Tag Archive: arkham city

Three years after the game’s release, players are still finding hidden messages from Calendar Man in Batman: Arkham City.

Julian Gregory Day, a.k.a. Calendar Man, is best known for committing crimes centered on holidays, seasons, and anniversaries. He first appeared in Detective Comics #259 (September 1958) and was long considered a joke villain until he was reimagined by Jeph Loeb in Batman: The Long Halloween. This more sinister take on the character would follow him into Batman: Dark Victory, the 80 Page Giant Batman Special Edition “All the Deadly Days”, and, of course, the Batman: Arkham series.

Locked away beneath Arkham City’s courthouse, Calendar Man would taunt Batman even though he was trapped inside a cell for the entire game. If you approached him on various holidays throughout the year in Arkham City, his dialogue would change as he recounted some past crimes. If you did this once a month for 12 months on specific holidays, you’d unlock an achievement in the game.

Fans of the game, however, have not stopped grilling the cryptic criminal, even three years since its release. After a mysterious YouTube channel—which many fans think is actually a dummy account for series developer Rocksteady—uploaded a clip titled “Arkham City Secret?” where Calendar Man was seen spouting never before heard dialogue before it faded to black halfway through, fans sprung into action to unlock the riddle of how to trigger it themselves.

Several days later, it seems the Batman Arkham Videos channel on YouTube has solved the mystery. By setting your console or PC’s calendar to December 13, 2004, and then visiting Calendar Man, the dialogue starts. The significance of this date is that is when Rocksteady was founded.

To hear the new dialogue, you can check out the video below, but it once again features cryptic messages talking about the beginning and the end of things. Could it tie into Batman: Arkham Knight somehow? We’ll have to wait until June 2, 2015, to find out.

Holy rusted armor, Batman!

For me, Batman: Arkham City was one of the crowning achievements of this console generation—never mind just 2011. So, when I heard it was being ported to the Wii U for the system’s launch (13 months after its initial release, mind you), I certainly understood why. But when I went hands-on with the new Armored Edition at this year’s E3, I was disappointed with the Wii U “innovations”—it seemed Nintendo loyalists wouldn’t get nearly the same smooth experience I had when I first played the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. I understood that a 15-minute demo wouldn’t be nearly enough time to pass final judgment on this one, though—especially as it was my first experience with the Wii U, period.

Flash-forward five months later, and I’ve been playing the Wii U incessantly along with my fellow EGM cohorts. And though some of my fears have been assuaged—and some of the new features have even impressed me—several new problems that have arisen that make Batman: Arkham City—Armored Edition the clearly inferior version of this phenomenal game.

The first flaw that you’ll notice rather quickly is glitches that were never present before—audio suddenly cutting in and out and weird shadows in cutscenes that make many characters look unnatural. In fact, the very look of the game as a whole has almost a waxy quality to it now, where you wonder if it actually takes full advantage of the Wii U’s HD. Maybe some of this odd look is just Batman’s new cheap suit of armor, which leads us to another major problem in all the gimmicks that have been tacked on in order to try to sell this version of the game: the B.A.T. system.

With the B.A.T. system, Batman can absorb the kinetic energy thrown around in battle and then channel it into enhanced strength. The problem is that this redesign makes the game far too easy. Fights where you had to strategize who you’d take out first—as thugs came at you with knives, shields, stun batons, and all other manner of weaponry—are now nullified, as the B.A.T. system makes it so that every enemy can now be taken down in only a couple of hits.

The next problem comes via the Wii U’s GamePad controller and the touchscreen features that have been added. The hopes were that by adding your inventory screen and minimap to the controller, it would create a more fluid experience. Instead, it does the exact opposite. The controller’s minimap is less detailed and harder to read than if you were pausing the game and looking at it on a normal-sized TV screen. It also fails to streamline the experience in any way, as you’re still interrupting the game to look down at the screen and set waypoints, level Batman up, or change gadgets—and now you’re doing it with Batman in the open, vulnerable to the dangers of the living, breathing environment of Arkham City. This again deters the strategy offered in the original version.

One way to escape this problem is by playing the entire game on the Wii U GamePad tablet, should you wish to use your TV for something else. I do applaud the fact that there’s no lag or choppiness, but playing the game on the controller’s tiny screen—which is of a worse quality than what you’d get with an iPad, iPhone, or even the PS Vita—only makes the visuals look even more muddy and unappealing.

