LiveBlog: Batman: Arkham City

SPOILER WARNING. From here in out I’m going to be giving away story and plot points. If you intend on playing the game and want to remain spoiler-free, stop flipping reading, you idiots. For everyone else, welcome.

A little re-cap before we begin – Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to Rocksteady’s 2009 hit Batman: Arkham Asylum, in which you are tasked with stopping the nefarious Joker as he breaks free and takes over the institute for the criminally insane. Locked inside the asylum with The Joker and many other members of Batman’s colourful cast, you are the only thing that stands in their way of the total destruction of Gotham City.

Arkham Asylum is a brilliant game. Crafted with such care and attention to detail, it finally gave Batman, and superheroes, a videogame they could be proud of. It would of been my Game Of The Year, if not for a stellar Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves. To say I was excited about Asylum’s follow-up, Arkham City, would be an understatement. Let’s get to it, shall we?

9:00pm Saturday 22nd October

Having pre-ordered this game back in February you’d think the very least Amazon could do is get the game to me on the day of release. But no, seemingly that means nothing. It finally arrived on the Saturday, a day late. You might think that not unreasonable, but I am not a reasonable man. Anyway, I thought I could get a quick game in before I ventured to work. But again, no. This time Xbox Live was conspiring me against with the slowest download ever for the Catwoman DLC. So, eventually, at nine, on a Saturday, I get to play the game. And, my gosh, is it a corker…

If you’ve played through, or just watched the video above, you know it’s a hell of an opening. With the DLC activated, your first taste of action is not as The Batman, it’s as Catwoman, which is a brave and bold move. Then things get even braver and bolder by revealing Hugo Strange’s capture of Bruce Wayne and the revelation that he knows Wayne is Batman! Sweet Moses! After a brutal breakout by Wayne, you finally get in the iconic Batsuit, and the game starts proper.

Arkham City is a little bit daunting after the closed and claustrophobic Arkham Asylum. The ability to go anywhere and to do anything confuses at first, but soon, as the plot comes to the fore and as the separate side missions start to distinguish themselves, it becomes a joy. There’s no greater pleasure for me than dropping out of the sky into a bunch of goons and kicking muchos arseholio, leaping around the screen, breaking may a-limb as I go. It is a joy.

Hugo Strange mentions the mysterious “Protocol Ten”, an action or event that is due to happen in ten hours. This is the ticking clock and main plot of the game. I think. In the meantime, I burst into the courthouse and rescue Catwoman from Two-Face, only for her nearly to be the victim of an assassin’s bullet. Some basic sleuthing leads me to the a church opposite and that little minx, Harley Quinn. This gives me chance to check out the new predator moves. The patrolling guards seem a lot more sensitive and aware of their environment, so no more grappling up on to the gargoyles and magically disappearing. Must remember to take my time. There’s no rush. Patience is a virtue.

After the break-in at The Joker’s hideout at the Sionis steel mill, I take out some of his goons and get the use of the electric stun weapon (it confuses me at first). Using it to break into The Joker’s lair, I get to take on Mr Hammer, the one-armed hammer swinging maniac from the clip. He turns out to be disappointingly easy. Shame. Bats confronts The Joker and Harley only where he finds out that The Clown Prince Of Crime is dying from the after effects of the Titan formula he used in Arkham Asylum. The Dark Knight is knocked out cold and infected with the disease too!

While The Bat is unconscious, you get your next mission as The Cat. You need to break into a building with a huge security door. Catwoman reasons she’ll need some help, and that help should be Poison Ivy! You fight your way into her little hideaway and battle some prisoners and guards in the thrall of Ivy, only to get captured again. Luckily, Ms Kyle acknowledges her situation and gets a little giggle from me…

3:30pm Sunday 23rd October

A more relaxed “see where the game takes me” play today, after the sensory overload of yesterday’s session. The now conscious Batman is told by The Joker that Mr Freeze is working on a cure to the disease and, you know, it’ll be probs be best if he finds him and gets it. I meander my way over to “the coldest place on the map” (apparently) getting into a few fights, kicking ass along the way.

