Arkham Meat Grinder
This game is far from perfect, however. As I alluded to earlier, the game will get repetitive. Those that have already played Arkham Asylum will find a lot of the puzzles and other mechanics to be very familiar. Once the new features’ novelty wears off, you really will be playing the same game, if longer and more varied. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, as BAA was a great game and a sequel needs to keep some semblance of similarity. But it becomes evident half-way through Arkham City that the developers are padding the gameplay and introducing an inordinate amount of gamification just to keep you occupied.
The campaign itself turned dull and felt like a broken record. Each villain’s screen-time is divided between the dozen other villains, so no one really gets a break-out moment. On top of that almost every henchman is the same guy, with the only difference being the armor and weaponry they possess. Each boss fight is also very easy and uninspired.
What kept me interested, however, was the well-written plot. There is a mysterious countdown to “Protocol 10,” the fact that people are being randomly thrown into prison with no judicial process, and the Joker might be dying (but knowing the Joker he might also be lying). The city is breathtakingly gorgeous in spite of the decay and without revealing too much, I will say there are some amazing underground locations. To those who grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series
back in the ‘90s, you will love all of the familiar voice-actors and the same writer, Paul Dini, who carefully integrates the vast world of Batman into one game (even if perhaps less would have been more). Along the way BAC pulls off one twist, undoes it, and then throws down an unapologetic ending that you won’t see coming. Hell, even the Joker hilariously tells you that it reminds him of a particular TV show (you’ll know what it is).
A special shout-out goes to the Mad Hatter’s side-mission. I loved the surreal environment – a dream sequence done right. Other side-missions include solving the Riddler’s riddles to rescue a bunch of hostages, rescuing Mr. Freeze’s wife, conducting detective work and analyzing forensic evidence to uncover several serial killers, and stopping a phone booth murderer. There are also in-world instances of violence for you to stop and a few other quests, but they’re all throwaways.
The real highlight of the game is how improved the combat mechanics are. The Free-flow system is a lot more fluid, most gadgets can be quick-fired, and you get all of the gadgets from the first game at the beginning (and they stay with you). They’ve been upgraded since the last game, including allowing you to change directions with the line launcher in mid-air and use it as a tight-rope or maneuvering your remote-controlled batarangs with a brake and boost. The new gadgets are equally awesome, like a taser rifle that can power-up generators and doors, a freeze grenade that can create improvised ice floats on water, smoke pellets that hide you from enemies, and the grappling gun that can boost you into the air rather than just onto a ledge. Gliding is much improved, allowing you to stay in the air perpetually through a combination of diving and rising (much like in Super Mario World
You get the opportunity to use all of these new gadgets and moves throughout the game. Batman will frequently become swamped by at least a dozen henchmen at the same time (the odds are stacked even higher on more than one occasion), each with different weapons and armor, and it’s up to you to kick their ass. I was surprised by just how well Batman maneuvered around so many enemies and pulverized them into dust. It was very involving trying to get rid of specific enemies using special gadgets or moves whilst a dozen other people were hitting you (rather than one or two at a time). And yet it never felt overwhelming or tiresome. Rocksteady has made one of the best action games I’ve ever played. The satisfaction of witnessing 20 or so limp bodies all around you while Batman is just brushing off the dust from his cape is exhilarating.
BAC is an exciting stealth game, too, but not all that improved from the original. I wish the henchmen would be a little bit more scared of you and creative in their efforts to stop you. I found myself using the exact same tactics from the original game: swooping from gargoyle to gargoyle and snatching up people one-by-one as they split up. There is a lot of room for improvement here, and it sucks that Rocksteady neglected it for the most part. Although there is one new, nifty gadget that allows you to disable firearms from afar or detonate enemy mines. The reaction of an enemy when you drop down in front of him and his gun goes “click, click” is memorable, to say the least.