The final shortcoming with Armored Edition also involves the Wii U controller. Having to hold it up and move it around to scan areas in Detective mode or to pilot my remote-controlled Batarang had me grinding my teeth at times while also grinding the poorly placed controller joysticks. Also, the cheesy effect of having Alfred talk through the controller became tiresome quickly, as the audio quality is so poor on the small speakers. It all felt like unnecessary proof-of-concept mechanics that again were much smoother and simpler on other systems.

Now, I’ve really honed in on the negative aspects I found with this port, but this isn’t to say the game is broken and completely unplayable. Gamers who don’t have the muscle memory of playing the game on Xbox 360 or PS3 will likely more readily adapt to the controller, and the core elements that made Batman: Arkham City so great are still present. The enthralling story, the classic DC characters, and even all the DLC is bundled onto the disc so that once you beat the main story, you can go back and play Harley Quinn’s Revenge or use Nightwing, Robin, or Catwoman on their challenge maps. The combat system that allowed Batman to showcase his bevy of martial-arts maneuvers is also still available, should you choose to ignore the B.A.T. feature.

But, like many of the ports that are coming to the Wii U long after their initial release, there’s really no positive reason for you to look into this port if you’ve played it before on other consoles; this is simply a dumbed-down version for the Nintendo hardcore. I legitimately feel bad that they get this bastardized version of Batman: Arkham City—they’ll never know how great this game was in its perfectly polished original form.

SUMMARY: Although the core of Batman: Arkham City remains intact, new glitches and tacked-on gimmicks take away from the overall experience enough to make this a clearly inferior version of one of the great games of this generation.

  • THE GOOD: Same great story with all DLC packs already on the disc.
  • THE BAD: New glitches and unnecessary gimmicks make this a worse version than its predecessors.
  • THE UGLY: How the game looks if you play exclusively on the Wii U controller.

SCORE: 7.0

Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition is a Wii U-exclusive version of Batman: Arkham City. 

Ever seen a clown cry?

SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t finished Batman: Arkham City, major plot spoilers follow.

After the amazing ending of Batman: Arkham City, fans everywhere were left wondering just what would happen now in the dark, gritty, urban nightmare the boys at Rocksteady had cooked up—and had comic fanboys ranting and raving for months. Well, with the new Harley Quinn’s Revenge DLC, players will get a little more light shed on the endgame situation as they once again don the cape and cowl of the Caped Crusader.

Set several days after the end of the main game, Harley Quinn’s Revenge revolves around the Joker’s No. 1 girl looking for vengeance on the man she blames for slaughtering her poor ‘Mistah J’: the Batman. Using the GCPD as bait, Harley hunkers down in the Joker’s hideout from the main game—the Sionis Steel Mill—gives it a feminine flair, and dares Batman to rescue the Gotham pigs from the fryer. Things don’t quite go according to plan for the Dark Knight, though, and Harley manages to get the jump on Bats, leaving it up to Robin to rescue Batman, bring down Harley, and shut down the last villainous bastion of Arkham City once and for all.

Harley Quinn’s Revenge succeeds in doing a lot of things right, and fans of the main Arkham City campaign will immediately be able to jump right in. The DLC maintains the tone and pacing of the main game very well and gives everything a special Harley flair, as you see her thugs dressed in garb to match her traditional red-and-black playing-card jumpsuit; meanwhile, Harley gives herself a slight redesign by dyeing her hair black and donning a widow’s mourning veil.

The story also gives a bit of closure to Harley as a character. Though the DLC’s only two to three hours in length, it does a great job of providing her motivation—and possible future motivation—as well as confirming that the Joker, at least for now, has indeed passed on. It also gives an interesting look at how the Joker’s death is actually affecting Batman—and, in turn, the rest of the Bat-family, planting seeds for some interesting future plotlines.

Plus, Harley Quinn’s Revenge gives Batfans what they’ve wanted for a while—and that’s some gameplay with Robin. In fact, half the DLC sees you controlling the Boy Wonder, and he definitely feels much different than Batman. Aside from a different array of gadgets, Robin’s also a lot quicker than the Caped Crusader, but he also needs to land more hits to take down foes. His bo staff definitely helps even the odds when it comes to ranged attacks, and his bullet shield (which I’d like to think is a small homage to the Adam West/Burt Ward Bullet Shield) provides a novel aspect to working past armed thugs.

