Batman: Arkham Asylum was an awesome game that brought together much of the 90’s animation cast, created a convincing excuse for Batman to face several foes, and ultimately proved to be a memorable video game…in 3D!
Based on Arkham Asylum’s success, Batman: Arkham City continues where things left off with a much bigger landscape, several more characters, and a story that promises more twists and turns than you can throw a batarang at!
Batman: Arkham City takes place a year after Arkham Asylum. The former warden of Arkham Asylum has taken credit for stopping the Joker's Asylum takeover (poor Batman!) and became mayor of Gotham City. Arkham Asylum gets shut down, and criminals are instead kept at bay in a cordoned off section of Gotham called Arkham City. Living in traditional Gotham isn’t the tourist spot it used to be because anyone hinting of a criminal record or objecting to Sharp’s policies is forcibly moved to Arkham City.
Ultimately, Arkham City is a slummy, rough and tough minimum security prison with everyone given free will to do as they please as long as they don’t try to escape. It has skyscrapers, half submerged buildings, sewers, subways, and more. It’s a great place for the whole family to visit. NOT!
Of course, The Joker (Mark Hamill) has made a fine home for himself in Arkham City. Unfortunately, he has grown very sick from using the muscle building Titan formula he experimented with in Arkham Asylum - so sick, that poor Joker is on his last legs and is in desperate need of a cure. Why should Batman care? Let’s just say that Joker has come up with a creative motivator for Batman to take a personal interest.
Finding the cure is no small task! Batman will have to travel to all corners of Arkham City, and outwit foes like Penguin, Mr. Fries (pronounced “Freeze”), Harley Quinn, Ra's al Ghul, and more! It’s a really well thought out game, and there are no dull moments. Normally, after you finish a core mission, there is some down time until you find your next goal. Not with Batman! The moment you think you’ve accomplished a pivotal moment…BOOM! Batman is needed elsewhere – and it flows very well. Too well, actually - as I ended up investing too much time playing the Dark Knight!
One of the coolest things that Arkham City handles well is hand to hand combat. Most of the fights are between Batman and hoards of henchmen, and it’s really something to witness the fluidity and technique of the characters. I like the way Batman will throw a punch, deflect an attack, disarm another opponent, and knock someone out from one beat to the next (yes, it’s almost musical). You also get to glide kick and dive bomb opponents from the shadows – you are Batman, after all!
Batman comes equipped with all the gadgetry he had at the end of Arkham Asylum, with plenty of room for new gadgets and skills to add in this new video game chapter. I don’t want to spoil the surprises, but certain gadgets are needed to get through certain environment levels. For example, some doors need electricity to run, and some steam pipes are just too hot to handle – all things you can overcome with time.
It’s hard to put into words the authenticity of the graphics and environment. It’s kind of a mix of 90’s cartoon style with modern video game realism. Similar to Arkham Asylum, nearly every environment is unique from the last, and Rocksteady Studios spared no expense when it came to attention to detail and ensuring that the environment plays an active role in how Batman accomplishes his goals.
Incidentally, Batman is a detective, which means he has to chase down the opportunities that aren’t in plain view. Using “Detective Mode”, Batman can see weaknesses in wall structures, track people down by their leftover signatures (e.g. blood spots, bullet trajectory, etc), and make better use of the environment around him. This will also be helpful for solving Riddler puzzles (those cumbersome question marks that need to be picked up all over the place).
Out of all the foes Batman has had to combat (so far!), my favorite is Mr. Fries. His robotic voice combined with that “coming to get you” environment makes the whole thing very creepy, and I was very happy when I finally defeated him. In fact, I had to stop playing at night (because it was way too creepy), and defeated him during the day.
Another element that Arkham City features is Catwoman! Instead of a grappler, she travels the city streets with a trusty whip, claws, and caboose. Similar to the way Batman uses the environment to get from point A to point B, Catwoman has a different perspective, and can walk ceilings upside down and pick up red question marks as well as green ones. She plays more of an abbreviated role until the main story arc is finished and she is needed to complete some side goals.
I can understand why Batman never really hooks up with Catwoman long term. It’s probably sexually conflicting that on one side, she is this super sexy woman and all…but on the other, she’s kind of messed up. I mean, we’re talking about a woman who grooms herself after she fights bad guys! I’m certain that deep in the recesses of Batman’s mind, he’s thinking “don’t do it, Bruce…you can do better!”
Now the big question on everyone’s mind! Is the Caped Crusader a 3D success or failure?
