In between lightsaber fights, I took a break from luring Jedis to the dark side of the Force (yes, we have cookies, candy and kinky shows!) to come back to the good side of justice and righting any wrong on Earth and especially in Gotham City. It was a little weird at start, I wasn’t killing anyone, but the good part in Batman: Arkham City is the variety: characters (positive and negative), missions, fights and gadgets.
Coming on PC at about a month later than the console version, Arkham City includes the Catwoman DLC, my only regret being that it only has four episodes and it was little play with the thief feline. The action starts a few months after the events in Arkham Asylum: the ex-warden, Quincy Sharp, is now Gotham’s mayor and he shut down the mental institution to move all the crazy dudes, plus all the inmates of Blackgate prison, into a special enclosed area in the middle of the city.
Hugo Strange runs this new prison city and Batman knows that something’s wrong with all this. As it will be revealed, almost nothing is what it seems and, like in an Agatha Christie mystery, the ending is pulled out like the rabbit from the magic hat. Till there though, I must admit that the beginning is very interesting, actually ignoring the batman and presenting an action scene with a whip, tight latex suit, tail and pointy ears.
Mouse + keyboard or a controller?
Those of you who played Arkham Asylum will feel at home, with the basic gameplay mechanics coming back with improvements. I must admit I did very well on the usual peripherals of the PC, even if a gamepad makes it easier to execute the combos. On the other hand, most of the time it’s not the game’s fault that Batman dies in an overwhelming fight, but the „virus” in front of the PC, too slow or less patient in terms of stealth.
Of course, a frontal assault attack isn’t the best idea for a hero who doesn’t kill and has no fire arms. Batman’s strong points are his physical prowess and his gadgets, almost all usable during fights, right from the beginning or after unlocking some upgrades. The classic Batarang can be used to stun an enemy and then you can fly over him, jump him from behind or knock him unconscious, almost every situation meaning a boot or an elbow in the mouth.
The remote Batarang pushes otherwise unreachable buttons, the explosive gel opens up secret routes or takes out groups of opponents; the Batclaw pulls objects and disarms enemies and after some time you also get a little gadget that allows you to jam the rifles of at least two opponents. Moreover, the electric charger, the cryptographic sequencer or the freeze ray are just as useful to clean a room or just thin the enemy numbers.
On a lot of occasions you’ll need to get physical, not necessarily because there’s no other way, but just because it’s good to see how Kiss style painted bad guys fall under the rain of kicks and punches. Batman can eliminate two baddies at a time and the improvements of his suit offer better and better protection against all types of attacks. Very useful is the option to mask your body heat, as some enemies have detectors that make hiding in the darkness almost impossible.
Body attacks start from simple button mashing and evolve to combos dedicated to certain type of enemies. As you go along, you graduate from baddies with no weapons to armored thugs wielding shields and stun batons. These last three are the hardest to face and you need to be fast and precise in your combos to take them down.
The boss fights are another story and one of my complaints: once you get the jest of it, Joker, Mr. Freeze, Ra’s al Gul, Penguin and the others are easy to take down. Maybe Mr. Freeze is a little challenging and I’ll leave it to you to understand why the same move doesn’t work with him. Basically, each boss has a vulnerability and if you have the assistance switched on, things are very easy; you just need to hang for the 3-4 sessions of attacks.
The stealth part is just as good, my favorite being the Inverted Takedown. It’s not the only one, the possibilities going from simple hits (Silent Takedown) up to Hanging Ledge Takedown where you use your legs or just surprise kicks coming out from a vent, a window, a wooden wall or just waiting in a corner cover.
To analyze the situation, the bat suit has a Detective Mode: the image becomes a wireframe, the enemies are marked by heat signatures with number and weapons (fire arms are considered here, not bats), plus all Vantage Points, the electrical motors, the thin walls, even if bullet trajectories or blood stains for certain missions.
Since Catwoman is playable, she’s got some skills of her own: the whip makes climbing walls easier, the claws are fierce weapons, plus the bolas (thrown from a distance) and the Caltrops, traps to be laid out or thrown during battles with a double hit of the respective key. And, like any respectable kitty, Selina walks on ceilings and climbs structures with the help of their metal claws.