The biggest problem with this DLC, though—and it’s most evident when playing as Robin—is the lack of an option to go back out into the glorious open world which most of the main game took place in. The entire DLC is set in and around the Sionis Steel Mill, and you have almost no opportunities to go back and explore, making it feel very linear—and like a completely separate entity from Arkham City. I would’ve loved to have seen some objectives scattered about the city, just to see what Arkham looks like a week after the endgame chaos, but instead, you’re just moving through a small dungeon and typically have to go back over the same areas, as the story forces you to switch back and forth between Batman and Robin as the latter follows the former’s trail.

Still, Harley Quinn’s Revenge does a great job of bringing players back into the universe of Rocksteady’s Batman. The story and characters are just as compelling as before, the combat’s still amazingly tight, and the limited view of the world you get still looks and feels great. The only problem really lies within the linearity of the story, which makes you feel like you’ve taken a step backward and are playing a level from Arkham Asylum instead of Arkham City. Despite this, Batman fans of all shapes and sizes should get this DLC—and revel in Harley’s short time in the spotlight as the main villainess.

SUMMARY:  Harley Quinn’s Revenge is limited in scope compared to the main campaign, but fans of Arkham City should still jump at the chance to play this DLC, which adds two to three hours of original gameplay in Rocksteady’s gorgeously gothic world.

  • THE GOOD: Combat and story are just as tight as if they shipped with the main game.
  • THE BAD: Lacks the open-world feel of Arkham City.
  • THE UGLY: Harley dying her hair black while mourning.

SCORE: 9.0

Batman: Arkham City—Harley Quinn’s Revenge DLC is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.

One of the major reasons that the Batman: Arkham series from Rocksteady has been so successful is the look and feel of the game. It is as if the Dark Knight has leapt right from the pages of Detective Comics and onto our TV sets. And one of the key men behind this feeling is the Art Director on both games, David Hego. David did a short panel at GDC explaining what inspirations went into Arkham City and also a few problems they noticed in Arkham Asylum, like Detective Mode, and how they tried to fix them.

Right from the get go, David admitted that being Batman is pretty freakin’ cool. And so game play was always the primary pillar for both games. The combo systems, the gadgets, the villains, etc., but this is still a visual medium so although some may see the art of the game as having taken a bit of a secondary role, it was still vital to the experience and knowing this, he and his team had a monumental task on hand as they wanted to give a respectful interpretation and thus created their Arkham-verse. Their representation, although a bit different, still needed to have Batman’s DNA all over it from the locations to the characters designs, like making the Penguin’s monocle a broken bottle.

And so when it came to actually crafting Arkham City, he and his team looked to blend the late 19th century Art Nouveau movement with the very modern Hyperrealism. The hyperrealism comes out best in many of the game’s character models, but much of the architecture took on more of the Art Nouveau style, like the Wonder Tower, which was modeled after the Eiffel Tower, one of Art Nouveau’s most easily recognizable works.

He also spoke to the challenges he had in designing Arkham City, like fixing the Detective Mode as he reminisced about how heart breaking it was to hear players spending the entirety of Arkham Asylum in that mode. And so they removed everything that was not vital from that mode so navigation and combat became much more difficult and compelled players to play the game it was meant to be played.

Another problem Hego spoke to was normalization. “Normalization is when the player stops being in awe of what they see on the screen. And what happens is a normal part of gaming. You start getting into the action and the game play and the narrative and you stop focusing in on a lot of the details of the environment. And even many of the subtle color schemes of Arkham City’s levels hurt us because they appeal to the base instincts of gamers where we have an ice level with Mr. Freeze, the steel mill is a fire level, Poison Ivy is our jungle level, and so on. So we need to combat this with a lot of variety. Contrasting elements and color schemes to keep things entertaining. So we create a lot of clashing in many of the levels. We added a lot of fanfare and the giant white clown faces to the steel mill to help fight the oranges and reds, for example. And so we just keep clashing in the hopes of creating new and still interesting environments.”

Hego also talked about how much the posters and Riddler clues spoke to the world they wanted to create without being too distracting to the player and taking away from the experience and even removing details in many areas with enemies and NPCs so that the player would focus on the objectives at hand.

