My first review “Initial Thoughts: Batman Arkham City” outlined the basics of the plot, so see that entry if you want a starter. Today I will being going deeper in the belly of this decaying, beauty of a city and yes, that means spoilers will be found but I will make sure to mark those areas.
Watching a game is different form playing. You aren’t in control of things so it’s hard to connect as deeply with what you are playing. You are getting the heart pounding that comes with needing to push the right button or risk death because it is all out of your hands. Sure, you can backseat game to some extent by telling the player what to do or where to go, but whether or not they take your advice is a completely different story. If are really going to enjoy watching a game you either have to get into the story or get into backseat gaming and hope to god someone will listen. For me my major investment has always been the stories of games. Yes, I’ve dabbled in giving game advice (And I’m pretty damn good at it once I get my bearings) but it is the stories and characters where my deepest investment lies. Narration is the key to game watching.
I love cut scenes. If a game does not have interesting cut scenes, it loses a large chunk of what game watching needs. There are many ways to handle cut scenes so that they are both brief (so the player can get back to the game) and engaging (so I don’t lose interest while the play gathers hp for three hours). Dialogue between characters is also important. They need to be insightful without turning it to a flashing exposition dump. Arkham City creates cut scenes and dialogue that both move the plot and engage the audience. They help the player know that they need A to get to B so that they can do C and the cinematic quality that makes watching sustainable. I felt as much invested in the story as the player. I wanted to see Batman to the end and save the day. The stakes were high enough and the danger of not fixing things was believable. If you watch a movie you have to have an investment in the characters and storyline to keep you going, this is often the same for a game watcher. Arkham City used these elements to both further the adventure and push the mystery. We don’t really know what is going on with the story and as soon as we think we’ve figured it out, it punches you in the face with a twist that would make damn M. Night Shyamalan blush (God Damn thank you IMDB for saving me from spelling that!). If you want adventure, it’s got it. If you need mystery, you’ll be clicking your heeling in joy. And if you action freaks need a fix, oh the friends you are about to make!
As a game watcher I often have to find a very rare mix to enjoy viewing a game from start to finish. If there is nothing but senseless button mashing, I’m going to lose interest fast. Arkham City does have a somewhat repetitive fighting style to watch, but it never fails to improve itself throughout the game. The most common fights you will run into are when large groups of minions attack Batman with hand-to-hand combat. If this were a basic punching game this would be the part that I normally sleep through. City, though, finds a blend of changing up Batman’s jabs so that you have an interested, almost choreographed battle to watch. Upon delivering the defeating blow to the finial baddy of the group we get to see fun, slow motion sequences of Batman bashing their faces in. The minions also can grab weapons to change up the combat and force Bats to rely on some of his gadgets!
SPOILERS SPOILERS YOU CAN’T GET MAD AT ME BECAUSE I WARNED YOU SPOILERS BE AHEAD!
ENDING IS HERE.
Am I sad to see this adventure end on such a note of uncertainty? Yes. Am I terrified that no third game can be as good as this last one? You have no idea. Still, I have faith brought on by the fact that I know this game has been in damn good hands this far. I would watch this game again a thousand times and the many side quests and Catwoman sub-plot have promised that I don’t have to leave the City just yet. I am an invested watcher and that, my friends, is hard to do.
Hugs and Kisses,