Spurred on by my recent purchase of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, I’ve returned to the series after a yearlong hiatus. Picking up where I left off, I’ve now completed Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, the final installment on the PlayStation 3. Debuting in North America on November 1, 2011, Naughty Dog attempted to top its predecessor, which I deemed a “greatest hits of the action-adventure genre.” In many ways, this entry does. The set piece events and ancient mechanical puzzles were more frequent and extravagant than ever before. Nate and company explored a variety of new, visually impressive and incredibly detailed environments. Gameplay was enhanced by an increased emphasis on melee and improvements to stealth takedowns. And, per usual the acting and storytelling was top notch. All that said, the multitude of “one-shot” cliff-hanger moments and the dependable presence of a perfectly placed ledge was wearing thin and eroding the veneer of realism. Continue reading Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception [PlayStation 3] – Review→
Batman: Arkham City is the follow-up to one of 2009s most popular and critically acclaimed games: Batman: Arkham Asylum. The combat is nearly identical to Arkham Asylum’s while the environment is many times larger. Throw in a captivating story with a ton of post-game content, and I think 2011 is going to be a repeat of 2009.
Batman: Arkham City’s combat is mostly unchanged from Batman: Arkham Asylum. It revolves around Batman pummeling bad guys with his fists and gadgets and doing it exceptionally well. He leaps from goon to goon, even when they’re incredibly far apart and the blows he delivers are impactful, especially the final hit when dealing with a group of hoodlums. I didn’t make good use of every option available to Batman, but I really, really liked the melee combat. I’ve heard it called the best melee combat in video games and I’d have to agree.
The fights get tougher when different enemy types are introduced. There are a few larger than normal enemies that take a whooping and there are a few that require special tactics such as attacking from behind, but Batman’s biggest threat, aside from a few bosses, are enemies with guns. In a way, Arkham City has two modes of combat. The first is the all-out melee combat where I took on any comers, while the second revolved around stealth.
If I didn’t act stealthily around bad guys with guns and they noticed me, it was basically game over. Batman can take a walloping from run-of-the-mill bad guys, but guns shred him up. When I encountered a group of well equipped thugs, I took them out quietly, and this was as fun as tackling a large group. As I took more enemies out, they would freak out, giving me direct feedback on how I was doing. What I liked most about this sort of combat however was my forced reliance on my environment and gadgets. If I didn’t take these two aspects into consideration, thugs with guns would be much tougher.
After the events of Arkham Asylum, Gotham City is still fed up with the villains that plague them. Through a curious chain of events, the most crime-ridden area of Gotham City is condemned and turned into Arkham City, a massive jail essentially. Dr. Hugo Strange is a key figure and as one might guess, up to something sinister.
Strange captures Bruce Wayne as he’s criticizing Arkham City and announcing his bid to run for mayor of Gotham City. Unfortunate for Strange, Batman is now inside Arkham City, but he’s not alone. Catwoman plays a large role in the game, but it’s strange how she is implemented. The ability to play as Catwoman is really a piece of downloadable content and included with any new copy of Batman: Arkham City. But everyone else will miss out unless they buy the DLC. Not infuriating, but whatever.
Her story is woven into the game at four points, and at natural breaks in Batman’s story. Her plot intertwines with Batman’s and I generally liked the break from Batman. She plays very similar to Batman, but she doesn’t have the same gadgets. She doesn’t have a lot of them either; only three compared to Batman’s dozen. Her fights were predominately just that, fights; I rarely took enemies out stealthily as her.
Batman and Catwoman meet many familiar and not so familiar villains from Batman lore. Batman has run-ins with a few major players like The Penguin and Mister Freeze, but The Joker is his main foe. What happens is very peculiar though. For most of the game, they are seeking the same thing and they operate as frenemies, but the way their relationship eventually plays out is intense.
I was really captivated by Arkham City’s story. Every time I’d finish a story thread, something interesting would happen and make me want to continue. Unlike a lot of games, I rarely wanted to stop playing it, and when I wasn’t busy with the story, I had a fairly large open world environment to explore.
Scattered about Arkham City were hundreds of riddles and trophies The Riddler left behind; literally hundreds, nearly five hundred in total. I almost feel like it’s too many, but then again, I’ve spent as much time with the game after I beat it as I did to beat it. Most of his items are trophies and these require clever uses of Batman’s gadgets. There are also riddles which require me to take a picture of something, but I had a hard time with these considering the large environment. His items would be tagged on the map after beating up certain thugs and this was very welcome.