All in all, Hego’s brief talk was an interesting look into seeing how this gorgeous world was created and how much care went into making sure we players and fans were happy while Hego and his team were still able to express themselves creatively in a way that fit into the game play and story.

THE BUZZ: The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences have officially announced the finalists for the 15th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards.

Over 100 games were played across all platforms by select panels that were dedicated to coming up with the nominees and winners in 26 different gaming related categories. From the music to the controls to the cinematic cut scenes and finally to the coveted Game of the Year Award, every nuance that can make a game great was broken down for this year’s IAAs and will be celebrated when the awards are given out on Thursday, February 9th, during the 2012 DICE Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Our industry has really outdone itself this year and continues to exceed expectations with its creativity and craftsmanship,” said AIAS President Martin Rae.

Of course, some games were able to rise above others and transcended into multiple categories. Leading the pack were Portal 2 with 10 nominations followed by L.A. Noire’s nine and then six each for Batman: Arkham City, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Battlefield 3.

The awards show will once again be hosted this year by actor, comedian, and fellow game enthusiast Jay Mohr.

Some of the nominees and categories are below, but if you’d like the full list, you can click here: 15th Annual IAA’s Full List of Award Nominees

Game of the Year

  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Portal 2
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Outstanding Innovation in Gaming

  • Bastion
  • L.A. Noire
  • Portal 2
  • Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Action Game of the Year

  • Battlefield 3
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • Dead Space 2
  • Gears of War 3
  • Saints Row: The Third

EGM’S TAKE: The IAAs have become like the Oscars of the gaming industry and every year they put on a spectacular show that highlights the year in gaming like no other. It should be interesting to see just how many awards the heavyweights like Portal 2 and Batman: Arkham City come away with though with their multiple nominations.

Ah, the end of the year. A wonderful time to look back on all the gaming that was had this year—and to commend the best of the best that consumed all of our days and most of our nights. Or, my days and nights, anyway. Here are my personal top 5 videogames from the year that was 2011—those that helped ensure another year of me sustaining my Casper-like complexion.

Ray’s Top 5 of 2011:

#1: Batman: Arkham City

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
The greatest comic book fan service we’ve ever seen for a comic franchise also takes action-adventure gaming to a new level. After playing Arkham City, I couldn’t help but compare every other melee combat system I played—and none held a candle to this gem.

#2: Gears of War 3

Formats: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Epic Games
A perfect series finale that ties up all the loose ends, Gears of War 3 took great elements from its predecessors to create one of the most cinematic single-player experiences available while being tempered with one of the most robust multiplayer suites available.

#3: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Formats: Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
A perfect ending for Ezio Auditore’s story, Revelations sets us up for a thrilling conclusion while still providing a brilliantly told historical thriller that’ll only have you craving more. Combine that with an addictive, novel multiplayer, and you’ve got one of the better all-around experiences this year.

#4: Mortal Kombat

Formats: Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
The rebirth of one of gaming’s classic fighting franchises was memorable for many reasons. A coherent story mode that made sense and a return to crisp, combo-laden 2D combat were two of the main keys, but when you couple that with solid extra features and a large (but not obnoxiously so) roster, this was a clear Flawless Victory.

#5: Dead Space 2

Formats: Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: EA
Developer: Visceral Games
From what might be the most intense opening sequence I’ve ever played, Dead Space 2 pulled me in like few survival horror games do anymore. Javelin Gun for the win!

Ray’s Off-Topic Awards:

New Character That I Wouldn’t Throw a Life Preserver If They Were Drowning: Caddoc – Hunted: The Demon’s Forge
Whether it was whining about bugs or contemplating the meaning of life, Caddoc was a little too smart for his own good as the bruiser of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge—and he was better at getting on my nerves more than he was at slicing apart his enemies.

Popsicle’s “The Colors, Duke, The Colors!” Most Colorful Game of the Year: de Blob 2
A cute story to entertain the kiddies with some decent platforming for older gamers, De Blob 2 features bright, colorful landscapes of reds, blues, and greens you create as you progress in this interactive color-by-numbers family-friendly adventure.

