Hello, folks. I know it’s been a while since my last post, but you know how life goes. Between a month-long holiday back home (where I volunteered for the Video X Games), new projects at work, and new projects outside of work, it’s been by far the craziest summer of life. Now that the wind and rains have descended upon The Netherlands, I’ve got some time to update this blog, just in time for First Look 2013, the next-gen console launch and what seems like a bazillion game launches.
And what better game launch to prep for than the highly anticipated Batman: Arkham Origins? And what better way to prepare for that title than by playing through Batman: Arkham City? I couldn’t think of anything either. I started running through Arkham City over the weekend which, by the way, was peppered with Gotham-like stormy weather. As is usually our custom, my sister and I split the cost of a new copy 50/50 upon its release, and we bargained that she would get the Catwoman code. Luckily for me, she now lives with me, so this was my first play-through with Miss Kyle.
What I loved about Arkham City were the improvements made to the combat system from Arkham Asylum, which was already pretty cool to begin with. Everything in Batman: AC however, just seemed crisper and newer than Asylum, while essentially staying the same. The set piece of Arkham City itself was impressive all on its own; the grit and grime almost palpable as you soar overhead or creep along in the shadows to your target(s). The grapple system was an epic lifesaver through all this, and the potential for exploration and discovery makes Arkham City one of my favourite replay games.
However, even on this second play-through, I was still frustrated by the increased difficulty in obtaining the Riddler trophies. I know it’s maybe silly to gripe about a collectible game within the game, but I can’t help but feel that a player should be challenged, but not utterly frustrated, by the puzzles they face. There was one trophy, for example, where I angrily cursed Batman’s cape because it let me float down gently when I really needed to just dive bomb onto the target. The timer of 9 seconds from point-of-activation didn’t help. The fact that the Riddler trophies and riddles were bound so tightly to the Riddler Hostage side mission only made it more frustrating, as I could never quite progress far enough in the secrets pursuit to move the side mission forward. So, scratch that one for me. However, the other side missions, in addition to the main mission, were so enjoyable that they negated the frustration of the Riddler’s.
You can’t talk about Batman and not mention the incredible voice acting. You know who I’m talking about; Mark freaking Hamill. I know, he’s been the voice of the Joker for years, but it never ceases to amaze me how absolutely psychotic he sounds and how vividly he brings the character to life. Always hilarious to me is Nolan North as Penguin; of course we all know North from Uncharted, but you know how you never really put a face to a name until you see them in something else? Yeah. Pretty Little Liars is my guilty pleasure, and Mr, North plays Peter Hastings. It’s clear to see that vocal acting is his clear calling though. No offense Nolan! You’re my home boy!
Notice how I don’t even mention Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne. That’s because Kevin Conroy is so awesome, he just exists and does not require mention.
All in all, Arkham City offers pretty good replay value for your buck (or euro). It was a well thought-out campaign story that linked the events of Arkham Asylum with current events. The chatter among the thugs was a nice touch as well; they were dropping name references (Black Mask) and other comments about Asylum moments (Bane getting hit with the Batmobile) as you navigate the Arkham City set piece. It helps to flesh out the story, and sometimes you even get an extra hint towards solving a Riddle. Playing Batman: AC for the second time has certainly got the excitement going for Batman Arkham Origins. I’ve pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition, so I might do an unboxing and upload it to YouTube, if enough people bug me to do so.
If you’re in The Netherlands and you’re interested in previewing games, consoles and other goodies before their release, check out First Look 2013 in Utrecht. I’m heading up on October 6, and with all the next-gen everything coming out, it’s bound to be an exciting event!