‘Arkham City’ First Impressions


Australia lives in a world of arbitrary delays and restrictions. We sit helplessly mute whilst our international fellow geeks watch movies, shows and play games weeks, months and even years before we get a release date. ‘Rock Band 2’ still hasn’t seen our shores, and the movies ‘Super’ and ‘Attack the Block’ are still not girt by sea.

Today we had our moment. We were rewarded for our patience. Local retailers JB Hi-Fi broke the embargo and put copies of the highly anticipated ‘Batman: Arkham City’ on shelves, opening the way for everyone else. So I’ve played it, and here’s what I want to say…

Firstly, this isn’t a review because I’ve only played (according to the stats) 4% of the game, so it’s a first impression. By the way, that 4% was about 2-3 hours solid gameplay. Now…onto the important stuff (btw, story spoilers will be in italics, feel free to skip ’em).

Story

In a nutshell, the introduction to the story is amazing. An introduction that blows ‘Arkham Asylum’ out of the water. It’s going down in history.

The simple concept of beginning the game playing as Bruce Wayne is a stroke of genius. The events that unfold in the first playable sequence already makes this one of the best Batman stories in recent history. Breaking your way out of shackles on your way into imprisonment, only to be revealed as Batman’s plan, is a fantastically immersive story telling device.

Plus the main story is nicely padded out with side-missions, including many of the villains who’ve been promoted. A good way of working in plenty of cameos without bloating the story.

Setting and Navigation

Arkham City is an amazingly realised sandbox. Whilst not the same width as Liberty City, it’s clear very quickly that this map exists on multiple levels of street, buildings, rooftops and rubble. None of the buildings are a generic shape either, everything looks unique. It’s been a while since gamers could stand on a roof and marvel as the scenery.

Getting around is fantastic, pure and simple. ‘Arkham City’ made the player feel like Batman, but in an enclosed space. Now you’ve got space to fly – literally. You can leap of a skyscraper, plummet headfirst towards the ground before spreading your cape out and zooming along the street and guiding yourself through a tunnel before grappling onto the next building quite simply and with a great feeling of awesomeness. Sadly you still need to hold (X) to run, but it’s a minor quibble.

Combat

Remember the really, really big group of badguys you encountered in ‘Arkham Asylum’ on one or two occasions? Expect to run into those numbers from the get go. This is a city populated by enemies and it feels like it. The combat system is build on the previous games, with plenty of awesome new moves and gadgets. Some of the more notable additions is the ability to counter two attacks at once and the smoke bombs. The free-flow system is even more fun than before…which shouldn’t be possible!

Conclusion

Why the hell am I writing this! I’m going to play some more! Bloody fantastic!