Best Job at Filling John Madden’s Commentary Void: Bill Clement – “We’ll be tied going into the third as long as we’re still tied here at the end of the second.” – NHL 12
Every now and then, someone will step up and let their own backward logic escape their mouths. Naturally, that always reminds us of John Madden, the all-time master of puzzling color commentary, and this year, NHL 12’s Bill Clement went five-hole on us for the easy tally.


What do you guys think of Ray’s picks? Let him know on Twitter (@RayCarsillo) or drop in a comment below!

From the Shadow of the Bat

The first extended member of the Bat-Family in terms of crime fighters, Robin, the Boy Wonder, has been a comic staple for over 70 years, first appearing in 1940’s Detective Comics #38. The original lad who took that mantle though, Dick Grayson, has gone through many changes that fans of the DC Universe have been enjoying now for the past 25 years. In that time, he has worn the Batman mantle twice, but spent most of that time as his own crime fighter, ever evolving outside of Batman’s shadow, as Nightwing.

So, with Batman: Arkham City featuring Catwoman and Robin as playable challenge map characters, it would only make sense that the next member of the Bat-family to be featured would be the original sidekick for the Caped Crusader in the form of Grayson. But is he worth the $7 DLC price-tag (560 Microsoft Points) he comes with or should he simply retreat back to the shadows?

In the DLC, you get a pair of Nightwing costumes, one imagined for the Arkham City universe that features his better known black and blue look (the blue has since been changed to red in his most recent incarnation in the comics) and another based off his brief appearances in the last season of Batman: The Animated Series. You also get a pair of challenge maps, Main Hall and Wayne Manor, with one serving as a brawler challenge and the other serving as a stealth challenge. You also get the ability to use Nightwing in any other maps that come with the game or that you may have downloaded otherwise.

But, unfortunately, that’s it. Rocksteady didn’t even bother to record a voice over for the character so the load screen for each map is just Nightwing standing there, looking pretty ragged for a character who didn’t even make it into Arkham City’s story. At least Robin makes a brief appearance in the actual campaign. Not to mention that Dick Grayson, known for his quips during battle is dead silent because Rocksteady cut a corner with no voice actor there and yet Batman, who NEVER talks, starts every challenge map with a taunt. Very out of character for both Batman and Nightwing and a questionable move by the Rocksteady folks if you ask me.

Nightwing does handle solidly, yet still differently, when compared to the other characters in the game though. To make him feel special in a fight, Rocksteady made sure to focus a lot on his now signature Escrima Sticks that Dick mastered when he first took on the Nightwing mantle and became protector of Bludhaven as well as giving him a heavy MMA feel in terms of his takedowns like arm-bar submissions. He also has gadgets similar to Batman like the grappling hook and line launcher and some unique gadgets of his own, like a wrist mounted tranquilizer gun that stuns enemies on the brawler maps and knocks them out cold in the stealth maps. The tranquilizer gun only holds three shots for the entire stealth map though and doesn’t recharge, otherwise it would be too easy to work your way past the six thugs you have to take out. The Escrima Sticks have also been modified for the game so that they can act like the stun batons Batman faces in later parts of Arkham City. This gives him some interesting special moves with a lot of range as he can channel the electricity by crossing the sticks and stunning foes.

Despite his smooth handling though, the challenge maps are such a secondary feature to the game for me that to charge $7 for a character you don’t even see in the campaign is really disappointing. Now, if Nightwing had been given his own campaign missions or even could be used in the campaign, I think we’d have a different story on our hands. Or if the DLC was really cheap like one or two dollars. But the same goes for the Robin DLC that I got with the game; the campaign is the bread and butter of Batman: Arkham City and so something that adds nothing to that aspect of the game in any way just seems unnecessary to me, especially at the price that this content is listed as. And so unless you are a huge fan of the challenge maps and doing them over and over again, plus a huge fan of Batman’s history, then I really think overall that the Nightwing DLC for Batman: Arkham City is mediocre at best and unnecessary at worst considering its price tag.

SUMMARY: As wonderful and enthralling as Batman: Arkham City is, paying $7 for the two challenge maps and costumes in the Nightwing DLC is a rip-off.

