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Arkham City Day#2: The Big Bad City

Day#2 of Arkham City is a bit disappointing, honestly. The combat and predation is as cool as ever, and there are some really nice narrative bits in it. But there’s a central thing bothering me. They switched from a story game to an open-world one. There are just tons of side-quests and challenges to distract you from the main point, and I don’t like it. The game already feels bloated and scattered and I can’t help but say the game is weaker for it. It’s good, but not as good as the original, and I’m getting a little worried. Spoilers within.

It’s kind of a minor point to start this session with, but I really don’t like the game icon for Arkham City on the Xbox. I know the current story does a lot with Catwoman and Batman, but the image is one Batman facing to the right with Catwoman on his back facing the opposite direction. Batman is holding some kind of Batcable that’s somehow connected to Catwoman; it at least implies that she’s tied up. It’s way too bondage for me. Why is Batman a sexual character?  His Wayne persona is a playboy — the whole point is that is a ruse. I don’t want the Dark Knight to be sexual. I want him to be bad-ass. Boy, I hope this point ends with the icon.

Another 6 MB download? What’s up with this game and the updates? I get started again, parkouring my way to the church where the Joker should be. On the way there, I’m overhearing the radio chatter of the guards there and learn that Harly is inside. Hello villain number 5! Not even an hour into the game yet. I get to the church and beat up the guards outside. Guards down, I go in. I enter into a large hallway where Harly flips forward and attacks. I fend her off quickly, but then armed guards threaten some hostages so I’m kind of CS frozen. She tells me that the Joker is recovering and some doctor was taken to help him. She leaves, telling the guards to keep me here. Batman CS thinks that he can’t charge armed guards, so I get an instruction to throw a smoke bomb. I do and Bat-grapple my way into the rafters. It’s predator time. I’m told to use my X-ray like detective view and learn that there are four guards altogether. I take down the first two under careful instruction by getting behind them, dropping to the floor and then hitting Y to knock them both out. I get a third guy through a thin wall with another Y takedown. To take the last guard down,  I have to glide across the room to a ledge in order to take down him from behind so that he can’t kill the hostage in front of him. But I don’t know the glide controls and I get it wrong like three times, dropping in front of him leading him to kill the hostage and making me replay the scene. The fourth time I finally figure it out. I take the guy out and the hostages are free.

I talk to the doctors and the guards. I learn about one doctor that cut his face off when he went mad. He’s clinging to a box they can’t get out of his hands. There doesn’t seem to be anything to do with this, but it seems way too intricate to not be a plot point. Oh well. I also learn that have to find a doctor that Harly kidnapped. The next step according to my mission list is to get to the bell tower to see if the Joker is there. Not sure how to get there, so I explore around the rafters a little while. And helpful guy that Batman is, he reminds me periodically that the gunshot came from the bell tower. Periodically here being every 45 seconds or so. For ten minutes. With exactly the same line. Imagine how fun that is. Finally, I find a way to climb up when I spot a door I missed. I climb for a bit and enter the top room. There I find rifle that’s being remotely controlled. The Joker comes in over televisions and taunts me. He then sets off some bombs. I jump out as the tower explodes and as the tower burns, Batman says that he has a radio signal on the Joker and can find him.

I start heading to that location by jumping from roof to roof, but as I go, I notice there are a couple of side quests. It’s kind of annoying to find them because the map in the game doesn’t show height and so there’s no way to exactly find my way to them, and I’m not currently sure how to make them show up on when I’m running around on the main game screen. Despite the frustration, I do find my way to the first side quest. I beat up some random thugs on the roof and enter a building. Inside, I find Bane. He and Batman CS talk and he says he’s looking to destroy the remaining Titan containers to keep it away from others. Batman agrees to find six while Bane finds the other six, but he warns Bane not to lie to him. It’s a nice scene. The barrels now appear on my map, but they are just as much a pain to find as the side quest was. I also stumble across something called an AR challenge. They are gliding challenges where I have to glide through a series of circles in the air. There are four altogether in this side quest. I get through the first two paths pretty simply, but the third one involves a big drop that I’m not getting so I give up for now.

Between the first and second AR paths, I hear a phone ringing. I do the map search to find it and then have to beat up some guards (sloppily this time) to pick it up. It’s Zsasz saying he’s got something set up for me, and it is creepy as hell. Zsasz is a great villain. Still, that’s three side quests in one trip. It feels scattered. I don’t really want to play GTA here. I liked Arkham Asylum with a very strong main plot and some very simple side quests that I could take care of afterwards. There is a story here and I want to follow it. I don’t want to be distracted by a hundred other things. Anyway, I find the Joker’s signal and it’s an amusement park, a very nice setting. There seems to be a Titan container here, but while I’m looking for it, I jump into a chimney by accident which turns out to be the entrance to the Joker’s base. Ok, I guess I’m back on mission then. There’s a CS of Batman falling into the active furnace and landing on a wire over the flame. I jump off the wire on to a ledge and then wander around the inside of the chimney. Along the way, I get introduced to my other tools by using them to keep going: the Batclaw to open a pipe to cool an overheated steaming barrier, the explosive gel to blow a hole in a floor. There’s clearly a bit more of this furnace ahead, so I decide to call it a night.

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