Reviews by mmhelmy98

100

All Good And Then Some

mmhelmy98 | July 12, 2013 | Review of Batman: Arkham City

Arkham City is a beautifully composed game, for all it's (intentionally) dismal and luster-less appearance. This is the heart of Batman, grim but not "darker and edgier" grim. Bleak, but not without moments of lightness. Pulpy but not without moments of more visceral connection to the audience. As an adaptation, a channeling of the best of Batman into Video Game form? This is an exquisite work.

That is not to say it is the greatest Batman story ever told. Nor is it without issues. The gameplay can be repetative at times and the story meanders into some rather awkwardly classic comic book territory where presenting familiar faces and hokey villain plots trumps ... well, everything else. But for the most part, all of the roughness is smoothed over by the parts of the game that just work. The number of systems and subsystems and mini-games that flow together here, the creation of a linear narrative strung together into a variety of flexible challenges in a semi-open world--it's an impressive game that delivers on a rather ambitious premise quite well. The combat is slick as anything, and even when you learn the system enough not to be challenged, it's an entertaining system to mess around with. The game starts you off with most of your gadgets from Arkham and adds enough new ones to be fun but not so many that they get in the way--though one or two could have been done without. At every turn, decisions that make the player feel welcome were made.

The standout of the game, though, is the voice acting. With the notable exception of the Penguins accent, all of the voice acting is impeccable. The characters on display here are displayed at their peak even if the story doesn't touch on all of them in a way that makes this especially obvious. As always, Batman is the least important, least interesting thing about Batman ... but in Arkham City? That's made less of an issue because you get to enjoy the slick combat, the cool gadgets, the brooding intensity and anti-social insanity at your fingertips rather than at the usual distance. On top of that, Kevin Conroy brings more out of Batman than most performers who have donned the cowl, so this is about as interesting as the Batman himself is going to get.

And if you still aren't really interested in Batman, there's still the rest of the cast. Heath Ledger eat your heart out--Mark Hamil's joker isn't just a stellar performance (and I daresay this is one of his best renditions of that performance), but my hands-down favorite interpretation of the character. The whimsy of the character makes the darker side that much more chilling (something Christopher Nolan doesn't seem to appreciate). And on top of THAT, there's all the lovely, lovely game design. There is no branching narrative here, there is no real immersive-sim style interaction of systems. This is a linear game with a really open map and lots of side-tracks to wander--and it's the most free I've felt playing a game for some time. There's more than one way to make a game feel more open and inviting and Arkham City hammers that home with it's exceptionally crafted linearity.