The Penguin has captured Mr Freeze for his “collection”, I have to rescue him. That’s all I bloody do. Rescue him, rescue her, rescue them, why can’t somebody rescue ME for a change? Sigh. On my way to the Iceberg Lounge, I stumble across the church where I rescued (See?) some GCPD from Harley Quinn. This time it’s decked out in green question marks. I wonder what that could mean?

Anyway, back to that darn Penguin. He’s holed up in a museum which houses his freakish collection. I take out his minions, battling a Titan monster, another one-armed giant (but this time with a scythe), and, well, a shark. Yeah, I know. At least I didn’t jump it, eh? EH? Whatevs, bro…

I save Freeze and head off to take down Penguin once and for all. I do it all in pretty awesome way, because I am pretty awesome. All is going well until he blows up the Lounge and reveals bloody SOLOMON GRUNDY. He’s big, scary, and vicious. but I eventually stumble upon his weakness, and I exploit it to its full extent (it is a videogame after all). Grundy taken care of, The Penguin is easy. Dodge his rocket launcher and punch his face off. Sweets. I take him to Freeze. Freeze says he hasn’t got a cure for The Joker/Batman’s disease because it degrades to quickly. Bats analyses the formula and works out that he needs someone with 600 year old blood (as you do) and there’s only one person out there that old – RA’S AL GHUL! Super Sweet…

9:00pm Monday 24th October

I’m kind of thankful for that ninja (who just so happens to work for Ra’s Al Ghul) being in The Penguin’s collection. If not for her, Batman would die trying to find Ra’s and the game would end there and then. Depressing. Way to go happenstance! I follow her bloody trail across Arkham City and catch up with her atop a building where a certain person makes an appearance…

ROBIN. The Boy Wonder isn’t around for long, but I guess that’s down to him having his own DLC. Ah well. Good to see him, though. My epic tracking skillz leads to Wonder City, I fight some ninja, take data off some ancient robots. It’s all in a day’s work for The Dark Knight. Bats is like, well sick by the time he meets Talia and confronts Ra’s Al Ghul, and things get a bit trippy…

Batman wins out though, and I let out another little giggle at the brutality of the blood-taking. Leaving Wonder City, I confront a few of The Joker’s goons who have gone to war with what’s left of The Penguin’s gang. Arkham City, not exactly the most peaceful of areas to begin with, is tearing itself apart. A call comes over the headset, Hugo Strange has ordered the kidnap of the Mayor Quincy Sharp (You may remember him as the head warden in Arkham Asylum)! I set off to rescue the big idiot and do so with some slick moves, bruv.

After rescuing Sharp I’m told by Oracle that I must go and get the cure from Mr Freeze, no pissing about with The Joker first. Spoilsport. Turns out that’s a good thing, though, because it sets up one of the more enjoyable boss battles in the game. You get to the old Gotham City Police Department, covered in ice, and face Freeze. He makes the formula but places it in a safe before ordering Bats to rescue his wife, Nora, from The Clown Prince Of Crime. The Batdude doesn’t take to kindly to this and the pair duke it out…

There can only be one winner, Batman goes to the safe and finds the formula gone, taken by Harley Quinn. Freeze already new this and offers Batman a weapon to help him break in to The Joker’s lair. Again.

12:00pm Tuesday 25th October

This game is desperate to distract you from the main storyline as much as possible. After defeating Freeze, the very moment I step out side, I’m faced by reporter Vicki Vale’s helicopter being shot from the sky by that darn Joker and off I go again on another rescue mission. Luckily, it doesn’t distract for too long, just take out a few snipers trying pick off Ms Vale from afar.

The lame-ass Lois Lane wannabe rescued, another distraction comes up in the form of another side-mission. I check it out and it’s good news! Alfred calls and says he and Robin have manufactured a cure and the Batwing is dropping it off on a building top! Yay! Off I head to the marker point. Batman opens the package and injects himself with the contents. Uh-oh. Bats gets woozy and collapses. This is not good.

