Saturday, 13 October 2012

So which is better? - Asylum or City?

It's been a great few years for the caped crusader. Christopher Nolan has shown Batman in a new light with his Dark Knight trilogy, and has had some incredible responses. As for the video game world, we have had the Arkham games. First we had Arkham Asylum, then Arkham City. Both games were fantastic, with brilliant gameplay, story and presentation, but I now ask...which is better?

So, where do we go first? The narrative in each is clearly not the main focus, but some thought has clearly been put into them. The first game has the Joker taking over Arkham and releasing all of Batman's enemies, each intent on their own means of revenge. This leaves a long, dangerous clean-up job for our hero. There aren't any turns along the way that would make your jaw drop in shock, but the game doesn't need them, as it's so damn fun to play.

Arkham City has a rather more complicated plot. It starts off looking like the Joker is the primary villian once again, which he kind of is, but there are other characters along the way, adding to the plot. Characters such as Doctor Strange and Catwoman make appearances, adding a few twists that the first game lacked. The basic idea is that the Joker is sick with a virus that is slowly killing him. In order to motivate you to help him find a cure, he manages to pull Batman in, and infect him too. As well as this, the Criminals of Arkham Asylum are growing, and the walls of the Asylum cannot contain them, so a portion of Gotham has been walled off and named Arkham City, in order to house the overflowing horde of criminals. Batman has once again found himself trapped, confined with the very psychopaths that he worked to imprison, and once again, he must fight for his life.

I personally thought that the narrative in the first game was better. The writers for City seemed to try too much, and the complex plot that is weaved is hard to follow, as the constant flow of new characters, and the way the focus switches from one part of the story to another does take away from the overall experience. A complex narrative isn't a bad thing, but in a game where the focus is on the gameplay, the story should be kept simple, in order to give the fullest experience. There is also no conclusion to the cliffhanger left at the end of the first game. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I was expecting the Scarecrow to be a powerful villain in this game, considering his dramatic reappearance at the end of Asylum, but not only is he not involved in the plot, he isn't in the game at all. Also, whilst none stay totally within the boundaries of realism, for some reason I did find Asylum to be more plausible, despite it's abundance of supernatural fiends.

When it comes to the presentation, the two games are about on par. City has got slightly better graphics, the vast, open city is truly a spectacle, and some of the character designs are pretty damn awesome, such as the Penguin or Two-Face. However, the slight graphical improvement, whilst noticeable, isn't huge, considering the two year gap. Arkham Asylum looked great, the way Batman got steadily more and more battered and bruised as the game went on. His costume got ripped, his face got bloody, and all this gave the game more of a realistic vibe, and made Batman look more human than most comic book games do.

Arkham City certainly takes a prize for the number of things to do. The game is huge, much more open than the first. There are plenty of side-quests to do, challenges to complete, trophies to find and oh...remember those Riddler challenges from the first game? There are now hundreds of them, scattered around the expansive landscape. Many hours can be spent on the main story, and there is way more to do when that is over.

So it all comes down to the gameplay. Both games are heavily reliant on the combat, which isn't a bad thing, when you take into account how damn fun it is. They both use the same freeflow combat system, allowing you to block and counter attacks, as well as deal your own. When it comes to deciding which game takes the prize, I must look at the enjoyment factor. When I played Arkham City, I was extremely impressed, and quickly drawn in by how responsive the controls were, and how the combat could be so simple, yet so satisfying. I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it less in Arkham City, I would just say that it was less impressive, and that Asylum takes the edge for its originality.

And so we have it. In my opinion, taking everything into account, I personally think that Batman: Arkham Asylum was better than Arkham City. Needless to say, both games are amazing, but Arkham Asylum did have the extra 'wow' factor. Tell me what you think in the comments section below!

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