Batman: Arkham City im Test - The Dark Knight Rises

Author: Daniel Matschijewsky
Date: 2011-11-24 16:35:00
Not just a sequel, but an evolution. Batman: Arkham City effortlessly outshines its already brilliant predecessor Arkham Asylum. The PC version in the GameStar test.

It reads like the "who's who" of the super villains: Two-Face, Joker, Mr. Freeze, the Penguin, Poison Ivy, Bane, Riddler. They are all stuck in Arkham City, a mega-prison that the city administration stomped out of a remote part of Gotham City after the Arkham Asylum Asylum was closed, and then walled in all the bad guys the Batman universe had to offer. And in the middle of them the Dark Knight flutters himself. But not voluntarily, because at the beginning of Batman: Arkham City , the bat man is kidnapped by Hugo Strange, head of the institution, and thrown to the lions. Not without ulterior motives, as we can quickly find out. The scientist has dark plans in which ... well, we don't want to reveal any more at this point. Because the story, which is extremely exciting to the end, is one of the highlights of the action game. One of many more.

The game world: An open-air jail to feel good

No, Arkham City is not a nice place. Masked racquet types patrol the streets bathed in ghostly light, burned-out car wrecks block the lanes. A gray veil of snowflakes and smog hangs over everything, repeatedly broken through by red and green neon signs.

Part of the city is flooded, collapsed highway bridges and meter-high gurgling sea water often make it impossible to get through on foot. One might almost think that you are in a post-apocalyptic world, but the joker, who is not exactly known for his subtle streak, quickly nullifies this impression. In the east we clearly see the area of the Scherzbold. No other gangster would be so crazy to decorate his headquarters with festival lighting and gigantic clown heads. These and many other details make the already impressive Arkham establishment of the predecessor from 2009 look pale and make the Arkham City game world a very special place. A place where we quickly lose ourselves thanks to its eerily beautiful atmosphere and where we discover something new, bizarre or exciting on every corner. Simply exploring the city is a lot of fun, especially since we are swinging so elegantly and quickly from one house facade to the next with the grab hook known from Arkham Asylum that even Assassin's Creed climbing maxim Ezio Auditore should be pale with envy.

The orders: there is so much to do

In order not to lose orientation in Arkham City, Batman uses a practical map that lists all current main and side missions. Anyone who interrogates green shining Riddler followers will see from now on all the secrets of the crazy puzzle-maker hidden in the respective district.

However, the card could have used a little more fine-tuning. So we see all the objects, quest targets and people we are looking for, but not whether they are located above or below ground. Especially in the steelworks and in the winding sewers, the search for the right place is often a test of patience. A small drawback, because exploring the city is a lot of fun, especially thanks to the numerous side orders that are perfectly integrated into the game. We search crime scenes for evidence to arrest a murdering sniper, track radio signals from Victor Zsasz or hunt down a killer who pretends to be Batman's alter ego Bruce Wayne. Occasionally, the multi-level orders are even linked to the main story. For example, we should look for Mr. Freeze, whom we had just released from the penguin's claws, to find his missing wife Nora. If we show him this kindness, he will give us a practical tool - it motivates.

The figures: it couldn't be more crazy

Arkham City generally draws much of its fascination from the characters. Batman author Paul Dini was allowed to let off steam and consistently continues the gloomy gait pursued in the first part: the joker has never been so evil and understated, the penguin has never been experienced as such a cold-blooded gangster boss. Here the comic-like, ridiculous dwarf with a top hat, pointed nose and monocle suddenly becomes a dirty, frightening villain, over whose scarred left eye sits the splintered bottom of a glass bottle. And then there is Batman, who not only has to grapple with jokers and companions, but also with his tragic past, which always catches up with him in the course of the plot. For example, Arkham City stages a powerful hero, but a tangible and vulnerable one, one with whom we struggle, sympathize and suffer - that's great art of storytelling.

The level design: coherent and clever

But the main and side quests not only tell exciting stories, they are also outstandingly designed. The principle here: If Batman gets a new gadget, he is guaranteed to have to use it in the future.

