appearances in the game. There are also characters taken from Arkham Asylum and smaller characters from the comics that make their way into this dazzling masterpiece, a decision on Rocksteady’s part that’s sure to make everyone happy.

The voice acting is spot on. Actors such as Mark Hamil (Joker), Kevin Conroy (Batman) and others have all played a part in adding that extra flair — a sharp voicing performance that connects with the design and animation of their characters in the game.

Even the voice acting of the street thugs is interesting; therefore none of the characters in the game come off as a nuisance or flat out boring.

Many of the characters in the game don’t get much attention in terms of how often you’re able to interact with them. While the main antagonists and allies are recurring throughout, some players might find other characters that they like, and wish they’d be given a little more spotlight.

The game offers a “new game plus” feature, which gives you a second go around in the game and a chance to go back and see what you missed. Batman can even track certain parts of the game by marking them so they appear on the map, which makes landmarks easier to find.

This is a concept seen in most role-playing and action games, but the replay value here is always rewarding, especially for a game that offers so much that it will literally take weeks, even months, of play time to see everything. Other than that, most of side quests don’t stray too far from the main story.

Players will find themselves killing two birds with one stone as they complete certain side quests and the main parts of the story at the same time.

Once the game starts, players will be thrown into this world of chaos and you, being Batman, are forced to adjust to the environment and find out what’s going on with little to no help.

Players will be able to level up Batman’s suit armor, upgrade his move-set used in combat and enhance his gadgets, all of which can make the Dark Knight much more powerful.

Throughout the entire game, playing as the masked vigilante feels authentic and true to form.

Who else but the Dark Knight could glide through an entire city latching and pulling up onto skyscraper buildings, hack-locked doors, scan crime scenes using infrared detective vision and beat thugs, villains and psychopaths to within an inch of their lives? In addition to all the abilities that have been tweaked or carried over from “Arkham Asylum”, there are also an assortment of gadgets that makes a triumphant return to Batman’s arsenal, ranging from the bat claw to an explosive gel which can be used to spray on breakable walls and objects in order to blow them up.

Batman’s library of tools grows larger as you collect them through various tasks along the way. Each time you engage in hand-to-hand combat with several street thugs at one time, the shakedown will always feel like a different fight scene. There is one button to attack and one to dodge and counter, plus the ability to use your grapple claw to disarm and trip enemies is a nice touch. This was present in “Arkham Asylum”, but the feel of it seems more fluid and less frustrating this time around. As players utilize these buttons correctly and keep a smooth pace, Batman can deliver three blows to one thug, jump over to kick the next, snatch away the weapon from another and pull him over for a powerful, finishing lariat blow to the neck.

Boss battles are very entertaining, but some feel short and not so sweet. Most of them are long and fun enough to savor the action, as Batman is forced to use several tactics as well as utilize his gadgets to take down archenemies, big and small. For other boss battles, they just feel too easy and dull.

Running around in circles, dodging projectiles from the enemy and striking when the time is right is a template we see too often in other games, and in those battles, it really does disconnect from the atmospheric grace that Rocksteady has already put it’s players in.

Overall, “Arkham City” comes through with flying colors, and with a bunch of other highly anticipated games set to release in time for the holidays, it’s safe to say that this game will be very hard to top.

There are no perfect games and there probably never will be, however, be assured that “Batman: Arkham City” comes dangerously close.

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