  • THE GOOD: Another unique fighting style to use in the Arkham City challenge maps
  • THE BAD: Only two extra maps and no voice acting for the character
  • THE UGLY: Dick Grayson’s ragged haircut

SCORE: 5.0

“Wait’ll they get a load of me…”

Comic book fans are easily some of the most rabid fans out there. Maybe it’s because of the history, maybe it’s the appeal of the characters, maybe it’s because of a lack of social skills developed in their mom’s basement, but whatever the reason, whenever something features comic book characters, the fans tear it apart. Well, good luck finding fault with this one. And trust me, being a fan myself, I tried.

Batman: Arkham City is easily the greatest fan service a comic book game could ever possibly be. Fans who had concerns over how the story line tied together or whether too many villains might be featured, need not concern themselves anymore. The way the story flows and introduces you to Hugo Strange, the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, Deadshot, Zsasz, and all the other villains in Arkham City, could only be described as water it flows so smooth. The game has such a natural plot progression that your biggest problem may be just finding the time to finish it because if you do even a portion of the side quests like where you team up with Bane or simply wish to hunt for a few Riddler trophies then you’re going to be looking at a 40-50 hour experience. That’s almost unheard of for an action/adventure game, but somehow Batman: Arkham City finds a way to keep surprising you to the point where you might just start sitting on the floor so that when you keep dropping your controller it won’t fall as far. The guys at Rocksteady should be applauded for this new Batman universe they have created while also making it still feel like Batman.

Really though the biggest reason why the game is so great comes down to the variety and execution in the game play. There are a plethora of problems for Batman to solve using all of his different gadgets and abilities and unlike in Arkham Asylum where some gadgets were favored more than others, every gadget will get a workout here. Whether expertly trying to pilot your remote-controlled batarang through air ducts too small for Batman to fit through to hit a switch on the other side of a locked gate, to using your grappling hook to pull together platforms to solve tricky Penguin puzzles, every gadget will be pushed to the limit, and not to spoil anything, but there are a lot more gadgets this time around.

The gadgets are also a huge part of combat now, which is another feature that has seen a facelift. Now, via some hot key combos, Batman can whip out his grappling hook, batarangs, and other goodies on the fly and throw them in the face of unsuspecting foes to pull off some really stunning combos like using the grappling hook to pull distant thugs in for a devastating clothesline. Also, aside from the standard punches and counters and these new gadget moves, Batman has new special moves that can take foes out of the fight instantly when his combo gets high enough, catch items thrown at him and throw them back with a well-timed counter, capitalize on the tremendous environment physics to put walls and railings more to his advantage, and even unlock special crowd control moves that can even up the odds on those 30 on 1 fights that you’ll occasionally run into. Basically, if we’ve seen Batman do it in a movie or comic book before, he can do it in the game and few things feel as good as quick grappling an enemy over a banister and hearing him scream for his mommy before being knocked out.

Another aspect of the first game that has been tweaked is the leveling up, RPG elements. You start the game off with a good amount of gadgets and moves, but like in the first game, the further you progress and more stuff you do, the more gadgets and combos you unlock as it goes with the story and then upgrade as you see fit. In the end, most people should have many, if not all of the upgrades, but it does give you some options in just how you would play as Batman in order to help craft a more personal experience.

Now, for many people, the only real negatives from the first game were the linearity and Detective Mode being used as a crutch. I’m happy to say that both problems have been solved. In order to counter people wanting to stay in Detective Mode, things away from where your focus should be have become more blurred, forcing players to only use it when examining a crime scene, following a blood trail, or when scoping out a room full of thugs. The bright neon lights of Gotham also wreak havoc with Detective Mode really making sure that when you’re outdoors, you take in Gotham in all it’s downtrodden glory. The linearity has also been fixed with the bevy of previously mentioned side missions and having several objectives open at once so that you can solve cases at your own leisure, go explore for Riddler trophies, or just do what I did for the first half-hour I played the game, glide around on my cape and just take in Gotham staples like the Monarch Theater, Ace Chemicals, and Park Row.

Now, one knock might be that there is no co-op multiplayer since if you squint really tightly you might see potential for it, but the character really isn’t built for that, especially in this story. You can already play as other characters to mix things up, which the Catwoman levels are just as fun as the main game and give you a whole new look to Arkham City for the short sections you play as her by the way. But, honestly, Batman is at his best when he is the center of attention and Robin, Nightwing, Oracle, and the rest of the Bat-family are just on the sides providing occasional support from the wings. And Batman and his rogues are the biggest reason why anyone plays this game. Would anyone really play a Nightwing game with him taking on Professor Pyg? The challenge maps return, of course, and trying to work your way up the leaderboards and build the best combo is still fun and choosing different characters there works, but Batman is a loner and so the main vein of this game, which is the campaign, is in all its glory with you just focusing in and playing as Batman.

