-Kris “Kaz” Sturm
Having only been released a couple years after the first Rocksteady installment of Batman, many fans rejoiced knowing that good ol’ Bats came back… and grittier than ever. Having only taken place 18 months after the events of Arkham Asylum, the game starts off with Bruce Wayne giving a speech on how Arkham City should be broken down, allowing proper order to be maintained in smaller facilities, so criminals don’t have the opportunity to roam around as they were. This doesn’t fly by Dr. Strange as he pulls a few guards on him and has him arrested on suspicion of being the Batman, even though he knows all about his alter ego. As Bruce is abducted and brought into the city as a criminal, he calls Alfred to drop off his suit so he can change into the crime fighter we’ve grown to love and at times fear.
The premise of the game is rather straightforward, lead Batman through a gambit of challenges presented by the various super villains that make themselves present throughout the game, much like the prior installment, only playing more of an active role throughout the game. Where enemies such as Killer Croc, Bane and Poison Ivy played their parts as bosses (somewhere between minor and Legend of Zelda class), every single character (with the strange exception of Poison Ivy) played a viable role in the furthering the plot of the story and were fairly well fleshed out through the Arkham City Stories; short narratives detailing the backstory to the plot of Arkham City and our baddies, allowing us to relate to or at least acknowledge their own personal stories. As much as I’d love to go into and further detail the plot of the game, Joker says it best:
I can hear you all now: "How did this happen? I want answers, damn it and I want them now!" Well, here's the thing. Answers don't give you ever lasting satisfaction. Sometimes, you need to brace yourself for disappointment. Now think about it. Imagine your favorite show. You've been through it all. The ups, the downs, the crazy coincidences. And then, BANG! They tell you what it's all about. Would you be happy? Does it make sense? How come it all ended in a church?”
The Arkham City Stories are, however, only accessed by solving some of the Riddler’s riddles, a good deal of which cranked up to work the mind to headache inducing proportions. While some presented themselves to be of little difficulty, there were others that required updated gadgets and having answered other challenges… one of the worst being the gas chamber. If you’re unfortunate to stumble into this room before a specific point, one’s attempt to snag three Riddler trophies becomes moot as they are made to slowly suffocate from noxious fumes. Other than that, the Riddler trophies are just about the only thing that could lead the player to worry. As a throwaway, I’ll give you guys the answer to one of the riddles: at one point, the player is presented with the riddle: "Look Out! Can you see where the Madness began?" To solve it, you need to scan the old Arkham Asylum island from the first game.
Lest I forget, let’s talk about Batman’s general ass-kicking. As the player goes through the game, Batman appears to get more and more physically adept, starting from being a general brawler (one who could easily flatten your run of the mill criminals) to tapping into his whole repertoire of weaponry and physical prowess, darting back and forth between enemies, doing leaping flips, throwing Batarangs and Freeze Bombs and generally destroying any living thing that dares approach the Dark Knight with hostile intent. Furthermore, if selected as an upgrade, Batman can even grab an opponent’s gun and SMASH IT TO BITS WITH HIS BARE HANDS IN FRONT OF THEM. Other lovely additions to his fighting talents are the ability to divebomb his opponents by dropping straight down onto them, typically instantly knocking a crowd of unsuspecting foes to their feet to be taken down for immediate takedown. While I tend to go with a more assassin-like approach and slowly pick off each criminal, the player is given a fairly wide range of skills to work with to better suit their “Bat.”
Overall, I’d have to say that the one thing that caught my eye the most was the story’s narrative. It deconstructs Batman's overall effect on actually deterring crime in Gotham (as opposed to just fighting it), the Joker's own sense of invincibility and mortality, Batman's overall love life/how far he's willing to go to protect the women he cares for and how far they're willing to go for him, how much Batman's allies will let him get away with before calling him out, how practical ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ really is, and ultimately, whether or not even the most despicable and deplorable examples of humanity are worthy of basic human rights. To refer to Tvtropes.org, the entire game is a Gambit Pileup of epic proportions; and unfortunately if I were to use any of their information, it would be a direct spoiler, but the game is kinda like Rainbow Road from Mario Kart, in the sense that it’s got its fair share of ups and downs, twists, turns and going through the course juuuuuuuuuuuuust right takes lots of skill, but in the end, this newest installment of Batman just proved itself to be one of the better games released this year. On a final note, I can safely say that the ending of this game... it's powerful. Manly tears may very well be shed; don't be ashamed or embarrassed if they come to you.
Fun fact, play the epilogue of the game and look for as many Easter Eggs as possible. It's lightly hinted on that there very well may be another installment in the future... and a little something... horrifying, one could say.
Reviewed by: Kris “Kaz” Sturm
Reviewer Rating: 5/5