'Batman: Arkham City' videogame review: A dirty town, a grand adventure

batman-arkham-city

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

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It sounds like heresy given the game’s popularity, but I wasn’t a fan of 2009’s Arkham Asylum, which was a repetitive slog through standard videogame environments: Some Ridley Scott external piping here, some David Fincher steam over there, and you gotta have air vents. (The concept pitch for Arkham Asylum: “Metal Gear Solid with more punching.”) City expands Asylum in every direction. The new game’s basic set-up focuses on a unique civil-engineering solution to the national prison overcrowding crisis: The corrupt government fatcats at city hall have turned a few square miles of downtown Gotham into a walled prison-state. Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne is kidnapped by Arkhamites — and you know the game is going to be good when you play the first fight scene as Wayne, with your hands tied. Wayne escapes his captors and tosses on his Bat-suit.

From there, the storyline takes off in a few different directions. You explore the city, and find that different zones have been taken over by beloved Bat-villains. The cityscape detail is relentlessly pleasing. Two-Face has redecorated the courthouse, so one side is pristine and the other side is burnt; the Joker has turned an entire neighborhood into the worlds’ worst theme park ride. The story has a number of different levels that I don’t really want to spoil — it’s simultaneously a race against time and a surprisingly intricate mystery.

But one thing I do want to say — and I’ll highlight this segment with a SPOILER ALERT, just in case you want to skip ahead to the next page — is that the game’s storyline literally takes you from the heights to the depths of Arkham City. You realize that the developers are really onto something special right around the chronological midpoint of the game’s story, when Batman descends into the subterranean underworld of Arkham City and discovers an old World’s Fair exposition: The Wonder City. The design vaguely resembles the retro-futurism of BioShock or Fallout, but the pleasures of the Wonder City go beyond ambient world-building.

The main narrative of Arkham is all about internal corrosion — of Gotham City and of the poisoned, dying Joker — and the Wonder City sequence is a beautifully cynical portrait-in-miniature of the dead hopes of the past. The game’s first climax carries you to the absolute top of the city, and features a striking look down on the destruction of the game’s world from the tower at the center of Arkham City. (Like Shadow of the Colossus, this is one of those canny open-world games where you realize afterwards that the final act was hovering over you the whole time, like a terrible premonition. Also like Shadow of the Colossus, your outfit gets steadily more and more torn up as the game goes on. What can I say, I’m a sucker for SotC references.) [End spoiler alert.]

NEXT PAGE: A Batman for all seasons.


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Comments (81 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 4
  • Felix

    No mention of the Catwoman sequences? That’s what I’m really curious about.

    • Joe

      Musta run out of room, with yapping on and on about GoldenEye and all…

      • slay

        who tha hell compares any game to golden eye as if that’s a big staple game

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      • Rick

        The writer admits this on page 3, first sentence – “I worry that I’m talking mostly in abstract here…”
        Too bad he didn’t do anything about this before this review was published. In this review, the writer was being too self absorbed (talking too long about Golden Eye, promoting his web series), provided game spoilers (and not really good ones) and only superficially touched upon the game itself and its features, I hope he gets some help either from his editor or the site’s more proficient writers before he attempts another review.

      • pickle t1ts

        EW is owned by Time/Warner which owns DC comics… Which is why this gets a headline “review”.

      • jonb347

        Goldeneye WAS a big game. it defined the 1st person shooter.

      • sean

        yeah…if you don’t understand how important Goldeneye was to first person shooters (or video games in general) then you’re a moron.

    • DAISHI

      @Slay While there was a lot of talk about Golden Eye, it was a relevant setup. However, the rest of your comment is silly. Golden Eye was and is a big game, one of the most influential in taking shooters to the console.

    • eshaen

      hey

  • Adam

    I picked the game up at midnight but had to work today so it sits on the shelf, waiting for me to get home. It’s been a VERY long day, to say the least.

    • SKR

      Think thats bad, I just got the 3 Red Lights of DEATH!! so now my copy of Arkham City sits next to the paper weight the formaly use to be my Xbox ELITE…its still a problem!! and xbox expects me to pay $120 to get it fixed! this on top of the $370 of the original purchas, the $50 I spend on xbox live every year (a service free on ALL other systems, and the countless dollars I’ve spent on games over all these years!!

  • MIKE

    Two pages of twaddle to wade through to get to the review and then when you do you start with a spoiler. People want to read your review about Arkham City not without a 200 word essay on Goldeneye beforehand

    • verbal

      Yeah, I thought I clicked on the wrong article for a minute when I kept reading GoldenEye.

      • slay

        lol same here

      • sublime

        The dude obviously gets paid by the word. I was expecting how the controls worked, the tool selection, etc. I guess I have to go to Game informer for real info, not a site that talks about who was wearing whose design on the red carpet.

  • Skye Hill

    Ugh, this is what happens when you let idiots do a video game review.

  • Rob

    Bitch bitch, whine whine. I found the review entertaining (weekly), and I will also go to gaming sites for different perspectives on the game.

  • Kevin

    Is this guy getting payed to write a review? Its bloody awful. Go back to school and learn your craft. Yeah Golden Eye is great but this is a review of the new Batman game.

    • Shadowlands

      The joke about going back to school while considering your misspelled word and grammar errors is too easy! Please try again.

      • Skye Hill

        He didn’t misspell any words. He just used the wrong spelling of ‘paid’. Payed is a word as well. It just means something completely different.

      • Mike

        Its = It’s too

      • C Men

        Whom, not who.

      • Teacher

        ‘He didn’t misspell any words…He just used the wrong spelling..’ What?

  • Jose

    I understand mentioning Goldeneye but not for a whole damn page, then skipping half for spoilers and then reading on thin details of the game

    • Mike

      I actually enjoyed reminiscing back to my college days when Goldeneye was the greatest game ever and we enjoyed multi-player death matches whenever we weren’t in class. And, if Darren’s experience playing Batman Arkham City reminded him of the joy he had when playing Goldeneye, then he might have convinced someone who never would have given the game a consideration before. (that’s me, in case I lost you somewhere) I’m guessing there are a few others of me out there. I say “Bravo” Darren. Thanks for the nostalgia!

      • Zoofishan

        Awesome! I am glad I came up with that name. Game Hero!! Just Kidding! It was just natural to have a sengmet like this on Think Hero. Having David hosting is a big plus. Please, if you can put some movie clips of the game play this sengmet would just perfect.

  • muaddib

    Wanted a review and got a spoiler ridden recap, thanks for nothing

  • MCS

    Does the author know what review means? I also didn’t click on an article about GoldenEye.

  • F

    At least Jeff Jensen didn’t review this. Would’ve been 18 pages comparing the game to obscure comic books and philosophers while crying about Lost ending two years ago.

    • joe luck

      Finally, someone else as sick of Jensen bringing up Lost every chance he gets.

  • Judy

    I wish this were a huge article comparing Arkham City to GoldenEye for some reason instead of anything resembling a review of the new game. Oh wait!

  • Joe

    Actually enjoyed the review Darren, for what it’s worth. Don’t really understand why people have to be so negative, if you didn’t like the review that’s ok, but you don’t need to insult the guy.

  • adam

    Uhhhh… You never talk about the game!

  • YeP

    So is it good?

    • Hammerhead

      next page, pro

  • Chris

    Jesus, thanks for the spoiler alert on the beginning of the game!

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