When all is said and done, throw in the amazing voice acting from Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Maurice LaMarche, Tara Strong, and the rest of the cast, and without giving away the brilliantly written plot (thank you Paul Dini), all I can say is that this is the single greatest comic book game I’ve ever played. It plays so well that I can easily recommend this to anyone without even thinking about it.

SUMMARY: Batman: Arkham City is easily the greatest fan service a comic book game could ever possibly be.

  • THE GOOD: The most comprehensive comic book game I’ve ever played
  • THE BAD: So many “Oh my God!” moments you keep dropping your controller
  • THE UGLY: The seedy underbelly of Gotham all in one spot


Oh, it’ll be a hot one in the ol’ town tonight!

Riddle me this. How do you top one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time while appeasing one of the more rabid comic fan bases to have ever existed. Answer: Batman: Arkham City. At least that’s what the folks at Rocksteady are hoping, but from what I’ve seen in some hands-on demos, I don’t think they have much to worry about now that we’re less than a month away from launch.

So what exactly have they done to make this game so much better than Arkham Asylum? Well, how about more villains, more heroes, a larger open-world, more gadgets, and the return of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker, and Paul Dini as the script writer? And that’s just scratching the surface.

What I first noticed with my hands-on demo though was that I surprisingly started playing as Catwoman. Many people feared this addition when the announcement was made that you would play as her, but after clearing a room full of thugs with her before cracking a safe, rest assured fellow Bat-fans that it feels good. She has a faster and lighter feel compared to how Batman moves while also falling into the same control scheme of mixing attacks with well-timed counters. It also fits in with the early plot of the game as the cat looks to help the bat in his war on Arkham City’s inmates before she is captured by Two-Face.

Once I donned the cape and cowl though, the whole game literally changed in terms of perspective and feel as I was moved to a Gotham rooftop and although some of the guys from Rocksteady were encouraging me to go do mission objectives, I had a spectacular time just gliding from rooftop to rooftop and using my bat-line to pull me up when I miscalculated the length of a gap. When they say this world is five times larger than the last, they meant it as Gotham felt almost intimidating in its size and scale. It was this fear of being consumed by the nooks and crannies of this massive digital megalopolis that I concurred with the prodding of our PR handlers and headed into a building.

It was here that much of the last game began to flood back to me as I perched high above a room filled with Two-Face thugs. As I listened to Big Bad Harv rant and rave, I began planning how I would take down the room full of foes. Once Two-Face had moved on, it was time to make my move and as I leapt from the perch and onto my first victim, I found that a couple of key additions had been added to the combat.

The first is the ability to use items and gadgets without breaking your combat flow at all. Throwing batarangs and detonating small packets of explosive gel to help dictate where I wanted my foes to go so I could get the largest combo possible all while countering, kicking, and punching others in my nearby vicinity made it look like Batman was moving almost like water through the group as every movement made perfect sense and optimized my combat experience like nothing I had ever seen.

The next addition to combat actually came on the side of the low-rank villains I was facing as their A.I. has improved greatly from the last game as they picked up pipes and chairs for weapons and trash can lids or broken car doors for shields. Enemies also would occasionally throw these weapons at you and now Batman could catch them in mid-air and use the item’s momentum to hurl it back to its original chucker or into the face of a different enemy in Batman’s vicinity. All in all, what was already probably the best action/adventure combat system in gaming looks like it took the next step forward and kicked it up a notch.

But I was far from finished as a sniper shot pierced a window and we got to play with Detective Mode once again as Batman begin tracing the trajectory and calculating just who could have fired the shot. We soon tracked down the location and was met by an unexpected fan-favorite, Harley Quinn. She warned Batman to stay out of the Joker’s way as he had big plans for Arkham City.