He awakens to a bright light and masked goons sat around a table. It’s a tea party. Oh no. It’s The Mad Hatter! And thus begins the trippiest sequence I’ve found in the game so far. The Mad Hatter places a rabbit-faced mask (very reminiscent of Donnie Darko’s Frank) on The Dark Knight and forces him to fight his masked goons on a falling clock!

The Mad Hatter defeated, it’s time to get to The Joker. While on my way I’m distracted by the assassination of political prisoner on a rooftop (it’s a side-mission thing), I trace the bullet to another rooftop and discover Deadshot is in Arkham City. He’ll have to wait, though. The Joker needs tackling. I break into the Sionis steel mill once again, this time through the water system (Mr Freeze’s ice bombs coming in handy making temporary platforms). I find a trussed up Harley Quinn who reveals the whereabouts of a another of Mr Freeze’s weapons. I get it and finally take on The Joker.

Looking a lot healthier, The Joker sets his goons on The Bat. We see Mr Hammer and another of the Titan beasties. It doesn’t take too long to clear the room but some masonry fall and traps Batman. Joker goes for the kill but is stopped by Talia Al Ghul who offers him the chance of immortality by using the Lazarus Pit and taking over from Ra’s as the leader of The League Of Shadows. Talia says that Bats should have followed his heart and triggers a homing bug on her (sizeable) chest. Talia and The Joker leave with Batman stuck…

We switch back to Catwoman now, who uses her considerable charm to convince Poison Ivy to help her break into the vault below Hugo Strange’s lair. Ivy holds up her end of the bargain and break through a wall allowing Ms Kyle to get in. Once there, The Cat has to pickpocket three security cards from the guards, which makes for a fun change of pace, but it’s only brief because soon you have to take out the guards anyway to gain access to the vault. While taking out the TYGER guards, the countdown for Protocol Ten ends and Hugo Strange launches an all-out attack on the Arkham City inmates, wiping them out.

Once in the vault, Cat “takes care” of Ivy’s plant and collects the items she so desperately wanted. Hugo, aware of the break-in, sends some more guards to deal with Selina, but she makes brief work of them. As she leaves, she notices Batman pinned to the ground and hears the order for him to be killed from Strange. The Cat is left with a decision – cut and run with the money or lose everything and rescue Batman. I choose The Bat, obvs.

7:oopm Tuesday 25th October

Rescued by Selina and with Protocol Ten in full effect, it’s time to storm Wonder Tower and take down Hugo Strange. First I am tasked with finding the helicopter right code to gain entry to the complex. I find it the most annoying part of the game as the choppers always seem to be slightly too far away to be scanned. Get too close and it’s BLAMMO! Of course, a lot of this is down to my impatience to get to the tower and face Strange, and it’s only annoying in the world of the Arkham games because the quality is so high. In some games, this sequence would be the highlight. No foolies.

Anyway, I get the code and begin my assault. Strange doesn’t make it easy so there are several sections where you have to battle TYGER guards and take down those with patrolling with weapons. A bit of patience and you can take them all out without much of a problem. I catch the lift up the tower, it only takes me half the way before I have to start the climb myself. It’s pretty simple, you just have to keep an eye out for places to grapple and holds to jump and climb across. At the top there’s another predator section taking out the guards protecting Strange. Rather funnily, Strange is keeping a watch too and spots Bats to giveaway his position (you’ll see it happen in the video below. It helps me in this situation). Batman confronts Strange and gets Oracle to end Protocol Ten.

