Arkham City: Preliminary Complaints

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 16.884% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

The glory of Arkham Asylum was that whenever Batman died, you never felt like it was his fault.  Batman was a chained panther, so eager to beat up criminals that you had the feeling if you dropped the controller, Batman might keep punching Joker gang members because he had not dispensed SUFFICIENT JUSTICE.
The controls were so tight, and Batman so obviously competent, that any time you died, it felt like you had let Batman down.  You were insufficient.  Batman remained bad-ass.
Which is why it’s such a shame that Arkham City turns Batman into Rain Man.
I was a little worried about Arkham City because it was an open-ended game, a la Grand Theft Auto, as opposed to the “Walk through this level ’til you hit the cut scene” of Arkham Asylum. And I get lost going to the bathroom.  As a man with no sense of direction, in a city that’s designed for rooftop swings and alleyway scuffles, I was terrified that Arkham City would just leave me wandering in circles, desperately trying to find my way to the next mission.
And lo!  Guess what happened?  There’s a map, but no obvious way to set a waypoint marker – or at least it hasn’t come up on the tutorials yet, and the “instruction manual” is literally a two-page sheet of emptiness that warns you about extended playing time.  So I’m flailing about the city, not sure which direction I’m facing, bringing up the map and going fifty feet, bringing up the map and making sure I haven’t gotten turned around, bringing up the map and…
Batman Is Annoying (Altered from a picture via Z3ldaFan)See, the problem with Arkham City is that when Batman’s on the case, because he can go anywhere, Batman helpfully reminds you of what you’re supposed to do next by muttering it to himself.  “I have to scale the belltower to find the location of the shooter,” he says.  And that’s great!  Thanks for the help, Bats!
Then, thirty seconds later, he says it again.  “I have to scale the belltower to find the location of the shooter.”  Which is somewhat less helpful, because not very much time has passed, and Bats has not pointed towards the belltower, nor given any other indication in a possible direction where it might lie.
“I have to scale the belltower to find the location of the shooter.” “I have to scale the belltower to find the location of the shooter.” “I have to scale the belltower to find the location of the shooter.” Every thirty fucking seconds.  Eventually my wife was shouting, “SHUT UP BATMAN SHUT UP.”
Batman might as well be wandering around muttering, “Ten minutes to Wapner.  Ten minutes to Wapner.” It’s like Navi’s “Hey!  Listen!” only not quite as helpful – because despite all of Bats’ arsenal, a simple compass doesn’t seem to be one of them.
This makes Batman not a caged panther, but an annoying pal.  “You’re the great fucking detective,” you say.  “How about just grappling hooking your way to where you need to be so I can punch some more bad guys?”  But no.  “IhavetoscalethebelltowerIhavetoscalethebelltowerIhavetoscalethebelltowerGAH NOW I KNOW HOW THE JOKER FEELS.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun punching bad guys.  But the game seems woefully short on explaining the user experience – there was one level where three switches needed to be shut off to stop Batman from dying to steam.  (Yes, in my game, badass Batman died from walking into steam.)  And I spent ten minutes hitting each switch with a Batarang, as had been explained in a previous segment, but there wasn’t enough time – I’d fire one Batarang, and by the time the next one hit, the other switches had flipped back on again.  (Because they are, apparently, mysterious switches that flip back on by themselves.  Happen all the time.)
It wasn’t until I broke down and looked at a cheat guide, which told me, “Just tap the button three times quick.  You don’t even need to aim.  Batman will do that for you.”  GOOD TO FUCKING KNOW, ARKHAM CITY, THANKS FOR EXPLAINING THIS RAPID-FIRE BUTTON IN THE MANUAL – WAIT, THERE’S NO MANUAL – OR THE TUTORIAL THAT DOESN’T EXIST. THANKS FOR LETTING ME SPEND ALL THIS GODDAMNED TIME AIMING.
So it’s not a terrible game, but my opinion of it after two hours of play is that it’s a fairly unpolished addition to Arkham Asylum.  Fortunately, Arkham Asylum was so polished that I can beat up random bad guys all day and still feel pretty good about myself.

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