Before I get into the stereoscopic 3D results, let me say that Arkham City was a very difficult game to test because there is no way to save your progress from one waypoint to the next. For example, if you spot an anomaly in a specific scene, you can’t save it for review later on. To add insult to injury, I almost lost my entire game because my computer crashed while the system was saving. I had to do some frantic Googling to restore my earlier progress (and was lucky to only lose hours, and not days!).
Be that as it may, here we go!
DDD Stereoscopic 3D Results
AMD 1090T 3.2Hjz Patriot DDR3 1333Ghz RAM Windows 7 64 Bit Samsung S23A750D 23" Monitor TriDef Ignition 3.4.5 Beta 1 with Beta Arkham City Profile
Batman is uniquely qualified as a stereoscopic 3D game thanks to its open sandbox style, huge city landscape, and up-close combat and graphics design. As good as Arkham City is in 3D, it’s a real treat to view the game character trophies that you get as the story progresses.
DDD’s Batman Arkham City results are a work in progress. While this isn’t a demerit, Arkham City on DDD is limited to DirectX 9 mode until an updated driver and completed game profile is released. The good news is you have the flexibility to have combined depth and pop-out effects, and even in DirectX 9, Batman Arkham City is an effective 3D experience.
However, there are problems I’d like to see improved on. First, dynamic shadows and lens flares are forced off by the DDD driver regardless of what you set in the game. The only anomalies I could find are low contrast cut-out shapes in smoky and misty environments. As recommended by nearly all our DDD game reviews, turn the driver’s auto-convergence features off because they are completely unnecessary with this title.
All in all, this is promising because the game was tested with a beta driver, and DDD has expressed plans for future updates complete with an improved driver architecture.
iZ3D Stereoscopic 3D Results
AMD 1090T 3.2Hjz Patriot DDR3 1333Ghz RAM Windows 7 64 Bit Samsung S23A750D 23" Monitor iZ3D 1.13RC1
I was hesitant to test Batman: Arkham City on the iZ3D platform because they haven’t publicly updated their driver in some time. However, Vadim Asadov, iZ3D’s CTO emailed us to confirm that the game runs, and recommended that the “mono shadow” option be selected in their driver for best results.
While DirectX 11 mode just crashes to desktop, I was successful in getting Arkham City to run with DirectX 9. The game’s menu system is messed up in 3D mode, but that’s not a big deal. I can’t recommend using the mono shadow option as iZ3D suggested because it makes the game look too strange for enjoyment and introduces new bugs. The best results were achieved when the shadows, light flares, and reflections were completely turned off.
The remaining anomalies were low contrast cut-out shapes, and when certain weapons are fired, you get a temporary doubling effect. Turning all the settings down to minimum didn’t correct these errors.
Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision Results
Maingear X-Cube Intel Core I7 Processor 2.66GHZ 6GB RAM GTX 580, GTX 275 (PhysX) Windows 7 64 Bit NVIDIA 290.36 Stereo Driver ASUS VG278 27" 3D Display
Nvidia had every advantage with this title, and were even credited in Batman: Arkham City’s scroll credits after the main story arc was completed. You are wasting your Bat-Time if you aren’t playing Arkham City in stereoscopic 3D, and Nvidia’s results definitely underscore this point well. You can game in DirectX 11 with no required game setting reductions, you can achieve a combined depth and pop-out effect, and I was hard pressed to find visual bugs worth mentioning.
While DirectX 11 adds some visual benefits over DX9, I really think the stereoscopic 3D mode is what ultimately differentiates the console and PC gaming experience, and Nvidia’s outcome filled these shoes nicely.
Batman: Arkham City is a stereoscopic 3D success for all, though Nvidia’s results clearly inched ahead with this title. We’ll get this review updated as soon as we hear of an improved profile and driver set.
This latest Batman chapter has a great mix of story, action, and S-3D effectiveness, and it promises endless hours of fun. I also think that it exemplifies how video games have come of age as a respected form of art. For example, Star Wars icon Mark Hamill has stated that Batman: Arkham City will be his last performance as The Joker. Not an animated movie or special TV appearance – a video game. I think that’s pretty cool (and sad, too)!
I will probably add this game to my repertoire of recommended titles for 3D gamers. However, don’t fall for that 2D+Depth stuff on console, you need to game on PC for the real 3D experience!
Just a reminder that the stereoscopic 3D portion of the scores were determined by GameGrade3D. This scoring is not subjective, and is based on deductions for reduced graphics settings and remaining visual anomalies. So even though the DDD and iZ3D scores are much lower than Nvidia's results, the game is very playable in 3D and should still be enjoyable for most gamers. When future drivers and profiles get released with improved results, we will be able to update this scoring accordingly.