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Greetings. I am the Illusive One. For many years now I have been a huge video game player, movie viewer, and book reader. For almost as long, I have been a critic of these things and many people respect my opinions of these things and have often said I belong on G4 doing reviews on X-Play or a similar show. Sadly that is not likely to happen. So instead I shall do reviews for you, uninfluenced by other reviewers, of video games books, movies, and, occasionally, music and political actions. I hope you find this informative and helpful. Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Batman: Arkham City

            Well, it’s been far too long sense I've done a traditional review here on The Illusive One's Reviews. Not that you care, but between fighting off Elder Scrolls fans for my initial thoughts on the game, (It was my Initial Reaction people! You people are worse than Twilight fans!) and various other things going on in my life, I've just had too much crap going on to really commit to my stuff on this site. Hell, even on the Dudeletter I've just been re-posting old articles from months ago. But now, at last I'm ready to talk about one of the games that came out during the fall.
            As you all may or may not remember, I did a review back in September on the video game, Batman: Arkham Asylum and stated that there were many aspects of the game that didn't hold up very well in the long term and I wasn't very hyped for this game because I was afraid it was going to be more of the same. But being the Batman fanboy that I am, I caved in and bought it the moment I saw all the critical acclaim it received upon release. So here it is. My long overdue review of Batman: Arkham City.

The Plot

            The game takes place one year after the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum where the former warder of the Asylum, Quincy Sharp, has been elected mayor of Gotham and, in his first act as mayor, erects a super prison where criminals are thrown into the prison where the criminals make a society for themselves with only one rule: once you’re in you don't come out, (Escape from New York anyone?). After failed attempts to stop its construction, Bruce Wayne attempts to mount a public campaign against the prison and is in turn captured and thrown into the prison where Hugo Strange reveals he knows Batman's secret and plans to enact a mysterious action known only as Protocol Ten. So it's up to Batman to stop Strange from enacting this plan as well as fighting the various criminals around Arkham City, (exactly why he does this is revealed a in the game and I would be spoiling if I said why).
            On the positive side the plot was actually really well done. For a concept that was so obviously ripped off of a John Carpenter movie it surprisingly managed to make the idea its own. The pacing was great, the plot elements were as well, had a lot of great twists, and one of the best endings I have ever seen for any media outlet. What really makes the plot work, however are the characters, atmosphere and gameplay but I'll get more into those later.
             On the negative side, the concept was just an obvious rip off of Escape from New York and being a longtime fan of that film pisses me off. While there were some good twists to the whole thing some I saw coming a mile away and I felt that what Protocol Ten actually was, was a tad predictable and it wasn't as driven as Arkham Asylum.
            All around the plot was really good. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why it is without going to specifics, but the best way to put it is this: It's Batman. Everything that makes the mythology of the character so interesting, so compelling, and so good is here and told in a great way. That's the best way I can put it and it's certainly one of the better plots for any video game of the year.

The Gameplay

             Where do I even begin with this one? This is one of those categories where nearly everything is good. For starters the graphics and environments are great. Unlike a lot of open world gameplay cities this one is full of people and many things to do. The buildings, water and various subway systems all look great and just reek of that gothic atmosphere that Batman is known for. The main story missions were all really good and helped move toward the final goal. Unlike the last game, the side mission in this game were fantastic and actually seemed like they were worth doing, (The Riddler missions for example actually had people's lives' at stake and made solving his riddles all the more compelling). The leveling system is on par with the previous game; good but nothing ground breaking. The missions where you have to use your detective stills were fun and weren't frustratingly difficult they way some games would make them and I really enjoyed them.
            The combat in this game I also thoroughly enjoyed as it involves quite a bit of strategy rather than charging into your enemies head on and it acknowledges that Batman is a man and can die which adds a layer of intensity to the combat. The boss fights were also really fun and like the rest of the combat you often had to use strategy more than button mashing. It’s also really cool the way the bat suit actually takes damage and the damage is continuously seen throughout the game. The Riddler Challenges are also pretty fun but it is really annoying that you have to collect all the trophies in order to unlock all the maps. The last things to mention are the Catwoman missions. Her style of gameplay makes for a welcome change of pace but I sometimes can't help but think her missions are out of place. For example her first mission kind of dilutes the power of the game's opening and her last dilutes the power of the game's ending. But all around her missions were fun and made for a welcome change of pace.
             On the negative side...well if I had to pick something it's that sometimes the stealth aspects of the game could be a bit limited and the for mentioned irritations. But other than that, the gameplay was just great. It had great control, great graphics, great environments and great missions to tie them all together.

The Characters

              In the last game I stated that the characters could be hit or miss throughout the game. In this game, however they were mostly hit in this game. Let’s start off with the big two: Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker. Kevin Conroy gives another fantastic performance as Batman and again proves to be the best Batman there is. Mark Hamill also gives another great performance as the Joker and once again captures that unnerving, psychotic essence of the character along with the laugh out loud hilarity that made the character so memorable in the first game. We also had a few new characters added to the mitts that proved to be the best incarnations ever. Hugo Strange, for one, was fantastic in this game. He was controlling, manipulative, and just flat out demented and made for an incredibly memorable incarnation. The Penguin....where do I even begin with him? While some people might complain that he isn't as sophisticated as he should be, he more than makes up for in the way he's portrayed. For one thing, he's actually a threatening and controlled mob boss rather than the stuck up midget he was before. A lot of his dialog was also really memorable and the way he fought against the other gangs and the cops was just fantastic.       
             The Riddler and Mad Hatter were both delightfully insane and both captured the essence of the character as well as make them a bit more mature and realistic. The character of Victor Zsasz was once again delightfully insane and incredibly memorable, (it almost seemed like he was getting sexual pleasure out of what he was doing). The Robin in this game actually looked, acted, and sounded cool, (a very rare feat for Batman all together), and the other characters that were annoying or had poor voice actors like Harley Quinn, Jim Gordon, or Quincy Sharp had limited dialog, (thank God for that!). The last good characters I have to mention are Ra's al Ghul and Talia al Ghul and were they both frikkin cool in this. I don't want to get to into what makes the characters good but let’s just say that everything that made them so interesting in other versions is very much in play here and they don't disappoint.
              There are a few negatives to not with the characters, though. For one thing, why the hell do all the hot female characters look like they're about to go a fanboy's bachelor party? I can accept making the characters look attractive but it they're taking it a little too far with the way these characters are dressed. Finally, I didn't care for the way Two-Face, Mr. Freeze and Bane were portrayed. Two-Face had this weird split personality thing going, was completely underused throughout the game and just wasn't as good as the Nolan/TAS versions of him. The same goes for Mr. Freeze. He just wasn't as compelling or as sympathetic as he was in The Animated Series. It's almost like the developers knew they couldn't make better versions of these characters so they didn't even try and were disappointing. Finally we have Bane and they managed fuck him up yet again! I guess we'll have to wait for The Dark Knight Rises to see a good interpretation of the character.
            All around, the characters in this game were great. The few annoying things mentioned above weren't enough to change that and had some of the best interpretations of these characters as well as one of the best cast of characters I have ever seen in any video game.

The Verdict

             I think it's pretty apparent the way I feel about this game. IT KICKS ASS!!!! Granted there are a few things that irk me. The story wasn't as compelling as the last game, and the way they portrayed my favorite character really ticked me off but was all around a great game. It had great story, great environments, great gameplay, great characters and is easily one of the best games of the year and is my personal favorite so far. If you're a Batman fan or liked the first game and haven’t already checked this one out do so because you love every second of it. If not....well you don't have my respect so GET THE FUCK OFF MY BLOG!!!

All Around

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