When not going after Hugo Strange, The Joker, or The Riddler, I had a decent amount of side quests to tackle. These were mostly tasked to Batman by his enemies, which seemed odd. I mean Batman had incentives to undertake them, but if I simply told you Batman was assisting Bane without elaborating, you’d probably be confused. In the same vein, Batman never kills his enemies, which in some circumstances, is frustrating. I understand he doesn’t want to take a life, but locking someone up in a simple cage seems shortsighted.
Besides the standard game mode (in which I could fully explore Arkham City post-game and tidy things up as Batman or Catwoman) I could undertake the Riddler’s Revenge mode. This mode contained a lot of maps where I was tasked with beating up groups of thugs and getting ranked on how well I did, or taking a group of thugs out silently, and in a few specific ways. There is a lot of stuff to do in this game!
Batman: Arkham City is an improvement over Batman: Arkham Asylum. The combat system has changed little in two years, but it’s still so great. I really liked the story and was surprised by a few things that happened; I’ll definitely remember the ending. My biggest takeaway from Batman: Arkham City is the amount of content it contains. I’ve spent a lot of time with the game these past two weeks, and it’s one of the only games I’ve ever completed and then jumped right back into… for another dozen or so hours. Having strayed from many of this year’s new releases I can’t say with authority, but I believe Batman: Arkham City is one of the year’s best games. Batman: Arkham City was developed by London based Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and soon the PC. I played the Xbox 360 version.
I didn’t necessarily play a ton of new games in 2009, but Batman: Arkham Asylum was my favorite game that year. The beat ‘em combat was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in a video game. As Batman I took on large groups of enemies, and once I learned the ins and outs of the deep combat system, I was able to rack up incredible combos and effortlessly take out thugs. There was so much more to the gameplay than just the combat though; exploration was such a major feature too. Witnessing so many of Batman’s enemies firsthand was interesting and my knowledge of the lore was enhanced because of Rocksteady Studios’ attention to detail. Needless to say I was pumped for the sequel.
Batman: Arkham City just came out, like yesterday, and I wanted to recap my experience with the first few hours. The biggest difference I’ve noticed so far is the environment. Last time we saw Batman, he was confined to Arkham Asylum and the island it resided on. This was a large environment, but for the most part, everything was connected via hallways. This time around, Batman has all of Arkham City to explore; it’s many times larger than the previous environment and feels much more open.
I’m beginning to get acquainted with the city and am increasingly able to know where I am via landmarks and important buildings. I’m traversing much of the city in the “canopy” by grappling to rooftops and gliding around. For every new story beat, I’m given an indicator of where I need to go, and the game lets progress the story at my own pace. I’ve encountered many sidequests so far and I don’t think I can walk for more than thirty seconds before finding something to do. I’ve been splitting my time between advancing the story and partaking in sidequests, and I’m just baffled by the amount of stuff to do.
But what’s up with Arkham City what is it and why isn’t that game taking place in Gotham City? Well, when Arkham Asylum closed down, Gotham City still needed a place to put criminals and super villains, and Dr. Hugo Strange obliged. He’s behind the development of Arkham City, where ne’er do wells run rampant. Circumstances see that Batman winds up inside and yada, yada, yada. We all know Batman is going to do what Batman knows best, kick butt and put a stop to whatever madness is going on, and probably only temporarily. The story has introduced me to a handful of well known and lesser known enemies in the four hours I’ve played so far, and kicking butt is still challenging and rewarding.
The combat is identical to the previous game, I’m not sure I’ve even encountered any additional methods of attacking yet, but I’m sure that’ll come with time. That just means the combat is easy to learn and difficult to master like it previously was, and I’ve found I’m a little rusty, but then again I’ve already gotten a 40-hit combo. I still gain levels for kicking butt, completing quests, and finding secrets, and I still have a boatload of options to level up. That’s something I really like about Batman: Arkham City; there is a ton of additional stuff for me to do, and I feel it’s worth my time because the rewards have a direct effect on gameplay.
Honestly, Batman: Arkham City has exceeded my expectations in the four or so hours I’ve played of it. The story is captivating so far, but it’s really the gameplay that’s drawing me in. Fighting enemies and wanting to excel is challenging and fun. There’s so much to do too; I feel a little overwhelmed with the possibilities I have, progress the story, accomplish any number of sidequests, etc. but so far I’m blown away by Batman: Arkham City.