This is the second entry on my play through of Batman: Arkham City. Be ye warned that there will be spoilers for as far as I’ve played and please avoid spoilers for me if you have any comments concerning future segments of the game
The more I play the game the more the environment draws me in; the ambient sounds and moody visuals all add up to an experience that continues to draw me further in with each moment.
A list of some of these:
- The snow fall and the way it sticks to Batman’s cape
- Criminal walkie-talkie chatter
- Intermittent police sirens
- Lighting and position of the moon
- TYGER helicopter giving a play-by-play of me beating up street thugs and other guard chatter
Each of these examples, while not a main point in the story, all enhance the story even if I’m not consciously aware of them at the time.
I’ve mentioned how the characters reference the previous game but the setting also recalls its earlier iteration – viewing Arkham Island from the shore of the City doesn’t quite give me chills, but it bolsters the current adventure with memories of the last one.
Having recently finished Assassin’s Creed: Rogue and Unity, that series is on my brain as I scour the skies of Arkham City and it relates directly to how your character interacts with his environment. It struck me that in a lot of ways the Arkham series has “more real” movements – what and how you climb, the grapnel, cape breaks your fall – all these things seem to be possible, where Creed has a suspension of disbelief (grabbing next to nothing, falling from one thousand feet into a haystack without a scratch, etc.) for make it work.
I’m speaking strictly about character movement and I think they both work exceptionally well, but having the two styles juxtaposed close to each other in my gaming habits really make each flavor stand out.
Last thought on the environment – gliding down the Sionis Steel Mill was a highlight. Batman always makes a great silhouette, but to have the color and brightness of the molten steel burning hot against the dark shadow that is Batman was a great moment.
As I progress in the game I’m getting some sweet new tech, and the game does the right thing by making them “moments” – meaning the action stops and you’re treated to a small cutscene of Batman admiring his new Prototype Grapnel Boost or the Remote Electrical Charge (which is the same thing you’re doing as the player, admiring).
The Grapnel Boost is fantastic. Rocksteady has done a great job of making the boost both effortless and yet give you a sense of weight as you fly through the air. This freedom gives me a better feeling then the oppressiveness of Arkham Asylum, which made you feel like the slime coating everything on that forsaken island would still be on your after you played.
That weight of the environment was amazing for the atmosphere and is something that makes that game (Asylum) stay with you for a long time after – so it’s a good thing. I just like the feeling of being able to get above the filth in Arkham City more, that’s all.
More of the rogues gallery comes into focus as I received a call from a local payphone, with Victor Zsasz on the other side. This mini-game (which I hesitate to call it, since it’s such a cool addition to the overall vibe) has me running all over Arkham City in order to stop Zsasz before he attacks his next victim.
Not only that, but you get more of his back story (if he’s to be trusted to tell his own story) and use your technological expertise to track down his location across the city. It’s in keeping with the characters and provides a dramatic side story that feels like an episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
I didn’t expect to be playing as Catwoman in the game proper, I thought that was strictly separate in the DLC. It was a nice surprise and I appreciate that the designers took care in creating her movements and story; the whip/clawing/jumping mechanic makes getting around the city just as fun as the Batman glide but with her own personal touch.
I liked how Batman is captured then we went to Catwoman’s story, only to have her captured and head back to Batman’s. Her interludes so far are just long enough to be fun but not to make me think I’d rather be playing as Batman.
And what happened between her and Ivy I wonder? Maybe I’ll find out this game, or maybe it was explained somewhere outside of this story.
When you rescue the good Dr. Stacy Baker it reminded me a lot of Dr. Penelope Young from Asylum; both of their impassioned, sobbing pleas for help truly made me care for them and slightly desperate to save them. They sounded like they were really in pain, and while that’s great acting it was certainly a successful manipulation of my emotions.
Met Deadshot for the first time and I’m interested to see where this relationship goes; I know he features in Batman: Arkham Origins from trailers so it’s fun to meet him now and know there’s more to come beyond City.
Moving the plot, and being moved by it
I mentioned the freedom to be found in flight earlier, but that freedom does not extend to Batman’s story in City. This is something City has very much in common with Asylum, and that’s the Dark Knight’s reactionary role. He must solve every problem the super villains through at him, Joker’s tainted blood just being the latest.
As things move forward I found myself wishing that I wasn’t at the mercy of these psychopaths. Yet that’s why Batman is there – evil is rising, and someone must answer it.
There are little pieces and parts of the master plan that I can tear down, and I’m grateful for that. Joker’s balloons, Harley’s speakers, the TYGER cameras – each time I take one out I’m chipping away their control of the Arkham City.