I was paying more attention to how Harley said things than what she said though. For those who are unaware, this is a rare time where Harley Quinn is being voiced by someone other than Arleen Sorkin. Luckily it is voice over veteran Tara Strong who Batman fans may know better as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl from Batman: The Animated Series or even maybe as Raven from Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans. It was definitely different though as Sorkin’s ditzy but dangerous was replaced by a slightly more serious and seductive tone by Strong. This could work as supposedly with the Joker nearly incapacitated from his high exposure to the Titan formula in the first game, Quinn has had to step up her game for the sake of her ailing puddin’, but hardcore fans might be taken aback at first. Still though, she is in the hands of the man who created her in Paul Dini so I have faith that the character will rise above it all in the end.

Speaking of the voice cast though, a superior job was done by all involved so far from what I heard in terms of many of the villains and heroes. Of course, Kevin Conroy, also of B:TAS fame returns to play the Dark Knight and Mark Hamill, in what he has stated as being his last time doing it, returns to play the Joker. On top of this, the hardest working man in video game voiceovers, Nolan North, shocked me when I found out he was playing the Penguin of all characters, but he did an alright job with it. Doing a bit of a cockney accent definitely helped as I don’t think his Nathan Drake voice would have worked here. The Penguin’s dark and twisted design this time around is also something that needs to be seen on a screen to be believed as his classic monocle has been replaced by a beer bottle that was jammed into his face and smoking cigars and cigarettes all those years has left him with an advanced voice box. Beautifully twisted and dark indeed.

I’ve also been really impressed with Maurice LaMarche as Mr. Freeze, best known as The Brain from Pinky and the Brain, Egon in The Real Ghostbusters, and, well, he’s basically had one role or another in every major cartoon of the past thirty years. Although only seeing him in trailers, I wanted to mention what an awesome touch I think Maurice is bringing to the character in the few lines I’ve heard and I thought it was a stroke of genius by the sound guys to make him sound so normal when he has his helmet open, and so mechanical when he closes it up.

With our demo all but done, so many questions were answered, but even more were popping into my head. How deep does the conspiracy go? What does Batman do to disprove to Hugo Strange that he and Bruce Wayne are one and the same? What unannounced villains will rear their head? How will the fights against the likes of Mr. Freeze and the Riddler go down? How will displaced villains like the Penguin from the Iceberg Lounge and Black Mask from Sionis Industries affect the landscape? Will we get to drive the Batmobile?! What will happen to the Joker in the long term?! I’m getting amped up just thinking about it! All I know for sure is that we here at EGM are going to be covering this game like a Kevlar glove with triangular fins so you had better stay tuned to our coverage here for more on this Game of the Year contender. Same Bat-EGMNow.com time, same Bat-EGMNow.com channel!

What are you all looking most forward to about Batman Arkham City? What other questions do you still have about the game? What has you most excited about the game’s release? What unannounced surprises do you think they have in store for us? Let us know with comments below!

World’s Finest Assassin comes to Arkham City

THE BUZZ: Yet another foe in Batman’s lengthy Rogues Gallery has been added to Arkham City. This time, the World’s Finest Assassin, Deadshot, has been revealed by Rocksteady Games and confirmed by GTTV’s Geoff Keighley as being the latest addition within the city’s walls. Interestingly enough though, Batman is not Deadshot’s initial target, but if he gets in the way of the assassin’s hits, I’m sure Batman will make the list soon enough. Expect screens and trailers of The Man Who Never Misses as they become available.

EGM’S TAKE: A surprising choice to say the least as Deadshot’s inconsistent personality over the years depending on who has written him has led him to have a small following at best compared to many of Batman’s more iconic villains. After hearing that a new villain was to be revealed, I personally had predicted the unveiling of the Mad Hatter, especially as Paul Dini’s 5-issue comic mini-series branching Arkham Asylum to Arkham City and published by DC Comics showed classic Hatter henchmen The Carpenter and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in its final pages within the confines of the city. Not to say they won’t be there in the end, but Deadshot was definitely a shock as a diehard Batman fan, especially with his new, toned down design in lieu of his typical body armor and helmet seen in the comics. The simplified look is being played off that Deadshot needed to sneak into Arkham City to complete his hits and so he posed as a more common inmate, but the cockiness of the character rarely puts him out of his traditional body armor for long so this haphazard hand-me-down was a bit disappointing to see, but those wrist cannons look like they can get the job done no matter how second hand they may be.

If curious to know more about Deadshot, check out my full profile of him over at the EGM Geek Now page by clicking here.