The level design is bursting with inventiveness. In order to track down the assassin's guild of Ra's al Ghul (the villain from Batman Begins), Batman has to shoot his way through narrow street canyons with his recently acquired rope thrower. Elsewhere, in flooded channels, the ice floes shot into the water with the Freeze grenade must be carefully maneuvered past rotating drills. Most of the 400 Riddler puzzles can only be solved by cleverly using his toys - if he already has them at the moment. How often we stood brooding in front of a locked gate, at a loss as to how we would open it, only to return triumphantly later, because thanks to our new electric charge we can now unlock it.

Practical: If you get stuck despite the well-placed information, you can use the detective view mode known from Arkham Asylum to help you. It not only highlights fragile areas in walls or gargoyles where Batman can pull himself up, but also enemies and armaments even through the thickest walls. In addition, Batman automatically announces when we are currently on the wrong track in the current order.

The struggles: one against all

In addition to puzzles and dexterity, Batman also has to deal with all sorts of nasty socks that he has to eliminate in brawls. As in Arkham Asylum, the program uses the so-called »Free Flow« combat system, thanks to which we use the few buttons to jump back and forth between the opponents and knock them unconscious through all kinds of elaborately animated combo maneuvers.

Tactics are required. Bats equipped with shields, for example, are completely unimpressed by frontal attacks. So we first jump over the head of the boys with an elegant somersault and then fall into their unprotected back. In turn, we either smoke armed enemies with smoke bombs or steal the gun from a targeted Batarang throw. This works very well with the mouse and keyboard, but we still recommend a gamepad.

Even if Batman - if you have enough dexterity - tidies up the ranks of the opponents, the direct confrontation is usually a bad idea. Especially in the main missions, it often happens that Batman shouldn't be noticed, because otherwise hostages would be shot. So it is important to operate in the covert, swing from head to head, analyze the paths of the opponents and strike as silently as possible at the right moment. At moments like this, Arkham City creates pure excitement: How do I best move through the arena so as not to get caught? Which objects can I use to my advantage? Which opponent do I take out first? If the plan works and the section is finally mastered, we often feel like the Dark Knight himself.

The AI: almost human

The very good enemy AI also contributes to this gripping atmosphere. Because if you show up too often or use the same trick over and over again, you have to watch how the boys reorganize, Batman face more closed from now on and it becomes so tricky to switch them off.

As in the predecessor, the gangsters quickly lose sight of the bat man when he makes off. Nevertheless, the game manages to make the henchmen of Obermotze appear very human through gestures and behavior. Batman's directional microphone also contributes to this, with which he listens to the conversations of the loitering hangers, as it were. The topics of conversation are different: sometimes the heavy boys talk about current events in the main story, sometimes they whisper about super villains who are said to have been seen in the city. The only crux: the randomly generated conversations repeat themselves quickly.

The all around: 30 hours of fun

Arkham City's main story spans approximately eight to ten hours. If you also want to solve all side quests and Riddler puzzles, you can easily add three times that. It is never boring.

This is not only due to the harmonious game world, but also sometimes due to the experience points that Batman continuously receives through successful campaigns and which we use to level up the expansion of his combos and equipment. The extensive portfolio ranges from a reinforced batsuit to special flight attacks to a swarm of bats that briefly distracts opposing groups. As if that weren't enough, there are still numerous combat challenges that can be selected from the main menu. In the entertaining mini-operations, uncoupled from the main action, we have to fight back on rushing enemy waves or eliminate a certain number of opponents without being discovered - great fun.

The technology: flexes your muscles

Batman: Arkham City is a feast for the eyes. Above all, the extensive game world scores with enormous foresight, countless details and an outstanding lighting mood. Compared to the console versions, the stricter surrounding textures are particularly striking. Rocksteady also adds additional particle and glare effects to the PC version.

However, Arkham City is suffering from various teething problems. At the moment, the DirectX 11 graphics interface is still causing arbitrary drops in performance or even complete program crashes. The developers want to submit a patch shortly to fix the problem - we will keep you up to date. However, even with DirectX 9, the game is already one of the prettiest action titles at the moment.