Before anyone asks, that is not a misprint. I am indeed reviewing Batman Arkham City via or for Onlive, the reason is very simple. There are only 2 games I know my computer won’t play from last year that I really, REALLY want to play. Batman Arkham City and Skyrim, also have a stressed how much I want to play these games? Now Skyrim, I can’t work around it but Batman there was Onlive. I am going to try hard not to review Onlive as a service or Virgin Media and its woeful “Fair Usage” policy but I have a feeling it will turn up in a review of this type.
Let’s get it out of the way first, is this as fun or as good as the first game? Easy answer is yes. Does it have a good, solid story arc to the main story? Again yes. And is this game playing it “safe”? Yes and no, it’s the same basic game as the first but in a game world that is about 5 times the size of the first game and there are some problems with this game…
The main story arc is a real rollercoaster which has you met up with some of Batman’s greatest foes and well, twat ‘em in the Arkham superb combat system. Small problem with this is that the story tries to cram as many of the villains into it that they start to feel like they have only got bit parts, hell the last battle is clearly both fan service and a bit part, with the line “You’re not meant to be here *Blank*”. Still the boss battles are varied and nowhere near as samey as the first game.
With a game world 5 times bigger and an open world format why not space the other villains into side mission (of which there are plenty) and let them have multiply paths and larger story arcs? Everything feels like it’s been crammed into the main story, which is a shame. Also in a game which is so open world, Arkham City lost the superb Scarecrow freak-outs from the first game which was my favourite parts of the first game, they really opened up Batman’s mind to help explain why he does, what he does.
As with the first game the voice acting is spot on and again they have taken the dark moody design of the current Batman movies and spliced it with the voice actors of the cartoon series, so there is always a voice you’ll remember. I don’t like the way the game wants you to kill off villains in a way that means they can’t do another game, you know like Two-Face in The Dark Knight Returns. Just because a voice actor hasn’t signed up to do the next game… Rocksteady. I always hated this practise, blocking out returns is just plain dumb.
The combat, which let’s face it are the Arkham games main feature, is still spot on and I’m glad to see that Rocksteady didn’t mess around with it. It’s still a superb mix of counters, combos and using Batman’s gadgets to get the highest combo score you can which helps you level up faster. A lot of the gadgets are opened up from the start this time, but you still get some extra ones and there is some unforeseen teaming up which gives you a great couple of new toys.
Travelling throughout the city is handled by walking is you’re dumb or by gliding if you’re not. There are no signs of the Batman’s trademarked car or motorcycle. Even if there was I don’t think the streets would be any state to be driven on, which is fine the gliding is much more fun. I did find myself having to use the map more than once to get around, there are some marks you can use but if you’re saying trying to do and be somewhere more personal to you (as a fan), on ground level most areas look about the same.
Just like the first game, the engine is Unreal Engine 3. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s not showing its age as of yet. The engineers at Rocksteady have really worked some magic because there isn’t really any loading screen and everything flows just perfectly along. This is the point I should re-remind my readers this is the Onlive version and Onlive uses the latest, high-end machines. I’m sure on a slower computer or on a console the loading screen that this game does have would take longer.
The only thing I will comment on the graphics isn’t at all a knock on the game, but because Onlive uses so much data, after about one to two hours I would be bottlenecked and the video quality would drop to just shit levels and the sound would go really weird. Often the music would be so loud I couldn’t hear the vocal work of the people I was gliding over. It was possible to play like it, in a windowed box, but I wouldn’t normally to put up with it. However the game is so good and I’m from the C64 years onwards, I understand that graphics aren’t everything and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Because I’m playing the Onlive version, in which every game is the full version. I also got to play as Catwoman. To be fair, she plays a lot like Batman. Combat wise she is the same, only different gadgets and her “thief vision” is Batman’s “Detective Mode” with a colour swop. She doesn’t glide around the City like Batman, instead she whips around it (and I mean with a real whip) and it looks more like she is smacking her face into the side of building. It’s kind of fun to watch. There is also an evil ending found in her game, it’s clever and witty. They even start rolling the credits before then reversing them (like a video) and “smacking you on the wrist” and telling you to play the good girl, I would like to see a real evil ending here, but still, crafty bastard for adding it in there.
Outside of all of that, its clever game and the main story arc took me about 10 hour and some of that was the normal open world dick around. I have played some of the game afterwards but I must say, just like the first game I don’t see there being that much replay for me. Don’t get me wrong there are challenge maps, high score boards and DLC for those who want more but for me. I’m done. Saying that I rented the game from Onlive for 5 days and it took just under two of those 5 days so I guess I’ll pop into it before the rental ends.
So yes, it’s a great game. They lost one or two of the best bits from the first game and added a play world that was much, much bigger. Its fan service, but it’s worth any gamer playing at the same time. I also see why this game was a maybe for our Game of the Year and at the time I couldn’t have voted for it as I had not played it. Still I wouldn’t have voted it because it’s not better than the winner. It’s great, it’s fun and it was worth the wait on my behalf to play it. Don’t miss out!
Score: 90% – I’m Batman, but in a city!