Ka-pow! Bap! Whamm! CRASH!
Batman: Arkham City, like the original, is a beat-‘em-up action-adventure game – only this time taken to the nth degree. “Freeflow,” or Batman’s ability to knock out one henchman and proceed to beat another across the room, is beautifully mesmerizing. There are many context-sensitive attacks and moves that you may very well see only once. The game sometimes evolves into something similar to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, especially when you play as Catwoman. Her graceful acrobatics and well-choreographed attacks are contrasted with Batman’s towering mass of pure muscle and Wrestlemania beat-downs.
In fact, Catwoman was one of the best parts of the game. Her sarcastic remarks and nonchalant demeanor were a wonderful foil to Batman’s serious and straightforward brooding. Unfortunately, her story arch is only a few hours long and played in three short segments that are very far apart. I completely forgot about her half-way through the campaign but thankfully you are given the ability to play as her during the free-roam endgame.
The campaign is around 15 hours long, depending on the time you take looking at the beautifully detailed world and being distracted by side quests and puzzles. The side-missions themselves add another 10 or so, and a great chunk of your time will be devoted to solving as many of the 440 Riddler challenges as you can stomach (I only got to 220 before I gave up). Some of the side-missions are at the same quality as the campaign, but there are a few that are extraordinarily tedious and repetitive, especially when you need to meet certain requirements like getting a specific gadget or an amount of Riddler Trophies. Though there [thankfully] isn’t as much backtracking as in Arkham Asylum
, there is still enough revisiting of old locations to begin to wear you down after a while.
Along with the action-packed content is a great deal of puzzle-solving. Though they’re not really the main focus of the game, throughout the world you will find traps and trophies that can absorb several hours with solving and gathering. Do keep in mind that many puzzles require the use of special gadgets and upgrades that you can only get through the completion of parts of the campaign. So, don’t be fooled by all of the open-world goodness and completely eschew the main story missions for free-roaming exploration, or you might find that many hours have been wasted when you realize you can’t complete something you’ve been working towards. The endgame will allow you to do everything you missed… provided you’re not already burned out and done with the game by then.
Arkham City itself is a wonderful ruin of art deco, neo-gothic, and art nouveau architecture that really adds to the dark atmosphere of the game. And by dark I mean “How the hell is this rated ‘T’ for Teen?” From blood, audible torture, disfigurement, and impalement, to Catwoman’s wonderfully exposed bosom (complete with realistic jiggling!), somebody at Warner Bros. must have greased the palms of the ESRB or something. I’m quite surprised the family values advocacy groups aren’t in an uproar and calling the ratings system a fraud. This really just exposes the farce that is video game politics. Nevertheless, Batman has always been about pushing the boundaries and I’m glad to see BAC is no exception.