Hugo does the bad guy spiel about why he committed these heinous crimes and he does he gets stabbed by RA’S AL GHUL! Okay, I admit, I wasn’t too shocked by this revelation because when Strange (and Quincy Sharp) talked about greater powers being control, there really aren’t many more powerful and with need to control then Ra’s and The League Of Shadows. Betrayed, a dying Strange tells the computer to enact Protocol Eleven, a self-destruct sequence. Batman and Ra’s leap from Wonder Tower as it explodes, fighting in free-fall. In a bid to destroy The Bat, Ra’s thrusts his sword through his own body but he misses and falls, impaling himself on a church spire. Two bad guys down, one to go…

The Joker, now looking his old self, has Talia in The Monarch Theatre. It’s covered by snipers. A swift and silent takedown of each builds up for the final confrontation. You walk in. A black and white film is playing, ‘The End’ fills the screen. The Joker has Talia at gunpoint. She swings free and uses her sword to stab The Joker! He falls to floor, dead. What a well bitch. And she like, makes it worse by revealing SHE stole the formula not Harley. Wait. If The Joker didn’t have the formula then how come he looked so well? Flashback. It dawns on The Bat that it’s NOT The Joker. A shot rings out and Talia falls to the floor. Up in the rafters is The Joker looking very unwell. Twist-a-gogo! The double starts to swell and deform. It’s only bloody Clayface! Batman battles him and eventually does away with the muddy bugger. He gets the formula and drinks it. Out of nowhere The Joker stabs him in the arm. He drops the formula to the floor. The Joker’s last salvation has gone. He dies. The Joker is dead. Batman carries his body out of Arkham City and the screen fades to black. The end, indeed.

Well, it would be if you don’t have the Catwoman DLC. Selina has one more thing to do. You head back to apartment to collect her things, only for it to blow up. It feels a bit awkward this scene, like it was meant to happen BEFORE the big goings down with the Bat. If we think Catwoman has been killed it would have made for a much better cliffhanger before we get back to her for the final mission. As it is, there’s no cliffhanger at all as Ms Kyle wakes up to take on a few of Two-Face’s goons. Two-Face is holed-up in the museum. Let’s go get that binary bastard. It plays out pretty much the same way as Batman’s battle there. Beat up a few goons (Check out my accidental 40+ hit combo on the vid. I say “accidental” because the moment I noticed it was that high I messed up!). When you get to Harvey Dent, he’s surrounded by armed men and has a grenade launcher himself. Rather annoyingly, unlike any other part in the game, this one seems to have endless respawning enemies. I kept silently taking out goons without ever thinning their ranks. Anyway, when you work this out and target Harv, it isn’t too difficult. You beat him up and he reveals he gave half of Cat’s possessions away, giving you a reason to keep playing the game as you get them back.

And with that, it really is the end. Oh, there are some side-missions, but I’ll leave that for you to discover in your own time. As for the game, I loved it. Rocksteady have taken everything from Asylum and ramped it up. In Asylum you had your two separate and distinct gameplay styles. You had you free-flow combat and your stealth predator takedowns, and depending on which room you were in it alternated between the two. City’s open world blurs the lines between these to styles brilliantly and you can never be sure what’s coming next.

If I have some niggles, it’s to do with the story itself. Hugo Strange was set up to be such dominating character by the trailers, his knowing who Batman was a huge tease. Apart from the start where you’re Bruce, little reference is made to it. And when it turns out he was working for Ra’s? It all seems a little throwaway. The Joker’s story, though, was brilliantly handled. I’m sure brighter folk than me saw some the clues breadcrumbed through the game. I missed them until that fantastic flashback brought everything in to focus. And to kill off The Joker? Such a brave move! Mark Hamill’s final performance as The Clown Prince Of Crime is mesmerising. I’m gonna miss him now he’s gone. That said, I think it bodes well for the franchise, allowing another of Batman’s huge cast of villains to step to the fore.

Well, that’s my first LiveBlog proper. Hope you enjoyed. See ya for the next one!

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Uncharted 3 Launch Trailer is SPECTACULAR

Final Batman: Arkham City Trailer

Modern Warfare 3 Single Player Trailer – Redemption

Nintendo’s Super Mario 3D Land Video!

Brilliant Playstation 3 Live Long Play Advert

Nightwing In Batman: Arkham City? Also see Robin In Action!

Batman: Arkham City – The Joker To Have The Last Laugh?

Batman: Arkham City – New Villain Announced

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Modern Warfare 3 – Multiplayer Gameplay Trailer

LiveBlog: Deus Ex – Human Revolution

NHL ’94

Arkham City On Ice?

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